The ride was quite an adventure. I didn't round pen Vaquero, as daylight was fading fast, and I wanted to maximize our riding time. This was to be Vaquero's first trail ride with me. I warmed him up in the arena for about 10 minutes. I rode him in a bit-less, rope halter bridle, equipped with two split reins that joined under the chin. I could tell right away, that we were in for quite a ride together.
Vaquero is pretty responsive with a bit in his mouth, and I have close to "pinky finger" control of his speed with a bit. But I had to go bit-less, because he had his teeth floated the day before. I was having to really crank on his reins to get him to respond, and he was basically pushing against the nose pressure the entire ride.
He didn't spook on the trail, and his smoothness was greatly appreciated, especially going up and down hills that normally I have to post with Woody. But it was a tough ride because of the physical force required to control him without a bit.
Vaquero is obviously not a "finished" horse. I suspect he has not been ridden in several months. With the help of some information from AmericanPasoFinos.com, I think I have the solution to the problem. You can read more in the forums there, and my handle is "Vaquero".
He needs to be ridden in the traditional headgear for the paso, a type of bosal that will have two sets of reins. The first set of reins will control nose pressure and head height. The first set will also work to steer him by positioning his head, and will put him in the right "frame" of head. That is: flexed at the poll, head held higher than his withers or above his topline, and moving his head in response to bosal pressure. A second set of reins will control his bit, and will help to control his speed and stop. Ultimately, I want to be able to ride him with one set of reins, probably the bit, but flexed at the poll. This type of bosal is different from the one used in western riding, but serves the same purpose. In fact, if successful, I anticipate using this same set-up in my quarter horse, to get him riding more flexed at the poll and collected. It seems like I have a lot more to learn AND teach my horses. But I enjoy the challenge. I was kind of getting to the point where I was bored with the level I had reached with Woody. This next goal of riding collected, is going to be tough, but will get me to the point of a more finished horse in both of my mounts.
The picture in this post is of the beautiful sunset I enjoyed with Vaquero, Bullseye, and James. I plan to keep looking at this picture as I recover over the next 6 weeks, as a reminder of the last trail ride, and to keep dreaming of the next one...