In a post to BlkHrsRider the other day I was trying to explain my approach and my reasoning behind this:
I backed my youngsters without any tack or halters, because that moment when they say it's okay loose in the field with their friends to gallop away with, and you really do not want to spoil the trust by running for hat, body protector, it is trust and reading the body language, mind messages, ...then because no-one is holding them and there is nothing to restrict them or for them to pull against they tend to stand and accept a wither rub, ear rub, hand held treat if they can work out how to reach it when you are sat up behind them.
That first time may be for a minute but if it is enjoyable, positive, rewarding, your own endorphins are so easily translated and the horse does not read you as a threat.
I have now done exactly that, first time sit at liberty without halter or tack on 5 horses over the last 20 years, where previously I would usually put the saddle on before mounting the first time.
Several of course with a halter and a friend to lead or reassure, bareback, but eventually I found ( by 1992 without halter) for me the best way was simply to find the right moment when heart and mind agree it is the right time.
Quite unusual to actually have a 1st moment photo as it is normally just me with the horses, but Nikki happened along and took a few pictures for Arthur's albums for me.
1st times on an unbacked youngster are so special, brief, poignient and full of love and trust.
Our field is on hills with a flat meadow riverside, these pictures taken on the top with Dan and Ben grazing, sheep and dogs out in the field, freedom to run, no restrictions.
Tomorrow I have a day off and a friend, so Arthur can wear his saddle, come out for a walk, sniff horse poo on trails through the woods, and if it feels okay, then I will ride for 5 minutes at a time. He is quite a bit bigger now.08072009 Sitting on my baby horse.
, on Flickr08072009 It is difficult to reach your mouth.
, on Flickr
His bucks are awesome, hooves high above my head when he plays, just hope he grows in spatial awareness, and he is a huggy baby.
My piebald, Daniel was a true heart wrench. I had been mucking out the barn, putting down bedding so they have choice of dry beds. He chose to leave the retired old uncles, group of batchelors and his wife and daughter to hang out with me.
I have no bounce so asked if he minded a hug from above and clambered from the muck heap. Amazing feeling, I love my little Gypsy Cob so much, he was a truly wild and unhandled foal and as a Daddy, just so charming.
60 seconds of utter bliss and lots of hugs, reward and shared emotion between us. Simply a moment of trust.
Whilst Daniel is quite opinionated he is also an absolute darling. He retains a big space for strangers but once he decides to be friends and accept a human he moves right into shared space for cuddles.
If I had mistaken the signals the hill is steep to his pasture friends at the lower grazing, he may have reacted to my weight and feel on his back, but I did not doubt the invitation and he was free to take me where he wanted to go and at any pace downhill towards his friends. My mobile has no signal from the field in many places, and I have to trust my instinct at reading the horses I spend time with.
I remember having a friend find me riding my Thoroughbred colt for his 1st time, with tack in those days, and she asked why in the world I had not arranged for help in case things did not go to plan. I said if I thought it was likely there would be a problem, I would need to step back, and find another moment. Doubts in my mind would surely transmit. I have to love, trust and fully embrace what I believe the language to indicate.
My TB was a big colt, vet had said keep his mind occupied with his walks and begin backing him. He was by Brotherly, who was a USA horse by The Minstrel, Derby winner, out of a top USA mare Politely, from my lovely mare who traced Pinza, Straight Deal, Tom Fool, Silly Season on her side.
My Tb's were fun, athletic and very capable gallopers and jumpers who could also do Handy Pony games with small children and were just as happy turning their hooves to hacks with a lead rein pony and tiny rider.
Trust goes both ways, if I do not trust my horses in love, then they have reason not to bestow trust in me.
One day I shall manage,to find the funds and take Chuck's course perhaps, because my current horses have decades before they go to join the previous horses I have buried ( in my heart as well as in the ground), and both my horses and I would benefit from the depth, science, understanding and pleasure the coursework involves.