Cider Responded, Mia Did Not

Last Sunday I told Shannon to pick me up at my mailbox because my driveway now has major difficulties where it was dug up, now there is no place to turn a vehicle around on my land unless the driver wants to risk getting stuck.  Since I was not able to carry my dressage saddle down I told Shannon I would ride in the EZ-Fit saddle I gave her, and I was so glad that I did not have to worry about bringing a saddle!  But Shannon turns out to be much better at backing up than most drivers so tomorrow I’m going to let her pick me up much nearer to the house so I can use my dressage saddle.

Since I was pretty tired from my walk down my driveway I just walked Cider around the ring.  Since we were not doing much of anything I decided to try the old, old, old dressage method of bracing the back that I discussed last week (waist forward, small of the back in.)  So I stopped Cider, let her relax a minute, I took light contact, and asked her to back up by just moving my waist forward.  I made REALLY SURE not to move my hands or legs, and amazingly Cider responded, one step at a time, and backed up slower than usual.  She was not too sure if that was what I was asking for, so I told her what a good girl she was for figuring it all out!

On Wednesday I got my lesson with Debbie.  She started off by telling me her tale of woe of riding Tercel.  I had told her that I was interested in riding Tercel again since I seem to be adjusting to my new medicine OK.  She told me how Tercel was spooking at everything and she would have to ride him a good bit before I could ride him again.  We groomed Mia, and I spent some time trying to get clumps of fungus out of her coat.  The coat fungus is worse this year, usually I can keep ahead of it by using the slicker brush but this year it is rapidly getting ahead of me, so I am reduced to using my fingernails to get the worse clumps out of her coat. 

After warming Mia up some at the walk and some trot, I halted Mia and proceeded just like I had with Cider with my “new” aid.  Mia did not respond at all.  I repeated pushing my waist forward several times and finally Mia did give a response, she strengthened her contact with the bit some.  Before she did that her attitude was “When are we going to do something?  Are you doing something?  What in the world are you trying to do?  You are not doing anything, are you?  Oh, you are trying to do something?  Dumb human, why don‘t you ask in a way I can understand you?”  I do not know if the difference was in the saddle (treeless on Cider, treed on Mia), or if Cider had run into that particular aid way back when she was trained to do eventing.  For whatever reason, Cider responded to me bringing my waist forward with the movement I was asking for and Mia did not.

When I got home I started thinking about Debbie’s present difficulties with Tercel.  I want to get back to riding him (when Debbie thinks it is safe for me) and it could take a long time for him to settle down again.  Debbie was using her blinkers on the Spirit bridle, but where the blinker is on the cheek strap the leather plus buckle is so thick on the Spirit bridle that he may not have really noticed the blinker, plus Debbie told me he was spooking at things in front of him and to the side.  So I slept on it, and on Thursday I looked at my extensive bit collection, based on the theory that if he had a bit in his mouth he could distract himself by moving the bit around in his mouth.  I came up with two possibilities, my Wellep Lever Cheek snaffle (which acts somewhat as a gag bit) and the Pee Wee bit.  Then I thought some more and went to where all my old regular bridles are hanging, got out my old “dressage” cob sized bridle (one of those black leather ones with the white leather lining the brow band with buckles instead of hook studs), found a spare pair of reins, and cleaned and conditioned them.  I put the Wellep Lever Cheek snaffle on it since he was familiar with that mouth piece from when I was riding him before and he seemed to enjoy the mouth piece in his mouth.  When I got to the stable on Friday I showed it to Debbie, asked her if she wanted to try it, warned her that Mia did not like me keeping contact with that particular bit, and Debbie decided to try it.  She had been planning on riding with me on Friday, but then someone wanted a lesson and she would not have the time.

I rode Mia.  I was so tired from grooming her (I got ALL the clumps of fungus out of her coat) and trimming her hooves I completely forgot to try my “new” aid on her.  Mia told me that I was not getting my regular aids properly coordinated so I mostly worked on myself, and she rewarded me by letting me keep contact longer than usual later on in my ride. 

While I rode I noticed Debbie calling Tercel in.  When we got back into the barn she was grooming Tercel in between phone calls, and told me that her student had not shown up and she was going to RIDE!  I put Debbie’s blinkers on the bridle I’m lending her, and after I brushed Mia off and let my husband feed her treat, I went down to Tercel to check HIS coat fungus, thinking it might have been irritating him.  I spent several minutes getting clumps of fungus out of his coat with my fingernails and brushed his back some more to make sure to get all the resulting dirt out of his coat, then, very tired, I went home.

Later that evening Debbie called me to tell me that she had NO problems with Tercel during her ride!  What was it, could it be that some of the fungus clumps had been irritating Tercel’s skin?  Could it be that Tercel found comfort in having the Wellep bit in his mouth?  Did Tercel need a pacifier?  Did moving the Wellep mouthpiece in his mouth distract him from all the imaginary dragons that infest the riding ring?  Does having the bit in his mouth activate a different part of his brain?  I told Debbie she could keep the bridle for a while.  I have been searching Ebay for a 5” Wellep regular snaffle for her and I finally found one and it should get here in a week or two, but at least she has something she can use until it gets here.  I do wish that someone would start producing this bit again.  It may look rather weird, but the horses with super sensitive mouths seem to like the mouthpiece and how they can easily move the mouthpiece around with their tongues when the reins are relaxed.

Meanwhile I am sitting here with my windows open because it is supposed to get in the low 70s F today, in the middle of December!  Tomorrow it may get even warmer.  I won’t have to use Cider’s exercise sheet tomorrow when I ride her, that is for sure!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran             

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Comment by B. G. Hearns on December 29, 2015 at 9:44am

I do like reading your blog

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