Thank Goodness it was Cooler

Of course this did not do much to improve our humidity.

Debbie was delayed so her daughter, Sam, had gone ahead and caught MJ, fed him his private flake of breakfast hay, cleaned out his hooves and brushed the caked mud off by the time I got there. Since his belly was full/er Sam brought him to the wash stall where I brushed out the dusty dirt deep in his coat, and grooming his head and mane to MJ's standards (“I want the brush RIGHT HERE, listen to me!)

I showed Sam the 5 3/4” wide double-jointed titanium Fager Pelham I had bought for just in case I was ever assigned to ride her comparatively giant horse Zeke. I told her Debbie had wanted to try it on Zeke and Sam agreed. Zeke's rider, Sam's daughter protested with “I LIKE riding Zeke in the hackamore!” but Sam told her she needed more control and that she WAS going to try this bit on Zeke, case closed. Sam told me the reason they had settled on the mechanical hackamore was because they just could not find a bit that Zeke was happy with. When a 16.3 hand half draft-horse says he does not like a bit it can cause problems for his rider.

I hope Zeke likes this bit. I do not feel particularly eager to ride him but if Debbie thinks I could help Zeke in the future I want a curb type bit in his mouth. Until then I am lending this bit to the stable in the hopes that it will make Zeke more useful to them, make Zeke happier with being ridden, and guarantee a suitable bit in his mouth if I ever end up having to ride him.

When Debbie arrived we had done EVERYTHING to get MJ ready for my lesson. He was standing in the wash stall fully tacked up, fly sprayed, fly sheeted and ready to go (“WHY do I have to just stand around here?”)

Since it was cooler I wore my protective vest instead of my ice vest. I almost forgot to get up into 2-point but MJ's stiff back reminded me to get my darn butt out of the saddle. It was cool enough to get several strides in 2-point, then I got tired and ended up in my half-seat. I did manage to make it the full 5 minutes, pretty good for not having my ice vest on.

After that I went into the sitting trot on his comfortable direction. MJ's slow trot was so smooth, his back was relaxed and swinging, it was a pleasure to ride. I went a little bit longer than before since it felt so good! He even lowered his head and reached for more rein near the end, and I rewarded him by going into the walk.

Then we did the sitting trot in MJ's uncomfortable direction, and the jarring came back. It has improved, but his back was not relaxed enough to absorb my seat though it was swinging. He did lower his head and reach out for the bit toward the end so there is progress there. There is hope of getting his back more relaxed in this direction if I don't mess up, but I have no idea how long it will take before MJ stops trying to defend his back in his bad direction. He is in his later 20s after all, and from what I've picked up from riding him no one ever explained to him how to relax his back muscles properly, just enough to stop the jarring while still being tense enough so his spine does not sag down under my weight.

After resting a bit at the walk I decided to try an approximately 20 meter circle at the sitting trot in his good direction. MJ “played” back and forth with his back muscles, a few strides nice and relaxed, a few jarring strides, then back to being nice and relaxed. This took around ¾ of the circle, then we went back to the walk as a reward for that final more-or-less relaxation.

Then I worked on the three-speeds-of-the-walk exercise, asking MJ to extend while going away from the gate and then to slow down going toward the gate. MJ is a QH, and a really slow walk is just fine with him. He was not quite to the “lift the foot deliberately and put it down just as deliberately, then on to the next foot” of an advanced super slow walk, but he is well on his way even heading toward the gate.

But the more extended walk? “WHY?” After all, we were not going anywhere, we weren't going to the gate and the hope of me dismounting, and as a QH this is just not really in his repertoire. However his an Appendix QH with a decent amount of recent Thoroughbred blood, he is conformed like a horse with a decent amount of recent Thoroughbred blood, and a slightly faster walk is well within his physical abilities. All I have to do is convince his that this is true.

It is MUCH EASIER getting an extended walk going toward the gate, and it is MUCH EASIER to get the super-slow walk going away from the gate. The true proof of effective training is getting the horse to do the more difficult slow walk toward the gate and the more difficult extended walk away from the gate. The horse WANTS to speed up toward the gate and sees absolutely no reason to speed up going away from the gate. The three-speeds-of-the-walk exercise is just as much to train obedience to the aids as it is to develop the horse's physique.

MJ has always been a nice riding horse. MJ has the conformation and physical ability to be a superior riding horse. He has no conformational problems that could prevent this. So here I am, plodding around the ring at the walk and slow trot training MJ how to be a superior riding horse.

Why not? It is fun to do this.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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