I introduced the bareback pad to Quest, letting her sniff and explore. Once her curiosity was satisfied, I tossed it on her back and took it off several times with zero reaction from her- I wasn’t surprised but hey, you never know. When it came time to girth up though, I realized that I had NO idea how to do up the straps. I’ve used bareback pads before and they have always been pretty straightforward nylon buckles. T’s pad had one extremely long nylon girth strap with D-rings; there was no cinch, nothing. After repeatedly trying to decipher how the straps worked and even enlisting the help of a western-savvy rider who was a regular bareback pad user to no avail, I resorted to use A’s pad instead that used a normal cinch and latigo set-up.
All cinched up, we walked into the indoor where I tugged, yanked, pulled at the pad. No response. I moved over to the mounting block and leaned over with my weight, wiggling around. Nothing. I hopped on. There was an ear flick and nothing. Cued her to walk forward, and off we went cruising along like old bareback pros. Once we both got comfortable, we had some fun with a set of ground poles in the arena that we walked and even trotted over. I was super happy to note Quest’s ears were pricked forward and up, she’s taking to working poles well so far. We ended the ride with a calm Quest and a happy me- will definitely add bareback sessions to our winter rides. Now to go shopping for a pad!
On Saturday after our usual lunge warmup, Quest and I headed out for a handwalk on the trail while A had a riding lesson. It was the first time that I had taken her out on just a lead since her meltdown about a month ago and also our first time doing it solo. We couldn’t go too far due to time constraints but were able to get quite a distance away from the barn to see tremendous improvement with zero calling out and minimal fuss. Quest got worried when she heard some roofing workers banging and nailing away on a house in the adjacent neighborhood. We stood there for a bit until she figured out nothing was about to eat her. After we got back to the barn, we tacked up and met A and J for the trail ride. We decided to do a trail around a lake that I had never been on before but was familiar to our trail escorts.
When I got off, Quest did NOT want to stand still at all. She wanted to move but of course we weren't going to do that. She started to get into my space to try and move forward. When I reprimanded her and made her back up out of my space, she got more worked up. When we finally mounted, Quest's energy was still up and keeping her at a walk was a challenge. I did not want to keep hauling on her mouth so I did half-halts and sat deep. She tried to jog off several times so I put her into tight circles and only let her straighten out when she settled into a ratable walk. Back at the barn, I took tack off of my lathered mare (she did have nice sweat patterns though) and got out the rope halter and lunge line to review groundwork until Quest remembered that staying out of my space REALLY MEANT staying out of my space and I had a much calmer and happier mareface at the end.
While things ended on a positive note, Quest's pushy attitude when waiting on the trail was definitely not permissible. Granted her bundle of nerves could have been due to fact that it was her first time on that particular trail, being right by the highway with all the traffic, seeing the lake for the first time, etc...I don't think it's ever a good reason to allow for bad manners. On the bright side, I don't think I have to worry about Quest being lazy on the trail, we do need to work on getting her energy down and relaxing more. The tight circles worked really well while I was in saddle but when I'm out of the saddle, I was thinking about unclipping the reins and lunging her if there is enough room on the trail (I have a halter-bridle so there is a ring to clip to so it won't be on her mouth/bit). Plausible? Any suggestions for things I can do with her on the trail?