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  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

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!

Jackie Cochran                

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Comment by Jackie Cochran on September 17, 2012 at 7:16pm

Thanks for your comment Wildehex.

I was not in the horse community of people with money, I was often more around the more rough and ready riders that still existed back then in Virginia and North Carolina.  As the boarders were less prosperous the less likely they were to be interested in the finer parts of equitation.  This especially included the kids outside of the show stables, and they thought I was weird not to ride rough and ready though they did sometimes come to me to learn how I did specific things.  Even though some of these kids were lucky to ride from very young there was no tender coddling and instruction, quite often there was no instruction at all after a few introductory lessons for the older kids.  Lunging lessons?  I've had one lunging lesson in my whole riding career, when I started back riding after being diagnosed with MS I talked the lady I was taking lessons from to give me one.  For all three of us, the instructor, the horse, and me, the rider (all three of us knew how to lunge), it was literally an experiment of the blind leading the blind.

In defense of Littauer, he only wanted elementary level riders doing the crest release.  The intermediate riders were encouraged to further refine their riding and increase the security of their seats.  Then they were EXPECTED to learn how to keep a following light contact over the whole jump, approach, take-off, flight, landing, and the next strides.  Advanced riders were assumed to be able to do the "automatic release" over fences, even if they were teenagers.

As far as I have been able to tell most (definitely not all) Americans assume that they will be able to ride a horse good enough without any fancy instruction at all.  This is what keeps many trainers in business, and it is a priviledge for me to be able to see Debbie fix they problems that the horses have with their bodies, their tack, and their riders, and Debbie's reports of the owners' joy when they can finally ride their dream horse safely and comfortably even though they will never do advanced equitation in their lives.   

Comment by wildehex on September 15, 2012 at 9:38am

So, a counterpoint from me from my experience(s).  I guess I would say I have to disagree with you because what I have seen over almost 60 (omg) year on both coasts and in europe.  Most people started riding in childhood, and had better seats and worked on meticulous equitation.  Also the HORSEMEN who were trainers were much more clear (it wasnt about winning) but training horses with ease and w/o short cuts. AND people left young horses with people who started them well, no green horse green rider (the opposite of what I see today).

Was it a bondage method? I never saw that, as a matter of fact I see that more in today's world (of sliding side reins/ldr/rk/etc.  Progressive training is what I was taught.  And yes the head/neck was to be up/open so that the horse could be active/step through with the hindlegs, rather than curled over to leverage the (lumbar) back up.  Also I grew up in a western world and no one covered the eyes/etc as we see in wild west movies. 

Saddles did not have the extended thick knee roles, so in effect they were almost like a bareback pad and so did not have to be fitted.  AND the rider learned to have balanced rather than be seat belted in.  

That said there are and will always be bad horsemen.  My mom grew up before cars, my uncle taught Lindberg to fly, times changed rapidly.  And now no longer to people grow up with horses from birth, they often know nothing of the behavior nor are taught to observe it.  It is about riding, not learning about the horse.  So articles abound, but they do not take the place of detailed apprenticeship to the horse imho.

It is interesting that riding is now really more of a pastime for women then for men (although many of the main teachers in europe are still men).  It often is not considered 'manly' (except for western) which is unfortunate.

As far as side saddle, I love it.  And interestingly enough it was only recently that the srs riders were no longer required to learn both (because they had to start horses for the ladies of the court).

I do think now that 'trainers' are seen as those who show/win rather than the best horsemen (some of who never showed).  The horses however tell the story if the viewer is educated as to what is most important, and why.  And you know who teaches the (future) trainer the most?? The grade horses, the ones which need schooling, they make the methods the MOST clear.

And regardless of the type of seat (western/ss/h/j/dressage) the alignment was the same: ear/shoulder/hip/heel/straight line from bit to elbow/upper arm vertical.  Why? because the progression was much the same (and yes I showed all the seats!).  The intention of an easy horse, light in the hand, has changed into convouted pretzels now too often.  

And crest release has replaced automatic release, making for a generation of passengers, and far less security in the seat, and loss of ability to really train horses.  It has also made for a group of riders who bit up jumpers aggressively and whose equitation (a la Bill Steinkraus) has been lost. And least we not forget but the cavalry manual was based entirely upon the french cavalry manual for the early 1900s. Later, Littaur (popular on the east coast) created a generation of riders who rode with looped reins, thinking that no connection was better than a poor one. Thankfully the caprilli seat/ replaced that (esp on the west coast) for a long period of time.  (But now we are to use of draw reins/flashes/etc on h/j....)

Imho there still in only one system of training IF we want the horse up/open/active/light/progressively advanced (although there are different systems which support that srs/cadre/portuguese and spanish national schools/scandanavian/german).  If we are to convolute the horse then western pleasure/dutch & german ldr/etc is an entirely different kettle of fish.

The question is how many people have a reasonably good seat or proper timing abillities?  How many people address equitaton?  Make student spend time on a lunge and/or w/o stirrups/etc?  Certainly one CAN train their horse (to a VERY high level) as long as they know where the alps are, and have some guideance as to how to get there.

Fascinating impressions from each of us.

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