- Using a neck rope / balance rein in combination with the regular reins for steering and stopping cues as well as trying to improve Starbuck's balance
- Riding (walk, trot and canter including figures of 8, backing up and turns on the haunches) in the round pen with only the neck rope and nothing at all on her head
- "No hands" downwards transitions and ever-sharper upwards transitions, even to a canter
- "Parelli class" using only a rope halter and one rein attached to the halter to steer relying on seat cues to stop
- "Parelli class" using no reins and only a carrot stick to steer relying on seat cues to stop
- Some lovely jumps entering with rhythm and impulsion and leaving at a nice steady canter without bucking
- No longer using the butterfly bit at all and back to using the hackamore 75% of the time with the snaffle only when it's windy or there's a lot of spooky stuff going on
- Actually tracking up!!!
I've been really having a blast lately, especially since Starbuck's performance is on a higher level than some of the newer horses and I can feel like instead of struggling to keep up with a mid-level class, we're actually up there with the leaders most of the time. And of course riding bitless and bridleless is another huge thrill for me - I feel like the connection I have with Starbuck is much more honest and puts us on a more even playing field, which when she's amenable to my plans is wonderful. When I ride with less tack I feel pretty confident that #1 I'm doing a pretty creditable job on her training and #2 she's really doing this because she wants to.
However Starbuck is, after all, a teenager and so like Longfellow's little girl, sometimes she's downright horrid. At the start of the Parelli lesson she realized she had the freedom to put her head down and eat the grass growing at the edge of the arena, or bite other horses on the butt whenever she felt like it and it took me a good 10 - 15 minutes to get her to agree to what I wanted to do (ride around calmly in logical patterns without stopping for snacks, maiming or even threatening the other horses and their riders). And last Monday I was working on activating her hindquarters and tracking up when a gust of wind blew over a jump standard which made a loud noise as it hit the ground, sending Starbuck off on her best rodeo bronc imitation to date. I lost my stirrups but rode out the first three or four bucks pretty well, tried to turn her in a circle, lost my balance, got bucked into the air, landed hard with my pelvic bone on the pommel and with the next buck landed on the ground. Boy was I pissed off that after such a major spook, when I got up I found her five feet away calmly munching on thistle flowers and looking at me like "Who, me?" - I know it's a blessing that she's able to instantly chill out after completely freaking out but just at that moment I wasn't amused. Maybe it had something to do with all the arena sand in my panties.
Anyhow no harm, no foul - I got right back on sand and all and finished what I had planned to do for the day, and in the end I guess I got what I wanted - her hindquarters certainly had to be engaged to accomplish all that bucking.