Cider Finally Gives Me What I Want

For the last few years Cider has had problems going down-slope. This was very obvious on one side of the ring next to the fence, she would increase her flinching, slow down and pick her way carefully down the slope. She was not happy about it but she is a good mare and did her best to obey my aids even when her front leg joints protested.

So far I've used the double bridle, with the Fager bits, three times on Cider. The first time I did a few strides on contact with just the curb bit and she improved a good bit. The second time I did not do contact with just the curb bit at all, and while she was better she still flinched, especially going down-slope. Last Sunday was the third time I used the double bridle on her.

I talked with Shannon about the difference in Cider's flinching between the time I used contact with the curb at a walk for a few strides and the second time when I did not do the few strides just on the curb bit. I asked permission to try using contact just on the curb bit again, and again for just a few strides. Shannon said to go ahead, she had seen the difference between the two rides.

So early in my ride I kept contact with just the curb bit for maybe six strides at the walk. Cider had no problems with this contact, and then I went on to my usual ride. Like the first ride Cider immediately flinched less going around the ring, on the “level” and going uphill. Then after a several minutes of warming up I sent her down the down-slope beside the ring's fence. I was keeping light contact with the bradoon rein and my curb reins were sagging a good bit.

The first stride she flinched a lot less. I did ONE alternating collecting leg aid. Then something amazing happened, something that she had never given me before. Cider actually “coiled” her loins and her pelvis tipped so the rear of her pelvis came forward a little bit. I could feel her hind feet meeting the ground under her center of gravity. What really surprised me was that I did not have to repeat my collecting leg aids at all, and I did not have to use any rein aids either, to keep her going down-slope with coiled loins.

I have been alternating my legs for collecting aids down hill for years, or has it been a decade? Cider has NEVER “coiled” her loins before, and she has not even hinted at trying to do this. Shannon was watching me and she agreed with me about what was happening. She also said that every other time I had ridden Cider down this slope that Cider sort of “scrunched” her body up, obviously tense and not enjoying the experience. But this time Shannon said that Cider did not scrunch up, her body remained relaxed and looked longer, and Shannon was very pleased with this new miracle from using a double bridle on her mare.

I did not go down that slope by the fence again. I have to resist the temptation to try and repeat something new that I've gotten from the horse. Coiling her loins means that Cider was using different muscles than usual, and she was using them in a different way. By insisting on repetition I could have made her muscles tire, and tired muscles get sore, and the horse ends up hurting. Since this is a major difference in how she used her body it is a very good idea to go slow with it, to accept what she gives me, and to end the ride on a good note.

Cider was a VERY good girl last Sunday.

I am looking forward to tomorrow's ride more than usual. Will she repeat this feat? Will she continue to use her hind end differently? Can I actually get Cider so she can enjoy being ridden again?

Time will tell.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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