When I woke up this morning it was at my cut off point--24-25° F, luckily I did not have to get to the stable until 10:00 AM when it was above freezing. I was fine this morning until I started to get my homemade bit warmer ready, then I stubbed my left little toe hard. PAIN. I hurriedly put Arnica cream on it and put my paddock boot on in case it decided to swell up. Hobbling piteously I finished with my homemade bit warmer (old washrag, soak the washrag with water, heat in microwave for 3 minutes, put in a zip-lock freezer bag, wrap around the bit and tie it on with an old tube sock.) I briefly considered not riding, but I hadn’t gotten to ride at Debbie’s this week, she went to see her mother in Pennsylvania and could not get home in time for my scheduled lesson Friday morning because her flight was canceled. So I went out to ride.
Still hobbling when I got to Shannon’s I hurried over and got Bobby’s Clouded Leopard Ttouches in on both sides of his neck and both of his shoulders. While Shannon was tightening Bobby’s girth I noticed that Cider, who was being tacked up by Nancy, Shannon’s mother, was moving stiffly. I showed Nancy how to do the Clouded Leopard Ttouch and suggested she do the neck, shoulder, back and haunches before she mounted. I hobbled over to the mounting block while Nancy got to work, Shannon got me mounted and into the ring, then she got Nancy up on Cider and we started our rides.
Bobby is still accepting my Mullen mouth Kimberwick. I am surprised since he was trying to chew my Mullen mouth egg-butt snaffle in two the last time I tried it. Maybe the Kimberwick hangs differently in his mouth. Perhaps one day, after I save up for and get my saddles, I will splurge on a Mullen mouth Boucher snaffle if I can find one. Until then the Kimberwick is fine. I replaced the curb chain with an elastic curb and when that proved to be a little bit too long for Bobby I put a gel curb chain cover on also. The good thing about the gel curb chain cover is that it is thick and gets the curb chain away from the corners of Bobby’s mouth. At long last Bobby has consented to being ridden peacefully in a bit, all it took was trying 5-6 bits to find the magic combination of stability, width, and comfort. Today, every time I stopped Bobby just did two slow chews of the bit then he stopped, quite happy just to hold the bit in his mouth as he looked around.
As usual the first ten minutes of my ride were pretty peaceful, Bobby took contact willingly and started off walking pretty freely considering how cold it was in the breeze. I looked over at Cider to see how she was faring and she was walking a lot freer than she had been while being led around the paddock, maybe the Ttouches helped her too! After a few minutes Shannon’s daughter Andrea came up to the arena fence and I let Bobby go over and greet her and let him stand a moment in quiet companionship. Of course from then on Bobby thought he should be able to stop and chat each time we passed Andrea especially when Nancy and Cider were talking to her. This just gave me more chances to emphasize to Bobby that when I ride him I am the BOSS and he can’t get away with anything. Bobby started trying to go right next to the fence with his head turned toward the center of the ring so I spent the next few minutes practicing straightening him out without using the reins. At first he responded to a sharp AH! AH!, and he straightened out all on his own. Later on I had the greatest success when I alternated my inside lower thigh with my inside lower leg, usually by the third stride Bobby got himself straight while still on a loose rein. One time when I was sending him down the ring away from the fence he started wavering, one step in to Shannon alternating with one step toward the fence. So I alternated my thighs, using my lower leg when needed, and I got him to consent to going straight a few steps though this time I did have to step in occasionally with a rein.
Every time Bobby went straight he got praised highly and if he was good for long enough he got a delightful neck scratch when we stopped.
I tried to get Bobby to extend his walk some today but I guess the cold breeze made him too stiff to really stretch out, so he offered me a trot. Since he was still ouchy going downhill I decided it was not a good idea to trot so I got him back into the walk and made sure that I did not use my legs so hard the rest of my ride. Toward the end of out ride when he pretzeled once or twice on loose reins I told him that if he continued I would have to drive him into the bit, and he actually straightened out on his own. By the end of the ride Bobby was tired of being good so I took up contact and worked on trying to keep an even contact of both sides of the bit through his mild protests, with me sympathizing out loud with him about HOW HARD it is for a pony when their rider expects them to behave!
One thing I have noticed with the stainless steel Mullen mouth bits is how much the horses seem to enjoy “tasting” the bit with their tongues. Usually the horse seems to run his tongue forward and back when “tasting” the bit, with the Mullen mouth they also seem to like sliding their tongue a little from side to side. I guess the smooth metal mouthpiece with no joints or ports feels good to their tongues. Of course when their blood is up they tend to ignore the Mullen mouth more than a jointed snaffle, I guess this is where the Mullen mouth Pelham comes in. ANOTHER bit to try someday! When the horses “taste” the jointed snaffles they don’t seem to enjoy it as much, and often seem a little bit irritated with the movement of the joints on their tongues. With the Mullen mouth they seem to get into a semi-meditative state, nice and relaxed.
I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas. May your horses enjoy their extra treats!
Have a great ride!