To make the bucking strap, I adjusted it so that it is as wide as it will go. I attached a trigger snap to each end and clipped it to the dee rings on my saddle. It is the perfect length. As an added bonus, the bright blue color makes it very easy to see when I want to actually use it.
Rest assured, Mom, neither horse is being naughty enough for me to need it for safety's sake. In the past, yes, I might have used it as its name suggests, but for now, I am using it as a way to stabilize my hands. It was the trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, who suggested I use the strap. I've used it twice with each horse, and I can already see how beneficial it is going to be.
I used it first with Sydney. While he and I have come a long way together, there are still many things we/I need to learn. I feel like I keep my hands very quiet and steady with him, but the strap revealed the opposite. While riding, I grabbed the strap with my left pinky and was delighted with how quickly Sydney quit bouncing his nose. The more steady my hand was, the quieter and more solid his contact became. All I could think was that I was finally giving him a comfortable contact to hold.
When I shorten the reins with Sydney, he gets tense and "bouncy" with the contact. With the strap, I shortened the reins and slipped my bottom fingers under the strap. Almost instantly, he quit fussing. This tells me that my contact has not been very inviting. As we worked, I practiced letting go of the strap while striving for the same steady feel that the strap provided. I also worked on lowering my right hand so that my pinky could just graze the strap. This showed me that I do lift my right hand far too frequently.
When I rode Speedy G, the strap showed me that he is very heavy on my left rein. We have a lot of work to do there. Instead of planting my left hand in his crest as JL had me do, I maintained the left bend by hooking my fingers under the strap. With the strap, I discovered that Speedy never releases his inside jaw; he pulls on me the whole time we work.
We did quite a few canter-trot transitions which revealed a very powerful moment. As we transitioned down to trot, Speedy tried to take the bend away during the transition. With my fingers tucked snuggly around the strap, he couldn't pull his head and neck out of the bend. JL has told me several times that he will never learn to maintain the bend if I can't show him that that door is closed. The strap is already helping me to show him that he can't take the bend away.
The second time I rode him with the strap, he got quite fussy about the fact that he couldn't tip his nose to the outside. Thinking back to the ASK! comment on my final test from EL Sueno, I decided to really stick to my guns. I increased the bend even more and laid into him with my inside leg. MOVE, MOVE, MOVE was my reply. I also asked for more than a couple of canter to trot transitions, each time maintaining the inside bend by holding the strap. I also added a lot of inside leg as we did the transition which prevented him from falling in on the inside shoulder.
I think the bucking strap will help me tremendously with straightness as well. He really wants to tip his nose to the outside which allows his haunches to fall in. With his nose tipped out, the outside rein just sends his haunches further in like a carousel horse spinning on its pole. The strap is going to help me keep his nose pointed in the right direction which should allow me to utilize the outside rein better.
Once I ride a few more times with the strap in place, I'll be sure to let you know what else it reveals. We have a lesson tonight. Hopefully JL can help me utilize it to the best effect.