Sogginess and Wind Gusts

This week we had to deal with the outlying rain bands of Tropical Storm Zeta, and then the storm itself came through. The river is full, the creeks are full, and the earth goes squish when we walk on it.

I got Debbie for my teacher this week. She has been busy the last few weeks getting herself and her horse Tercel ready for a trail ride competition today. At least today the sun is shinning even though it is cooler.

It was really foggy when I got up in the morning, and when the fog cleared up I saw all the clouds, but it was not raining. We got to the stable, Debbie brought MJ in, then I started hearing some raindrops. We hurried up getting MJ groomed and tacked up and got out to the rather soggy ring.

we were using the double bridle.  I mounted and started walking around, and the raindrops started increasing and I had to remind myself that I am a hunt seat rider and hunt seat riders do not melt in the rain. MJ was “whatever” and kept on striding forth at the walk. Debbie kindly stood in the ring as the rain got harder and harder. I do wish that eyeglasses came with windshield wipers for the rain because I needed them on Wednesday!

Debbie kindly pointed out that my right lower leg had started drifting around again, so I concentrated on keeping my rectus femoris muscles on the front of my thighs tense, but not too tense. My lower leg improved then. MJ had no problems going around the puddles, and thankfully when he had to go through a puddle it was no big deal, he just slowed down a little bit. MJ is a horse that has common sense!

As the rain became harder and harder we practiced our usual turns, big curves and turns in place. His turns in place were marginally better. When we backed up it was a slow process—MJ, back up, huh?, back up, shift one foot, repeat the aid, and finally one diagonal goes back. Then I had to negotiate the other diagonal going back. I persisted until we got a full three strides back, with MJ's mouth remaining calm and closed. Then I worked a little on his super slow walk and he seems to fully understand what I want when I tell him to go slow. Then, as the rain got even harder, I decided to end up with extending his walk going away from the gate, and he responded! I could feel his stride lengthening and I could even stop using my alternating leg aids for a while. Unfortunately Debbie did not see it as she had her hands full explaining yet again to her new dog (a refugee from a too small home) that he had to stay out of the ring when people were riding.

But I was very pleased and ended the lesson on a good note, as the rain got even harder. My Kerrits winter breeches were wonderful, they shedded the rain drops just fine. Meanwhile everything else was getting wet, my hoodie, MJ's exercise sheet and his hats. When I got down we flipped his exercise sheet over the saddle to protect it some against the rain. When we got home we had to put all sorts of riding gear over the back of our couches so it could dry off.

Later on Wednesday the last two bits that I ordered from Fager Bits came, the Fager Frederic Titanium Loose Ring Baucher, a double-jointed snaffle with the rein rings separate from the purchase extending upward from the mouthpiece with the ring for the bridle's cheek piece.

I also got the Fager Alexander Sweet Iron Wings snaffle bit, the first bit I've gotten from Fager that is not titanium. Since two of Debbie's lesson horses who I had introduced to the titanium bits essentially went on strike when a normal stainless steel bit was put in their mouths and I had to give them a titanium coated single jointed 20mm thick snaffle to keep them content in lessons with other people. I have almost run out of the comparatively cheaper titanium coated rainbow snaffle bits to give to Debbie's horses and I need a non-titanium bit to ride other horses at Debbie's. This bit in in Fager's Sweet Taste Bits category, with the mouthpieces made of black iron (with a blue coating) with copper scored into the bit cannons. The Alexander is a double-jointed snaffle with a copper center plate that is at a 45° angle to the mouthpiece, and this one has the “wings” so it is sort of an eggbutt to the horse's lips and a loose ring bit to the rest of the horse's mouth. The Alexander is a “bar relief” bit whose mouthpiece is otherwise straight across the mouth. I picked the one with the wings thinking that the horses might be more comfortable if they could dictate exactly where and how the bit lays across their tongues.

On Friday it was nice and sunny, with a brisk wind with additional wind gusts coming through suddenly. I hunted Debbie down to show her my new bit and she was interested in it after handling it. I had to make up another bridle for MJ as I just could not face forcing the bradoon strap through the brow band loops of my Micklem bridle again if it was not absolutely necessary. I found my rather big horse size dressage type headstall with buckles instead of hook-stud attachments for the bits and I hunted up a loose brow band that looked wide enough for MJ's head. I used my second new pair of web reins with the colored stops. After larding up the bridle I put my new bit on it and I feared that it would be too big for MJ's head, but when I put it on him I had to loosen the cheek pieces a hole. MJ did not mind his new bit, with the attitude of “oh it is just another bit, no big deal.”

All the time the wind was blowing, and then the stronger wind gusts came, blowing all the loose paper stuff like feed bags and paper down the barn hallway. When we walked out to the ring all the mares were running, bucking and kicking in their pasture. We got to the ring and some stronger wind gusts came through and the mares got even more excited. MJ just stood calmly, and when the wind gust ended I got on. They had a LOT of rain the previous night so it was another ride of just walking around the puddles. It was my “homework ride” so there was no teacher in the ring.

MJ reacted really well to his new bit. He did not need as many hand aids to stop, his turns in place were a tiny bit better as was his backing up. He strode forth confidently, reached out for contact fearlessly, and we had a pleasant half-hour walking around the ring as the mares sky-rocketed around their pasture. Toward the end of our ride MJ started exploring the bit thoroughly with his tongue, sending the front of his tongue calmly out of his mouth, and then calmly bringing his tongue back into his mouth, no fretting, no distress, it was that he approved of how the bit worked in his mouth and he wanted to thoroughly explore it. He stopped fine at the end, and even the wind was still gusting and the mares were still exploding all over the place in their pasture, I felt confident enough to dismount without anyone at his head.

MJ is a good riding horse. He in unflappable, patient with his rider, and looks at the world with calm eyes when all hell is breaking loose around him. I can see why Debbie grabbed his when he became available because of his navicular disease, she can't use him for jumping lessons but every lesson stable needs a calm, unflappable horse for the more timid (or handicapped) riders. In MJ she got a real jewel of a horse.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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