Changing Weather Brings on a Protest

Last week I did my homework, first 4 minutes on the Anywhere Saddle Chair (ASC) then two days later 10 ½ minutes on the ASC because Shannon had the sniffles and did not come out on Sunday. This last session made me tired, on Monday I woke up really tired and I was moving very slowly all day. Then on Monday I rode my Home Horse (HH) for 5 minutes when my husband got home to help me. The next day I overslept some, I might not have ridden a horse but my body was tired even though it did not look like I did that much.

After a week of feeling like Spring had arrived, bitter North breezes sprang up Wednesday morning for my lesson. I woke up with aching, creaking joints. Since it had been warm MJ was well into shedding his winter coat when I groomed him. Using the StripHair gobs of hair started coming off, which then clogged up my Haas Schimmel dandy brush requiring getting it off the brush every three strokes or so. Poor MJ, losing his warm coat on a day that he NEEDED it. MJ's joints also hurt, Debbie had a hard time getting his hoof sock on because she had to keep his knee joints bent for a while.

Because of the cold wind I put a lot of the Far Infrared radiation gear on him, the Incrediwear Neck Wrap, the BOT poll cap and the Fenwick Face Mask with Ears went on his head and neck. I put two butt blankets on him too.

Of course when we finished and walked to the ring the wind shifted and the sunlight warmed us up. I took off my jacket and Debbie took off MJ's top butt blanket which turned out to be a mistake. We walked around the ring and MJ felt stiff. I decided to trot him a little bit to get his blood moving but I quickly stopped, his head was not nodding but each hoof fall felt different and disorganized. When I told Debbie we would not be doing any more trotting she said he had been in three classes in the barn show they had last Saturday, just WT classes but they got MJ sore and disorganized. Oh well. At least his leaser bought her own horse so right now I will be the only one riding MJ so he will be getting consistent riding.

I had to get up into 2-point a lot because his back also felt disorganized. We did our normal walk doing multiple curves around the jumps in the ring but he did not really warm up well. While I was doing that the cold North wind came back and I regretted taking off MJ's top butt blanket and I was feeling colder without my jacket. MJ was not pleased at all, he was achy and now the cold wind was blowing and he was not happy with life. Then in the next paddock one of the horses got super alert looking intently at the brush where the dogs were going after something, obviously ready to spook immediately if something dire came charging out of the brush. I let MJ process all of this for a minute or so, nobody spooked but the atmosphere was a little bit tense.

We went back to walking around, I did a tiny bit of contact with the curb bit which he accepted for a minute or two then I slacked off on the reins. MJ was just too distracted by everything, especially his sore knees which got worse in the cold wind. I asked Debbie to stretch his Hoof Socks over his knees and this helped a little bit, at least he did not lag as bad when I applied my leg aids.

I had not been checking the time. Of course MJ knew to the second how long we had been in the ring. All of a sudden, on light contact with the bridoon, he started slinging his head around. I loosened the reins, applied my leg, and took up soft contact again. In a few strides he started flinging his head again. I asked Debbie to come up to check his bits in case something had gone wrong with them, but everything was all right in his mouth. We walked again on loose reins, and he started flinging his head yet again.

Then I looked at my watch, we had been in the ring for 33 minutes and MJ had ENOUGH. He had been nice in spite of his aching joints and the cold wind, but our lesson was OVER and he was vehemently telling us it was OVER because us dumb humans could not keep track of the time. My lesson is supposed to be 30 minutes and he did NOT feel up to working overtime.

During all this we got into a discussion about how MJ's age affected his body. Debbie called MJ's owner (she has him on a free lease) to check on his age. It turns out that nobody really knows how old MJ is. His owner insisted that MJ was 2 when he first boarded at Debbie's barn many, many years ago, which horrified Debbie because she does not like heavy work for 2 year old horses. That would make MJ just 21 years old, much too young for all the painful joints he has. My comment on hearing this was that if MJ was 30 he was in amazingly good shape, but if he was just 21 he was in horrible shape with his navicular and knee problems. Started under saddle at two, ending up being used 8 hours a day as a lesson horse jumping every lesson after his rider had changed stables, poor MJ suffered the fate of many horses with a pleasant temperament, he got used way too much and was not given enough time off to heal. I suspect that this is the fate of many nice Quarter Horses with nice temperaments, broke too early, worked too hard too fast, then when they start degrading physically getting turned into lesson horses and worked, worked, worked because they are quiet enough for people learning how to ride. Poor horses!

Anyway his owner said he would hunt for MJ's papers so we would all know for sure just how old MJ is. At least he ended up at Debbie's stable, she takes good care of the horses and will back off if they need time off to feel better.

So right now I am the only one riding MJ. Debbie said she will only use him in her walk-trot lessons when she needs an extra horse and that she won't be using him over the jumps. I just hope we can make MJ more comfortable with being ridden, he usually is a really pleasant ride but the cold wind when he has already started shedding was a bit too much.

We never should have taken off his second butt blanket. He likes being warm and huddling under his coverings when it is cold out in the riding ring.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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