Amber definitely needs to work in the fork, or at least a martingale for a few months.
I decided to test the waters without it today, just to see if I could get softness from her. She's very responsive at the walk, but the head just gets higher and more firmly set the faster we go. She avoids contact like the plague. And it does us no good for me to keep tugging on a mouth that couldn't care less about the signals I'm trying to send.
I posted on a forum asking a question about whether or not a running martingale breastplate attachment could be used as a training fork (it looked to be the same size as the fork we've been using). And of course, I got a chorus of "that's not necessary", and "her pain issues aren't being caused by improper carriage". Got me thinking which is mainly why I decided to give riding "naked" today a shot. Frankly, she's just building the wrong muscles, learning bad habits, and in her case with her conformation, possibly over-stressing tendons and muscles. She didn't get nearly as sweaty despite her working longer today, as she does with the training fork. Which suggests to me that she isn't really applying herself without it.
I'm not looking for a headset here. What I'm looking for is her to stretch down and just use the right muscles.
I've been considering sending her to Patricia for 60 days of training. If anyone could teach her to accept contact; it would be Trish. I'm still hesitant with the fork a bit, because I don't want to become reliant on it to get her on the bit, and I don't want her to learn that when she's wearing the fork is the only time she has to keep her head down.
I guess we will see. She wasn't "bad" today. She just at a point stiffened right up and refused to listen to my hands. It's more evident when she starts to get tired. She wants to be silly and try to run off out of the circle through her should and go around the place crooked and choppy with her nose in the air.
I know exactly how Bob thinks is the ideal way she should carry herself. In the typical HUS style. Sometimes I can get that if I *drop* my contact with her, but if she gets distracted, the head goes back up, and she's not really trying to get on the bit and apply herself, just trying to stick her nose in the dirt and be silly.
Either way, we'll make it through. If we could just get her to accept and listen to contact, everything else would be no sweat. But it's a road block. She can't understand when I ask for more advanced things if she doesn't understand what I'm conveying to her through my hands. She's only getting part of the picture from my legs and seat. They are of course important, but communication with the hands is important, even if lesser so than seat and leg.
*Sigh* We will see...