We've started working with bridle and bit last winter. I was always afraid to go back on the bit cause I thought Juliano will get tense and unhappy. So we took it slow. When I felt we had all the pieces of puzzle in place on natural hackamore I re-introduced the bit. At that time I realized it was me who had the issues. I was afraid to pick up the rains and to use the bit in any way. I always recalled an image of J stiff with a hollow back and fear in his the eyes. Before I got him he was ridden on draw rains and called crazy and unridable. And as he is an ex-race horse the one thing he knew was how to lean on the bit to get this extra kick out of his hind legs and go even faster. Not a pretty picture.
So, we've been doing bits and pieces with the bit for the last 3-4 months. A bit of fluid rein, a bit of serpentines and 8's to relax, all on loose rains. Than I've added few minutes every session on concentrated rein.
Today I could feel the progress. For the first time Juliano seeked the bit when saddling. He took it just like piece of carrot. Our warm up was very relaxed, with few breaks which we took standing on a pedestal. By the way, not long ago Juliano was so afraid of the pedestal he would not go near it. Now not only he loves it, he seeks other things to stand on. There are few chairs in the open arena and he dragged me to one and offered to stand on it :) how cool is that.
After warming up on loose reins it was time to ask Juliano to shorten his frame a bit. A couple of serpentines, smaller circles and random sideways and shoulder-ins here and there my concentrated reins were loose again. Juliano got much shorter and more collected. Even in canter he wasn't speeding up and our walk-canter transitions got much more supple and smooth. Before, going into canter felt like sitting on a speeding motor bike going from 0 to 100mph. I was so happy with that I decided to visit the pedestal for the last time, take the bridle off and go for a walk in the woods. By the way, we have invented a new hackamore with Joanna and Wiselka. Happened by accident of course. I took of the bridle and than swung the finesse reins over his head to have them on Juliano's neck. They got stuck on his nose, so I thought "Ok, lets play friendly with them on his nose". It turn out there are no problems with riding like this :) good to know.