Today the farrier was out, and our guys had enough toe to warrant a trim for the first time in over three months.
We got to the barn early so we could ride first and get the guys settled… a plan which may have backfired in the long run. I started out on Laredo, and I rode him in the hackamore. Brian and I have been speculating on and off about some of his hang-ups and whether or not they are bit related, and I thought it would be an interesting test.
He was good for the ride. My faster rides seem to be helping and he’s a lot more willing to move out with me lately. He was soft to the hackamore from the start, which is no surprise because he’s soft to a halter.
Laredo’s most interesting tic is this thing he does with his head. A picture can illustrate much better than I can explain:
This is what he does when he get grouchy or starts to feel tired. He pushes his nose way, way, way up and out in front of him. We noticed this behavior quite a few months ago, and initially thought it had something to do with his sore shoulder. Since then we’ve been keeping an eye on it, and lately the shoulder theory clearly has stopped holding water. He’s completely sound and even and in decent shape.
I think it qualifies as a tic because when he’s doing it he loses focus on everything else that is going on. He gets totally absorbed in whatever he’s searching for with the motion, and if you do something to snap him out of it, he gets a little startled. Also, he does it considerably more when Brian rides him than when I do, which indicates it’s more mental than physical.
Anyway, in the hackamore I think we were finally able to figure out what’s behind this. When we got Laredo, he had a real desire to lean on the bit, and the trainer that started him was clearly not exactly soft-handed. I think his only defense was putting pressure on the bit before the trainer did, so now whenever Laredo gets confused or upset or annoyed, he goes hunting for the bit and tries to lean on it. We’ve combated this by riding him on a super loose rein and making sure his headstall is loose enough that there is no pressure on the bit when the reins are not engaged.
With a loose headstall and a rider that doesn’t pull, Laredo’s only way to get his pressure fix was through sticking his nose way way out and up.
In the hackamore, though, there is no bit for him to lean on. He tried his little move a few times, got nothing out of it, and stopped doing it.
We went on to have an excellent ride. I feel lately like my spectrum of communication is considerably broader in the hackamore than it is in the snaffle. I can be lighter for subtle communication, and I can pick up the reins and make a point with it in a more effective way than I can with a snaffle. So it was enjoyable to ride Laredo this way. We did a lot of trotting and loping and transitions and everything else, and it was just a fun ride.
Then I got off Laredo and went and got Steen, and rode him for a while. Then I suggested Brian get on Steen to try out my new saddle. It’s always neat to watch Brian ride Steen.
The farrier was late, and by the time he showed we were all pretty tired of waiting. Laredo was not great getting his feet trimmed. In retrospect, after he’d been standing tied for well over an hour I should have done some groundwork with him before it was his turn. But he wasn’t horrible, and had been months since he’d had his feet worked on, so I guess we can’t hold it too much against him.
Ride Time: Laredo: 0:30 Steen: 0:15
Horseback hours YTD: 6:30