A Tiny Bit of Progress With Mick's Sitting Trot

This was a very tiring week for me, yesterday I just could not get up enough energy to write my blog since it was the first day all week I got some down-time and all I could do was just sit and do nothing.  At least I made some progress with Mick this week!

One reason I was so tired is that I spent days cutting down one of my wool Western saddle blankets and adapting it to use it with the Corrector.  I sewed, and sewed some more, tried it on Mia (at least she did not try to shake it off) and sewed some more to get it ready for my Wednesday lesson with Mick.  It is just one layer of wool now, and I am using the Corrector in its “sock” on top of the altered wool saddle blanket, and I was eager to see how Mick reacted to it.  

At first Mick did not seem too impressed though he did accept the changes with his usual grace.  I was pleased that the saddle was not shifting under me so my seat was steadier in the saddle.  The first time I asked Mick for the sitting trot I was discouraged, while it was not as jarring as his sitting trot when I just used the Corrector it was not anywhere as smooth as when I just used the triple fold wool Western blanket.  Bummer.  But something my seat was feeling from Mick’s back lead me to try again two more times, and I started to get “permission” from Mick’s back to start relaxing back into the saddle.

At first to sit his trot I had to get my seat way up toward the pommel of the saddle with my weight on the front of my seat bones.  Mick’s back was very active and my pelvis had to move a lot to keep my seat bones “glued” to the saddle.   Debbie noticed my seat was a lot more forward in the saddle, I am sure I looked like I was perched instead of sitting.  That did not bother me since it was the only place Mick wanted me to sit during the sitting trot, and since I had his consent the trot was nowhere as jarring as it could have been.  When I asked him to transition down to the walk he obeyed promptly, as usual.  After some walking and doing wide turns in both directions I asked for the sitting trot again, and after around a minute Mick started bringing his head down and forward when I asked him to with my hands.  This is the first time he ever offered to elongate at the sitting trot in over two years of me riding him.  His back softened some and he was not as eager to drop back into the walk.  Greatly encouraged I walked for a few minutes so I could rest since I was getting pretty tired by that point.  Debbie first asked me to do some posting trot and she told me she could see some elevation in his forehand though I did not feel it in my seat (probably because I was still getting used to my offset stirrups.) 

So the third time I sat his trot I started out in the same position, perched on the front of my seat bones.  Again Mick stretched out his head and neck a little bit in response to my hands, and then something marvelous happened, for the first time since I started riding him years ago Mick’s back “invited” me to sit a little further back.  So I gingerly started to roll my seat back to the middle of my seat bones and Mick did not stiffen his back.  Progress!  Not only that, when I asked Mick to transition down to the walk he ignored me and went on trotting.  I asked again and he ignored me again.  Finally the third time I asked he finally consented to go down to the walk.  This is the first time ever that Mick has not been super willing to go down to a walk from a sitting trot, usually he looks for any hint that I want to stop the sitting trot and promptly responds to my hand aids.  I felt like I was getting the message of “why do you want to stop, this is finally feeling good!”

I am not like most riders, I am quite willing to ride within whatever the horse consents to, especially at the sitting trot.  Since I have a lot of brain damage from my MS I try to avoid all jarring since I do not want my brain bouncing off my skull and causing more damage.  If the horse has a jarring sitting trot I do not try and ride it down to smoothness, I just figure that the horse is NOT REALLY READY for the sitting trot and I work on getting the horse’s back stronger and more mobile so that eventually its back is strong enough for the sitting trot.  Mick has been my biggest challenge of all the horses I’ve ridden for an extended period, he just refused to relax his back for the sitting trot at all until I stopped the saddle from shifting on his back with the wool saddle blanket.  Since the saddle has stabilized his back has gotten slightly more welcoming to my seat but he was still doing an inversion every time I sat his trot.  Wednesday was the first time he consented to get out of his inversion when I asked him to with my hands, and because he did I was able to sit back some without my brain bouncing against my skull.  This gives me great hope, I’ve done just about all I can do at a walk to get his back more mobile, and while his back does “swing” at the walk now he still stiffens up every time we do a turn (or back up, or turn on the hindquarters, or turn on the forehand, or even when he stands for a few minutes while I rest.)  Now that Mick is beginning to enjoy the sitting trot I can start working on getting his back to “swing” when trotting.  Hopefully this will lead to further progress at all gaits and movements.

Next week I am going to try putting the Corrector under the wool saddle blanket instead of on top of it, just to see if Mick’s back will relax any more.  I get the feeling that he may not be too sure about how the wool blanket feels on his back (to me it feels like wool carpeting.)  Hopefully I will not lose the steadiness of the saddle and Mick will improve even further.  If he does not like it like that I will return to how I used it on Wednesday until I can find some smoother wool cloth to cover the Corrector’s sock.  He really, really, really likes the saddle being more stable on his back, and he really likes me being more stable in the saddle, so all I have to do is find a way I can have both the protection of the Corrector and the added grippiness of the wool with Mick being comfortable.

I am afraid I will have to temporarily stop using my wonderful offset stirrups for a while.  I was worried they might hurt my ankles, but my ankles have been fine.  So what is the problem?  Every time I get off the horse after using them the bursitis in my right hip flares up big time and I am hobbling when I walk back to the barn.  I think that I did not notice this when I used my Stubben Fillis offset stirrups because my feet were hurting so bad, so bad that I was beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t stop riding altogether.  I guess my hip bursitis was hurting less than my feet.  Now that my feet are completely comfortable in my Prussian stirrups I REALLY notice my hip bursitis when I use the Prussian offset stirrups.  I think I have figured out how to reduce the side to side slant of the offset stirrups (I found a metal clip I can put in the eye of the stirrup so the stirrup leather stays in a more central location) but I do not dare try riding in them again until my hip bursitis calms down quite a bit.  Until then I will be riding in my regular Prussian stirrups.  This is a little discouraging to me, with the offset stirrups my stirrups were finally staying under the balls of my feet during the sitting trot instead of migrating back to my heels.  Plus I will have to go back to using my muscles to keep my heels down and my ankles “cocked”, which works fine at the walk and the posting trot but not at the sitting trot.  Maybe I can try again in six weeks, wish me luck!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran 




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