It is getting cooler now in NC, so I am hoping that I will continue to recover from my trip to MD three weeks ago.  Every year it seems to take me longer to recover. 

Wednesday I rode Mick for my lesson with Debbie.  I warmed Mick up for around ten minutes, the poor guy was stiff as usual, and the fact that Debbie’s horses are now spending the night in the stalls  means that he had been standing in his stall for many, many hours.  I had done the circular massages on his loin right behind the saddle and he was moving pretty freely considering the circumstances.  I was pleased, he had not frozen into place overnight.  He moved right out on the straight lines, but every curve was STIFF, so I wended my way around the jumps just trying to loosed him up, using mostly my thighs  and lower legs to turn him.  I am trying to avoid using the direct rein of opposition and the leading rein much for turning because I do not want Mick to get into the habit of leaning on the rein.  I have to get him more supple behind the saddle before it will do me any good to work on him flexing his neck laterally while turning even at the walk.

His trot was not too bad, especially when I alternated my legs and hands, then he seemed to shift his weight back just a little bit and then Debbie starts telling me how wonderfully he was trotting!  After a few minutes of trotting I got tired and to rest I asked Mick for a super slow walk, at which point he started stiffening up behind the saddle again, so it was back to the trot and normal speed of the walk until he loosened up again.  Then Debbie started mentioning the canter again, and I had just enough energy to try, so I asked which lead was his favorite (the right lead) and after around three leg aids he broke into the canter.  Debbie started counting out the strides and at stride number eight Mick transitioned himself back to the trot, I just was not together enough to aid with my inside leg when I felt him slowing down.  Debbie wanted me to try the left lead but I was just TOO TIRED to even try.  After more walking I stopped and asked Mick to back up.  After three nice strides back we started to go forward and, as usual after backing, Mick stiffened up behind the saddle yet again.  So I reached behind the saddle with my fist and massaged him with my knuckles in a circular motion.  Amazingly this worked!  Mick gave me a nice free swinging walk instead of the normal “I am so stiff I can hardly move” poky walk he usually gives me after backing up.

I had not yet gotten my RS-tor rider security aid (pronounced “ arrestor”), if I had I would have tried to canter Mick on the left lead.  My problems with the canter come from the movement of the horse’s back requiring me to continually regain my balance.  I know that if I practice I will get more secure, I used to canter and gallop a lot!  My security in the saddle has improved greatly since I started riding with Debbie six years ago even though I am not as physically capable as I was back when I restarted riding.  Nowadays I can actually tell when I am starting to lose my balance in the saddle, and so far I have been able to notice this soon enough so I have been able to get myself re-centered in the saddle.  This has really helped my confidence, but even so I know that a few times in the past decade the cantle of my saddle has been the only thing that saved me from falling off the horse, sometimes the horse just moves too fast for me to notice that I’ve lost my balance.  I have been looking for anything that can help me stay in the saddle.  There was a saddle “seat belt” developed for dressage riders a few years ago that I looked at, but I found that however much I fear falling I am even more afraid of not being able to get off the horse if he starts falling.  This is why I was attracted to the RS-tor, it does not tie the rider to the saddle.  After looking at their site I realized that the RS-tor would have probably helped me a lot the three times I almost fell off a horse in the past decade.  The best thing about this device is that I can hold it ALL THE TIME without it affecting the placement of my hands, without it affecting me following the horse’s mouth, and without twisting my upper body, problems that can come up when using a “grab strap” hooked to the dees on the saddle.

The one time I rode on Debbie’s new mini-trails it was on Mick, and after his explosion when the dogs came out of the bushes behind him I found that I could not relax out on the trail.  I had to make sure that I did not get out of position, I had to pay close attention to what might be in the bushes, and I had to ride him on contact so I would have a split-second warning if he decided to shy out on the trail.  My five minute trail ride was simply exhausting.  I am hoping that the RS-tor will give me enough confidence so that I can relax a little bit while riding outside the ring.  After six years of ring riding I am so tired of it!  Mick gets to get out of the ring with other riders, but I am the only person riding Mia and I know that she is as sick of the ring as I am.  My son already agreed to come out on the trail with me and Mia, and I can hardly wait.  I sure hope the weather cooperates!

I just want to have a CHANCE to stay on if the horse bolts suddenly or shies sharply to the side.

You can read about the RS-tor at www.rstor.co.uk.home.

I did not get to ride Bobby today as a thunderstorm came through just before I was going to get ready to ride.  So to give me something bright about today I ordered a new bit, a bit whose mouthpiece is stitched rounded leather, with metal rings and built in bit guards to keep the rings away from the horse’s face.  I had read about leather mouthed snaffles decades ago but it took until this year before I finally found one I could afford, and now I will have one to try out!  This will be mainly for ring riding, if I go beyond the fence I will probably use a doubled flash strap to replace the chin strap I took off of my Micklem multi-bridle so I will have a little bit more control.  When I decided to get the leather bit my mind started reminding me of when, decades ago, I changed Hat Tricks’ bit back from just a Weymouth curb to a full-cheek snaffle and rode bareback.  Hat Tricks tested the bit, looked for an excuse, and sky-rocketed out from under me.  I got up off the ground, found my glasses, lead him back to the stable, put on my figure-8 noseband on him and saddled him and took him back out to the pasture to remind him that he needed to obey the snaffle.  Sometimes when changing to a gentler bit I lose my abhorrence of nosebands for at least the first few rides, until the horse and I get back into unison and he agrees to obey the milder bit without me having to tie his mouth shut.

Next week I hope that I will be able to tell you all about my trail ride.  Who knows, I might even feel secure enough to try trotting down the trail!  Plus I will get to practice cantering.  Life is looking much, much better.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran  

 

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Comment by Buckley Fence on July 15, 2014 at 11:39am

Great article!  Thanks for sharing Jackie.

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