Ropes & Pulleys & Lines, Oh My! September 10 2013, 1 Comment

I pulled out my back and shoulder and aggravated some old injuries and pinched nerves and my friend told me about the Pessoa system.  I know, you're all probably thinking I must live under a rock if I've never used this thing before, but call me old school, I prefer the traditional way of doing things.  And from looking at that mess of ropes and pulleys and lines, I thought, how could this do anything even remotely good for my horses!?

Then I had a friend and fellow trainer do a few demos of the rig on her horses - one who was used to it, and one who had never seen it before.  I do have to admit I was impressed.  It seemed to do a better job of getting the horse to carry themselves than with side reins laoine, with more freedom in the back than with a rider.  Hmm...perhaps Pessoa was on to something here.  And of course I wanted one. 

But HOLY COW did you guys see the price on that thing?! Over $200, and even the knock-offs were close to $100 or more.  Of course, having just gotten laid off and striking out on my own (more on that in The Oh S#*t Moment post), $200 for a bunch of ropes and pulleys and lines just wasn't going to happen.  I can barely justify showing or hunter pacing or fox hunting right now (but somehow I'm managing justifying all of those things), a $200 training system just wasn't in the cards!

So queue trip to Home Depot.  Fail.  The hardware they had was crap and the selection sucked.  Ok, off to Lowes, which was fortunately right down the road.  Jackpot! Pulleys, clips, rope (in blue - we're fancy, none of that plain white boring $200 Pessoa rope for us), and everything else we needed to put this thing together.  Fortunately mine and my friend's horses are both very quiet.  My Clyde cross stood there looking confused as to why he was on x-ties with a surcingle and ropes going everywhere, but aside from a yawn here and there, didn't seem to mind.  My friend's Oldenburg baby (he's 4) stood and looked at us like we were crazy, but let us drape rope and run lines and hook clips all over as we set up our own Pessoa-ish rigs.  And out to the ring we went!

So far so good. We made this last week and it seems to work on all the horses we've tried so far.  Of course the key is making sure it's stight enough to be effective without being so tight that it essentially teaches the horse how to evade the contact.  The nice thing is that if you have a bucker or a rearer, they learn to stop really fast since bucking pulls on the butt ropes (the lines are run through a girth fuzzy) which in turn puts pressure on the mouth.  Rearing pulls the lines from the bit, tightening the pressure on the butt.  In both cases you can pretty much just stand there and let the horse figure it out - but I certainly wouldn't recommend this for a real problem horse as they could easily get tangled or a baby could easily become overwhelmed.  For my more trained guys, however, it's been great!

It's helped my OTTB/Old NA mare loosen up after being in heat.  It's helped my OTTB jumper gelding relax his back and neck as he remuscles post-chiropractic adjustments and changes that addressed some old, long standing issues.  It's helped my very large sometimes-moves-more-like-an-elephant-than-a-dressage-horse Clyde cross move, um, more like a dressage horse again without me aggravating my back or shoulder.  And it's even helped my one client's 19 year old stiff paint who despises going to the right almost as much as he despises minis and ponies, actually start to go to the right with *almost* ease.  Progress all around - for the cost of about $25 in supplies on the heels of an "oh s#*t" week, and I think this became an "oh snap!" kinda week instead.  As in oh snap, that's good! You know, good stuff.  The good stuff that happens after you have that moment where everything changed.

Would you look at that?  Everything is starting to get better already!

Okay okay, before I wrap things up, I have a few things to share with you guys.

  1. Really? No one else has had oh s#*t moments to share?! If you need to borrow some, I have plenty of moments to go around.  Missed distances? Got it.  Tight rollback to an angled jump to an even tighter turn in the jump off of a double-points almost at the end of the season show? Yeah did that.  And looked down MID JUMP and almost fell off.  And my horse saved me. (Amazingly - it could go either way with him.  He's either brilliant or let's just say not so much.)  Then we almost jumped the park bench that was in the ring as a decoration because he was SO game that day.  Oh yeah, definitely an oh s#*t moment right there.  So come on guys, don't let me feel left out! Share yours either here or right on The Oh S#*t Moment blog itself!  

  2. Pessoa rig - love it or hate it?  Why?  Bought one or made your own?  And if you bought one, did you buy the Pessoa brand, or a knock off such as from Zilco or SSTack.com?  Let me know what you think.

  3. You guys rock.  Keep the comments coming - I love hearing from you and I have a lot more time to blog these days so tell me what you want to hear about or let me know if you're interested in writing for us!

More soon! I still owe you vacation pictures from trail riding in the Adirondacks, and some updates on what it's like to ride a trotter on the race track (really! and yes, it's weird).

Best,

CJ