At the heart of rein-free work is the horse's choice to be with you, (and by you, I mean me. ha!) It is their choice to be with you / me when there is no strong, direct connection. What is that, if not liberty work? So, why not go back to that work on the ground, as I did with Leah and the others?
At Liberty work. Or, a word I prefer, Heeding. You can read a little about my work with heeding and getting Leah to be a really fun trail horse. Some more on that here. Heeding is getting your horse to be tuned into you and wanting to be together. I had a trainer, Rebecca, who introduced us to the concept of heeding during her monthly workshops, which I attended with Leah. That work helped us break through some barriers and become partners. I would love to have the same opportunity with Tumbleweed, but she doesn't do workshops anymore. Double damn.
Something funny happened right after this. We got to the bridge that is supported by 4 tires--the squishy bridge--and Tumbleweed, at liberty, knocked the bridge off the tires, then jumped away, and stopped and looked to me for direction.
Tumbleweed is by my side, but loose.
This work is a great foundation for teaching them that we can have a connection without the direct physical touch through rope, or reins & bit. But Tumbleweed is young, and he will still need support in most settings. It took a couple of years before I could ride Leah on a loose rein. She really needed that constant, "I am here with you" that I gave her through the contact of the bit and reins. She was also very sensitive to my leg, which Tumbleweed is not. (He's getting better.) They just have such different personalities. Leah is a sweet, sensitive soul. Tweed is a bull in a china shop.
I'm going to make a hell hat. The helmet itself does not keep the sun off my face and neck like my hats do, therefore, I need to incorporate a brim. I'm going to go out today and look for a straw hat that I can cut out and attach to one of my helmets. I'll also need to find a band (colorful duct tape, preferably brown, thin belt, ribbon, collar, whatever works) and attach it over the seam. There are quite a few really cool examples if you search them. Each is very unique to the owner. Many of my friends have them, and I've wanted to make one for a LONG time. Sadly, I have donated many great hats through the years that would have been PERFECT to make into hell hats. By all rights, I shouldn't have to go out and buy anything new. No matter which hat I choose, it will be a little painful cutting it up. Doesn't seem right. haha.
Here are a few examples from a place called Rodeo Etc. I have an extra black helmet, and a brown trail helmet, like one seen in these examples.
We've had two family vacations this summer where we rented homes on the lake. One of the homes had paddle boards, and my husband and I went out in the mornings and paddled around together. We loved it. We saw a heron, who let us get really close, and on another day, a family of ducklings, who swam right next to us. We have boats and runners, but they're loud and fast. The boards brought us closer to nature. Bonus! It's good exercise, and it helps your BALANCE. Damn right! I can use that with the horses. A little yoga, a little boarding...forever young. ha! We came home and bought our own. They're inflatable, but just as hard and stable as the solid boards. You can also deflate them and hike into areas where you can't get a car.
We've been out on them twice. This is yesterday's excursion to Hog Lake, a place I often ride horses.