Last week Debbie asked me if I minded her training a horse she had in for training during my lesson. I told her I did not mind at all. I LOVE seeing Debbie train a horse, she makes it look easy! During the weekend Debbie called me saying she wanted me to shim the Corrector pad so the mare would be more comfortable under saddle.
So on Wednesday not only did I have to shim up the Corrector (since the mare has a rather flat back I used all eight shims,) I helped groom and tack up Mick since Debbie was also grooming and tacking up Ginger, the mare she is training. Ginger is a chestnut mare, probably a QH cross with a ASB or Standardbred? She has a longish back that rises in a straight line from her withers to her croup. Ginger looked anxious in the cross ties, not fretting but her eyes looked a little tense and she showed some white. Debbie said at first the mare had a GREAT FEAR of being saddled, and she thought that when Ginger was broke the trainer just threw a big heavy Western saddle on her instead of easing it on to her back. But through a lot of patience and switching to a much lighter English saddle the mare was calming down about being saddled. We put the Corrector on first and left it on her back a minute or so before Debbie put the saddle on gently, and as Debbie tightened her girth the mare seemed to realize that something a bit more comfortable was on her back.
When we got to the ring I got up and started Mick’s ten minute warm-up walk as Debbie started lunging Ginger. Mick was nice, calm and cooperative, unlike Ginger who was trying her best but obviously dealing with quite a bit of stiffness in her back. Debbie warmed Ginger up on the lunge with walk and trot, but when she told Ginger to canter the fireworks started! The mare would speed up for two strides, half-rear, launch herself up in the air and start bucking with big, big bucks. Debbie told me she had been doing this every time she lunged, and as far as she, Debbie, was concerned, she refused to ask for the canter under saddle until Ginger could handle a canter on the lunge line. Finally, at the fourth request for the canter, Ginger gave an ENORMOUS twisting buck, kicking up her hind feet up higher than her head, what I consider a chiropractic buck where the horse tries to give itself a chiropractic adjustment. This worked, the next time Debbie got a few strides of canter without any bucking, then she stopped lunging and got up in the saddle.
The fireworks stopped. Debbie got the mare to walk and Ginger relaxed, put her head down and started walking around the ring like a nice calm Forward Seat horse, nose forward, looking from side to side with calm interest. You would not have known that a few minutes before the mare was trying to qualify to be a rodeo bucking horse! As Debbie walked her around the ring the mare relaxed some more and voluntarily extended the stride of her walk. Ginger’s owner had brought Ginger to Debbie in despair because of the bucking at the canter. Debbie told me that the first lesson she had given Ginger’s owner on her Ginger had totally inverted and dorsiflexed her back, and that was why Debbie wanted me to fit the Corrector to her back. Most saddle fitting is done on horses which are standing still, which means when the horse raises its back during movement that the saddle starts rocking on its back, quite uncomfortable for the poor horse. I imagine this problem arises more with the flatter backed horses since most saddles are made for horses whose backs curve down where the saddle goes. By putting all the shims in the Corrector I gave Ginger room to raise her back comfortably when she moved. Debbie was VERY PLEASED with the way Ginger relaxed under saddle, so much so that Debbie did not want to stop riding when I totally ran out of energy.
When Debbie took Ginger’s saddle off there was an even sweat mark under the Corrector even with all eight shims in (two on each side front, two on each side rear). Ginger HAD raised her back when walking, and without a rocking saddle bearing painfully down on her back she had been able to relax and walk properly, calmly, with good length of stride, and listening to everything Debbie said with her aids. Quite a change from 15 minutes earlier! In my experience there is nothing better to use than the Corrector pad when the saddle does not fit perfectly.
The weathermen were threatening rain today, but it held off. When Shannon was grooming Bobby I noticed a circular sore on his lower left lip, a little in front of where the bit goes. I pointed it out to Shannon and she checked it out and it did not seem to be too sore, but I decided it was BITLESS TIME!!!! Fortunately during the years I have given Shannon three types of bitless bridles, so she has plenty to choose from. She decided she wanted to see how Bobby did with the LightRider Bitless (a modified Scawbrig), probably because it is a pony sized one and since I had ridden him in it a few times years ago it was already fitted to his head and she did not have to deal with all the buckles to fit the Nurtural bitless on him. In my avatar photo Mia is wearing a LightRider bitless so you can see what it looks like. We got it on Bobby fine, everything was at its correct place, and Bobby started mouthing the bit then realized there was nothing in his mouth. I did not have many worries, I’d ridden Bobby in both the LightRider and the Nurtural bitless bridles a few years ago.
I got up on him and went into the ring. I got a mostly loose rein walk around the ring without much problem, then I picked up contact and Bobby gave me pretty good contact, of course it was not as good contact as I can get with a bit but at least he was reaching out for it when I told him to. We continued peacefully until we started moving across the ring. And there was Bobby, no bit in his mouth, being brought closer to Shannon, and we had a discussion. We had this discussion every time we went near Shannon, Bobby wanting to go to mommy, and me wanting him to go to where I wanted him to go. Then when I got him back to the rail he went right back into pretzeling just like he does in the bit and I had to use my outside spur to keep him out of the fence. Whenever I wanted to turn where Bobby did not want to go I was back to using my legs, seat and hands to get him turned.
Then the sky filled with this horrible painfully loud machine sound, like a low flying jet airplane had lost its mufflers. The sky was cloudy so we could not see the plane but we could certainly hear it! We are 30 miles east of Charlotte, NC here, and since the Democratic National Convention will be in Charlotte next week I guess Homeland Security was getting used to the air space. I told Bobby he could go to Shannon to get comforted, he did not know what to think about that horrible, loud, and never-ending noise! When I decided he had enough comforting he disagreed, but I managed to get him away from Shannon without too much trouble and Bobby and I continued our ride while the plane circled over, went off toward Charlotte, and then came back and circled some more. Of course Bobby was a lot less cooperative than before the noise started, pretzeling, trying to whirl in toward Shannon whenever he thought I would not notice, and every time we stood still he would try to start in towards Shannon, saying that NO pony should ever have to put up with such noise!!!!! Still I did not have any more problems than I would have with a cross-under bitless bridle or with a bit. Considering the painful noise he did pretty good. I hope his sore heals up soon so I can go back to the bit, but I am so glad that I have effective bitless alternatives to use on him!
If you want to learn more about the Corrector the site is thecorrector.net. This is a very good site with lots of information about the problems horses have with saddles. Even if you do not think you will ever need a Corrector this is a very educational site about fitting saddles, horses, and riders together so that both horse and rider are comfortable. Of course there are a lot of quotes from riders praising the pad, but he also discusses how to palpate the horse’s back and hindquarters for soreness, how saddles work with the horse’s back, the problems that horses have even with properly fitting saddles, how to use the Corrector to correct the one-sided horse, and how he came to develop the Corrector.
You can find out more about the LightRider bitless bridles at www.naturalhorseworld.com.
I have no affiliation with either company, I just buy and use their products, and usually I buy some for the stables I ride at because I think the ladies that help me ride can effectively use these products to help their horses.
Have a great ride!