Summer is hard for most people with MS. The heat reduces the effectiveness of my nerves, and when it is really humid then my body can't cool down and my core body temperature just goes up and up. Since my ice vest was causing days long muscle cramps I switched to the system that works by evaporation, but since the humidity is so high the cool vest does not evaporate very well and I just get hotter and hotter.
I noticed that my feet were acting appropriately in the heat, all by themselves they were going parallel to the horses' barrels since I have been wearing spurs. This is wonderful in that it guarantees that I won't accidentally poke the horse with the spurs, but this is also horrible since it ruins the base of my position on the horse and I feel a lot less secure. Once I noticed what my feet were doing the solution was easy, I took my spurs off.
I had another problem with my lower leg since it got hot--I had to take my half-chaps off since they are hot. All of a sudden I realized that my wonderful bow-balance offset flex stirrups were causing the stirrup leather to NOT twist around my lower leg and instead my shin was trying to lean into the edges of the stirrup leather. Very uncomfortable without the half-chaps, so on my jumping saddle I switched to Peacock stirrups. Debbie had all of a sudden started getting after me for carrying my lower leg too far back but I think that this will fix the problem. I feel SO MUCH more secure now. I kept the flex-stirrups on my dressage saddle since my stirrups are so much longer and I do not lean as much into my stirrup leathers.
Debbie has had a lot of summer activities going on at her stable, so I haven't gotten all my lessons in. Friday I got to ride Mia. Luckily Debbie will let me ride in the ring when she is giving other people a lesson since she knows I'll keep my eyes open and not do anything stupid to interfere with her class. Since our goal with Mia is to turn her into a reliable lesson horse it is good that I have to ride her in the ring with a lot of other horses occasionally. Since the heat had so frazzled my brain I had forgotten to bring my bridle so I scrounged around in Debbie's tack room and used the Light Rider bitless (a modified Scawbrig). I had no problems with Mia, she accepted "contact" just fine but I think the mare prefers contact with a bit to contact with her nose. Mia went around the ring like an old trooper, being passed by the other horses going faster than she was, getting over to the rail when I told her too, paid attention to me and in general acting like a sane lesson horse. Bless her.
Today I got to ride Cider. When I took my spurs off for riding Cider I did not expect a lot of difference, this mare can be all go-go-go. To my great surprise Cider became MORE sensitive to my leg aids, not less. When I rode her Monday I had some trouble in slowing her down once I let her trot. Today she was a bit easier to ride, but she was still VERY sensitive to any signal to go faster. Not only that I have had to remind her of EVERYTHING we have been working on--keeping a steady pace, going straight, full halts without fidgeting, etc.. We spent a few minutes near the end of the ride doing a discussion about NOT MOVING when I stopped her facing Shannon, maybe 20 feet away. The first two times I tried this I worked on getting a full halt for a split second and then sent her on to work at the rail, then repeat. I am ashamed to admit that at one point her mouth was open (I do not use nosebands, my horses are free to do this at anytime), she had set her jaw, and I set my hands, she would relax, my fingers would relax, and then she would move forward again leaning hard into the bit, repeat, until I got a halt. The third time she got the message that if she moved while halted she would get worked more and I finally got a full halt with loose reins (and her mouth closed) and I ended the ride.
I am getting to like the Wellep lever snaffle a lot. This bit seems to cushion all the faults that my hands have in the heat, Cider willingly keeps contact with it and promptly responds to my hand aids. In fact I think that this bit could fool riders into thinking that their hands are a lot better than they actually are, the contact is so soft, and the release of the bit is so complete that it feels like the horse is, on its own, responding to the bit in an advanced manner. Even when she had her mouth open, the instant I relaxed the reins she started gently "chewing" on the bit and stretched her neck to re-establish contact on her own. Shannon was pleased with this response, there was no snatching at the reins, no sour looks, and no apparent fear of the bit. Usually by this time of summer I HAVE TO change to bitless, but with the Wellep bit I might make it all through the summer riding with a bit without abusing my horses.
In the meantime I just have to accept that I have to slow down in the heat.
Have a great ride!