Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Good Ride

My last ride on Spider was quite nice. It was the kind of ride where everything clicks, the kind of ride that keeps you coming back for more. We didn't do anything too strenuous or anything new: shoulder in at walk, trot and canter; haunches in and leg yield at walk and trot and turns on the forehand. But the contact and impulsion were there and the movements were effortless. It seems my "fitness blitz" is doing the trick. That's a load off my mind. I was very worried that Spider might be becoming unsound.

As I was reveling in my good ride, my thoughts turned to my equipment.

I don't really use much in the way of equipment, just a saddle and a snaffle bridle. I have a loose ring bradoon bit on the bridle, because it's a double bridle that converts into a snaffle and the bradoon was already on it. Eventually I'll put the curb back on, when Spider is ready for it. A keen observer will notice that it has a crank noseband. I like crank nosebands because they're wide and very well padded. You don't actually have to "crank" them. If you leave them loose they function just like any other noseband, just better padded. I don't use a flash. I don't think they really do anything other than collect drool and annoy the horse. They annoy me when they fall off in the barn and get lost, too.

If I'm wearing my dress boots then I have spurs on, because they're on my dress boots and I just don't take them off. Plus, they have some pretty engraving on them and I just think they look nice. I've reached the point in my riding that my leg is steady and I can use them or not as I see fit, a point everyone should be at before they are allowed to wear spurs anyway. I always carry a long dressage whip, I find them to be invaluable tools. I use it to whisk flies off the horse's ears, belly and anywhere else I can't reach. I also use it to check how steady my inside hand is. If I can see the whip flopping around out of the corner of my eye, I know my wrist is probably flopping around, too.

I sometimes use side reins when I lunge. Sometimes I don't. It depends on the situation. Sometimes the horse needs to have a place to go, they want to seek the contact that side reins provide. If the horse doesn't seem to need that support, I don't put them on. I play with long lines sometimes. I'm not very good at it, so it really is just playing. Or perhaps an exercise in how much foolishness my horse will put up with from me.

And that's all the equipment that I use. Most of it isn't even being used for it's intended purpose.

I could use all sorts of gadgets to get my horse where I want him. It would certainly be quicker. But I don't think it would be better. There is an exhilarating rush that comes with being able to manipulate a 1000lb beast with just the barest shift in your weight. My horse is ten times my size, and yet with just a thought and the lightest touch of my seat and leg I can send him sideways across an arena, or stop him in his tracks. I don't need drawreins or trendy bits to control his head. I don't need whips and spurs to control his haunches. It has taken years for me to get to this point, but I am mostly there. I still have off days, and there will always be off days. But the on days are such a rush, such a feeling of accomplishment. And that feeling is worth more than the quick fix that the gadgets would have gotten me.

As Alois Podhajsky said, "I have time".

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  1. Great post!!! Very impressive that you get the results you do without whip or spurs. Not many people can say that.
    My equipment is the same, except that I carry a whip and tap to reinforce at times. No crank nose band on Rogo, but I use one as you describe with Dan.
    So glad Spider is performing so well and the soundness fears are gone. Good for you.

  2. Great to hear the fitness regimen is producing good results. Used to always work with my Boys.

    I like my horses light to the aids for movements too. You may still have to work for quality in the exercises, but the basic exercises shouldn't require a lot of rider effort.

    My equipment is similar to yours, but I do have separate snaffle bridles. Tucker and Toby wear the same bit, but Chance has a different one.....each has his own bridle. Every "gadget" I've ever tried over the years has fallen by the wayside. It's so much more rewarding to work through issues with just riding skill.

  3. I like simple equipement. A rider with a good feel, timing and hand can do miracle with a snaffle bit.
    I have a snaffle bit, a SMOOTH one (western rider will know what I mean...) a very short shank bit. I wear spurs for laterals works. I use the end of my reins, for more impulsion. That is it.

    BuT i use an EquiAmi for lungeing, it really helps Teena to developp the right muscles.

    I love the photo ;-)

  4. Nice post - so glad the fitness regime seems to be helping. I'm with you on the extra gadgets - there's nothing better in the world than the feeling that comes from a horse moving in self-carriage in the softest way possible. I think that comes only when the horse is making the decision to carry itself that way, through careful patient training. Like your attitude towards spurs - there are a lot of riders out there who shouldn't be wearing them because they don't have independent seat/hand/legs and don't have good control of where the spur is going, and anyway a spur should be a subtle communication device, not a goad - there are a lot of misused spurs (and other things) in the hunter/jumper world I came from.

  5. Loved your post. That is one of my favorite posts from Podhajski. If we could always keep that one thing in mind we would never actually have to waste time backtracking :)


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