First of all, I want to extend my sympathy and awe of all of you horsepeople trudging out in the deep, deep snow to take care of your horses.  I’ve done it in the past, I know how hard it is to carry water, hay, and grain out to the critters.  You all have my admiration.  Good work, keeping your horses and other animals going through the bad weather!  We have been fortunate down here in NC in the weather department.  This week we got rain on a day that I did not ride and we will get more rain tonight.  We have actually gotten out of our bad drought and we are getting much needed rain this winter.  So long the rain continues the farmers will be happy in the spring time, so long the weather allows the big machinery to get out into the fields.

I got to ride using the Spirit bitless bridle on all three horses this week.  On Wednesday Mick was SO STIFF, a result of a jumping lesson two days before that he could not deliver a good performance and it did not matter what kind of head gear I used.  In spite of the Ttouches I had to work hard with my legs to get his back “swinging” and it was another lesson of me working harder than Mick in spite of my slightly stronger spurs.  I am thinking about adding some Ttouch tail work next week to see if that does any good for relaxing his back.  Debbie was muttering about another chiropractic appointment for Mick since she was going to have a clinic this weekend and she wanted Mick’s back to work properly for it so that Chloe, Mick’s little girl, could get full benefit from the clinic.  Near the end of the lesson I finally got an iota of elevation of the forehand at the trot, and for the rest of the lesson I worked on snaking Mick around the jumps in the ring hoping that would help him loosen up some but I think Mick was just about as stiff coming out of the lesson as he was going in.  Poor horse, he is so noble and tries and tries to give his riders what they want, but until we finally find a way to truly fix his back I am afraid he will continue getting stiff, especially after staying in the stall all night.  I’ve told Debbie that if Mick was my horse I would be begging for turn-out 24/7 since he is so stiff coming out of the stall in the morning.  At least it will be Spring soon and he will start being out all night so he may be more mobile for my lessons.

On Friday I finally got to ride Mia again, it had been almost a month since the last time!  I forgot to do the Ttouches on her since I was pretty tired after rasping her toes down.  The ring was sopping wet from the rain of the day before so I just walked.  Mia seemed pretty agreeable about the Spirit Bridle the first twenty minutes of my ride and she even took up contact voluntarily.  Her turns on the hindquarters were not too great, but she did a SUPER partial turn on the forehand from the walk, something I had not been able to get out of her before.  But after that Mia decided that she still did not like being ridden bitless and she started trying to yank the reins out of my hands, shaking her head, and rubbing her muzzle against her foreleg.  This is not a fault of the Spirit bridle specifically, she’s done this for ALL of the bitless bridles I’ve used on her, side-pull, scawbrig and three types of cross-unders.  Mia just does not like too much pressure on her beautiful face even though the pressure I was using was lighter than what I use with a bit.  There was another problem, the Spirit bridle (cob sized) is just too big for her delicate head, and I think a combination of the rein rings falling too low on her face (near the bottom of her jaw) and the cheek pieces rubbing against her molars made her unhappy.  When I got home from my ride I dug out my Cashel noseband cushions and put them on the Spirit bridle since I had the same problem with the rein rings on Mick and Bobby, and with the cushions on the cheek pieces no longer rub against the horses‘ molars.  I will try the Spirit with the noseband cushions next week on her, and if she is still displeased with the bridle I will switch back to the Mullen mouth snaffle on my Micklem multi-bridle and resign myself to the fact that Mia just prefers pressure on her tongue from the bit to the pressure on her nose from the bitless bridles.  It is her head so she gets to make the decision, and the wonderful thing about riding Mia is that she never hides her decisions from me.  If she does not like something she is sure to let me know, often vehemently!

Today I got to ride Bobby in my newly cushioned Spirit Bridle.  At least with the cushion under the nosepiece the rein rings fell at the right place, in line with his mouth.  I tried some of the Ttouch tail work on Bobby to practice for doing it on Mick next week in addition to the Ttouches from his poll to his hocks.  It did not seem to do Bobby much good, or did I relax Bobby so much that he just never got himself into gear?  I had to use a lot of leg on Bobby today just to keep him moving.  Bobby is still in his post tack-change rebellious phase, trying to see if I will let him get away with stuff.  Since the grass ring was still a little wet I had to keep to the walk.  Today I had more problems with incidents of un-straightness, but at least Bobby still got back straight pretty readily though I had to use a bit more rein today to achieve this.  His turn on the hindquarters was marginally better today, but his circles were worse especially the parts that were nearer to Shannon.  With plenty of urging he finally extended his walk some and once he stretched out his gait I did not have to use as much leg which is a definite improvement!  As my ride continued I had fewer problems with straightness until, after 30 minutes of riding, Bobby finally gave me a pretty long stretch of straightness on loose reins.  Hey, the clock in his head said it was time to quit, and on previous rides I would not let him quit until he gave me a few strides of straightness, so Bobby voluntarily gave me what I had looked for my whole ride.  Of course he was immediately rewarded by sending him to Shannon and me getting off.  Now, if I could just get this straightness for the rest of my ride I would be happy, but I must face the fact that ponies were not put on this earth to keep their riders happy, and Bobby, as a pony, is only concerned with keeping himself happy.  He keeps me on my toes, alert and ready to counter any evasion he can think up, and thus makes me a better rider.

Have a great ride (if the snow allows it)!

Jackie Cochran     



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