The Pessoa

I quite like lunging with the Pessoa to show a horse where he should be putting his head and neck. I find that the pulleys release the pressure on the bit when the horse stretches into a long and low frame.

Anyway, the Pessoa can be mis-used as you can tighten the ropes and the horse stretches down until their nose is between their front legs. I used the Pessoa regularly with Otis for a couple of years but now find that lunging him naked is of just as much benefit to him as he has learnt to carry himself and work over his back without gadgets.

Back to the purpose of my post. I have lunged Llani naked regularly to encourage him relax and go forwards. I find he is now less tense, and you can see the muscles working from neck to hindquarters, like a wave of energy through his body. This partnered with Llani’s ability to lunge in both directions without turning in, made me decide to introduce the Pessoa.

I took the opportunity this morning, when I had lots of time, to fit the Pessoa. I let the sheepskin hug his quarters as I led him to the school, so that he could get used to the feeling of being “hit up the bum”.

I quickly sent him out on a circle, and didn’t spend too long walking – he’s just learnt to stay out on a circle, so I don’t want to give him an excuse to turn in (I try to extend the walking period each session, and finish with a long walk down on a circle). Llani was so funny! He waddled with his hind legs as he acclimatised to the feel of the sheepskin under his tail. I just encouraged him to trot and let him take his time getting used to the Pessoa.

It didn’t take as long as I anticipated for Llani to adjust and begin to trot normally, so I soon halted him to clip up the rest if the Pessoa. Obviously I wanted to set it into the lowest position but I had to be careful Llani didn’t feel too restricted because then he wouldn’t want to go forwards.

It was fairly loose, but Llani’s immediate response was to lift his head to resist the Pessoa. I think it’s the result of being ridden in draw reins or with a heavy hand. I let him stand and relax a bit, before asking him to walk on. Albeit reluctantly, Llani stepped forwards and after about half a circle was holding his neck in a longer frame. It was a fragile outline but he was really trying for me, so I asked him to trot on. In the upwards transition Llani often comes up and back at the rider, so I’m hoping that the Pessoa will help stop this habit. The trot was very staccato as Llani held his head up, resisting the Pessoa. I sent him forwards and suddenly Llani stretched forwards a bit, as he often does when I ride, before dropping his nose and lifting his back. Unfortunately for Llani, the Pessoa released go the pressure when he worked correctly, and he couldn’t feel a heavy rein contact. He jerked his head up, losing his balance, and resumed trotting as he had before. I describe riding Llani as being a parent. He wants his hand held all the time, and for the rider to put him in the right place. I will explain this theory another time.

Gaining a bit of confidence, Llani stretched forwards and engaged his back, and allowing the Pessoa to go slack again. This time he managed to maintain this for two strides before reverting to his usual trot. He seemed it appreciate the alleviation of pressure.

After working on both reins Llani managed to stretch and engage his back for a few strides at a time. I didn’t work him for too long as Llani isn’t used to working in that way, and then I unclipped the Pessoa to let Llani stretch and cool down. I was surprised with how much he had unlocked and released his trapezius muscle. His neck stretched out from the wither hugely!

I think the Pessoa will really help Llani learn how to work correctly which hopefully I can build on when I ride him and he can build a better top line. It will be interesting to lunge him naked in a months time to see if he’s holding himself up.

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