Coach Does Better with the Fulmer Bit

After my lesson last week I dug my Fulmer Full Cheek snaffle out of my bit box, and I finally found my Fulmer bit loops (the Fulmer bit requires special bit loops because the little ball at the end of the full cheek is small.) I dug out my Micklem horse sized nose piece, found a pair of my bit straps I made from cut down flash straps, and I made up my bridle for my next lesson, as usual guesstimating about the the size of Coach's head.

At least Coach did not mind seeing me when Debbie led him to the wash stall. He enjoyed his grooming since we were using the gentlest curries and brushes to get him clean. He did not swell up as bad when we tightened his girth so I assume that he finds my mohair string girth more comfortable than his usual girths. Debbie had given him a gram of bute the previous evening because he had looked somewhat sore after his last ride with Courtney. When Debbie put the bridle on she had to lengthen the cheek pieces a hole on each side, so my estimation was not too far off. Once she put the Fulmer bit in his mouth he started grinding it between his molars, and he continued grinding on the bit until I took up contact. Debbie told me again that he did that with every bit they tried on him.

It was sort of odd riding him at first. Each and every time I reduced contact (like on the outside rein for a turn) he started grinding on the bit, on just one side if my contact was less on one side. This continued for the first twenty minutes or so. Coach definitely remembered our previous ride, he responded to my slowing down and stopping hand aids though he was a little tentative at first (“do I remember this right?”) As before he was excellent when I steered him with my thighs and lower legs, and he was a bit better when I asked him to turn with just the rein. He was more comfortable extending his walk than he was last week, so at least the bute worked somewhat. All through the first twenty minutes if I let the reins sag, even just a little bit, he started grinding the bit between his molars, but at least it was not as frantic as with the thinner Wellep bit. On the positive side he showed that he's starting to understand when I alternate twitches of my little fingers as a signal to stop, even when heading toward Debbie or the gate.

It was just so muggy and I felt so drained, that after 20 minutes I finally had to go off contact because I could not concentrate on it as much. Coach reached out, lowered his head, and he did not grind the bit between his molars! I was so relieved, I could have kept contact but my contact gets worse when I am drained, and I just rather give Coach an excellent experience when I keep contact. We went around the jumps on loose reins, I steered mostly with my lower legs and my thighs with just a little hint with an opening rein if he did not turn as fast as I wanted him to. His turns on the hindquarters and turns on the forehand improved from last week, though his back felt a little wonky after them until I walked while I got up in two-point for a minute or two.

Basically all went well until I decided to back him up. All of a sudden he acted like he had never been asked to back up before in him life, and it was like he just did not understand my aids for backing up. His head went up, he flung his head around, and his mouth opened, but I got a few steps back and I praised him mightily for each tentative step backwards. After that we walked around a little bit more and he stopped promptly and without any drama when I headed towards Debbie to dismount.

I was greatly encouraged, Coach seems to be a horse that needs to think things over thoroughly before a lesson sinks in. The Arabians had spoiled me with their prompt understanding, but so long Coach can process new information correctly and give me the right responses the next time I ride, I can live with it.

He is so sweet for a TB, patient with my many riding faults, he tries to guess the proper response to each new aid, and when the dogs came tearing through the ring he did not use that as an excuse to misbehave. I am happy I am riding him!

Last night Debbie called me up because she could not remember the name of the bit I used. Debbie was gushing, Courtney had just finished her lesson and from tacking up to untacking Coach had not ground the bit between his molars AT ALL! They were using the fat egg-butt bit which was the only one of their bits that Coach accepted, but every ride before he had ground the bit between his molars when not on contact. Debbie was so happy! She had Courtney on the computer to find the modern version of my bit (a heavy weight Fulmer snaffle), and then she realized that she better check to see if that bit was legal in the hunter classes. I told her she would also have to get the special Fulmer bit loops too.

I do not know if it was the Fulmer snaffle itself, or that I rode well enough with the Fulmer snaffle that he realized he could truly be comfortable while wearing a bit, but my second ride on Coach resulted in progress! Since I no longer own horses my goals are to make the horse a better ride for the next rider, and it was so fulfilling, and unexpected, that Coach had responded so well to my riding after being able to think about it for several days. I am an old school rider, my goal is always to have the horse better trained, and moving better, after every ride, with the goal that the next rider will have a better ride.

I am really looking forward to my next lesson on Coach.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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