MJ Has an Opinion

But first I also got to ride Cider.

When we got to where Cider lives right now Nancy had groomed Cider thoroughly, trying to get all the loose hair out of her coat. Nancy has all these neat grooming tools that I got the stable and she just about uses all of them each grooming session, the HandsOn grooming gloves, the Tiger's Tongue, the Retriever dog washing “brush” (makes an excellent curry comb for sensitive horses), as well as the traditional brushes. When I got there I immediately brought out the new StripHair Gentle Groomer, showed Nancy how to use it, and Nancy got even more hair out of Cider's coat, not clouds of hair since most of the shedding hair had already been dealt with, but definitely more hair that would have ended up embedded in my Contender II BOT saddle pad. Cider seemed to enjoy the feel of the StripHair, relaxing even more in the morning sun.

I had not ridden Cider in two weeks so she had plenty of time to get used to the new riding area since right now it is also her grazing paddock. She confidently strode forward with a few minor periods of anxiety, and generally cooperated with me. I used the double bridle with the Fager Victoria Mullen mouth Weymouth and the Fager Jacob sweet iron bradoon with the center roller, and she was fine with her mouth. Our biggest point of contention was this rather small tree that is right on the other side of the fence. We would be going rather straight, then Cider would bow out and do a little half circle until she was around six feet past the tree, then she consented to go along the fence again. My aids did not matter, the tree was viewed with suspicion, and by golly she was going to be super vigilant around it, in both directions and it did not matter how many times we passed the tree peacefully. Had Cider upset a bird that was sitting in that tree? Had a bird “attacked” her from the tree? I do not know, but Cider did not want to pass close to this tree.

At least Cider felt a lot less insecure when I asked her to go down to the far end of the ring, a big improvement from my previous ride there. She was still alert on her feet, but she listened to my aids without argument. She was flinching more each time a forefoot landed, which made me glad that I had brought out the Shoo Fly leggings I got her.

After our uneventful ride I brought out the Shoo Fly leggings and showed Shannon how to put them on. The first steps wearing the leggings looked just like MJ's first steps in these leggings, she lifted all four feet REALLY high and sort of tried shaking the leggings off her hind legs. I hope she got used to them this week, I would really like to cut the amount of flinching down and I think that Cider would like her joints hurting less. Tomorrow I should be able to find out.

Debbie could not give me my lesson on Wednesday and we rescheduled for Friday. In the past week MJ had done some walk, trot, canter show classes, and he had been used for a lesson my a pretty heavy rider the day before. I brought out both my Fenwick Western pad which covers his loins, and the Contender II BOT/ThinLine pad that does not cover his loins to see if Debbie wanted to try the BOT pad, which she did. I had just gotten my Fager Alice titanium bradoon with the center roller and I wanted to see how he reacted to it too.

As Debbie groomed MJ's belly her fingers felt mid-line dermatitis, the gnats are out in full force and they can really do a number on the horses' bellies. The StripHair people had included a small bottle of their “Betty's Best Healthy Skin” spray and Debbie was ready to try it out on various itchy places on MJ's skin. I hope it works but it is not cheap though, of course, if the horses need it I will get it for them. I struggled with mid-line dermatitis every summer I owned horses and it would be nice to finally find something that works on it.

It was warm enough that morning that I did not have to use my homemade bit warmer, though I would have used it if I had the Jacob sweet iron bradoon on the bridle. Titanium bits warm up much better than the iron based bits so I just held them in my hands before bridling. Usually when we put the Fenwick Western pad on him he relaxes, but he did not do so when Debbie put the BOT pad on him that does not cover his loins. Still he did not fuss in the cross-ties.

When I got up on him he felt pretty much OK. The little tiny flinches that happened when he put his navicular disease afflicted front hooves on the ground were gone, he had gotten used to his Shoo Fly leggings and they seemed to be helping him already though the really bad biting flies have yet to appear. Debbie had decided that he only really needed them on his front feet now, that is fine—her horse, her stable, and now she can use the extra two on another horse who is super bothered by flies biting on the front legs. So we proceeded as normal, walk, trot and turns without any hesitation and I was happy--until I asked him to extend his walking stride.

No response. I repeated my leg aid—no response. I used my medial soleus muscle just above my ankle bone, no response. I hit my half-chap with the crop and yet again he did not respond. Considering how many ways that MJ could have shown his opinion he was quite good, he just did not respond but he went on walking freely at his normal walking speed. MJ was showing me that he really likes having his loin muscles warmed up by the Fenwick pad, and since I had not put the pad on that covered his loins he was NOT going to extend his walking stride, thank you very much. I did not ask any more for a stride extension, if he was not comfortable doing it nothing good would come of it. My planned for work on the three speeds of the walk and trot got postponed, MJ was giving me what he was comfortable with and until his pad gets changed back he won't be comfortable extending his stride.

We walked some more, and I got three trots in. When I asked him to back up I started off with really soft rein and leg aids and this time I did not escalate my aids. After the third time I applied my aids he gave me a small step back, and while his step was small his whole body was much more relaxed than when we previously backed up. He did not stiffen up or give us dirty looks, he obeyed me when I asked for the second step back, and I was content. Later we can work on it, he obviously misses his Fenwick pad but he still obeyed me and stayed relaxed and calm. MJ is truly a good boy!

Hopefully the horses will be better for my next ride on them. I have big hopes for the Shoo Fly leggings helping with all those little flinches in their legs that get worse as more and more flies attack them in the pastures.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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