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Don’t Block the Brilliance

By Christa Miremadi

Have you ever been speaking to a friend, trying to remember the name of a book or film that you’ve seen, only to draw a blank until moments after you’ve hung up the phone or parted ways? Have you ever found yourself at a loss trying to remember whatever it was that you told yourself over and over not to forget at the supermarket, only to remember exactly what it was the second you get home?


ave you ever noticed how, in these moments, it doesn’t quite feel as though the information you’re looking for is missing but rather hiding or being blocked somehow? Relax… it will

come. Sometimes, the best way to achieve a goal you’ve been striving for is to stop trying to reach it. I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s true! Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring, learning, refining and sharing the art of working in the hackamore using the balance and signal system of the early Californios. This is a rich, sophisticated system that requires a deep physical understanding of both balance and feel -- two things that are nowhere near as simple as they sound. I’d been riding in a rawhide hackamore for 15 years or more when I decided it was time to learn more about them and although I knew it was a pretty intricate piece of equipment, I wasn’t totally sure what made it so different from riding in a snaffle bit. Not only could I not find anyone who had much experience riding with a hackamore, but it also seemed as though anyone who did simply rode in it the way they would any other direct pressure system. I may not have known what they should have been doing differently, but I knew enough to realize that this was not the way a hackamore was designed to be used and so I simply put my bosal back on the shelf and waited. My Mustang, Cisco, nicely balanced in his hackamore. A few years back, I was fortunate enough to meet a few incredibly talented, dedicated individuals who’ve put a great deal of effort and time into developing their understanding and skill with hackamores and bridle horse development. At first, I simply dabbled, listening to what these people had to say and opening myself up to their interpretation of the Californio method of horsemanship. But it wasn’t long before I became obsessively curious and found myself developing a bit of a fascination with this beautiful, compassionate and considerate system. 8 • Saddle Up • May 2015

To sum up: giving the horse time to mature both physically and emotionally and working through balance and signal, this system fully prepares a horse for the job he’ll be required to perform without the use of bit. Using a simple yet sophisticated braided rawhide loop around the horse’s nose and a 22-ft braided mane hair rope called a mecate, the vaqueros would stay out of the young horse’s mouth as they Fire in his “two-rein” set up. grew and shed teeth. A young horse’s face is very sensitive during this growth phase. The use of balance and signal with a bosal preserves the young horse’s sensitive mouth and face as they learn. As the horse learns, the size of the bosal/hackamore will be reduced. In the early stages of training, a horse may be in a 5/8-inch hackamore but, as he progresses, he’ll work his way down to a more delicate bosalita of 3/8-inch or even ¼-inch. By the time the horse is working in a ¼-inch, he’ll be ready for the “two-rein.” At first, the bridle is placed over the bosalita and the rider continues to ride with the bosalita and mecate, simply carrying the bridle reins as the horse grows accustomed to the bit. Slowly, the rider will begin to pick up on the bridle reins more and more, however the bosalita and mecate are still available to help correct or direct the green bridle horse as he learns. In this way, that beautiful, sensitive, velvet mouth is preserved. The whole system can take upwards of five years! A far cry from today’s 30-day crash courses that so many horses are expected to come away from “broke.” The amount of time, effort, respect and care that’s put into both developing this system of horsemanship and the horses themselves was so refreshing and so inspiring to me. I was hooked! It became very important to me to learn as much as I could about this system and to really understand how the use of balance and signal was different from the method I was so familiar with: pressure and release. Explaining the differences between the two systems is an entire article by itself, so I won’t even start that, but what I will say is the more I “tried” to get it, the more confused I became, and the harder I pushed myself to “do it right” the more frustrated I was. One day, as a way to take the pressure off of us both, I took my gelding “Fire” down to my round pen, pulled off all his tack and just hopped on him “naked.” As we moseyed around, taking a break from the pressures of “getting it,” I began to notice him noticing me. If I got a little off-centre (which happens every now and then), he’d respond HCBC 2010 Business of tHe Year

Saddle Up May 2015  
Saddle Up May 2015  

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