Last Sunday I got to ride Cider, for the first time in over 6 months at Shannon's new place where I had not ridden Cider before, in her current pasture. Cider was all groomed and waiting for the saddle when we got there so I did not have to wait long to ride. I had change from the BOT/ThinLine Contender II pad with center shims to a combination of a Fenwick Western pad with a ThinLine Trifecta pad, with a center shim, on top.

Our ride went well. Cider was flinching, a tiny bit, when we went down-slope but otherwise she felt pretty sound. Cider's back felt freer so I think that using the longer far infrared radiation Western pad that covers her loins was a good call. Shannon was pleased with my riding and she told me that using the Home Horse was helping me ride better. My balance WAS better, my saddle did not go off center, I did not have to re-position it, and it did not occur to me to have Shannon tighten the girth further, a big mistake on my part.

When my ride was over the exciting part started. With Shannon holding Cider I got my seat off the saddle and leaned on my left stirrup so I could get my right leg over the cantle, something that has become harder and harder for me to do correctly. As I straightened my left leg to clear the cantle the saddle started shifting under me, to the left, and it went on shifting to the left and the saddle rolled to the side of Cider's barrel until I was on the ground with my left foot still in the stirrup, all in super slow motion. Blessed Cider did not move while Shannon got my foot out of the stirrup and I got up fine. Next ride I NEED to have the girth tightened before I start dismounting even though I might not feel like the girth needs tightening during my ride. Other than some muscles in my left leg feeling a tiny bit strained I did not come to harm, and the BOT ankle and knee braces are helping my left leg feel normal. I am thinking of getting myself some 5-point breastplates, cob, horse and WB sizes for whenever I might have to dismount on my own, at least the saddle would not roll off the horses' backs so much.

It was wet, sloppy, and raining Wednesday morning. The night before I had called Debbie and suggested she come to my place and give me a lesson on my Home Horse instead of me trying to dodge rain drops and messing up her sloppy ring. She made it over and finally got to “meet” my Home Horse! I had taken off the double bridle extension for the first part of the lesson, and I rode the HH “bareback” on a folded up wool Western saddle blanket. Debbie liked having the bubble balance on the platform of the HH. With Debbie's help I got centered then I showed her my 2-point and “posting” riding the HH bareback.

Then I got off and Debbie got on. She found riding the HH to be interesting. She liked how it can be moved by the rider's seat to replicate the back motion of a horse at a walk, making the HH a somewhat acceptable substitute for riding a real horse at a walk. Debbie also liked how she could see the bubble balance through the handhold on the pommel of the HH seat. She experimented with moving her seat and noted how the HH reacted to her movements. Then she got off and I put my old Crosby PDN Wide Front on so we could ride in a saddle.

I rode the saddle first. Debbie had to help me get my feet into the stirrups since I seem to be unable to pick them up on my own (I wish sometimes that the HH had a barrel.) Again I “walked”, got up into 2-point and “posted” so she could see the extra challenges these movements bring riding with the saddle. Sitting in the saddle I was able to finally get centered from side-to-side and back-to-front, and again I felt like I was teetering on the top of a fence post, with the HH reacting to all of my balancing movements. Each of my “rides” was about 5 minutes long and I got tired from them.

We shortened the stirrup leathers three half-holes before Debbie got on the saddle. Unlike me Debbie had no problems at all picking up her stirrups. I put on the double bridle extension so she could get a feel of the HH's “mouth”, she agreed with me that it is a remarkably good substitute for practice with handling the reins since we do not get a “dead” feel from the reins. She rode longer in the saddle, being active at first then just lounging around until the HH felt stable with her weight back in the saddle and the HH resting on its rim in back. Debbie was determined to get a good feel riding the HH.

Then Debbie started seeing how having a Home Horse at her stable could help her riding program. Her main problem right now is figuring out where in the world she could put it, her stable is FULL of horses and all their gear. I told her I had started saving up so I could buy a HH to donate to her stable since I was getting really tired of not getting my lesson in when it rained. She remarked that there were days when boarders really wanted to ride when it rained, and with a HH she could put them up on something in the barn out of the rain. Then the HH was an obvious solution for her private lessons when it was raining. Debbie is the coach for the UNCC riding program and sometimes a lesson horse is “off” or an extra person appears, if she has a HH in the stable they could ride it in the barn under supervision, not ideal but the student could still get saddle time.

Then I noted that with her dressage students that with the HH she could work on perfecting these riders' balance and have proof from the bubble balance when they were out of balance. She said that her riders often ask her if there is anything they can do at home to get their muscles fitter for riding and now she can recommend something that is more like riding a horse than using a balance ball. With a HH her students could “ride” at home just like I do, using a saddle, using the stirrups, and practicing 2-point and posting. With a spotter looking at the bubble balance they could also keep track of their balance. There are so many ways that having a HH at her lesson barn could help her with her riding program and her students with their riding! I really hope she finds room for one. I suspect that several of her students will want to buy a Home Horse for their own.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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