There is always a puddle in the barn lot, at least if it's not drought weather (summertime). Good place to practice water crossing.
We've been working on riding on a loose rein. Now that our "horse show" days are done, no reason for a fancy head-set on a direct rein, which Arabee really appreciates, in addition to riding bitless with the Dr. Cook's bitless bridle. Since these photos were taken, I readjusted the noseband on the bridle, so it is lower on her nose. Much better. I'm also riding on a looser rein than is shown.
At first it was terrifying riding on a loose rein - I felt I had no control!
We practiced turning - she now turns on leg cues and subtle body movements as I look in the direction I want us to travel, even on 15 ft. diameter circles. If she doens't go, then she gets rein.
So far in our riding we've kept to a walk, and if she broke gait (trotting) she would get a single-rein-stop. This kept her walking pretty quickly. She also is very good at respecting voice commands, so a verbal reminder also does the trick. I want to make sure we are GREAT at walking, before we move on to faster, more exciting gaits.
When it comes to brakes, and "Easy, easy, Arabee, WHOA" works amazing. Getting into the habit of using this same phrase, she usually stops on the second easy. But, if she doesn't WHOA immediately once I say "whoa", then she gets a jab on the rein, which is what I'd do on the ground with a lead rope, but I never could do before when riding with a bit for fear of hurting her mouth. Another benefit of bitless riding!
When it comes to spook control, when she gets high-headed I ask for her to lower her head, which really calms her. I started this by jiggling the reins at a stand still until she lowered her head a tiny bit, then praising, "good girl!" and rubbing by her withers. Then, jiggling again until she "got it" and lowered her head consistently. Then we proceeded to doing it at a walk. Now, each time I touch the rein she views it as a request to lower her head a bit, which really keeps her more calm, I believe. Also in spook control, if she starts, a quick single-rein-stop brings her back. Once she stops, I ask her to lower her head, and she usually calms down again quickly.
With these basics in place, Arabee and I have very nice, quiet, relaxing rides that we both seem to really enjoy. Of course, it took about 20 rides to get there, and all of it at a walk. I am sure once I add some trotting, and cantering, that we will need some refreshers of head down, and learning to single-rein-stop from these other gaits.
What tips do you have to add for riding on a loose rein??