I Did Not Have to Warm Up My Bit
It got up to 80ºF a few times this week. I wore my summer riding clothes, the horses were not buried under exercise sheets, and all the horses are shedding out rapidly.
My lesson on Wednesday was nice, the weather was balmy, Bingo was pretty content with his life, and the birds were singing all around the ring. I used my most recent Wellep bit, the “old” type Wellep bit with the long cable through the bit. Like last week I had the challenge of re-learning how to keep my outer rein at a proper tension just to keep the cable from “zinging” through the bit. I was better at this during my lesson, I did not hear the cable “zing” through the bit, but my coordination between my two hands was still deficient, in other words Bingo was not turning or stopping as promptly as with the more modern type Wellep bit.
One of my problems is that, because of my MS, I have developed a protocol with the horses so they can distinguish between my hand aids and the accidental, involuntary movements of my arms. When I give a hand aid I close my little or my ring finger about ¼” to 1/5”, while relaxing my other hand the same amount (in addition to my leg and seat aids.) When the horse has even contact I do not even bother to use the fingers on my inside hand, I just relax my fingers of my outside hand, using my leg to ask the horse to keep reaching out to the bit. So long as I time my hand aids correctly I get obedience with hand aids just a few grams stronger than normal contact and the horses generally obey cheerfully.
But when I do this on my newer (old type) Wellep bit the cable “zings” through the mouthpiece and the horse blissfully continues straight forward. My new challenge is to keep a steady contact and give hand aids that are 1) not strong enough to cause the cable to “zing” through the bit, and 2) noticeable to the horse.
To add to my difficulties I finally realized that I had been using my contact (a few grams up to 1 to 2 ounces of traction) as a reference point for my balance. During the lesson my saddle was slipping off to the left and I had to concentrate to keep it centered on Bingo's back. I did not “feel” this at first until Debbie brought it to my attention. She then had me carry the Equicube which helped my center my body and make my hands even and more stable.
I finally got myself coordinated enough to, at the end of my lesson, do a proper turn on the hindquarters. I never got a proper turn on the forehand, with the front legs staying roughly in the same area. The regular turns and curves also suffered, and I had to use a lot more seat and leg than usual to direct Bingo around the jumps. I did improve enough physically during my ride that I forgot my canes when we left the stable and we had to drive back to get them. I love it when riding a horse gets me walking so well that I can forget my canes!
Last Sunday I finally got to ride Cider again. Many months ago Cider had “cussed me out” by flinging her head when I kept contact with my JP Dr. Bristol D-ring snaffle. It did not matter that I had been successfully riding Cider in this bit for years, one day she just had to tell me that my hands had deteriorated enough so that she no longer enjoyed “talking” to me with that bit. Cider is a horse that prefers to keep contact with the bit, so when she tells me my hands are worse I believe her. We have been using the more modern Wellep bits (with the shorter cable) ever since. I decided to “ask” Cider if my stability in the saddle had improved from all the “rider's push-ups” I've done the last few months, carrying the Equicube a few minutes a week, and my re-learning how to coordinate my hands while keeping them stable with my new Wellep bit, so I put my JP Dr. Bristol D-ring back on her bridle.
To my great joy Cider immediately picked up and kept contact with a relaxed mouth! Hurrah!!! The JP Dr. Bristol D-ring snaffle (with bias tape “bit loops” to stabilize it) is by far my favorite bit to ride with. As long as my hands are good enough, the horse and I can have interesting and productive “conversations” from the horse's tongue to my fingers. As much as I appreciate the greater gentleness of the Wellep bit, it somewhat mutes the conversation. Cider continued to keep contact without any problems or objections as I managed to keep my hands stable throughout the ride.
I am so very glad that all the sore muscles I got from doing the “rider's push-ups” and carrying the Equicube paid off. I am also glad that my new Wellep bit with the longer cable made me so much more aware of my hands and forced me back into coordinating my hands properly. My last MS exacerbation had made my hands a LOT worse, so bad that I needed to retrain them so the horses accept contact properly. I usually do not regain finesse, precision, and coordination once the myelin on my nerves gets destroyed, so I am very, very happy when Cider “tells” me that my hands are acceptable again This time at least I regained some of my physical abilities that I thought I had lost forever.
Have a great ride!