After a chaotic week and sketchy weather, finally got a quality ride in on the new DIY bitless bridle. I gotta say, I believe we are on the right path.
I tried bitless before, in this exact model of bitless about 3 years ago, and it was mixed results. Beaux was still not very confident nor sold into this whole idea of riding after being strictly a driving horse. He was struggling with leg cues and instead of focusing on building his confidence and sticking with the bit we were using at the time, I threw bitless into the mix. While Beaux is a smart horse, that was asking way too much out of a horse having a crisis in confidence. Beaux is very sure of himself, he had his whole world figured out, then here I go and throw way too much at him.
Beaux has made extensive progress since then, and while leg and seat cues are not as solid as I would like, we are well on our way. Today Beaux did very well, we got a good 30 min ride in, where we worked on the basics of leg and seat cues and developing steering. We did a lot of circles, the dreaded “straight along the long side of the arena”, and actually going over poles with zero hits. Getting Beaux more aware of his feet after years of only being on a groomed surface, has been a biggie on my “To Do List”. This skill has taken a bit longer to progress than I’d have liked but, after a couple of bad trips, and lots of tripping over leaves, small twigs, pine needles, and the dreaded crawfish tower, Beaux is developing better skills on coping with uneven terrain.
Next ride I plan on tweaking the noseband by adding two small knots on either side of the noseband to give more clear signals on turning. Beaux had great brakes with the bitless, and I believe with more clear signals, Beaux will have power steering and power brakes in just a few more rides. I plan on riding in the smaller arena for the next 4-5 rides, with a “finish strong” hack up and down the drive way as a reward. I plan on staying at the walk for the next 2-3 rides until Beaux and I feel confident on the steering and brakes, then I will ask for the intermediate gait. Beaux has been switching between the trot and the rack/singlefoot, so I need to figure out a cue (possible just voice commands) on asking for the trot and the rack. I have found that I really like the smoothness of the rack on trails, and would love to have that be his signature intermediate gait, but I also like the idea of switching up gaits, especially having the goal of completing a 50 mile Endurance ride. So I need to figure out how to develop the cues for both gaits. As Beaux continues to progress, in 4-5 more rides, we can then venture off property and start hitting the trails around the show grounds down the street.
I’m really thrilled with how Beaux is staying relaxed, not nervous or bracing, and doesn’t have lines of drool so that he looks rabid. Now that it seems I have the head-gear figured out, I can start focusing on finding a saddle, and I will be writing on my saddle shopping adventures. If this headgear adventure has taught me anything it is don’t be afraid to think outside the norms, and take a shot at something different.