So, people reading this blog maybe think I'm being really irresponsible to ride a green/unbroke, young, Arabian without any tack other than a neck rope. I don't have any reason to think this other than the fact that I myself would have thought exactly the same thing if I had read this a year ago =)
The thing that I'm realizing now is that as long as there are a few things in place there is far less danger doing this than in relying on any tack at all.
First, trust - Trust that Sora has in me and that I have in Sora. Since I trust her I rely on her to make good decisions which includes not even letting me on her back if she's nervous or unwilling to have me there. Since she trusts me she believes that if something happens that she's scared of I'll take care of it/kill it =)
Secondly, Awareness - When I get on Sora with or without tack I am extremely aware. Aware of my surroundings, the temperature, and anything that could be possibly scary. If I hear that a truck is coming up the driveway I get off, if I see that the other horses are running around I get off. Soon the other points such as trust and practice will mean that I don’t need to do this as often simply because fewer things will be scary. Because I’ve spent so much time with her now I know intimately what will set her off and how.
Third, Practice – Practicing working around things that are scary on the ground, practicing quick dismounts, practicing a good (really really good) Whoa for when it’s needed etc.
Finally, Flexibility – Simply the fact that if Sora doesn’t want me on her back that day I don’t even climb on. If it’s a cool windy day and Sora is hot we work on fast energetic things, if it’s a hungry day Sora gets to graze while I groom or rasp her hooves. Because of this Sora and I feel free to do whatever is best and it has meant lately that even on some days I wouldn’t plan on riding, Sora has overruled me and in that case I go ahead and ride. Once again trust paying off.
Lastly the whole thing works because of intent. I am completely committed to doing what is best for Sora. I don’t bring anything negative into our relationship together. No pain, no fear, no pressure, no force at all, ever. Because in the end what I want is a friendship relationship with Sora, not one built on control, force, fear etc. Once in a while I need control for farrier visits, vet visits, first aid etc. but because I never force anything on her Sora is willing to go along with me when I NEED something and is quiet and well behaved because she trusts that I have her best interest in mind.
Because of my proper intent Sora’s whole way of moving has changed. She’s off her front and using her hips and hind legs more, She’s well balanced and much, much, much calmer. All I needed to do was show her how much nicer it is to move/be that way and once she tried it she realized that I may sometimes be right =)