Further Progress

My hands continue to improve, they are steadier and and more acceptable to the horses.

When I got up on Cider last Sunday I was prepared for her to decide that, on second thought, she did not appreciate me changing to the JP Dr. Bristol snaffle. Hey, she is a mare, the weather is spring like, her coat is shedding out, and what better time of the year to become irritable? It turns out that I did not have to worry, Cider willingly reached out for contact, willingly kept contact with my hands, and she did not resist any of my hand aids.

While I rode Cider around the ring Shannon told me that she is looking at a new mare, a paint mare that apparently has some decent basic training, not at the dressage level by any means, but according to Shannon this mare does not have any major problems with being ridden, a big change from the type of horse that usually ends up at her farm. Before I bought my Pegasus Butterfly saddle I would have faced the prospect of carting out 4 or 5 saddles to figure out which one best fit this new horse, in conjunction with my Corrector saddle pad, of course. Now all the problems I face will be whether to remove one or two of the shims from my Contender II saddle pad, and what size girth I should bring out. I am really looking forward to my new adventure! It will be SO GOOD not to have to worry as much about saddle fit!

When I arrived at Debbie's farm on Wednesday everyone at the stable was sad, a horse that her daughter had bred for jumping competitions, had kicked a fence wrong and broke its femur in several places. Of course the horse had to be put down, along with all the dreams that Debbie's daughter (and Debbie) had for this horse. Since Debbie and I were talking a lot about this tragedy I was not paying as much attention as I should to my riding. For once Bingo did not work hard at finding excuses to ignore me, and he went on around the ring as if I was closely monitoring every aspect of my riding. Beyond a “bobble” or two he was a very good boy!

So long as I kept my hands even on my Rainbow reins, Bingo sought out and kept contact. It took fewer turns in place for me to get a good turn out of Bingo. I even managed not to “zing” the cable through the bit! Something I am doing seems to be helping my hands regain their proprioceptive sense, for one Debbie got after my hands just once when one wandered off. Since I rode in the old type Wellep bit Bingo was able to adjust satisfactorily when my hands were less than perfect, while at the same time I did not lose my side-to-side balance in the saddle from not having the “stable” connection to the bit. All three of us, me, Bingo and Debbie, were a lot happier with my ride.

Debbie gave the the Equicube to carry after about ten minutes into my ride. Again I worked on keeping the Equicube off of Bingo's withers, and I am managing this for longer than before. My arms and my core are getting stronger! I lost track of time because I was talking with Debbie, and I ended up carrying the Equicube a few minutes longer than normal. Between keeping the Equicube off of Bingo's withers and carrying it longer than usual my forearm muscles started burning, burning, burning until I finally gave up and handed the Equicube to Debbie.

The last few days I have been paying the price for this. The tendons in the palms of my hands have been sore, bothering me whenever I use my hands. In one way this is good, it reminds me that my hands are getting stronger, therefore I will HAVE TO tell Debbie and Shannon to look out for me using too much hand on the horses. This is why I pay to ride with these ladies, I count on them to point out my mistakes before I hurt the horses' mouths. I cannot really adequately judge the strength of my contact, due to the damage from my MS I cannot trust my “feel”. My relaxed fingers help me keep my hands acceptable to the horses, but even relaxed fingers cannot completely ameliorate the bad effects of too strong contact. Thank goodness, between the ladies and their horses, all my sins with my hands are quickly noticed and corrected so I do not torment the horses' mouths for long.

After missing two weeks riding Mia I should be able to ride her on Friday. Then I will know for sure if my hands have improved. Mia's mouth is so sensitive, and Mia is so willing to cuss me out in horse if my hands get too bad, that I do not need a person on the ground telling me when my hands start to go bad. Mia is the horse I ride to PROVE that I have improved, she is so sensitive, so reactive, so willing to cuss me out, and so unwilling to “lie” to me, that I know that if Mia tells me I am riding her properly that all the other horses will also benefit from my better riding.

Carrying the Equicube continues to make my whole body stronger. I continue to forget my canes when I have to walk a distance, and when I get off balance my muscles are much better at correcting my posture. I find this amazing, just a few minutes of carrying the Equicube a week give me better results with less work than doing normal strengthening exercises, and I get a lot less tired! Normally anything I buy to help me ride better has absolutely no effect when I get out of the saddle. This makes the Equicube on of the most cost effective pieces of “exercise equipment” I have ever run into, improving my riding AND improving my walking and steadiness even when I forget my canes. I know if I did yoga or Pilates that I would improve, but I would have to spend a good bit of money and spend a lot of time to get any improvement. I am so glad that I found an effective alternative to hours and hours of exhausting work!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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