Pigs, Buzz-Bombers, Heat, Humidity, Oh My!

Pigs, Buzz-Bombers, Heat, Humidity, Oh My!

I had an interesting ride on Cider last Sunday at Shannon's farm. As Shannon saddled Cider I say my first buzz-bomber fly of the year, upsetting Cider, but she calmed down when Shannon put more fly spray on her and then put on her Amigo Fly-Rider exercise sheet and neck covering.

Several months ago Shannon had bought two piglets, and they were allowed to grow in a little pen next to the chicken coops, out in the horse's pasture where the horses could investigate all the other livestock to their heart's content. Well the piglets are growing, so Shannon's husband built them a little shed and fenced yard on the other side of the riding ring, much closer to the ring than before, but still in the horses' pasture, where they could look over the new set-up. But Cider had not gotten to see the new pig pen from inside the riding ring, and HORRORS! This is not the first time that Cider has been exposed to a pig. A few years ago Shannon and her husband raised a pig in a pen near one end of the riding ring. ALL of Shannon's horses took great exception to moving towards the pig, but all of them, except Merlin, eventually got used to the pig. Several months later that pig got turned into delicious meat and all the horses settled down, there was peace in their world because that darn pig had disappeared!

I do not know if the reason for Cider's distress on Sunday was that there are TWO pigs running around in their little pen instead of one pig, or if the reason for her distress was that the new pig pen was in a different place. Whenever we went close to the new pig pen Cider's attention was riveted on the pigs, her whole body was flexing to the outside instead of her normal flexing to the inside, towards Shannon. Cider was not bad, she did not shy when the little pigs burst out of their shed to play in their yard, and she never offered to bolt to get away from them. But her attention was not on ME, her rider, when the pigs were in view, or if she heard them oink and squeal. It is at times like this that I am so glad that I spent the money to get the horses comfortable tack, saddle, bridle, and bit, because if Cider had been hurting from her tack I would probably had worse problems than her persistent flexing to the outside when she passed their pen. As it was I finally succeeded in keeping most of her attention on me as we passed the pig pen, but she was still flexing to the outside a little bit.

When I got to Debbie's barn for my lesson on Tuesday Sam told me that the buzz-bomber flies were bothering the horses there. Since it was hot and humid, I put a lot of fly spray on Bingo and figured that the Back on Track exercise sheet would protect his haunches from buzz-bomber attacks and I could deal with any flies that tried to bite his neck. Bingo, as usual started off stiff, and I had to get up into two-point after his first few steps. When Bingo's back is stiff he just won't move it, and even though I can sit really far forward in my new saddle, he will not relax his back unless I get my seat out of the saddle completely and I use my alternating legs to get him to stride forth at the walk. Since it was so hot and humid I did not last very long up in two-point, but I did last long enough so Bingo relaxed his back somewhat, letting it “swing.”

I had to use my lower legs a lot on Tuesday, so much so that Debbie started musing about putting me up on other horses with more “go” in them when the weather gets cooler. Bingo was sort of sticky during my lesson, sometimes he moved out willingly, other times he felt like he was crawling through molasses. When I did a turn on the forehand I kneaded his back muscles behind the saddle, and that seemed to help him loosen up some. After my thirty minutes were up I asked Debbie if she wanted me to trot Bingo one more time since Bingo tends to throw on the brakes when my thirty minutes are up. Then I was finally able to get him into a decent trot with suspension rather than his usual shuffle. I rewarded him by going to Debbie and getting off. As I walked out of the ring I realized that at no time during my ride had Bingo balked, all he had done was slow down but he never actually stopped and refused to go forward. Hallelujah, he is improving!

Last Sunday and Tuesday it was very humid and hot, even at 8:00 AM. Friday it was worse, at dawn it was 76° F and getting hotter by the minute. It was so humid, even with my technical fabric shirt and tights I was sweating in a few minutes. I told Sam that I was going to just walk Mia since I was worried about how she would survive harder exercise at her advanced age and with her bad lungs. We went ahead and put the Amigo Fly Rider neck and exercise sheet on her so if a buzz-bomber attacked she would have some protection, as well as plenty of fly spray. Mia was a little stiff to start off, while she did not NEED me to get my whole seat off of the saddle, she really appreciated it when I went up into two-point the first few minutes of our ride. This summer I've noticed that Mia does not want to stand still and rest, she gives me maybe 15 to 30 seconds before she tells me that she is sick and tired of standing still. Maybe she gets more of a breeze when she is walking, but I often wish she would let me rest for longer, even a full minute is better than 15 seconds! Toward the end of my ride I worked a bit at straightening her with just my upper thighs, letting the reins sag and keeping my lower legs quiet. Using my thigh against the saddle as my seat on that side rises seems to straighten her spine somewhat. As I alternated my thighs, we went down the middle of the ring with Mia needing only occasional corrections with my legs or hands.

Debbie takes very good care of Mia. Even though Mia does not bring a lot of money into the stable, this summer Mia has her own stall with her own fan. Her stall door is kept open so Mia can go outside to move around and eat some grass in the yard whenever she wants to. Since Mia loves standing in front of her fan she does not move around as much as when she was outside 24/7, and it takes a little while longer to get her moving smoothly under saddle. I am afraid that the added dust in the stall from the saw dust bedding makes her cough a bit more when I ride her, but I rather she cough all the stuff out of her lungs when I walk her around because I am afraid if she does not get all the stuff out of her lungs that she may get pneumonia. While we meander around the ring I practice my two-point, and when she coughs I get to practice moving my hands forward as she moves her head down and out. At those times I concentrate on keeping my lower leg in place since I have this bad habit of moving my lower legs back as my hands go forward. So yes, Mia's cough irritates me, but I can still use her coughing fits to improve my seat a little bit.

I am SO GLAD I get to ride early in the morning, because this week the heat index has gotten up over 100º F in the shade during the afternoons. Stepping out of my front door is like stepping into a sauna, my sweat does not evaporate, and my mobility worsens. I will be glad when the fall weather comes with less humidity and lower temperatures.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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