Riding in the Drizzle

This week I had a choice, I could ride in the drizzle or take my lesson on frozen footing.

I decided that getting damp was better than risking a wrenched fetlock joint.

Sunday I was really hoping that the precipitation would hold off until after my ride. Alas, it was not so, as I waited for Shannon to pick me up the drizzle started. Shannon and I decided it was worth trying to get a ride in, it was not that wet after all.

The best thing about my ride is that Cider did not have her usual tiny flinches. Yes, the ground was part way to mud, but she had flinched before on equally soft ground. Shannon has been feeding Cider a feed that has anti-arthritis supplements in it, and Shannon thought that maybe, finally, everything had built up enough in Cider's system to show that the long, slow build up of these supplements finally worked. Sometimes supplements take a long time to work meaning that human patience may be one, just one, of the requirements for a supplement to work properly.

Though Cider was not flinching she started her old habit of “pretzeling” her neck and body, and I had difficulties in getting equal contact on both sides of her mouth. Then Shannon's mother, Nancy, came into the ring riding Magic, and Magic was also resistant to being guided by the reins (in a bitless bridle.) So while I was trying to get Cider to show even a hint of straightness I had to keep an eye out for Magic so she did not run into Cider. Part of the problem was that Magic is a Tennessee Walking Horse and her walking stride is a LOT longer than Cider's, so Magic following Cider did not work, and if I had Cider following Magic sooner or later Magic would forge so far ahead that she ended up at Cider's butt.

So Cider and I got plenty of practice of doing small “emergency” turns, leg yields and more or less sudden stops. This wreaked havoc with me getting reliable contact on both sides of her mouth but it gave Cider a good workout on responsiveness to my hands, thighs, legs and seat. I only noticed some minor flinching with turns on the forehand as we dodged Magic. Then the drizzle turned into a light rain, the cold wind started blowing harder, and I decided to stop my ride a little bit early.

During the first part of the week the weather forecasters predicted anywhere from 17° F to 24° F for Wednesday morning, and I called Debbie on Tuesday to say that it would probably be better for me (and Cinnabar, of course) if we postponed our lesson. A day or two later the morning forecast for Friday looked rideable (it was not supposed to rain until later) so I called Debbie and scheduled my lesson for then.

So what do you guess happened on my way to the barn? It started drizzling, of course. Shrug, I would not melt in a drizzle, and Debbie has proven that she does not melt in a drizzle either. So she got Cinnabar in since his back was not wet since he had been wearing a turn-out blanket. Cinnabar was not too thrilled with the idea of having a lesson in the drizzle, of course. The wind was sort of cold so I put both butt blankets on, as well as my BOT poll cap and Fenwick Face Mask with ears to keep his head and ears warm. Cinnabar still does not know what to think about his warming head gear, and he mimics a giraffe when I put them on, but once they were on he seemed to appreciate the added warmth. Still he was not content to stand still in the wash stall and kept on moving here and there to the limit of the cross-ties.

While Debbie was grooming Cinnabar she was telling about the further adventures with the pesky pony that did not want to obey his little rider. Debbie had put the 4” Weymouth curb on him, just the curb, and the pony had been surprised by the more “noticeable” bit, and his rider had been able to stop the pony from running off with her (at a walk and trot) to the arena fence. Debbie was not too sure that the Weymouth was wide enough for the pony, and will be trying the 4 1/4” curbs I lent her. Debbie was very happy that the pony finally listened to his rider for the first time ever. A Weymouth by itself is not a long-term solution unless they manage to train the pony to neck reining, but at least for his last lesson he learned that sometimes he HAS TO listen to his rider.

As for my lesson Cinnabar is still reluctant to keep contact, though he was better at establishing contact when I told him to with my legs. He would keep contact for a few strides, then he would notice something outside the ring and contact was lost (unless I moved my hands back which is not proper at all.) Then after a few minutes all the horses in both paddocks decided to have a good run with frequent bucks, squealing and kicks. Cinnabar was manageable when just three horses were running around, but when ALL the pasture horses got into the game I wimped out and went to stand next to Debbie for a few minutes, admiring the beauty of galloping horses. Debbie had a horse that had been on stall rest for a few weeks in a small, one horse paddock, and he was snorting, bucking, and running around as much as possible. It took several minutes until most of the horses decided that they had run enough, and when it was back to two or three horses acting up I directed Cinnabar away from Debbie and continued my ride.

I must admit that I am frustrated with Cinnabar. Every other horse I have been on since I started riding again, including horses who were extremely fussy with contact, relaxed under me and decided that contact was a comfort, not a form of torture. But Cinnabar, whether because of my hands, or because he is ridden by beginners on up, or because no one really taught him about contact, has been a challenge for me. Cinnabar is not bad, but without contact I am not getting a connection with his brain. This is fine most of the time, but when he gets interested in something outside of the ring, lifts his head and stops concentrating on me, I feel insecure because I have not yet established a connection with his brain, a connection that may be begun and fostered through contact, but which lasts both on contact and with loose reins.

Right now I am missing riding Bingo, however bad, evasive and resistant he had been under me he “understood” how to establish and keep contact. I am finding that there is a different feel to a horse that drops contact for evasion and one who considers contact an unimportant irritation to be picked up or dropped at will. Maybe I should try Cinnabar out with my Wellep snaffle. Unfortunately I think that the one with the longer cable through the mouthpiece, where the horse can decide where to carry his head without me losing contact with one rein or the other rein, is too narrow for Cinnabar according to Debbie. Maybe I should measure his mouth to make sure that particular Wellep bit is too narrow for him, since Debbie mostly owns 5” bits that is what is put in the horses' mouths when they end up in her riding program (unless the horse is definitely smaller and she uses a narrower bit.) If a horse has a 4 3/4” mouth they usually do not consider a 5” bit too terribly horrible, especially if I put my leather bit guards on it. Cinnabar may prefer the taste of the titanium bit, but until I can achieve reliable contact he will have to get used to stainless steel bits again.

Have a great ride (will Winter never end?)

Jackie Cochran

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