I got all my new training tack in this past Friday and was anxious to get started using it all on Smokey. Probably a bit too anxious, as it turns out…
On Saturday, I headed out to the barn, my new mecate and slobber straps, new reins and cinch all in tow. I bought all of these off eBay, but they were all products I had researched extensively and selected some pretty reputable sellers (or just bought at the cheapest price a name brand). All turned out to be great.
I’m really excited about the mecate and slobber straps for training once we’re comfortable with the bit and how that works on Smokey. A mecate is really just a fancy term for some really long reins (22 feet!) that allow you to have an extra third rein for when you hop on and of fyour horse all the time. Traditionally, this third rein is kept just looped through a belt or chaps so that when you hop off, it comes with you hands-free, but when you fall off, it doesn’t drag you. They are super usefule for training purposes and paired with a training snaffle bit are super powerful tools (as I learned at the clinic). Oh and slobber straps? Those are what are used to connect the mecate to the bit. They just small leather pieces (that cost a fortune) that the mecate loops through and around.
This is the mecate all rolled up. Mine has black poppers on the ends.
My new neon green reins are coming in super handy while I still am working Smokes in his halter. They clip right onto the side pulls of his halter and are the perfect length for what I want. They’re also super visible, which will be nice when I start filming myself riding (oh yeah, that’s happening) so I can see what I’m doing with my hands.
Super awesome neon green reins with water loops and clips.
The new cinch is a mohair and alpaca mix. I picked this because it’s really cool looking and I wanted a natural fiber cinch. I’ve done a lot of reading and the going wisdom seems to be that natural fibers and mohair in particular wick sweat away from the horse and breathe and stretch more naturally (I see a trend) than neoprene or other man-made cinch material. I currently have a neoprene girth on my saddle that’s 30inches. Smokey is tiny, so I needed a smaller one anyway, so I sprung for the alpaca/mohair mix girth from Classic Equine. I’ll have to try it on him this week to make sure I’m happy with the fit.
All sorts of non-horse animal fiber cinch.
So aside from all my new tack, I was excited to get to work on all of the cool exercises I had learned at the Buck Brannaman clinic. To get there, though, I really needed to get on with getting the bit in Smokey’s mouth, so I knew that was on the short list of accomplishments for the weekend. Saturday, I groomed him and got him all shined up. I got out my previously purchased bit and headstall, removed the reins and decided it was time to see how he reacted to the bit. Not all that surprisingly, he wasn’t thrilled with the whole thing, but was a trooper and let me get the bit in his mouth without too much fuss. The first two times I put it in his mouth, he managed to get his tongue over the bit and really upset himself. I tightened the headstall so he couldn’t push the bit down in his mouth and that seemed to solve that problem. The third time, he kept his tongue in place and I made him walk around a bit to take his mind off of it.
Super uhappy about this, mom.
He chewed on the bit a lot and was generally discontent with the whole thing, but settled down and seemed to appreciate that I was making him do other things to keep his mind right.
I removed the headstall and bit and took him back to the small arena to mess with him some more and we longed (with and without the bit in) and did groundwork for a while before I got on him, without the headstall and bit on. We walked around and he seemed to be taking direction from my leg better and better. I asked for a few tight turns ala the clinic and he wasn’t too pleased, but seemed to slowly acquiesce after a few tries. We’re still not breaking over in the hindend, but we’ll get there (and I’ll probably explain more about that in a later post).
In the past, Smokey has pretty much stumbled into a slow trot just by increasing the pace of his big working walk, so I didn’t think it would be too much to ASK him to trot. Apparently that was just too much for Saturday. I squeezed with my legs and clicked to him and he extended his walk, then started shaking his head (which is never a good thing) and then….bucking bronco!
He headed straight for the fence (thankfully we were in the round pen, so we weren’t going too far). He bucked once and I managed to get a handful of mane to hang onto, twice and I was sitting on my hand with that handful of mane and gritted my teeth, three times and I decided that the dirt looked softer than the fence and took the opportunity to bail before it got really bad, but still managed to do some aerial stunts on the way down to landing on my shoulder and butt. He did some pretty sweet bronco moves around the pen and stopped a few strides away. Spectators gave him a 9 for almost vertical bucks after I was off. He seemed pretty upset by the whole thing; he had that same “Oh my goodness, what the heck was that?” look on his face he does whenever he kicks out on the longeline. I got up, dusted myself off and walked over to him to make sure he was ok. Horse people always check on their steed first, right?
It took a few minutes for the adrenaline to wear off, but I managed to get back on him and walk him around a few times in both directions before I called it a day. I had arena sand all in my pants and it wasn’t going away. I also bit a substantial hole in the end of my tongue and was lisping pretty hard. All in all, it wasn’t too bad of a day. I think the bit experience really fried Smokey’s brain and he just wasn’t on the same page as me for how much we were going to do this weekend. Fine. Lesson learned; I’ll slow it down a bit and let him absorb things like he’s used to. I’d prefer to keep myself out of the dirt in the future. Sitting at a desk all day with a very sore shoulder and a mouth that won’t stop salivating trying to heal a tongue wound isn’t as much fun as it sounds.
Sunday morning I went out to see him again. I was pretty sore and didn’t want to try a whole lot of new things since I wasn’t sure how much my shoulder could take. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do much of anything to have a lesson with Smokes. There was a birthday party later and I just wanted him to be around the commotion and other horses in the arena, so we walked around while they rode and generally checked things out. He impressed a few parents by being a “wild” horse and was generally very relaxed and willing. He’s getting better and better at turning on leg pressure and I’m really loving the correction I can give with the neon green reins. I can’t wait to give the mecate and slobber straps a try on the bit once he’s more comfortable with it.
Showing off my new duds at the party.
Speaking of the bit, I had brought it out to the arena with me to put on him, but waited until mom showed up with my other fur babies to show her how grown up Smokes is. He took the bit with a little resistance, but didn’t try to force it back out of his mouth once it was on nearly as much as he had before. It just takes time with him. I think he needs time to process that things won’t hurt him or be too terrible to function. The super scary pile of blankets is a testament to that. They’re still laying where they were the other night when he threw a fit about them, and now he just walks past them and eyes them skeptically instead of freaking out. Good pony!
Last night I got out there and did some really great groundwork with him. He wasn’t in the mood to pay attention, so he was rather grumpy once I set him straight about what he would listen to as it got dark. We did some pivots and longeing. He will move off of slight pressure to go to his right, but is very stubborn going left. We did a lot of moving off the pressure on the right and I’m thinking that it may settle in and be a little easier next time I see him.