In all my years of riding, I’ve never taken a lesson in western riding. I’ve ridden western before:
Although I gave my western saddle to Dijon’s new owners, I still ride sort of western in the treeless saddle when doing trail rides or endurance rides. Nilla doesn’t neck rein very precisely, but she does enough to get down a trail.
I’ve always wanted to learn more though. When we were at the dude ranch, I asked if we could have lessons, but most of the staff were europeans who rode English normally and just rode in a western saddle for the summer. The only one who really knew more advanced Western was injured or pregnant (I forget why she wasn’t available).
Levi was trained western and would probably prefer to be a western horse if he had his choice. He particularly likes not having a bit. As such, I’ve been on the look out for a bosal for Levi for months. They’re surprisingly expensive and I didn’t want to spend a ton on so I just kept checking the used tack sale every time I went. This last weekend, I finally found one. It was hideously orange and covered in a lot of built up dirt and grossness, but it was only $25 so I snatched it up. A few hours of scrubbing, a night of darkening, some time spent making a fiador out of rope, I had a pretty bosal.
Seasonal trainer was in town this week, so I signed up for a lesson. I still don’t have a western saddle and none of the western saddles at the barn fit him, so I threw my treeless endurance saddle on.
For the lesson, I first explained that I wasn’t even sure if Levi knew how to neck rein so much as he knows how to move off your seat and leg. Because I can ride him without a bridle at all, I wasn’t sure how much he was really moving off the neck rein or moving off my other cues. Turns out he knows how to neck rein very well. She said he turns his head really nicely when I neck rein him so he’s not just moving off my leg.
Because Levi was good, most of the lesson was focused on me and my form. Coming as a shock to absolutely no one, it turns out I have the same bad habits in western as I do in English. Apparently I have no control over my right hand. I was neck reining with the left, but any time Levi would get distracted (like when the dogs went by or when he heard another horse calling) I would instinctively raise the right hand to try to manipulate the reins. Even when he wasn’t distracted, my right hand would sort of creep up all on it’s own. Clearly I think pulling on the reins is the answer to everything.
One of the amusing things to me about this lesson was being a beginner again. We even practiced zig-zagging through cones (technically empty plant pots). I don’t think I’ve done a lesson that involved zig-zagging through cones in years.
It also turns out that my insistent habit of staring at the ground when making turns carries over from English to Western. Especially if there are cones to be stared at. I’m actually pretty good about not looking at jumps, so I’m really not sure why I feel the need to look down at cones, but this is not the first time I’ve had a trainer comment on it.
It was a fun lesson though. Levi was really happy to not have a bit and we weren’t doing anything difficult for him so we didn’t have any arguments. That’s why I wanted to do the lesson. I thought it would be good for us to have a positive lesson experience.