September 17, 2013

Adventures when riding with contact

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I usually ride English so I’m riding in a loose ring snaffle bit. Kasane has a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra 4 3/4″ snaffle with small losenge like piece in the middle of the snaffle. Rajiyyah’s bit is a similar design, except it has a copper mouth piece. When I ride Kasane, we usually ride with light contact so there is a direct line from my arm to her mouth. The connection is made by the give and take we have when we ride — she moves, my arm moves, etc. Kasane has learned that it’s okay to have contact and she accepts it. So when I pick up the reins with her, she gives (usually) to a very light touch.

Rajiyyah is a completely different critter. When you pick up contact with the reins, she gets defensive. Her neck tenses and her gait feels short-strided and hard. It’s like riding something that feels scattered, as if her feet are any where but underneath her. (It didn’t help that the Evil Monster was over in the scary corner of the ring on Sunday. It took a lot to rider her in circles at the far end of the ring. She didn’t calm down back there, but she did at least do what I asked when she tried to look out and I asked her to bring her attention back to me.)

When I ride Rajiyyah on a very loose rein, she relaxes and is a completely different horse. If I pick up contact, she stiffens and the pounding, short-strided gaits emerge. We’re doing therapy with her to help her have fun under saddle. She has the potential to be a very cool little mare. Every now and then I see hints of it. We’re taking this one step at a time.

I’m a good rider but I’ve only ridden horses who were not finished. No learning opportunity to regularly ride a horse with more knowledge than me because I’ve trained every horse I’ve had. When my knowledge ran out, I didn’t know what else to do. If I didn’t have other people to talk to and learn from (and often learn with), I’m not sure where I’d be in my riding. When I was in Tennessee, I didn’t have many people to ride with or to talk to about riding. If I didn’t have Jennifer (dressage instructor), Chris (barn owner, natural horsemanship person) and Jon (hunt seat instructor, barn owner), I don’t know what I would do. I’d be at my wits end with both of my girls because I’m at the edges of my knowledge on what the next step needs to be to help them.

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