Well, I haven't posted much. Again.
But I have been off and on working with Arabee.
For 2 nights in a row I've longed her, then rode for a few minutes.
Anyone ever read any of Mary Twelveponies books? I recently read Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage, which I requested via my local library system. I very much enjoyed it - it talks about how dressage training is essentially the basis (or can be) of all other riding. That, if you start with basic dressage principles, you can end up with a all-around, good, well-trained horse that you can go in nearly any direction with (of course, depending on its natural abilities) - jumping, western events, trail riding, whatever.
Also from the library, at the same time, I checked out Equine Fitness: A Conditioning Program of Exercises & Routines for your Horse by Jec Aristotle Ballou. Also a good, informative read - describing how to safely and progressively bring a horse along from unfit to fit, describing different tools and exercises to use depending on the horse's maturity as well as current level of exercise. One of the main things the book stressed was that even if you were going through the motions of the exercises in the proper order, for the right amounts of time, you would not be benefitting the horse UNLESS it was travelling in the proper posture. It essentially stated that if your horse was not moving properly (back up, haunches down) you could not expect to achieve fitness, just a sore, unhappy animal. (I originally stumbled upon this book when I searched info on building stronger stifles)
Okay, well, how to get my horse moving properly? I don't want a "headset" (which unfortunately is what I suckered myself into getting when I started Arabee when she was 4 years old). My goal is a horse who is engaging it's rear-end, light on the forehand, using it's back and neck in a fluid, supple way. You know, on the bit.
But.....don't I (and Arabee, too) want to ride bitless?
So back when I posted about the cousins riding, I had both girls riding in my rope halter that has a place on each side to clip reins. Arabee actually yielded to rein pressure very very nicely. It was beautiful to watch her engage for those girls, and she did very very well. BUT, in order to achieve that posture/frame, Arabee had constant (still gentle, but constant) pressure on her nose. I'm really not describing the details of why very effectively - but to me it was clear that for riding work in which I'm looking for a specific frame/body position from Arabee, that riding in that rope riding halter isn't ideal.
Okay. So I tried my Dr. Cook's bitless bridle again. Well, same thing - she went very well in it, and did yield pretty well - but I'd quit riding in it a loooong time ago - for the reason that there was no release from pressure - once the cross-under straps got tight, they stayed tight.
I have an S-hack, too. So I rode in it a few times again, hoping that I'd be able to achieve a light feel in the proper frame. Well, I could get a sort of high-headed, probably false "collection" - but anything resembling steering was out the window - and it seemed that Arabee just could not relax and get long and low in it, no matter how loose the rein.
So that left me out of bitless options to try. None of them seemed appropriate for the type of work I was wanting to do - retraining my horse using dressage principles, to achieve correct body carriage, to be able to properly work through some of the fitness and conditioning exercises laid out in the Equine Fitness book, in order to gradually and in a "makes-sense" sort of way bring my pasture potato to whole-body fitness - able to do long trail rides away from home without getting exhausted and sore.
So, I guess, what I'm really trying to say here....is that...I'm working on retraining my 14 year old mare to a snaffle bit again. Something that if I'd have just taken the time to do it right the first time (rather than look solely to head and neck carriage for a "headset") I could be done with all that and just be enjoying my super well-trained, all-around good horse.
In future posts, I intend to lay out details of exactly how I aim to go about doing this, what I'm doing, what my goal is with doing just that - progress, etc. It will very likely take a LONG time, due to my on-again, off-again riding schedule. But you know what - I'm having fun doing it, and Arabee still whinnies when she sees me, so I guess she's not tooooo perturbed about the whole bit thing.