Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bitless Riding Experiment First Ride

Winter has set in here in the heartland.  Think lows in the teens, some cranking winds with snow, and lots of winter-proof outdoor wear.  No complaining(mostly!) since we had a beautiful fall and I was able to do quite a bit of hacking and field dressage with some cavalletti thrown in for good measure.  Nothing like riding through the crunchy leaves on a perfect fall day.  Anyway, that is all done now, and we have some quality time to spend in my teeny tiny indoor.  I have some great exercises like shoulder-in and haunches-in on the square, spirals at the walk and trot, and more frequent and harder transitions that should really improve our work at First and Second Level in the dressage court next year.  But even only riding three times a week, the indoor is a little boring for both of us.

So, I made a list of other things we could try this winter.  Things like online or in hand work hopefully leading to some half-steps and then piaffe in hand.  Also on the list is some basic trick training, which I think Jet would love.  The big one for me though, was to try some bitless riding leading eventually into bridleless riding.  Just for fun.  Just to test that my aids and that Jet's obedience truly come from my seat and body aids.  So on a 20 degree day with cranking winds I decided to give it a shot.  I did close my ring doors though, just because common sense.

Jet normally goes in a Micklem like this, so I just took the bit hanger off and attached the reins to the noseband ring.  It worked surprisingly well.  No mechanics, no fuss, but a direct light pressure on the nose.  After doing some flexions in hand while saddling, we were off.  The funniest part was Jet's expression.  I bridled him and he definitely thought I forgot something and when I pulled up to the mounting block he kept turning his head like he wanted to remind me to get the rest of the bridle.  He is such a good egg.  Anyway the gist of the ride is that he went 90% like he goes with a bit and I could not have been more pleased for his first time bitless.  His stop, go, and turn were flawless from the get go and his poll high, in self carriage, and stretchable came in a few minutes as he figured out to stretch to the contact of the noseband instead of the contact of the bit.  We did all the exercises we normally do like spirals, haunches-in and shoulder-in on the square, stretchy trot, working gaits at walk, trot, and canter, and even a little bit of slightly collected work.  The only reason I wouldn't say the ride was 100% as good as with a bit was that Jet was slightly above the contact sometimes in the canter.  I could see his thought bubble and it went something like, "Canter with no bit?  Bitch please.  This is sooooo weird."  He was very obedient and balanced, just slightly inverted.  I think if I had asked him to stretch to the contact he would have, but I was slightly leery about what he was going to do at the canter, so I kind of didn't ask for much.  Easily fixed next ride I think.  Anyway, I think I will ride again bitless next ride to hopefully get to 100% bitless riding compared to bridle with bit riding.  Then we will touch in bitless every few rides for variety and to make sure Jet is truly working off my seat and body aids.  Next up, transitioning to a neck rope or maybe trick training?  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I was unable to attend the Dayton Local Show Circuit banquet a couple of weeks ago but they were kind enough to ship my awards.  Such a class organization, with good communication, many well run shows to choose from through the season, and higher end venues and judges.  I could not be more pleased or lucky with such an economical and fun show series right in my backyard.  I was also pretty shocked when I opened up my box and realized I won a very nice embroidered cooler, engraved trophy, and beautiful tri-color.  Again, classy organization.

Jet and I ended up being reserve division champions at Senior Intro with an average score from four different shows of 70.547%.  In all of the divisions that go through Fourth Level we had the third highest percentage year end score.  Not too shabby for a backyard auction pony.  I could not be more pleased with the boy in his first year of showing and am super excited to move up to Training Level next year while continuing to school First/Second.  What a fun reintroduction to showing!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fall Plans

I love this time of year even though I know the artic blast of winter is on its way.  Crisp mornings, beautiful trees in full fall color, and minimal grass to mow, what's not to like?  Well, except for super furry horses that need to be body clipped(again!).

Now that showing is over for us this year, I've been thinking about our fall training plan.  We normally ride every other day, so 3-4 times per week, and that will stay the same.  The weather is usually much more varied in fall, so my full size grass dressage court is not always available due to soft ground.  I try to avoid riding full time in my teeny tiny indoor until totally necessary, so I have added in raised walk cavalletti, trot poles, and also a lot more "field" dressage all over my farm.  My dressage court will still be on and off usable probably through November/December, so we will also be working on using the principles of Dressage Naturally to improve the suppleness, transitions, lengthens and energy(amazing how those go together!) and test riding the First Level tests.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we will get in some video of improved tests with a pony that is uphill and not behind the vertical.

Anyway, nothing too exciting, but a bit of variety for Jet(boy, was he surprised at that first set of trot poles!) and lots of hacking out through the crunchy leaves with woodsmoke in the air.  Bliss!  What are your fall plans?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bee Serious

It's hard to take yourself seriously when you are dressed as a giant bee, but the last dressage show of the year was a good one.  I couldn't have asked for Jet to bee(!!!) any better.  He got off the trailer at his fourth new venue in four shows and put his head right down to graze.  Totally chill with the chaos and crazy costumes and basically acting like a horse show pro after only four shows.  Out tests were really nice too, flowing and relaxed, with really good canter transitions in Intro C.  

Intro A was a 68.125% for a first, Intro B a 67.8% for second, and Intro C a 70% for another second.  I was super pleased with the scores and judge's comments but even more pleased with Jet's attitude after four (four!!!) shows, that he gets the horse show thing and is totally reasonable to deal with.  From doing passage in a test at our first show, to needing a little more "march" according to the judge at our fourth show, I will take it.  You can see the second half of Intro C HERE if you would like to see my wings in action.  A good day and a really good show season considering that I never thought this horse would settle enough to show and I didn't plan to show this year at all.  Glad I pushed my comfort zone and challenged myself.