A Frustrating Ride on Magic

Last Sunday my grandson, who was visiting me, got his desire to go riding again after six months of not getting up on a horse. We rode at Shannon's, and I gave up my ride on Cider so my grandson could have a less frustrating ride, so I got the opportunity to ride Magic and get frustrated! Shannon did not mind me switching horses, she knows that Cider is much more likely to take care of my grandson than Magic is, and Magic has gotten more disobedient as Shannon's nice, Madison, rides her.

I had been planning on riding Cider in my newest Wellep bit, the one with several free inches of cable through the mouthpiece, just to see what Cider thought of it. But when I realized I was going to ride Magic I had flashes of Magic running my knee into the fence because I could not get her away from it in time. So I switched the bit on the bridle to my Wellep three piece snaffle with the much shorter cable, so I could have effective steering. This Wellep bit is also the gentlest bit I own, so I did not worry as much about hurting her mouth when my hand aids had to get a little strong to get my point across.

Magic balked at going through the gate, and I had to nudge her with my legs several times before she walked through. After I got Magic through the gate the challenge of steering Magic around arose immediately. Magic only wanted to go in one direction, to the gate. I used the opening rein with my hand set firmly while she expressed her displeasure of going away from the gate, she tried flinging her head around, gaping her mouth, and trying to bore into the bit. Each time after I applied the opening rein I added my leg aids, which gently persuaded her to go where I wanted her to go. For several minutes every time we passed the gate Magic would try to balk and “plant” her head on the gate and a few times I had to add gently tapping her on her croup with my riding crop. Then she remembered our previous ride and started to respond to my driving leg aids better. After around ten minutes she finally passed the gate without balking or swerving, and which point I praised her a lot! Then she voluntarily picked up contact with the bit. The rest of my ride was better though she tested me each and every time she thought she could get away with it.

I probably could get Magic to go much better under a rider if I rode her every week, but given the choice between riding Magic or riding Cider, I pick Cider every time.

Shannon had been concentrating on my grandson on Cider, confident that I would get Magic to cooperate with me. After my ride she told me that Magic would probably be much better for her niece because that is what happened when I rode Magic six months ago.

Thursday morning it was cold, with an even colder NW wind blowing. Mia was not in top shape, one side of her back was a little ouchy and she was reluctant to stand just on her right hind leg. It was so cold and bitter compared to a few days previously I figured that her 32 year old body was not reacting well to the cold snap, and that her joints might be painful. I decided just to ride her at a walk. I took great comfort from the fact that since I put two butt blankets, a neck cover, and her hats on she would not be suffering from the cold wind blowing on her poor body. Since the shedding season has started she has shed a lot of her winter coat so she probably does not feel as warm as usual. When I tightened her girth I noticed how warm the air was under her butt blankets, so her body stays warm. As we walked around the ring Mia wanted to stop frequently so she could watch her pasture mates run and buck in the cold.

I was looking forward to this ride because it was the fourth ride after I introduced Mia to my new Wellep bit. It usually takes Mia at least three weeks before she comes to a final conclusion as to whether or not she likes a new piece of tack. To my surprise Mia continued to go well in my new Wellep bit, and she improved a great deal on promptly obeying my rein, seat and leg aids for the turns in place. Of course this may be because my coordination of my hands improved.

Debbie has been able to use Bingo more for lessons, so by the time I rode him on Friday he already had been ridden in two lessons. He is doing much better in the group lessons, and he is cantering and going willingly over the cross-rails. He was not as sore as usual after being ridden in the group lessons, but he did not have much excess energy. Bingo also obeyed my new bit better, giving me sharper turns in place with fewer tries, and usually slowing down promptly when I asked him to. One time, slowing down from a nice trot, Bingo told me he wanted to go on trotting so I sat down and practiced our sitting trot for a minute, then when I asked him to walk he promptly obeyed.

As I carried the Equicube on Mia I finally figured out exactly how it changed my upper back, and I can finally replicate the effect when I am not carrying it. When I carry the 4 lb. 1 oz. Equicube in the proper place just above the withers, my collar bones “open”, my shoulder blades slide down my rib cage, and the bottoms of my shoulder blades come in to rest on my rib cage. When I add pushing out with my diaphragm my whole back straightens up and I feel like I am starting to fall backwards. At home I worked at replicating this feeling off horse and I found that when I bring my shoulder joints up to my ears, then relax and let them go back and down I get the same feeling in my back as when I carry the Equicube. When I rode Bingo I made sure to do this when I did my two-point and the “rider's push-ups”. It certainly felt different than my usual slouch and I no longer felt like I was going to end up as a “lawn dart” when I did the “rider's push-ups”. My back started hurting, but since I am using new muscles in my back when I do this, I expect the pain will improve during the next few months.

Debbie also remarked on how my hands were STEADY during the posting trot after I carried the Equicube. She really likes what the Equicube has done to improve my riding after carrying it just 2 to 4 minutes a week. Personally I am amazed, I never thought I would succeed in straightening my upper back, and now my upper back is being praised!

Both Mia and Bingo are also responding to my lighter hand aids on my new Wellep bit. I still get some “zinging” as the horses adjust their heads to keep comfortable contact, but it is a lot less than before. Mia has especially pleased me with her reaction to this bit as she is ALWAYS willing to cuss me out in horse if my hands do not meet with her approval. If she decides she does not like a bit she starts with not “picking up” the bit, then she starts flinging her head around dramatically, and I am not really sure what she would do next because I go “yes Ma'am” and improve my hands or go to sagging reins, then she calms down and consents to obey my hand aids without any fussing. Mia is a VERY GOOD riding teacher!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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