Spirit has started his bitless journey with the lessons on saddling, squaring up and sidling to the mounting block. He has also done the first bitless lesson which was LF (Lateral Flexion) and he’s getting nice and soft doing that. To progress his skills I am now adding more moves to his repetoire, these are: DHQ (disengage hindquarters / indirect rein), FH (forhand move / direct or open rein) and BKup (Backing up). These moves allow me to talk to each individual foot with just the two reins. I am also teaching him to work with a loose rein, to uphold his responsibilities (don’t change gait, don’t change direction and look where you’re going) which we’ve started applying in the ground work game of circles.
Today we just hung out together after I had trimmed Spirit’s hooves and I decided to just have a wee session with the techniques we’ve been learning. To use those techniques for a purpose is what it’s all about whether it’s trailer loading, getting ready to mount, riding or going through a river….putting feet up on a pedestal helps with all those kinds of things as it builds a trusting connection that gives the two of us a way of communicating. What I try to do is set things up where I ask a question which involves a task and through the process of Spirit asking questions about that task he uses his brain to figure out what it is that I’m asking him. This thinking process is what bonds us more. We started off with the ABC’s of that communication but slowly we are getting more fluid in this language together.
Pedestal Update: Third practise session….going pretty well….
This is Spirit and our first Bitless Riding Video together and the start of his Bitless journey. It shows the very beginnings of riding for us which is our halt, what is known as a one rein stop or Lateral Flexion. This is our emergency halt and we will practise this a LOT, from a standstill, then from a walk, then from a trot/canter which will be after I’ve directed him onto a circle, into a disengage of the hindquarters and into a LF for that relaxed halt with Spirit’s neck/mind nice and soft and that goes for my body/mind too. Later on I will be doing this now and mostly stopping through our breathing, body cue connection but for now practising our emergency stop will make it easier if I have to ever use it and it won’t cause a brace as it will become a relaxation technique through learned behaviour.
The 3F’s: Slowly my Familiarisation, Feel, Focus techniques are working more together, I’m working on trying to connect the cues from a focus first, a thought, a body stance, then some energy and then a feel if necessary and with Familiarisation I’m working on showing Spirit that things that flap, make noise and move don’t mean he has to move, only when I put my own energy towards him it does it mean move..as in when I move my body and flap with my stick/string to encourage forward movement.
Familiarisation: Umbrella and rope over head
Feel: Changing sides with a forehand move, Rope around Spins
Focus: Starting half circles and circles in trot
Again we will practise these particular moves for 7 training days in a row, the first 2 lessons games will also be included now and then so nothing gets left or forgotten.
Training Video 2 – Progressing Familiarisation & Feel games + adding Focus games now too.
So now I’m starting to communicate to all four of his feet, his inside shoulder and his mind. We will continue to progress these new games and start using them for a purpose as we go. Once we have some real connection through the games we can start having fun and adding obstacles to the mix. I will do an update in a week or so to show how we’re getting on so remember ‘Practise makes Progress’ 🙂
LESSON 2 UPDATE – showing Spirit’s progress with last week’s lesson
Training Video 1 – Basic Familiarisation & Feel games
Familiarisation = getting Spirit used to things, energy, motion, noise using approach and retreat and not over facing him with stimuli. I want him to be able to become familiar with things and not be frightened or shut down. I’m looking for relaxation when doing this so I will go as gently as he needs but progress when he’s okay about it. This game is the most important one and as relaxation is the goal I will be able can return to it often to reassure Spirit to find that sweet spot regularly when he needs it.
Feel = This is where I ask for specific moves by touching the horse. I work on these to help him understand my riding aids and I want to make sure those are good before I ride him, more so because he will be going bitless so working on a feel from the halter/lead rope is paramount to a good bitless start. These moves are done by pulsing cues between halter/rope and hand on body and I’m looking to move all 4 feet in all 4 directions with equal understanding, lightness and purity as we go along…for now, just one step is good but I will make sure that one step is done well before releasing/rewarding so that Spirit understands.
Process = Play for 7 days in a row to ensure lessons are understood well. Just one step and reward after by a big breath out, release hands on lead rope and horses body to cause a stop, some scratches at his withers which he loves or even just resting next to him. I will give him a BIG reward at the end of each session with some of his favourite pony nuts on the ground just before I rub him and walk off showing the end of the session clearly.
Progress = After working on asking for one step for 7 days I will start to introduce more steps slowly, making sure I use my ‘pulsing cues’, this makes sure I end up with smooth moves and no brace in the horse (physically, mentally or emotionally / neck,head, body, legs, mind). I will show this progress as we go 🙂