I did not get to ride today, just before Shannon was going to pick me up I started to hear rumblings of thunder, and then it started raining. I was not especially disappointed, my ride on Bobby last week totally exhausted me because I had to use so many of my muscles so often. After I got home I wrote last week’s blog, went to sleep for three hours, and it took me a few days to recover completely. Of course in an ideal world today would have been the day Bobby responded, but that was just not going to happen. Thunderstorms distract horses and riders.
Riding at Debbie’s was mildly frustrating, many of her riders have also decided that it is best to ride and school the horses early on hot summer days. Both rides my head was continually swinging back and forth keeping track of the other riders. Since I am the oldest and one of the most experienced riders at the stable I figure that it is my responsibility to make sure I do not get in anyone’s way. I will be so glad when school starts, the weather cools down some, and I can have the ring to myself again. Then I will be able to work on my position better since I will be able to keep my head in its proper place, looking forward.
When I got my lesson on Mick Debbie was dealing with several distractions, between checking the tack of the other riders, getting them mounted up, advising a girl who was giving ground training to Debbie’s gorgeous two year old pony, Glory Jean, and dealing with some important phone calls, so Mick and I were mostly left on our own. Lately my back has finally gotten strong enough so I can sit upright most of the time, and since the majority of the corrections Debbie gives me are about sitting UP, I no longer present her with horrible problems with my position. She did correct my hands some, and got after me for my swinging right lower leg. I had to shorten my right stirrup. As I was moving Mick around the ring while dodging Glory Jean as she was being led at a trot over low, low jumps, I started noticing that Mick’s back movement felt a little different. He always starts off stiff, but after several minutes I got the idea that this was a slightly different stiffness. How it was different did not become clear until I asked him to extend his walk, and there was no response except to move his legs faster when I gave him leg aids. After the third attempt to extend his walk I decided to get up into two-point the next time, and then Mick responded properly, extending his stride. After a few minutes I got back into two-point and asked him to extend his walk again and he promptly responded correctly again. So this was why my stirrups became uneven! The stiffness in Mick’s back had moved forward from just behind the saddle to just under my seat bones, and Mick could not extend his walk until I got my butt off his back. Even with the shifted stiffness I was able to get Mick into a decent, impulsive trot a few times when I got a clear path. I did not try a sitting trot.
As always, I felt wonderful when my son brought Mia in on Friday. I had some trouble rasping her hind hooves, she was kicking out more that usual. With plenty of apologies for hurting her and plenty of praise for her cooperation, I got most of her hind hooves rasped between the kicks. She cannot help that she has arthritis in her hind legs and that it hurts her when I hold them up to trim them with the rasp. I am amazed that she lets me trim them at all because she obviously hurts, and then she never seems to hold it against me when I ride her. Anyway we had no more problems grooming and tacking up and we proceeded on our ride.
This time a girl was schooling a horse over the jumps, and another rider came into the ring half-way through my ride. I guess my hands suffered from the distractions because Mia gave me several sharp reminders that she required a LIGHT HAND, especially with the Pee Wee bit. I got my hands light enough so she was mostly willing to keep contact at a walk, so long I did not do it for too long. The trot was another matter, she kept on getting more and more irritated with my hands, either briefly curling up or shaking her head up and down. I finally got my hands steady enough so she trotted a short distance on light contact with her head in the right place. I did not trot any more after that.
As I had to get lighter and lighter with my contact and my hand aids I realized that Mia was telling me that my hands were no longer good enough to ride her with the Pee Wee bit. This is something that happens to me every summer, the horses telling me that my hands are no longer good enough to keep contact. At least this summer Mia waited until mid-August to tell me my hands are not good enough, usually she tells me this at mid-June, so this years my hands lasted two months longer than usual! Next ride I am going to switch her back to the regular Mullen mouth snaffle and see what she says, if she is still unhappy with my hands I will switch to one of my bitless bridles, probably the Spirit bitless bridle. Of course when Mia tells me my hands are not good enough to keep contact with the bit she rarely thinks my hands are good enough to keep contact with any of the bitless bridles, which means I will be doing a lot more sagging rein riding until it gets cool again. Mia is the most sensitive horse I ride now, it is HER mouth and HER nose, and she has the right to tell me when I am messing up with my contact! She has proven over the years that she can tell when my hands are degrading around two weeks before the other horses start protesting and about a month before Debbie can really see it. I ALWAYS listen to Mia about my hands, she is ALWAYS RIGHT.
While I will change Mia back to a Mullen mouth snaffle I will not stop using the Pee Wee bit on Bobby. When I can get him straight enough to keep good contact he does not seem to have any problems with the bit, and it is still the ONLY bit that Bobby does not continually grind between his molars (my Mullen mouth bit has marks from his teeth.) Maybe he likes the fact that he has some control over where the bit rests on his tongue, maybe he likes the sort of sliding release. I have no doubt when Bobby decides my hands are no longer good enough he will tell me about it vehemently. He’s done it before. Maybe by then it will be cool enough so I can get back up on Merlin and I can get frustrated for other reasons.
Have a great ride!