It's Safety Saturday sponsored by Ovation Riding! I'm so grateful for how comfortable and lightweight my helmet is with its CoolMax fabric going into summer!
Today I want to talk about safely introducing your horses to new equipment. Mocha had his very first ride in the bosal today, so it made me think about writing a post for y'all, as it can be a dangerous process if not done properly.
I always start, even briefly, with equipment on the ground. Leading, moving it around, rubbing it, etc. Showing the horse there's nothing to be afraid of, and give them a feel for how it moves.
Next, I just walk on their back, and start bridging cues. Mocha had already worked in a sidepull, so he is decently familiar with nose/face pressure, but the jaw pressure is new. To support him through this, I use the leg, vocal, and neck rein cues he already knows to "fill in the gaps". This is why it's SO important to use vocal and seat cues first - you will always have those no matter what saddle or bridle you use.
Keep in mind how your horse responds to new things. Mocha is one that likes to "test his limits" so-to-speak, so I know at the beginning some of his responses will be a bit delayed or fussy. I don't get after him, I just keep my cues consistent and make the release and reward big until he catches on. If a horse is what u call a "tantrum" horse, meaning they react to change with violent head tossing or lifting feet, I might spend more time getting them comfortable on the ground, or not touch the reins at all the first ride.
Once he feels good, I'll step up in gaits. Here I'm not as worried about how he goes, instead I just want him to feel the different movement and balance. Over time at the jog I'll build up our cues, but when just starting I want him to be confident and feeling good. Lots of seat and vocal cues so he still understands what's happening.
This is what I have found instills the most confidence in my horses. If you were on my live stream earlier you would have seen Tamy riding him and he was very soft and confident. That's what I like to see!