Debbie finally got back and I got my lesson on Tercel on Wednesday! It had been a whole month since I had a lesson on him, and I think he had not been ridden by Debbie either. I brought out my 45 year old Stubben Siegfried (plus the Corrector pad and the shims for it) to try on Tercel, and the EZ-Fit saddle just in case the Stubben did not work. Fortunately my husband did not mind lugging two saddles out to the van, plus two pads and three girths.
Debbie brought Tercel in and we groomed him. He still let me brush out his ears so at least I did not lose that in the long month I did not handle him. Sweat and dirt were matted throughout his coat and he got a vigorous currying and brushing. After Debbie did his hooves she got called away for a minor emergency so I went over his back one more time with the body brush and started tacking him up. On went the Corrector, then came the big challenge for me--were my arms strong enough to get the saddle on Tercel’s back? I approached him thinking that I could swing the saddle up on his back, but he looked at me as I was approaching and sidled away a little. Sometimes it can be inconvenient when a horse reads my mind! So I slowed down and crooned to him, he stood still, and I managed to lift the saddle up on his back. Quickly I girthed it up some, and I was glad to see that the saddle was pretty level and I did not have to put the shims into the Corrector.
Now my Stubben is somewhat narrow for Tercel. In fact my Stubben was a bit too narrow for Glow, Mia, and Mick, all Arabs, something they all were quite willing to tell me if I forgot my Corrector. Nothing bad, I’m mostly walking after all, but they all would absolutely refuse to lengthen their stride at a walk if the Corrector was not protecting the top of their shoulder blade. With these horses I sometimes put shims in--on Glow the Stubben was a little bit too narrow but when I used the Corrector he would relax his muscles in front and I had to put one shim on each side in front to level out the saddle. Mia and Mick are a little bit broader, and without shims the Corrector was enough to keep the saddle level. I suspect that it might be a good idea to put some shims in the rear of the Corrector when I use it on Tercel since he is broader that Mia or Mick. If I did not have the Corrector and the shims, my ancient Stubben would be gathering dust since the Arabs would not be comfortable with it. I LOVE my Correctors, and Debbie has ended up liking them too!
When Debbie led Tercel out to the ring he mostly behaved, at least I did not hear as many corrections as usual. He seemed to be okay with the Stubben so Debbie tightened the girth and I mounted. Tercel strode out at the walk almost as good as he did under the EZ-Fit saddle, he willingly kept good contact with my hands and I did not feel any stiffness in his back. After our usual winding around the jumps at a decent walk I asked Tercel to extend his walk a little. It took me a bit more leg than usual before he responded and he did not extend as much as he did with the EZ-Fit saddle, but he did not REFUSE to extend (if he had it would have been a sure sign that the saddle was way to narrow for him even with the Corrector.) As we were walking I noticed that I was not feeling as tight in the saddle due to the weakness of my legs--living for a month of highs in the 90s F with no air-conditioning had finally caught up with me, I had used up my strength putting the saddle on Tercel and I was tired. I am going to have to put my nickel double offset Prussian stirrups back on my Stubben because my lower leg “forgot” how to lie against the horse’s barrel securely. Some shims in the rear of the Corrector may help too. Debbie did not yell at me but Tercel noticed, he was not convinced that I was stable enough to trot, and when I got him into the trot I agreed with him!
I had to work some on getting Tercel to stop just from me twitching my little fingers. The first few times I had to repeat my alternating hand aids a few times, getting a little stronger each time. Then it seemed to sink in again and he became light in hand to stop. The first time we tried a turn on the hindquarters it was truly pathetic because I had not properly coordinated my aids. After a minute or two I got myself together and we managed an adequate turn on the hindquarters. Backing up took some insistence on my part; it is something we will have to work on more. All through this I kept asking Debbie if she thought I was hurting his mouth when he set his neck against my hand aids, but she told me she saw no signs of discomfort. It is all part of a slow process of teaching him that a hand aid MEANS something, and that what the hand aid means is often dependent on what my legs are doing. He is not doing too badly since in the last six weeks I’ve only ridden him three times.
On Friday it was HOT and MUGGY when I got out to the stable. Debbie brought Mia in for me so I could work on her. Last week, as my husband was taking Mia out to the mare pasture I had noticed that I had not rasped the toe of Mia’s front hooves down enough, so I was prepared to work harder on them to get them right. I was so tired after using the slicker brush on Mia that I asked my husband to curry and brush her while I groomed her mane, head and ears. Mia did not cough at all when I groomed her between her jowl bones so I thought maybe the cough was gone.
Then I sat down a while as my husband cleaned her hooves out, and Mia did not cough when he cleaned her hind hooves. Then I got to work on Mia’s front feet. Luckily her soles were not too dry so I could use the hoof knife near her toe so I could shorten the hoof wall of the toe a little further. And Mia’s hooves had grown so much over the week! I rasped her toes down, worked on the sides and front of her hoof to get the overgrowth down, and I rasped her toes down some more. By the time I finished with both front feet I was dripping with sweat and very tired. But I HAD TO get her hind hooves too, they were starting to split in several places and they absolutely had to be done. I had to sit down and rest for several minutes before I could get to her hind hooves.
When I picked up her near hind hoof and Mia started coughing and kicking with her leg. I dropped her foot and asked my husband to bring her out of the wash stall into the aisle so I would have more room. Debbie gave Mia some cough medicine, and after a few minutes of resting I tried again. Mia did not cough any more, thank goodness, and I was able to trim her hind hooves too. It took me twice as long as normal to rasp her hooves since I quickly got weak and unsteady in the heat. I had to sit down frequently and I had to rest longer than usual before I could continue. I did manage to get her toes rasped down enough so her hooves were at the proper angle, but it took ALL my energy and I did not take Mia out for a walk.
Tomorrow I get to ride Cider, last week Cider was telling me that my balance was off and that I was not sitting correctly in the EZ-Fit saddle. The horses are so good at pointing out when I get worse physically! The last two days have been cooler so I may ride better tomorrow, at least I may ride better until I get tired. It may be starting to cool off down here, in the long range forecast they are predicting temperatures reliably in the mid to low 80s F in a few weeks.
If so I may be able to start riding Mia again, if her cough does not come back.
Have a great ride!