An Odd Type of Spring Fever?

It has been sort of “odd” riding the past few weeks. The two horses I ride now, well they have been old reliable lesson horses who face new things with at most a flick of an ear. Now, however, everything is viewed with suspicion at first, and they require a few “meditation breaks” where we just stand while the horse views his/her realm, eventually sighing, moving on, until the NEXT new/scary thing that they see.

Not only that, but my riding teacher, Debbie, whose horses tend to view her as right below a god, got heavily bruised when she got caught up in between horses who all of a sudden freaked out about something. None of this is “normal”, even for a change of seasons.

Until this season of super sensitivity passes I am going to ride the horses in a double bridle, just to give me another input to the horses' nervous systems. It is slightly easier to get their attention with the double bridle when the horses are fixated on something external.

Cider at least had a valid excuse. It was my first ride at Shannon's new place. Cider had already spent a week in her new paddock, plenty of time to get used to the nearby road with cars driving down it, to the new trees, to the fact that the riding ring (also the temporary grazing paddock) is now a rectangle rather than a lumpy circle, and to the fact that everything, except for her paddock companion, is different. However last Sunday was the first time she was RIDDEN in the new paddock so she had to be reassured that nothing would all of a sudden attack her. Everything was so new!

I had put my new Fager Jacob sweet-iron three piece bradoon with a sweet-iron roller in the center on her double bridle. This did give her tongue something new to explore, but everything outside of the ring was obviously more important to her than the new bit. Every passing car was viewed with great suspicion as it passed the paddock, so I had her just stand a few times when a car passed by. Yes Cider, this is a new normal, please get used to it. Cider did not want to go into the far end of the paddock, oh so far away from Shannon! She constantly wanted to twirl around so she could see Shannon (no Cider), she constantly wanted to accelerate when she finally saw Shannon again (no Cider), and I had to coax her to take a few steps into the bottom quarter of the paddock. We were both relieved when our time was up.

Wednesday was sort of crazy for my lesson. I had read about a new grooming tool on the COTH Forums, the StripHair. You can see it at https://striphair.com. It is a black rubber rectangle, 9” by 2 1/4”, with smooth edges. It has textured sides, one side has slightly bigger “diamonds” all along the length of the tool on one side and slightly smaller “diamonds” on the ends of the other side. It is a multi-use grooming tool. Holding the labeled “Gentle Grooming Edge” at a 45º angle to the horse's coat it grabs the shedding hair quite well. The slightly bigger “diamonds” are for attacking dried up mud and scruff, and the slightly smaller “diamonds” are for use on the horse's head. They are not cheap (American made) at almost $30.00 US, but right now I think they are worth their price.

MJ has very sensitive skin, he does not allow me to “lean in” with a grooming tool, any grooming tool, without becoming jittery (including the Tigers Tongue), but with the StripHair I could lean all I wanted too. His loose hair came off readily and MJ acted like he ENJOYED being groomed with it, on his body, his legs, and on his head. MJ did not like the usual shedding blade with the teeth, but he seems to find this new grooming tool totally acceptable and he just relaxed and enjoyed it. Debbie really liked it, she could get more effective grooming in with less effort and not irritate MJ.

I had also put the Fager Jacob bradoon on MJ's bridle. Debbie said she could see him working the roller with his tongue some but I did not feel his mouth become frantic. He just walked and trotted along like everything was right with his mouth and gradually accepted that I expected as much obedience with the new bit as I had with the previous bradoon.

When MJ showed acceptance of his new bit set-up I tried, yet again, to get him to do a leg yield. The previous times, in a double bridle with a lozenge center bradoon or in a snaffle, he just did not seem to understand what I wanted him to do. This time was different, I started off with a more-or-less direct inside rein, and while I kept contact with the inside rein I alternated my outside leg and an indirect rein in front of the withers with my outside hand. To my utter amazement MJ kept flexed to the “inside” even when I was using my outside rein and leg, and he started moving at an angle without any fussing.

It looks like I have finally found a bradoon that works well with my hands.

I trotted some during my lessons, since I am still not wearing spurs it took a little bit of persuasion and I had to use some leg aids to keep him moving, but I was able to get him to trot with suspension. This made me really tired!

On Friday I just walked, except for the times we stood still while MJ surveyed his realm, the other horses, the cattle, the dogs and the birds. He processed stuff a lot quicker, thank goodness, but he obviously appreciated me giving him a chance to thoroughly examine everything around him. His leg yield was even better, he halted softly, and mostly obeyed my aids for the three speeds at a walk. When I got back to the barn several of Debbie's students were using the StripHair grooming tool, passing it on to the next student when finished with their horse. They liked it too.

I will be so glad when the horses are over their odd type of Spring Fever and settle down to being pleasantly boring again.

That is it for this week, my grandsons are coming to visit me! I have not seen them, my son or DIL for over a year, so I am excited.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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