Changing Back My Bridle Works

Last Sunday Shannon picked me up. This meant that did not get to ride in the coolest part of the morning but it was not too bad.

I accidentally picked up MJ's bridle when I got my tack together that morning. Neither Shannon or I noticed this until rather late in the ride. After feeling fiery pain shooting up her front legs the last time I rode her, both Shannon and I agreed that Cider should, for now at least, only be ridden in my double bridle with the titanium bits instead of a snaffle bridle, whether the bit be titanium or sweet iron like the bit I used on her the last time. At least MJ's bridle is a double bridle with titanium bits, the problem was that both of MJ's double bridle bits are a centimeter wider than Cider's double bridle bits.

Cider did not seem to mind her wider bits much at all. She was a little bit less sure about contact but nothing major, and she soon settled in to working (if you can call just walking as work!) The wonderful thing was that Cider was flinching less, in fact she was flinching less than she has for months and months, so maybe her Shoo-Fly leggings are working to reduce concussion on her front legs.

So Cider was happier, until we got to the far end of the ring. There is a tiny hillock a few yards from the arena fence, and some rabbits moved in and set up home. That was bad enough. But this week, all of a sudden, there appeared several fearful, dangerous, and unpredictable BABY RABBITS!!!!! threatening to eat her all up. Really Cider, is it that bad? Of course the cedar tree next to the side of the arena had the potential of holding ANOTHER, unspecified, horse eating monster.

I practiced a shoulder out, keeping her moving more or less sideways and blocking her from bolting to the inside of the ring. In a way this was progress, her objections to these outside sources of fear were more noticeable than when her front legs had hurt so bad the last time I rode her.

It had never really even occurred to me that the bit metal could make such a difference in the horse's soundness. Titanium is biologically inert, so the body does not try to digest it and the body does not attack it with the immune system. Could the non-titanium metals be triggering a small immune response which systemically triggers inflammation all through the body? All I know is that Cider feels much, much sounder when I use the titanium bits, especially with the double bridle, and Shannon agrees with me!

Wednesday's lesson was sort of confused. Since it is summer there are a lot more people around in the barn, and my husband and I are the ONLY people wearing face masks (even though both of us are fully vaccinated.) Since MJ DEMANDS that he get his morning hay before my ride, he was tied up on the aisle happily munching on his own personal heap of hay. Debbie did bring him into the wash stall to hose off his icky butt and we finished grooming him and tacking him up there.

The jumps had been changed around in the ring, apparently Debbie's students are going to a show that has jumps set up right at the arena fence, often with people right next to the jump. Since I could not go on the rail I had to do the quarter lines. It took me a few minutes to remember that I needed to get up into 2-point after I mounted, I finally noticed MJ's back was not moving freely. I got up into 2-point and rode around for 5 minutes to MJ's relief, and his back started to loosen up. After that I did some trot work, since I was tired from all the 2-point I am afraid that I started work at the sitting trot a little bit too soon. It was interesting, instead of the first two strides and the last two strides being rideable, he started off with a stiff back then he experimented with first relaxing one part of his back and then another part of his back, I did get a few seconds of smoothness intermittently in both short sitting trots.

During all of this Debbie's youngest granddaughter, Shelby, came into the ring to school on of the stable's ponies. Debbie told me how awful that pony had been when he came to the stable, but now he goes around the ring sanely, calmly and obeys his rider. Debbie kept and eye on the pony and another eye on me. When I wanted her to evaluate something I was doing I went up to her, told her what I was doing, and did my bit close to her, things like the sitting trot and some turns. She told me my seat at the sitting trot was fine, I was sitting erect and my butt was not banging around in the saddle, but she could tell that MJ's trot was jarring my body. Well, yes, it does, that is why I limit my sitting trots to around six strides, I just cannot take any more of the jarring even if my seat does not bounce around in the saddle.

I hope to get MJ to relax his back for the sitting trot when I am riding him. However I will never be able to guarantee that MJ won't stiffen his back under other riders, it is his hard learned defense against beginners bouncing stiffly in the saddle while they try to learn to sit the trot. I have hopes that I will be able to convince MJ to relax his back some for ME, but his other riders will have to learn to sit the trot properly before they would have any hope of convincing MJ to relax his back with them. MJ is a very forgiving horse for many beginner riders' problems, but he is not very forgiving of riders bouncing hard on his sensitive back. I don't blame MJ at all.

This week I tried a properly sized Fager Elisabeth titanium Weymouth curb, 135mm, with the 130mm Fager Alice titanium three-piece w/ a roller bradoon. The last time I tried the Fager Elisabeth Weymouth with MJ it had been just 125mm wide, and the purchases (the top parts of the bit's shanks) of the Weymouth had clashed with the bradoon. With the wide Weymouth the purchases of the curb are on the outside of the bradoon rings and they do not interfere with the bradoon. MJ did go better with the wider Weymouth, he did not gape, he was not dripping gobs of saliva, and his attention was on my hand aids instead of those blasted bits. I tried keeping contact with just the curb rein and MJ raised his head, not as high as when I kept contact with the 125mm Weymouth but higher than he carries it when I keep contact with just the 135mm Mullen mouth Weymouth, the titanium Fager Victoria (no longer made, sniff.) While he did not drool gobs of saliva his “lipstick” was sort of thick and frothy.

Louise Fagerson of Fager bits wrote a blog about how it was a very good idea to switch bit models frequently so that pressure points inside the horse's mouth do not get repeatedly irritated and sore. So MJ, and Cider, will get some more rides with the Fager Elisabeth Weymouth before I change the Weymouth. I am saving up my money for different Weymouths for Cider right now so all I can change to is the titanium Fager Victoria Mullen mouth Weymouth, and that will be soon. With MJ I will probably try, with Debbie's permission of course, the Fager titanium Felicia Weymouth. This bit is interesting in that the port is inclined at a 45° angle to the horse's bars, giving the horse's tongue a bit more freedom. Fortunately I already have three types of Fager titanium bradoons so I can change those around too.

Survive the heat. Survive the dirty air from all the forest fires out West which has crossed the whole country to here in NC. Keep on riding even if you have to slow down.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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