The Nineties Have Arrived

Yes, four days of 90ºF+ in a row. Summertime temperatures and it isn't even the middle of May. I guess it makes up for all those lows in the 20's this year.

So after months of dithering each morning of my rides about how many clothes to put on, it is now simple and the technical fabrics rule. My long sleeve technical fabric shirt, my technical fabric silicon full seat riding tights, my technical fabric knee socks and my ventilated half-chaps help me deal with the heat. Very soon I'm going to ask the ladies if I can ride at 8:00 AM instead of 9:00 AM, which means I have to wake up at 5:30 AM so I can eat, clean up and get dressed to ride at a leisurely pace. I still get hot and sweaty, but not as hot and sweaty as when I wear regular fabrics and I cool down a lot faster. I am now in a search for a technical fabric cooling face mask that I can also put over my scalp, hopefully that will help with all the sweat that runs down into my eyes. Ever since I started using the Wellep regular snaffle bits and my Spursuader spurs the horses have not told me to go bitless or take off my spurs during the summer heat, so they are also essential during the summertime even though I use them all year round.

The horses do not mind the heat as much as I do, thank goodness, though they all seem to appreciate my riding fly-sheet which is well ventilated and keeps the sun from heating up their skin. Cider is especially appreciative of the fly sheet, when Shannon puts it on Cider she relaxes like she is standing in the shade, and it keeps those pesky flies from landing on her! Bingo and Mia also seem to appreciate it. Since I ride early in the morning the flies are not too bad yet, but this will get worse throughout the summer.

Bingo now has a boy rider, who likes him! Bingo seems to work best under a rider who has some boldness and who does not get flustered when Bingo decides he wants to disobey his rider, usually to go to the gate, hint, hint, hint! I think that boys are more in tune with Bingo's “Rebel without a cause” approach to life, an attitude that a lot of boys can relate to.

In the lessons Bingo does the usual walk, trot, canter and now he is doing cross-rails too. So far Bingo has not scared his boy rider and is acting like a civilized lesson horse. This means that all the hours I've spent riding Bingo have worked, he now knows that at least some riders can make/persuade him to obey his rider, and this has relaxed him. Previously to ending up at Debbie's stable, I do not think any of Bingo's riders ever explained to him precisely what they wanted, instead I think Bingo got a lot of really confusing aids, punishment for not automatically understanding what his rider wanted, and little to no praise when Bingo accidentally came upon the right answer. All Bingo wanted was some clarity in his life, and after all the months I've ridden him Bingo is now clear about what his riders want, prompt obedience to properly timed rational aids. Since Bingo no longer lives in confusion he is much more willing to be forgiving of his rider's imperfections. I have hopes that Bingo will become an excellent beginner's horse, or at least a beginner's horse who is good at teaching riders exactly how to overcome a horse's disobedience, an essential skill for any rider.

Last Sunday I got to ride Cider with the “old type” Wellep snaffle, with me trying to coordinate myself well enough to overcome the absence of stability of the rein rings at the ends of the cable that goes through the mouthpiece. With a normal bit I give a hand aid, the reins act on the bit, and the horse gets a clear signal from my hands. With the “old type” Wellep snaffle I give my normal strength hand aid, the cable zings through the bit, and the horse continues doing what he was doing before I gave my hand aid. I do not know how badly the heat will affect my hands while using this bit. As I think about the problems my hands will have in keeping the proper position in relation to the horse's mouth as it gets hotter, I also realize that this Wellep bit lets the horses ameliorate some of my imperfect hand effects. I have decided that if the horses find my hands super horrible with this bit as the weather gets hotter they will definitely tell me, and I can change back to the “new type” Wellep snaffle that gives a more definite signal, or if I get too bad I can go to a bitless bridle.

Shannon and her mother, Nancy, have started to ride a lot more than usual, so instead of maybe half an hour of work a week Cider is getting several hours of work each week. As a result the 48” girth I use for her is now too long, and because of this my saddle was shifting around a lot last Sunday. I went through my tack collection and found a leather 46” girth I will try, if that does not work well then I can try my 46” Lettia Coolmax girth after I wash it, and if that does not work I will just have to order another 46” “mohair” string girth.

Nancy has been riding Cider, using a bareback pad and the Nurtural bitless bridle. Shannon has been even busier, she is riding Merlin and Merida (their new QH mare) in the EZ-Fit treeless saddle and the Nurtural bitless bridles, and Shannon is also riding Magic (the TWH mare) using my ancient dressage saddle and the Nurtural bitless bridle. Right now I am the only person riding at Shannon's barn who uses a bit, ever since I gave Shannon the Nurtural bitless bridles I do not think she has used a bit riding. This is fine with me, this way I can develop the horses' mouths without them getting confused by other people using the bit. If these excellent bitless bridles were not around I would not dare train the horses to react to mere twitches of my fingers, because then the horses would be too “advanced” for their under-educated riders. This way, me using the bit and Shannon and all the other riders using the bitless bridles, the horses realize that I want a higher standard of obedience to the aids while they can relax and shuffle around when their other riders use the bitless bridle. It works out well, the horses do not get confused, the horses' mouths do not get abused, and everybody is happier with life.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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