Finally, a Lesson

When Thanksgiving, with all the travel and massing of people happened, I realized that it would be best for me to keep away from Debbie's rather large boarding/lesson stable for two weeks. This did not please me at all, Debbie gives me really effective physical therapy, telling me when I start losing track of my limbs and making sure that I keep my base of support on horseback. I was lucky that I could ride Cider once a week so I kept walking pretty well though my balance was starting to get sort of wonky.

Last week I told you that Cider said NO about me wearing my Fenwick Skull Cap and Fenwick Neck Gaiter. So last Sunday I just wore my BOT stuff, the neck dickey and the back brace. Cider was somewhat happier but she “said” that something was not quite right. I am so lucky to be able to ride Cider, she is NOT content with me riding just so-so though she is wonderful with beginners. She catches my deteriorating central nervous system better than the other horses I ride, my riding teacher, and my neurologist.

So for my lesson on MJ I decided not to wear anything that emits the far-infra red radiation, no Fenwick stuff and no Back on Track stuff. Since I woke up pretty stiff this was hard, so I compromised and wore my Fenwick stuff until I put on my face mask when we got to the stable. This meant that I rode MJ while my scalp muscles spasmed throughout my ride.

Even so my ride was BETTER. Debbie was expecting the usual degradation of my position that has always happened after three weeks without a lesson, but she ended up PRAISING my back, head, my steadiness in the saddle and my hands. MJ acted as normal, the normal where he is relaxed and not worrying about my seat in the saddle.

I was not wearing my Fenwick stuff, but I had gotten a Fenwick Western saddle pad for MJ which extends six or seven inches beyond the cantle of my saddle, nicely covering his loin. Just about every lesson horse I've ridden has felt sort of stiff behind the saddle and I was hoping that MJ would show me that I finally found a solution for his pain there.

MJ took less leg to start walking, he took less leg to extend his walking stride, and he took a lot less leg to go into a trot. I also did not have to use as much leg to keep him trotting. Debbie was impressed, she said she liked how MJ was moving and that he was moving better under me. She asked me to try sitting the trot but I only lasted two strides, MJ's back was both stiffer and moving a bit more than usual and my back was getting jarred when I sat. Then I walked to recover my energy.

After I rested a few minutes Debbie asked me to trot the other way around the ring. I decided to see what would happen if I asked MJ to extend his trotting stride some, and this time I did it properly, using my legs when I sat and tweaking the curb rein at the top of my post. MJ responded. Debbie said he definitely showed suspension at the trot. Since MJ is a QH, bred to just jog, he has been getting away with a trot that did not show impulse, he has pretty long legs so he could cover the ground at a satisfactory speed just shuffling around. Previously, before suspension, I had been able to sit his trot easily. This time I felt the push of his hind legs through my seat bones, and the tension in his back muscles acted like a trampoline, bounce, bounce, bounce.

At 30 minutes a week it will take me a few months to get MJ's back muscles strong enough so he could feel comfortable with me sitting his new, faster, more impulsive trot. Until his back finally “invites” me to sit the more impulsive trot I will just go on happily posting.

This Fenwick saddle pad is interesting. It has the Fenwick material against the horse's back and it has an Equisuede top under the saddle. There are no billet straps and no strap to hold the girth in place. It also has more than adequate wither clearance in front so Debbie did not have to wrestle as much to get the pad up into the gullet of the saddle. The extra length of the Western saddle pad adequately covered MJ's loins and he seemed to really appreciate the infra-red radiation going through his tense and painful loin muscles. The saddle stayed in place on the pad and I did not feel any slipping of the saddle as he moved. Even when we did turns in place the saddle only moved a little bit off center rather than an inch or more to one side, easily corrected.

The pad worked so well that I asked Debbie if she wanted to borrow it so MJ could have it for his lessons with his other riders (two or three people, she is using MJ a good bit in the lessons for riding on the flat.) This serves three purposes, MJ may end up moving better under me with a lot less work on my part, his loin muscles should start relaxing and get stronger, and I won't be tempted to use it on Cider. I don't have a washing machine to “sterilize” the pad when I go between stables so I will have to get Cider one of her own. Debbie has often told me that she really appreciates me not using the same saddle pad at both stables, and how she does not like it when someone uses their own saddle on her horses with their own dirty saddle pad. I just do not want to transfer undesirable micro-organisms from one herd to the other herd. This is just part of being a good horseman/woman.

Of course I put conditions on this. I flatly told Debbie that I was lending MJ the saddle pad. MJ has first dibs on this saddle pad, though if he is not using it she can try it out on HER lesson horses, not the boarders' horses (I don't want my pad to disappear.) Of course if I am riding I get first dibs on it whichever horse I ride. If the pad works well for other riders I'll just give it to MJ for his very own. He certainly deserves it.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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