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October 5, 2011

From Snaffle to Curb

by Melissa

I have been comparing English and Western tack lately and have been learning quite a lot!!  I need to decide this winter what the best tools are for competing in American Competitive Trail Association (ACTHA).   I had never competed in or even seen this type of event, and got 3rd and 6th at my first competition!  Most of our errors were very correctable and with the jackpots running around $500 apiece, maybe I could start breaking even on my horsey habit.  Anyway, I digress.

I love how forward Aurora is most of the time. The forwardness is great for Endurance and Jumpers; frustrating as hell for regular arena work.  I wasn’t really sure how to change this, and while I very much respect the folks advising me, didn’t much like the advice I was given. I was told to always ride with spurs, carry a whip, and strap her down with a German martingale.  Note: I will comment on these items (German Martingale spurs and whips) in a future post.  These tools definatly have their place, and for the right reasons I HIGHLY recommend them. Whips and spurs tools are never to be used for cruelty or force; an experienced rider uses them to make signals very specific and clear, ultimately improving the connection and communication.  While these methods were effective, I knew that my horse would be 100 times more willing to please if I could find a way to motivate her to want to do it as much as she wants to run.

To take her off the needing dressagy direct rein contact for direction and balance, I have been working on steering without reins.  I did this in tandem with practicing for Endurance.  This had the unintended effect of helping her learn to stay on the trail, which can allow me to navigate and get distracted without loosing precious time.    I eventually progressed to just a halter and I still had a decently responsive working horse.  Given her forwardness, this was amazing to me. 

With that as my prep work, today I tried a curb bit on her for the first time. It was amazing! She was a brand new horse.  She broke at the poll beautifully, reaching nicely for the bit…. and best of all, with the bridleless work, started understanding neck reining like she had been doing it for years.  Western’s best kept secret… at least for me.  I still have to work on how much rein pressure is needed for a stop.  Too little and nothing happens, too much and I get a head toss.

There’s an auction Friday, and I am hoping to get some long weighted reins.  That should help me gage my rein pressure better.  And they are so darn pretty!

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