Working on Tiny Details

This was a good week, I got to ride all three horses.

It has gotten into meteorological summer down here. Shannon now picks me up at 8:00 AM in an attempt to spare me (and her horse) the icky sweaty super humid weather that gets the sweat pouring down into my eyes. I am still riding at 9:00 AM at Debbie's and it is getting brutal for me. My new technical fabric cooling balaclava with a terry cloth headband is helping me, but as the day gets hotter my head still gets hot and sweaty. The balaclava does work better when I finally take my helmet off and it finally works to cool down my head in a breeze, but I need something that cools me off better when I wear my riding helmet. As it is I am grateful for the fact that I do not get quite as hot as I used to before I started wearing it riding.

Cider was still “off” so I just walked her around the ring. More and more I am finding that doing the turns in place can isolate the gimpy leg. So far, turning in one direction may get the horse “limping” while in the other direction the horse is fine. A turn on the forehand can isolate the hind leg that “limps” or it can point out problems with the shoulder moving the front leg sideways. A turn on the hindquarters can isolate the front leg that “limps” while showing any discomfort the horse has in moving his hind leg to the side. Since I am mostly ignoring the trot right now it helps to have another way of pin-pointing the lame leg other than the horse nodding his head at the trot or hitching up one side of his croup. Using them I can tell Debbie or Shannon about a leg that feels off so they can concentrate on how that leg moves and make plans to alleviate the lameness before it becomes painfully evident that the horse is lame. Shannon had her farrier go over Cider's feet thoroughly so she could rule out hoof problems, and the farrier found no evidence of bruising or sensitive soles.

As the summer progresses it becomes more apparent that Bingo suffers from Cushing's disease, his hair is still long and he just does not seem to be able to shed it all. As a result I spend almost as much time cleaning his Contender II BOT saddle pad as we spend grooming Bingo. Debbie is going to switch him, Mia, and another one of her horses to a new Southern States senior feed that is supposed to be good for horses with Cushing's disease, and she has great hopes that it will help these horses shed out better.

Fortunately Debbie's protocol for Bingo's left hind wind-puff has improved his wind-puff, and his gaits are better. Next week is Debbie's first summer-camp, and she is hoping he will be sound enough to be used. Bingo was more willing to push off with his hind legs during my lesson, and his trot was much better!

Debbie has been using the Equicubes I gave her during her lessons. She still marvels every time I use it on how it effectively straightens my back, so effectively that one or two minutes of carrying it improves my shoulders and back for the whole lesson (30 minutes.) Since I have my own Equicube at home now I can “practice” using it inside where it is nice and cool. Due to this homework I am now able to carry the Equicube for around three minutes before my arms get to hurting too much and before my arms get too tired to hold the Equicube off the horse's withers.

On Friday I finally got to ride Mia again, and she really appreciated being groomed. I found a new grooming tool (as usual from reading the COTH Forum,) it is a CAT grooming tool, the “Kong Cat ZoomGroom.” It has 7/8” soft rubber spikes, and it is not too big for my smallish hands. The lady who wrote about it had a OTTB with extremely sensitive skin who found all other types of curry combs and grooming gloves to be instruments of torture. I got some for Debbie because that is one of the problems that her personal horse has, he is the one horse that HATES the HandsOn grooming gloves, unlike every other horse in her stable (38 horses.) I hope this grooming tool works on her problem child. Anyway I tried it on Mia's head. Mia tends to like me grooming her head, for a few seconds, then she starts getting somewhat irritated and moves her head away. However I used the ZoomGroom for several minutes on her forehead and she enjoyed it thoroughly, angling her head to show me where she wanted it used next. Unlike every other grooming tool I've used this tool gets down in to the pits above her eyes (she is 32, these pits are deep.) Her eyes got soft, she started licking, and she gave every evidence that THIS grooming tool had her total approval. She was not as sure about it when I used it on her ears, it is not thin enough to get down into her ear, but that may be because of my clumsiness. When I used it on her back after riding it did not give her the deep massage that she gets from the HandsOn grooming gloves since the spikes are too soft, but she did not mind it at all when I used it on her back.

Going back on the Web I read a lot of comments that people made about using the ZoomGroom on their animals (they also make one for dogs that is slightly stiffer.) Apparently it is truly excellent for getting hair out of coats during the shedding seasons. Right now I have great hopes that if I use it BEFORE I saddle up that there will be fewer gobs of hair on the saddle pad after I ride. Presently I go over their backs with the HandsOn glove, a gummy scrubber, a flick brush, and my super soft body brush and I still get gobs of hair on my saddle pad, particularly when I ride Bingo. Tomorrow I can try it on Cider's back before we tack her up and I can see if it helps keep the pad cleaner. It will be two weeks before I can try it on Bingo, who leaves more hair on my saddle pad than any other horse I've ever ridden. It would be very nice not to have to spend over a half hour cleaning off my saddle pad after riding Bingo!

When I rode Mia Debbie was giving a lesson and I got to see her use the Equicube to improve her student. When it came time to get after her student about her shoulders, Debbie just gave her the Equicube to carry and her student's shoulders and back improved immediately. I thought back on all my lessons in which I tried and tried to contort myself so my back and shoulders would meet Debbie's standards, and how I would always fail. I think that beginning riders can get really get discouraged when they try and try to please their riding teacher and always fail. With the Equicube Debbie can now PRAISE her student's back when they carry it; her student brightened up when she got praised, and the horse was also pleased with the results. Maybe, with some students, if they get praised more instead of lectured about their imperfections, these students would not get so discouraged about learning to ride. I am sure that quite a few beginners quit riding because they can never please their riding teacher, and no matter what these students try to do they cannot get it right. Riding students need praise just as much as their horses do, and positive words keep them a lot more motivated to ride than constant corrections. It seems to me that the Equicube may help solve this problem, especially since the desired results come immediately when they hold the Equicube properly.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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