TAKING THE BRIDLE OFF
At this point I was super excited about how far we had come, not just in our relationship but in the retraining to lightness that we had achieved. Now to tackle my mindset: riding a big, powerful horse with gear on is one thing, but then to take it all away and trust… well, that’s a massive step, but one I was determined to do.
When it came to eventually removing the bridle, from a safety perspective, I started in a fenced arena and also made sure my backup cue and halt was pretty perfect on the neck ring first, without the aid of the bridle – while the bridle was still there for backup. This all went really well, and I thought “let’s just do it” and, from his back, I did what I’d seen all my mentors do and took off the bridle.
At first, we both stood there and just took in what I’d just done. I could see Lufty processing the situation and he was hesitant to move. I got the courage up to ask for a walk; he moved off with small steps and I thought, “I must test the brakes now”. He came to a stop… super! We started playing a bit more and I thought I won’t push it as it was a great start to riding bridleless and didn’t want it to go wrong as my safety was at stake… I wasn’t wanting to fall off a 16.2hh horse at the best of times.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I did get a bit too excited and decided that we could do a small trot, so might as well try a little canter. I asked and he gave, but boy did he go! I panicked and decided to bail as he was picking up speed; I landed hard, off to the side, and he turned and looked at me as if to say, “What are you doing down there?”
I had to laugh in between the hurting, as he genuinely was unsure of what had just happened. I was annoyed at myself for losing confidence. I took myself back some steps as I knew it was all me and I needed to gain my own trust in Lufty, so I set my next challenge to trot over a small jump. It felt like a small victory for my confidence when we did this, and I rewarded him like crazy. Lufty thought that this was awesome as he only needed to do a little bit of work for a big reward!
We finally started to build on this amazing feeling of free riding and, with the help of some amazing people like Alizee Froment and Melanie Ferrio-Wise, we were on our way to our end goal of jumping a course of jumps.