As you know, Speedy has just entered Phase 2 of his Heal and Rehab. And so, rather than dreading the next six weeks of walking under saddle, I have decided to embrace, relish, and capitalize on the opportunity to slow. things. down.
I started riding him a few days ago in just my riding halter and breeches, no saddle, pad, or bit. I certainly don't recommend this for everyone, there is no way I'd attempt this with Sydney, but Speedy is pretty well behaved and has a round, rideable back. And since he'd already demonstrated that he remembers his manners, I asked JL if I could take a lesson bareback with just the halter. She hesitated for a moment, but then realized that it would give us both an opportunity to really stretch and try something new.
For the next 40 minutes, we worked on getting good quality sideways movements using the outside rein and the inside leg. Talk about deconstructing an idea to its most basic core elements. Riding bareback with only a halter strips you of any cheats or helps. I didn't even use spurs. (JL called it keeping the volume low.)
Almost immediately, I had a gigantic AHA! with the outside rein. It's the same AHA! I had with Christian at the last clinic. For the past several years, I have relied pretty heavily on the inside rein while consistently dropping the outside rein. During this lesson, I could really feel the dance between the outside rein, my inside leg, and Speedy's legs.
We worked on suppling Speedy to the left without using my inside rein (OH MY GOD - I finally get THAT idea). Inside of asking for inside flexion, which isn't wrong, I used my outside rein to catch and slow his outside shoulder while pushing him out with my inside leg. Within no time, he let go with his neck and was on the outside rein with a soft and flexible neck. Squeal.
We repeated the exercise to the right and then moved on to figure eights and the "s" done at first level - the two half circles done at X.
The most interesting part of the whole lesson was Speedy's response to the work while not carrying a bit. Every time I asked for something hard, he chewed, clacked his teeth, or gaped his mouth. We couldn't figure out if these were just habitual responses, or if moving his mouth was a physical manifestation of him thinking. It was actually quite funny.
I planned to start back with the bit next week. I am pretty sure I am going to hold off on that as long as possible. I enjoyed relying on my seat aids more than my rein aids. I think Speedy did, too!