Indoors in the Hackamore x2

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We’ve had some weather moving through Iowa, so things have been wet and we’ve been confined to riding indoors. On Friday we found the guys out in the summer pasture, happily grazing on 13 acres of new grass. The herd has seen a lot of turnover this winter, so half of its members had never been out in this large space before. You could tell they are still adjusting. As Brian and I walked out, Bear and Steen started in our direction and the whole herd came. For just a minute it looked like all eight horses would gallop out of the gully to meet us. But Bear (who was leading the charge at that point) petered out and so they all stopped. So much for our Hollywood moment.

Brian has continued to work on teaching Bear to come to him in the pasture. Steen is usually on his way to me, and I’m usually waiting for him a little ways back. Often Steen encounters Brian and Brian has to encourage Steen to continue to me. Sometimes Steen gets a little offended and/or confused. Since the whole herd was kinda stirred up, we had a minute of everyone circling around Bear and Brian.

But we have a really mellow group of horses so it’s not like we’ve ever had trouble catching our horses. A moment later everyone got sorted out. Steen walked up to me, Bear walked up to Brian, and we headed indoors.

Steen and I have been having such great rides in the snaffle lately, I’ve decided I’m going to try get in the habit of riding him in the hackamore whenever we’re not venturing too far from home. Unfortunately, Steen is totally capable of looking like a goofball even in sophisticated gear.

On Friday, the ride was good. On Saturday, the ride was great. I focused on the same stuff I’ve been working on. Sit up, sit deep, try not to use hands. On Friday Steen was just a tad stiff at first, and the first time I asked him for leg-yields he was inclined to brace. So we took a step back and I worked on rocking him back and moving his front around his hind. That helped a lot and from there I was able to get him much softer at the leg-yields.

The biggest fail of the ride was when Brian and decided to try the routine. We did it a couple times at the trot and it went quite well, so we decided to throw a lope in on the straightaways. Unfortunately our indoor arena is very small, and it felt like I barely had time to get Steen going by the time I had to stop him. Since I was using my hands only as a last resort and the added excitement of keeping pace with Bear wasn’t exactly helping Steen focus, we ended up coming through the turn a few times and completely screwing up the routine. Mostly it was just funny, but we simplified things by trying to just lope down one side of the arena and stop more or less in time with each other. We made some progress but this is definitely something to work on more in the future.

On Saturday we worked on our lope a lap, walk a lap exercise. Steen was great for this, while Bear was actually being the hot-head who was jigging and trying to pick up the trot in between lopes all the time. We kept it up for quite a while, until Bear was willing to pay better attention. Then Brian worked on the lope some more, while I worked on transitions in a figure-eight pattern. This went really well. I still feel like Steen isn’t quite as soft in the hackamore as he is in the snaffle, but he’s getting there.

After Brian finished loping, I loped a few short circles on Steen. These were incredible. He was smooth and balanced and back on his haunches and I was riding with one hand on the hackamore, totally loose reins and steering him onto and off of the rail with my legs alone. Pretty fantastic.

After the ride, we drove up to Kirkwood Equestrian Center to audit a day of a Jeff Griffith clinic. We saw a couple hours of Colt-Starting and four hours of Horsemanship I. I’m glad we stopped in. Jeff was very nice and the horse he was riding was impressive. 25 rides in, he’s so much softer in the hackamore than Steen is it makes me want to cry a little.

Overall the clinic seemed a bit unstructured, and I didn’t feel I learned anything new. But I did come away with some good reminders. More than anything I heard poor Jeff say (over and over and over), “Don’t use your hands. Use your legs. Put the reins down.” Sometimes eight times in a row to the same person before they started listening. And the moment they did, their horse stopped having whatever problem it was having. He also had a tendency to get off his horse and illustrate things from the ground, which was often helpful.

He demonstrated quite a few times how pulling on a rein will actually force the horse to lean in such a way that they are physically incapable of moving the foot you’re asking them to move. Also, it was helpful to see the struggles other people are having with their horses. I left feeling reassured we’re on the right track. We just need to keep practicing.

Friday Ride: 1:05
Saturday Ride: 1:05
Horseback hours YTD: 37:50

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