|Milo and Jake will love it when those trees grow their apples.|
You might remember at the Peggy Clinic I attended in March that I was demonstrated on by Sarah the benefits of a snugly fitting halter, and also the sensation that Peggy's nylon lines gives. I had been trying to "comb the line" with my own lead rope and it just wasnt mirroring the feel I had experienced with that driving line. This purchase also has a dual role: because the line is 21' long, there will be plenty of line to use when we move into the Connected Lunging. While that might be a long ways away, at least I wont have to worry about buying a lunge line or not having the right equipment.
As you know, I had received my long awaited book last week and I have slowly been turning the pages of it, taking my time to let concepts solidify, even re-reading passages to better understand what I will be looking for and the feel. I have only (although I say this loosely because things will take time and we are in no rush) made it few the first basic exercises including Drawing the Bow, and Combing the Line.
I affixed the driving line to Milo's leather halter. As you might have picked up from recent photos, I have switched from my nylon halter to my leather halter now. I love this leather halter - it is years and years old, has been used for showmanship even at shows, but because of it's age it is soft and pliable. While I would like to get a leather halter that clips off at the throat instead of having to unbuckle the crown to take off, this will have to do for me for now (I need to restock my savings account after this last *ahem* rather large tack purchase). I switched to the leather halter not just because it is supple (the nylon is soft and pliable too) but because it allows me to snug up the noseband, and it also I feel, is safer to tie to in the crossties. It might just be and old wives-tale, but tieing in a nylon halter just makes me a bit nervous (as did tying in the rope halter I used for years).
So anyways, I attached the drive line to the leather halter, trying my best from memory to attach it as the instructions in the book show. Looking back, I found I did it correctly, with a minor change needed to the slip knot - attach on underside of cheek piece and not on top of. So granted, Peggy uses a fleece noseband on the halter before the lines X over the nose, I did see a few examples in the book where it was not present so I figure until I can buy one individually, or make one, we should be good with no fleece noseband.
I also threw the saddle on, but was anticipating not riding, if that may be. I wanted to keep my mind and body clear of time constraints or expectations and figured if we rode we rode, if we didnt that was ok too. After Dave from About the Horse, Inc saw some of my recent photos on facebook, he recommended that the saddle be brought forward about six inches more then I had it, and also said to ride with just a navajo pad, the bulky cashel pad was not needed for the saddle, it should fit on it's own without it. I figured maker knows best, so I only used my folded woven pad that I purchased for showing in, and brought the saddle forward. I tested it out making sure it still would not hinder Milo's shoulders (Im a little anal over this now - but with good reason I think) and of course it did not, and when Milo lifted his belly he still had full shoulder freedom.
|Saddle still fits, even with a thin pad! I think I can relax, this saddle is fitting! |
Oh, and I LOVE the "show pad" under it, I think it looks just gorgeous!
|About a degree or two of lowered relaxed head, compared to first photo. Look to the rear and you'll see Milo also is wearing his skid boots for the first time! No sliding yesterday, but he can get used to wearing them, although he didnt care.|
The calm transcended under saddle, and we merely worked on maintaining our outside rein - the right rein. Almost the entire ride was devoted to this rein (I know some of you are probably reading thinking what the heck - you always work both sides, but sometimes we need to accomodate for what the horse needs and I have felt that Milo is really needing disctinct work on trusting that right rein). We circled, we arced, and I thought I might need my own motivator, so I grabbed a dressage whip from the arena wall. Motivator in hand, I was able to remind Milo that nose in hip out is a forward motion, and requires lateral stepping from the hind leg. We worked on straight lines on that right rein, turning, slowing down by my body, arcing with only my seat, and more of what you might consider "basic stuff". But its payout was tenfold: by the end, my horse was relaxed and engaging while holding that outside rein. And I was relaxed and really feeling connected (I know using that word sounds so cliche in the context of this post) to my horse.
Among getting a great feel, I learned something else valuable in the ride - how to perform a downward transition. Sounds elementary, I know, but this is something Milo had I have struggled with for a long time. A lot stemmed from my braced back and my incorrect cueing for the transition. I read something valuable earlier in the day, something I had read many times but didnt really read. A downward transition is a forward motion, we still want the hind end to engage. I've known this for a while, and yet I wasnt applying it to my riding. I experimented with a simple walk to halt transition. Initially, I was stopping with my seat - sounds correct right? But what I was doing was stopping hard with my seat, not allowing Milo to come up into my seat. Follow? I was basically tensing my butt and sitting deep - this causes a slightly braced back. Milo would always stop hard and sharp, typically on his front end and his back would hollow and head come up. Normally, I would just force the issue and put his head back down. But here I had a thought. So I unhinged my back for a stop. Great, I got a stop without tightening my seat, but it was still a stop on the front feet with a dropped back. So then I thought, I should stop with a closed leg. Sounds strange for a reiner, I know, we always stop with legs off and forward, and this works for our "slide" from the lope, but I wanted Milo to still be lifted as we stopped.
This goes back to one of my first lessons with Sarah, and even my ride on Wesley. We worked on stops at this early lesson, and Sarah wanted me to keep my leg more on Milo. Then when I rode Wesley I discovered a spur stop trained horse. Well that isnt what Im going for for Milo, but I can still keep a closed leg on him. So I tried it. I unhinged my back and remained soft through my body. At this same time I didnt release my leg, but didnt squeeze. Milo stopped with an elevated back. So I got off.
Now I have done this a few times especially from the lope to trot transition. But it was always sort of out of "I happened to", and I would get a nice downward transition. But it was never done with a conscious effort or knowledge to it. Now I think I can work on this new found tool and go from there with it. Sometimes it really just amazes me how often I am not engaging my mind and my body when I am riding, and how often I read or hear something and yet it just doesnt get through. But finally theres this moment where it clicks, and I have a mini aha moment, where all the words, thoughts, feelings, and emotions all come together to show me the accumulation of them all.
|Look at how Milo is holding his head after the ride. He was licking and chewing and had such a soft expression as well.|
|Oh happy, relaxed, Milo.|
Slight side note: I had a question in the comments from Story of All Gear No Skill asking about how I like the smooth seat versus a suede seat on my saddle. I actually had a hard time deciding as previously I have disliked leather and preferred suede. But I decided on the smooth leather because I had the opportunity to ride in Sarah's smooth leather and found that I really liked it. (It helps when the seat is your size - I had a smooth leather seat I hated but it was also a 16.5" seat so I really slid around). I then rode in an entirely roughout About the Horse saddle and found I liked the ability to move around as needed and not feel totally "stuck" to the suede. So, to answer the question of how I like the smooth leather, I really do and Im glad I chose it. It definetely helps that the seat size (15.5) is correct for me and keeps me in place.