It’s weird having lessons on a regular basis. I dunno how all this is actually managing to work out right now, but I’m not going to question it. This is a rare luxury! Although it does kind of make me pine for how things might be if I was able to get this much instruction on a regular basis. I definitely took for granted all those times when I had a trainer in-house… or in the same city… or not 2 hours away. She is worth it, but boy do I wish I lived closer. Seeing her more often just makes me feel that way even more.
Hillary and I headed out for another jump lesson on Sunday, with Henry and Inca and Dobby in tow. Henry and Inca were up first, and instead of jumping height this time, we were going to focus more on rideability and adjustability. The timing was perfect, because I’d just made a bit of an equipment change.
I’ve been doing stadium in a hackamore for almost a year now, and I really like it a lot more than a bit. It’s much easier to get and keep Henry in front of my leg, and to keep his front end/shoulders up. The downside to it, of course, has been that we sacrifice some adjustability. I bought the PS of Sweden hackamore specifically because it’s the most mild I could find… the shanks of the hackamore itself are swept quite far back, several inches further than most mechanical hackamores, which significantly reduces the amount of leverage. It also comes with a leather curb strap, making the curb action quite mild. To me the PSoS hackamore rides more like a step between a sidepull and a regular hackamore.
Which is great until the jumps are 3’7″ and you’re trying to make quick adjustments in a line.
If I needed to jump in and whoa the first and second stride, I really wasn’t getting it done until the fourth or fifth. Everything was just a little slow, and if Henry decided to try to take over and drag me around (ahem stadium at Pine Hill when he lost his mind because I smacked him with the whip one time), there wasn’t much I could do about it.
So I swapped out his leather curb strap for a curb chain. Well okay I tried to do this a couple lessons ago but the curb strap I had from my old mechanical hackamore was way too long for the PSoS hackamore. Waaaaay too long. I had to order this one, which is – I shit you not – “miniature horse” size.
It fits perfectly though, and I adjusted it fairly loosely, able to stack two fingers between his jaw and the chain. You never know how Henry is going to react to new things like that. He is sensitive, and he is high drama.
I was pleased with it. We played a lot with rocking his canter back on his hind end in the warmup, doing lots of changes of directions/flying changes by almost thinking pirouette to sit him down, then doing a change and sending him forward again. I felt like I had a bit more control right off the bat. For our first jumps Trainer sent us directly to the outside line, telling me to get 4 strides the first time and then 5 strides the next. I could actually get the “whoa” done early in the line and then coast out. Brakes are magical.
As I said earlier, this lesson ended up being a perfect test for the new setup, since it was focused on adjustability and rideability. We practiced different striding, and stringing jumps together in quick succession on odd lines or angles, making things ride more like combinations.
I definitely need to get used to riding with the curb chain, and find my happy medium. I can’t have as much contact as I was used to before, but conversely I have to be careful not to just “throw him away” so much, especially with my shoulders. There’s a learning curve here, for me at least. I’ll play with it more at home this week and try to fine tune my aids and coordinate myself a bit better. The fact that Henry didn’t have a meltdown about it is promising, because if he really doesn’t like something he’s 0% shy about letting me know, usually in a most dramatic fashion.
Overall though, it’s nice having a bit more whoa, and being able to make adjustments more quickly. Kiiiiiind of important.