Monday, April 24, 2017

Time to Saddle Up

Silk seems very comfortable with all of the ground work so I decided it is time to add a saddle to the program. I put him in the cross ties and put the narrower of my two dressage saddles on him to try it on for size.

He stood still and relaxed while I fussed around assessing the fit of the saddle. It looked pretty good to me and Silk’s utterly relaxed attitude seemed to say it was okay with him. I found a girth that fit, I put on his rope halter and we went to the arena.

There we did all of our exercises the way we have done every day I have had a chance to work him and he didn’t seem to care at all about the saddle. I was very pleased with how the session went.

After two more days of working with the saddle on I decided to add a bridle. When I had ridden him briefly when I went to pick him up he had a full cheek snaffle in his mouth. Looking through my collection of bits, I found two full cheek snaffles. One with a skinny copper mouth piece and the other fatter with a slow twist. I decided to go with the slow twist and see what he thought about it.

Silk has a very narrow, dainty head. I rummaged through my available bridles. I didn’t really find anything particularly small so I used a full size bridle that, other than missing a few keepers was in pretty good shape.

Silk had good manners for bridling although he seemed a little reluctant to open his mouth. I slipped the bit in and the headstall portion of the bridle fit nicely. The noseband was too large for him and sat around his face like a pointless hoop. I didn’t have anything smaller so I guessed he could wear the noseband as a decoration until I could obtain something that fit him. I was happy to see he was quiet with his mouth. He didn’t gnash at the bit or stick his tongue out.

We went to the arena to do our exercises all tacked up. To me it is key that they will give their head in the bridle, the same way they do when I ask with a rope halter. When they give quietly and nicely to the bit, that is when I am ready to ride them in my open arena.

My arena is not fenced. It has a border of railroad ties and sits in the middle of a five acre pasture. If something goes wrong when I ride, the horse has five acres to act out. This has happened to me a few times and it can get pretty scary. This is why I am ultra conservative in restarting off the track horses.

Silk did well with the bridle and gave his head nice in response to pressure on each rein. Another day or two and I would be ready to ride.

The next day I tacked up Silk and put him on a real lunge line. As I now had more room with the longer lunge line I asked him to canter. This didn’t go very well. He crow hopped several times. He didn’t seem to like the way the saddle felt on his back at the canter. I kept him cantering until he settled a bit and finished with nothing but trot work. He seemed worried throughout the session.

This was the first time Silk hadn’t been relaxed and happy in his work with me. This is the kind of thing that gives me sleepless nights. I decided to back up a few steps for the next workout. We went back to the saddle and rope halter for a few days. He was a little tense while lunging but he got better each day. I then added the bridle again and he was fine. Each day improving in relaxation. He seems like he is ready to ride.

I now have to wait for the stars to align. I need good weather, the time to work him and a friend to be there in case things go wrong.

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