My Ice Vest Helps Me Get My Butt out of the Saddle

My Ice Vest Helps Me Get My Butt out of the Saddle

Between doing more two-point, the increasing heat, a few days with a broken central air conditioner, and my son visiting it has been an exhausting few weeks.

No matter how much I practiced my two-point I had problems with getting my butt actually OUT of the saddle. Most of my weight was off my seat bones but I just could not get them above the saddle, no matter how hard I tried. I was getting discouraged.

Then MJ started canting his head to the right. Debbie pointed it out to me during my lesson when I was using the double bridle. I switched to the snaffle bridle for my homework ride and MJ was still canting his head to the right.

I had been postponing wearing my ice vest for a few weeks. I was afraid that it would make my torso too heavy for the two-point work, and I was afraid it would trigger really painful muscle spasms in my back muscles. But MJ's problem (my problem really) told me that I better go ahead and put my ice vest on so MJ could move better under me. How can I expect a horse to move well under me if I am not riding well up on his back? When I get too hot my already bad balance gets even worse, I just cannot coordinate my aids well in relationship to how the horse's hind legs move, and MJ reacts to my muddled aids with muddled responses, with the subtext of that my riding HAS to improve if I want any type of progress.

So this week I started wearing my ice vest, in addition to my summer technical fabric shirt, breeches, ventilated chaps, neck fan and neck gaiter that I can put up over my head under my helmet. I got immediate results, when I stayed up in 2-point for the first 5 minutes I actually got my butt OUT of the saddle! I have not managed to do this for over a year. MJ approved.

Debbie will have her summer camp next week, and MJ will have more work than usual. She told me that MJ has been getting more sluggish during the lessons and she was worried how he would cope with camp. I suggested that she get MJ's riders up into 2-point for the first 5 minutes for every single ride. I told her that I got the impression that MJ uses this time to get his spine aligned better and without weight on them his spinal muscles can warm up better, both resulting in a little bit more impulse and greater responsiveness to the rider's leg aids.

At least his camp riders will be significantly lighter than I am, meaning his back won't have to work as hard to carry them.

I now think that certain spinal nerves that control the muscles that allow me to get up into and stay in two-point do not work very well if they get too warm or hot. Does this mean that if I want to be able to get up into two-point and stay in two-point I will have to wear my ice vest the entire year, even in winter?

Debbie told me that I rode very well that lesson.

Friday was different. When my son and I arrived the stable's parking lot was crowded. In the barn there were many people, I guess a lot of them were getting rides in before Debbie's summer camp starts next week. MJ had not gotten to eat his hay so he was tied in the barn aisle with a heap of hay. This meant I did not have the top of the divider between the wash stalls to put all my grooming tools so I was constantly walking back and forth to get the grooming tools and to put them back in my bag. I also had to dodge little children and Debbie's younger dogs who thought it was play time. MJ was not happy with all the chaos, before my rides MJ is used to a peaceful interlude while Debbie and I groom him, no kids, the dogs not playing in the aisle, and a lot less noise. MJ got antsy and did not want to stand peacefully. By the time MJ was groomed and tacked up I was tireder than usual.

And my ice vest was not enough to overcome my exhaustion. When I tried to get up into two-point at the start of my ride I was back to just getting most of my weight off the saddle seat but I was not able to get myself completely off MJ's back beyond a second or two. MJ's attitude did not improve.

The ring was CROWDED. At one end a lady was lunging a young horse she is training (with some difficulties though she kept the horse under control), and there were around 6 other riders in the ring. Debbie's granddaughters were schooling horses that Debbie got recently. Other riders were doing their stuff. I just tried to stay out of the way, especially since I only had enough energy to walk. I was constantly turning my head to try and see what was coming up behind me and to the sides, which obviously irritated MJ. He was not a happy horse on Friday.

The only training I could work at was the three speeds of the walk. I got up into my approximate 2-point to extend his walking stride, and the rest of the time I was trying to keep most of my weight off my seat bones. MJ was more tense than usual so my results were not very good, but at least he listened to me and he was basically a good boy, an irritated good boy who just could not get into my game mentally.

When I got off I was really tired, hot and sweaty. At least I got to ride.

So I won't get to ride next week. Hurricane Claudia's outer bands are supposed to hit us Sunday morning so I won't be riding Cider, I imagine that her joints will be irritating her worse than usual with the low pressure system going over us in addition to the tension caused by gusting winds.

I will go on wearing my ice vest, probably for a long time throughout the rest of the year. If I get to ride enough in more peaceful circumstances than Friday morning my 2-point might get good enough so I can start cantering again!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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