It Does Help, But

I actually had a lesson this week, on Thursday, and while the temperatures were “only” in the 70s F, the humidity matched the temperature. This is the one drawback of riding early in the morning, when I ride at the dew-point temperature the air is SATURATED with moisture. This reduces the cooling efficiency of my summer gear which often depends upon evaporation.

This lesson I wore both my ice vest and my hanging neck fan with the breeze pointed upwards. The heat was already addling my brain as we groomed, I forgot to keep my helmet off until I mounted so the neck fan could cool my head some, like it did last week.

MJ was back to having itchy haunches so I was glad to let Debbie groom everything except his ears. At least MJ tends to be cooperative and content while I clean his ears out. Debbie told me that MJ had earned a reserve champion at the show she put on, I think it was in walk-trot. MJ likes the titanium coated bit I lent him, and now I realize that MJ is going to borrow this bit for a long, long time. If this bit helps him win classes at shows more girls may be willing to take flat lessons on him since he isn't jumping at all now (navicular disease).

I could tell MJ had been ridden by someone else. He did not seem to feel certain about what I meant with my hand and leg aids, and it took a while to get his brain warmed up so he could remember. He was also a little bit stiff physically too, and he did not want to extend his stride at the walk. Shortening his stride went fine, MJ was all for shortening his steps and creeping along the fence line. He would consent, however reluctantly, to doing a walk at a rather slow medium speed after his super slow walk. But a wonderful free striding walk? He just did not “deliver” one in response to my urging leg aids and it took several minutes before he even tried to extend his stride.

It is like MJ is proud of having learned that an urging leg aid means to go to the next fastest gait, in my case from the walk to the trot or sometimes moving his legs faster. He also has a pretty good idea what turning leg aids mean. But somehow during all the years he was a lesson horse no one had introduced him to the idea that an alternating urging leg aid could also mean “extend your stride.” Eventually he did extend, a little tiny bit, but he was reaching further with his legs.

After that I went on to other things, large curves, several attempts at a turn in place (he was worse than last week) and backing up. His turns in place were so-so, but his backing up was quite good. I asked him to back up three strides (six steps) two times, and both times Debbie was quite pleased with his straightness.

After that I just felt too wrung out to go any further.

The combination of the ice vest and the neck fan did help. I was able to trot twice without dissolving in the saddle, and I was able to trot further. I did not feel cool but my sweat did not run down into my eyes until I got off of MJ and walked back to the barn. Debbie said that except for a few times when one of my hands wandered I rode quite well, and she told me that I kept my back straighter than usual. She did not yell at me about my lower leg either, so obviously the ice vest/neck fan combination did help me deal with the heat. But with the saturated air my lungs were not cooling down from evaporation and I felt hot.

Can someone please invent an air-conditioner for us poor riders in the summertime? If I could breathe dryer air I would do so much better in the heat.

Earlier in the week I received two of the titanium double bridle sets I had ordered on Ebay. The bradoons are equal in width with the Weymouth curbs so I will have to fiddle around a bit getting the horses comfortable. I bought a set that is 5 3/4” wide, and when I got to the stable I searched out Sam so she would know that there is another alternative to use on Zeke, her 16.3 Warmblood x draft horse. She told me that Zeke seemed to like the “liquid titanium” face mask with ears I lent him, and I would like to find out if he has the same positive reactions to the titanium bits that I've gotten from all the other horses.

I told her I would have to get a lip strap, a Warmblood size bradoon hanger, and long enough reins. I am just facing the reality that a LOT of the more advanced horses at Debbie's barn are Warmblood and taller than my preferred 14 hands high. Before the titanium double bridle worked so well for me I had resigned myself to not riding these bigger horses, but the titanium bits have given me confidence. Since it seems that fewer mouth resistances are triggered from the titanium bits I would not have to worry as much about the horse laying on the bit, flinging his head if my hands got too harsh in a desperate attempt to slow the horse down, or deciding that turning their mouth into iron, frequent resistances to the bit. Zeke seems to be a rather amiable guy, and I really would not mind trying to ride him, he seems a lot more amiable and cooperative than Merlin who was 18.2 hands, who I rode for several months in just a snaffle.

I have been on a minor bit buying spree since the titanium double bridle bits at this new source are on sale now. I am getting the Weymouth bits that are between the sizes of the Fager Weymouth bits, and the bradoons that are between the sized of the Fager bradoons. In a few more week I should be capable of fitting most any horse in a double bridle at least as far as the bits go, and I'd just need a few more lip straps, one more bradoon hangar and some longer reins for the big guys.

I am fixated on the double bridle because if a big horse decided to suddenly put his nose all the way down to the ground I just am not strong enough to stop him. If a big horse decides to lean on the bit I am not strong enough to carry the weight of his head and neck. The big horses KNOW that they are stronger than I am, there is no way in the world that I can non-abusively change their minds about that.

When I have a “conversation” with the horse's mouth with the bradoon and curb I can be more persuasive in a civilized manner, at least as long as I resist the temptation of using the curb bit harshly. That is the reason I ride with a sagging curb rein, usually a wiggle with my little fingers can replace pounds of pressure on a bit.

And the horses don't seem to mind at all, yet.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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