So we have taken our next huge step on the ethology/natural horsemanship trail. We have been working for some months now on improving our communication (between May and I, you understand) from the ground, with a rope halter and long lead. May has been amazing and now disengages her haunches and shoulders at a look and backs up, turns right and left and does little jumps and slaloms all from just a twitch on a rope from 10 feet away. Its all quite amazing but this week we took it to the next level and started riding with just the halter and rope, no bridle, no hackamore, no bit, no rein on either side. All we have is the thin rope halter plus the lead rope knotted under her chin to make one big looped rein.
We started off practising ceding to pressure on the rope from either side, and disengaging the hindquarters from a touch behind the girth. There is no pulling or pushing, just gentle pressure on the rope until May relaxes into the "ask" or moves away from the touch. Once May had got the hang of it I mounted up and off we went.
As usual, she is was so willing and kind that it didn't take us long to work out how to do an "emergency stop" - by my opening/widening one arm and pushing her hindquarters over with my leg - the most important command to learn for obvious reasons. After this we did turns on the haunches - me using my toe to push her shoulders across to turn, the complete opposite of our years of using the leg behind the girth to manage the quarters rather than now pushing the shoulders across. Its quite weird and my brain had some trouble for a bit. We also learned how to walk forwards, slow down and go straight into reverse and then off forwards into trot without a halt in between. Wow, it was amazing. After riding for nearly forty years "classic" style, to find my horse backing up off a rope under her chin was just sooo cool.
We even cantered, on a completely loose rope, quite a big thing given the last accident, again, no problems and May is stopping almost immediately just from me lifting one or other of my hands and touching behind the girth with the same foot.
We have a way to go but before long we will no doubt be riding out on a shoestring too!
"Give me carrots NOW!!!"