One of the rewarding things about horses is when all your hard work pays off. Mostly it feels like it doesn’t, but occasionally it does. At one time, getting on my thoroughbred Missy after a break from being ridden was a stressful two person job.
I usually needed another person to wrestle her to the mounting block, anchor the stirrup and be ready, camera in hand for when I got bronc’d off and kissed the deck. Getting on was a trauma for all involved, not least the horse. I think that for a lot of people, getting on after a break becomes a big thing. As a child rider I was fearless, I think we become more aware of danger as we get older, and we don’t seem to bounce quite as well as we used to. Hitting the ground hurts. I haven’t been on board for a year, there were just so many things that weren’t right for the horse, that I hadn’t trained her properly for, or had become poisoned cues Poisoned cues are things that have unpleasant associations for the horse. I wrote all about poisoned cues in my June blog – Mind your P’s and Cues. In short, I have spent time on all of the things that were missing from our lives; calmness for one, Missy tries hard to achieve and can get frustrated. I get in a flap about things which never helps anything.
Getting movement without pressure was another. Missy massively resented being told to walk on, we have worked on that and now she will happy step forward to an upbeat ‘lets go’. Happy, voice operated horse- Cool!
The other piece of the jigsaw was for me to see tack as an aid for giving light, well understood cues, not control. For this reason, I have switched from a bitted bridle, to a bitless one. I chose the Transcend bridle because it doesn’t rely on leverage or pressure, just correct training and understanding. My work rewarding Missy for standing at a target has really come into its own at the mounting block, You will see in the video that she is very focussed on her target, so much so that she doesn’t even flinch when I catch my treat bag on the saddle, and the treats go rattling down and noisily hit the mounting block. I nearly jumped out of my skin.
We have done a small amount of ridden work in walk so far, neither of us have the muscles for much more and I am rewarding calmness and a relaxed stretch down. So far there have been no dramas, either at the mounting block or when being ridden.
I for one am happy to have a spook- free Halloween .