On this day, my teacher brought a new (to me) teaching accessory: a stretchy, tan bandage. It was exactly the kind of bandage that a person might use to wrap a sprained ankle. Extra props were in order for selecting a cost effective instructional aid and for making me scratch my head as to what was coming next.
Disclaimer: Don't try this at home. Harley was nonchalant about the exercise that follows, but I am sure that not all horses would respond in quite the same fashion. Always use a healthy dose of caution and keep safety first!
The first phase of the exercise was to place the bandage over the bridge of Harley's nose, securing it underneath spare leather from his bridle. I held the ends of the bandage like reins. This was reminiscent of a bit-less-bridle or hackamore, but with one distinct difference: the bandage felt very fragile. The fabric is probably stronger than it feels, but there is so much elasticity that it feels like you are holding nothing. I kept the reins attached to Harley's bridle in my hands, but with a lot of slack in them. Then I asked Harley to walk on.
The sensation of my horse pushing against the elastic bandage was positively delightful. It made me laugh. I could feel every little movement of his face and neck. My teacher offered this exercise so that Harley might be encouraged to reach and stretch into the elasticity of the bandage. Surprisingly, he did and almost immediately. I used my legs to keep him moving forward and to direct him around the ring. Once or twice we got a little mixed up with our signals, but for the most part it was smooth sailing.
Even though this activity was meant for the horse, I found it really interesting, too. With nothing to hold or brace against, it felt like my shoulders were part of the elastic. I could feel them moving with Harley's nose. Each of my shoulder blades felt independent. It was really cool and so silly that it made me laugh out loud! This was a great exercise for me, because I tend to hold tension in my shoulders, although I must say that those days are melting away. This activity just added to my awareness.
On a whim, my teacher decided to try moving the bandage up to Harley's forehead. This time she secured it through the browband on his bridle, which was a good idea because I dropped it more than once. Again, this was something that did not bother Harley, but might upset another horse. The new position of the bandage had an interesting effect. Harley starting pressing his forehead into the elasticity of the bandage since it was higher up. Can you imagine what that would do for his neck? He stretched his topline and advanced his poll forward. What a lovely ride that was! And guess what, there is video:
In the last segment of the video, I dropped one side of the bandage by accident. Harley hesitated and then continued on with a lovely posture. Shortly there after, I let the other side of the bandage go and just held the reins at whatever length they were already at. My teacher marveled at the freedom in his shoulders. You can see it especially in this final segment of the video when Harley is in the frame of the camera, that is. Harley demonstrated self-carriage and a winning attitude as the bandage dangled next to his face. He is one cool dude!
I was excited to share this lesson, because it was so out of the ordinary. I do not practice these exercises without my teacher present and she is so eclectic, that I imagine we may do something completely different next time. I have enjoyed my rides on Harley since then and I think that we both have a better understanding of the type of elastic connection that can be possible between us.
What unusual exercise have you practiced with your horse?
That is a really, really good idea. I'm going to mention this to my trainer at my next lesson and see if I can't try this myself, I can see both of us benefiting from this quite a bit. Thanks for the tip!ReplyDelete
If you give it a try, I would be curious to read about your lesson. I am happy that you liked the idea.
What an interesting idea! It certainly wouldn't work for anyone, lol. Harley is quite the saint for dealing with a loose, flapping bandage.ReplyDelete
My trainer had me cross my reins (R in L hand, L in R hand). It had a dual function--it forced me to keep my hands up and together and it forced me to really think before I used them at all. Not something I'd do every day, but definitely enlightening.
That IS an interesting exercise. I can see how it would help break old habits by forcing the rider to stop and think about every rein action.Delete
I agree that these are learning tools and not forms of equitation. I will not be trading my bridle for a bandage. ;)
That sounds like a cool exercise I think that my riding instructor has done something similar with Gatsby to get him to work on his outline!ReplyDelete
Cool! You must also have a creative instructor. :)Delete
What an interesting exercise! I can only imagine what it would do for rider awareness - too bad I can't try it on Cash, I know he would do it no problem.ReplyDelete
I noticed that Harley did a lot of licking in this video, which is usually interpreted to mean that he is more relaxed. I wonder how much tension we create in our horses through use of a bit, even a mild bit and soft hands. Certainly Cash always went better when I rode him bitless. It makes me wish that dressage show rules would allow riders to show bitless - strikes me that a lot of horses might benefit greatly from it!
It was really cool. I am sure you and Cash would love it.Delete
Harley loves to do that licking thing even when we are doing "normal" riding. I can feel when he does it through the reins. He is lucky that I am not one of those dressage enthusiasts who balks at a mobile mouth and decides to strap his mouth shut with a tight noseband. As you said, a mobile mouth shows a relaxed horse.
Maybe the rules will change some day. My friend also enjoys riding her horse bitless.
That is truly fascinating! With the title of this post, this was the last thing I expected it to be about lol. Really neat.ReplyDelete
I can't think of anything super unusual that we've done but this does bring to mind something unusual I've seen. The use of an elastic bandage immediately brought to mind the "Promise Wrap" that Linda Tellington-Jones uses. There are some interesting videos on YouTube of that system in use.
I have seen my teacher use wraps on horses before and she did reference L. T-J. The T-touch stuff tends to be a bit too "non-sciencey" for my taste, but I liked this exercise. I am glad you liked it, too.Delete
That's a very interesting exercise -- and I don't think I'll try it with Winston. He's just too young and silly still. But it sure sounds and looks cool.ReplyDelete
I agree! I wouldn't try it with a young horse either.Delete
This exercise with elasticity sounds very interesting. I don't think I would try it with either Blue or Dusty because I don't think right now they would benefit from it. Blue might be a tad spooky too, he's pretty set in his ways. But I think Harley is a saint and both of you seemed to benefit from this unusual exercise. Your trainer sounds like she really thinks things out and comes up with innovative ways to get her point across.ReplyDelete
Happy New Year and wishing you and Harley many good rides this coming year.
Happy New Year to you as well! And many happy rides on both your horses. :)Delete