A Smoother Sitting Trot

Monday it was hot and humid. I did wear my technical fabric tights, shirt and socks, but I should have worn my ice vest instead of my protective vest. I only walked but I ended up hot and sweaty, and I felt exhausted before the end of my placid ride.

MJ was stiff since he had been in a St. Jude's trail ride on Sunday, with two riders (they switched in the middle of the ride). So it was plenty of two-point at the start until I felt his back loosen up. He kept contact OK with the bradoon, OK that is for a horse with two other riders.

Contact with just the curb bit was better. He relaxed and reached out for the bit and KEPT his contact just fine as we meandered around the ring. I experimented some with halting with just the curb bit, instead of tweaking both reins at once I alternated tweaking the curb reins (as my seat bone sank down I tweaked the curb rein on that side.) It worked! MJ gave me a good, relaxed halt with just two strides, an improvement over the six strides when I tweaked both curb reins at the same time to give my aid. My alternating tweaks on the curb rein are LIGHT since I do not want to move the bit in his mouth, with immediate release and then I move my hand forward some. WHEW. MJ understood what I was “saying”! When I asked for the super slow walk I made sure to lean forward some and he promptly obeyed my aids. Of course he was tired from the trail ride so that may have helped some.

Wednesday it was MUCH cooler, I wore my winter breeches and shirt, and I did not get hot from wearing my protective vest. There was a brisk north breeze so we put both butt blankets on MJ which he liked. He had been ridden again the day before so he really needed his warm-up, and when I finally got his back feeling looser (as in he did not protest when I sat back down in a crotch seat) and he lowered his head and accepted contact with the curb I felt we were ready for the next big step.

I asked Debbie for permission for me to try keeping contact with just the curb bit while we did a sitting trot. She said yes, I tied up my bradoon reins and asked MJ to establish contact with the curb bit. Then I asked him to trot, slowly, and after a few steps he did so. At first his head went up some so I relaxed my fingers even more, used my legs to ask him to extend his head down and forward, and slipping the curb reins through my relaxed fingers he did so. He KEPT his head down and forward through the rest of our trot, slowly asking for more rein, and his back relaxed somewhat. His slow trot was a LOT smoother than usual, instead of riding a jack-hammer I felt like I was sitting the trot on a normal lesson horse. I had no problems sitting it and I managed it for a lot longer than I ever had when keeping contact with just the bradoon, a quarter of the way around the ring instead of just six strides.

After we got back to a walk Debbie started describing what he did. He gently stretched his head down with his nose forward and his throatlatch opened. He showed no fear my contact with the curb reins and he showed no signs of distress with his mouth which stayed closed. She said my downward transition to the walk was nice and smooth. A little later we tried backing up, again just with curb rein hand aids. I got into my crotch seat (I was too tired to two-point right then,) I alternated very light twitches of my curb reins, and MJ backed up calmly, with his mouth closed, and Debbie told me that was the straightest backing up she had seen me get from MJ ever.

So MJ has no fear of the curb bit, MJ will keep good contact with the curb bit, and MJ delivers superior results when I keep contact with just the curb bit. MJ is a GOOD BOY!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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