I finally got to ride Cider again today.  Since she had turned into a nappy pony the last four times I rode her I sat down and thought about her reactions.  I realized that each time she had turned nappy she had something between her front legs in front of her regular girth, first the anatomic girth and then the running martingle.  So today she got her regular girth, no running martingle, nothing between her front legs, and the old energizer pony was back!  She is still VERY happy with the Spirit bridle.  One way I could tell is that she let me ride her with a sagging rein, usually Cider demands contact no matter what bit or bitless system I use.  This time she was quite content to walk and trot for the first half of the lesson with slightly sagging reins.  Shannon told me that Cider had lost the slightly sour pouting look on her face and was happily licking her lips (and relaxing) everytime I released a hand aid.  Since Cider had been nappy the last few rides, at one point
 totally refusing to move forward and backing up when I used my leg, I did not try backing her up this ride.  I think I will wait for around a month before I ask her to back up again, I want to be sure she is fully back to her forward, Forward, FORWARD self. 


I had brought my crop to use as a back up if she turned nappy again but I forgot it when I mounted her.  Half-way through the ride I finally remembered that I had planned on using it, but since there was obviously no need for it I just enjoyed my ride.  I have taken off my spurs for the summer, I'm not using even the dummy spurs, since I can't be sure my leg will stay still.  Not that spurs or hitting a horse with a whip does any good with a nappy pony since it makes them even more resistant to the aids, I was planning on hitting my own leg with the whip if she balked.  But today I needed neither crop or spur on Cider, she moved forward willingly and at no time did she turn herself into a pretzel.  I rode a "straight" line down the middle of the ring, using my legs lightly whenever she started veering off course, and we actually got a few straight strides in.  Unlike other times, bitted or bitless, she did not seem to mind me trying to get her to go straight.  I can feel all types of muscles that are more relaxed, Cider's muscles on both sides of her neck, back, loin, croup and hind legs did not tense up during my ride.  Cider's resistances have melted away.  She got somewhat upset when her herd decided to run to the back of the pasture, she neighed several times and always kept an anxious eye turned to where she last saw them, but she obeyed every aid.  She was so good that after a few minutes I let her go to Shannon and we gave her a mini love fest for being such a good girl.  Cider liked that!


As always I let Cider determine where she carried her head.  After 15 minutes or so she started looking for contact, carrying her head lower like she was tired.  I suppose all her previously stiff muscles have to get fit all over again, they are not used to working in a relaxed state though they were quite fit when resisting.  Though I did not experience it this week I have noticed a strange phenomenon using the Spirit bridle, sometimes I've felt something like a slow wave going down the horses' backs.  My brain had not remembered this happening to me before, but my seat bones "told" me that I'd ridden it before (I know that doesn't make sense.)  I've racked my brain and I think maybe I'd felt it riding Hat Tricks those times I rode either with a double bridle or when I rode him just with a Weymouth curb.  I think it has something to do with LIGHT and varying poll pressure.  I hope the horses do it again, I hope I don't NEED the running martingle to get this feeling.  It is very interesting and I feel like it gets the horse to a point where I can think of starting some more advanced work. 


And I still wonder whatever could have happened to Cider before Shannon got her that got the mare soooo unhappy with having something between her front legs. 


Unfortunately Mia was not completely up to par this week.  During my lesson on Wednesday she showed reluctance to turns, occasionally limping a little at the sharp turns.  Debbie checked the hoof of the right front leg but there was no heat and she did not see anything.  So I rode her lightly, and as the Arab mare that she is Mia strode forward and tried to do everything I asked for.  Mia might get reluctant to move but she has never gotten nappy!  She trotted out sound, but Debbie said that her feet were not moving quite right.  Friday when my son brought her into the barn he said she was not moving right.  I HAD to rasp her toes down some so I went ahead and did that.  Sometime when she gets to kick her hind legs when I pick them up she loosens up her hocks and she does not limp.  Though she put in her normal half-minute of waving her hind legs in the air before she let me rasp her feet it did not seem to help this time.  I had not seen anything in her hoof, but I had to put her in a wash stall for grooming and the light was not very good.  We told Debbie, she watched her walk, and she told me just to walk and not to do any sharp turns.  So I rode her ligtly in the deep sand of the ring, and she was very stiff even on the gradual turns.  After around 25 minutes I brought her in, we untacked her and Debbie got her into the light and we finally found a spot that looked like a small bruise in the center of her right front hoof just to the side of the frog and bars.  I got my hoof knife out and scraped some sole off, and sure enough there was a small bruise, around a 1/4 inch wide.  So I took some more of the sole off around the bruise so that no weight got put on the bruise and then we gave her her treat.


It is interesting how different hoof lamenesses feel different to my seat.  I was telling Debbie on Wednesday that I thought the problem was in the right front leg but I felt no flinching and I was feeling it at the top of Mia's shoulder.  This led me to thinking the problem was in the center of the hoof (it was.)  I knew it probably was not an abcess because horses have this odd way of walking with a hoof abcess, it feels like the horse is trying to pole vault over the affected hoof.  This peculiar motion starts off a week or two before the horse totally refuses to put weight on the hoof.  I remember flinching with navicular, along with a limp, and that flinching feels like it is further back.  There is a slightly different flinching from picking up a stoned in the hoof, it feels more forward than the navicular flinching and it feels more to one side.  One time on Glow I felt that type of flinching and Debbie found that a large grain of sand had gotten stuck in the "seat of corn" of his heel.  He went sound after she got it out.  Luckily I have never ridden a horse with any other hoof problems so I don't know how they would feel.  


Debbie told me she had used Mia in a lesson.  A little girl had decided that she wanted, needed, to ride Mia instead of her regular horse.  Everything went fine until 30 minutes went by, the normal length of one of my rides, then after 30 minutes everything started bothering Mia.  Instead of my Spirit bridle she was wearing the slightly less comfortable Nurtural cross-under.  She did not have her ear nets on so gnats got in her ears and she started to shake her head.  Then Mia did her full body shake.  The little girl apparently started sobbing loudly saying Mia was trying to shake her off and she wanted her other horse back.  Wonders of wonders, the little girl's mother actually told the little girl that it was her choice to ride Mia and that she had to stay on her.  I am so used to parents nowadays giving in to every little scare that their kids have.  Debbie, appreciating the parental support, just told the little girl that she was lucky, most people don't learn to ride a shake until much later in their riding careers.  The girl spent most of the next half hour sobbing loudly while Mia took care of her (except for one more little incidence of shaking) until the end of the lesson.  This might sound mean, but at one point or another in a rider's life something SCARY happens and it is something that riders have to learn to deal with.  Much better to learn on a patient horse who will take care of you.  I don't know if the little girl will want to ride Mia again, but at least she has successfully ridden when scared, something I've often had to do myself.


I have read that horses use this full body shake (just like they shake themselves after rolling) as a sign that they are getting past an old  mental trauma.  When I started riding Mia she would do this shake at least once every ride.  I don't blame the little girl for getting scared, all of a sudden it feels like an earthquake is happening right under your seat and the horse's barrel moves so much and so vigorously that all a rider can do is loosen their legs and try to keep centered in the saddle until the shake is over.  Mia has only done this once with me during the past year when there was a really pesky fly.  I really appreciate not having it happen every ride any more since my balance is bad and it is sort of a hang on until it is over type of thing for me.  Hopefully the little girl will end up being proud of herself for keeping on riding a suddenly scary horse.  It happens to us all.  I guess there were too many new things happening to Mia during the little girl's lesson and she just had to shake it all out.


Hopefully Mia will be sounder next week.  We have to keep her moving some because of her arthritis, otherwise she sort of freezes into place and moving becomes more and more painful.  I am thinking of asking Debbie if she thinks Mia is ready to do the Spirit Bridle without the running martingle since Cider did so well today.  A few weeks ago I had used my old Jumping Cavesson bridle on Mia, the one bitless system she actually seemed to like in the past, but ever since I put the Spirit bridle on her she does not want anything else.  She went right back to her old inversions and acted like the world just wasn't RIGHT, so I guess I'll just be using the Spirit bridle for riding her bitless.  She will still be using the Nurtural cross-under when ridden by other riders, I am reserving the Spirit bridle for more advanced work.


Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran               


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