Spring is here!  The Bradford Pears and Forsythia are blooming, and I can see the leaf buds are starting to swell.  I hope it lasts for a while.

I did not have a very pleasant ride on Tercel.  Grooming him was fine, I had almost no problems brushing his ears or putting the poll cap on.    He was a little antsy when I started my lesson but we walked around the ring and he was not horrible--UNTIL--a rude duck flapped its wings just after we passed it.  All of a sudden WHAM as my bottom hit the cantle of my saddle.  This time Tercel did not startle and stop, this time Tercel startled and accelerated sharply for three or four strides.  I was glad I was not using a bit on him because he would have given himself a big jab in the mouth.  We went back to walking until he seemed settled down and I legged him into a trot, being sure to keep away from the proven freak out areas of the ring.  This seemed to fire him up and when we went back to the walk he gave 3 more almost identical startles, all in different parts of the ring while we were walking.  Oddly the start he gave me at the trot was just a flinch in comparison, and he only startled one time at the trot.  But at the walk monsters lurked everywhere.

When Tercel startled on my previous rides he essentially froze in place after maybe one or two steps.  I had no problems with that, irritating but my seat did not move in the saddle.  But on Wednesday, after the second time my bottom whammed up against the cantle, I basically told Tercel he was going to remain on contact whether he enjoyed it or not.  We did lots of the time at a walk, winding around the jumps, with frequent changes of direction and walking over poles, and we would straighten out and again--wham!  After the fourth WHAM at the walk I told Debbie that I was going to do a generous curve to a specific part of the ring, halt, tell him to back up two steps, send him forward a stride or two, then I wanted to get OFF.  She approved, Tercel does not enjoy being backed up, it was obvious that Tercel was super reactive, and she did not want Tercel to think that those WHAMS were all he needed to do to get me off his back.  Honestly, it was the only thing I could think of to end my ride on a “good” note.  He behaved during this process, at least there were no WHAMS, he gave me a light halt, backed up two steps fluidly, and fully cooperated with me halting next to Debbie and getting off.

Then I lent Debbie my helmet and she got on and trotted his little behind off for around 10 minutes.  She had to stop since she had to teach her next lesson, but she made good and sure to ride him through his startles.  On the way back to the barn we decided the reason that Tercel WHAMMED at the walk but only startled a little at the trot, was that at the trot he was already “running” away somewhat from whatever scared him.  It is looking more and more like there are blinkers in Tercel’s future, because it is what he sees BEHIND him that gets him all crazy.  Oh, he gets antsy if something scary is in front of him and his rider has to nurse him through, but there is a warning from Tercel that he is going to be doing something we don’t want.  But he gives no warning at all about stuff he spooks at when he sees it out of the back corner of his eye.  My back is still hurting from those four WHAMS.  At least I stayed in the saddle.  I am going to put more of the old fashioned saddle soap on my saddle and my full seats before I get up on Tercel again, that may help me to keep my seat glued to the saddle for an additional fraction of a second.

In comparison my rides on the mares last week were all sweetness and light.  Cider remembered our last schooling session quite well, moved straighter, and gave me really good contact.  I practiced a good bit of two-point, I would have loved to trot but the ring was still just too sloppy.  I had lengthened my stirrup leathers a hole so I really appreciated the chance to find the best place for my thigh to keep my security in the EZ-Fit treeless saddle that I also use for Tercel.  I lost track of the time, but Cider reminded me when 30 minutes were up.  Well, unfortunately for her I still needed a few more minutes of practice so I made her walk as far from Shannon as I could, with a few close passes where I refused to let her dive into Shannon, practicing my two-point all the way, then we halted and I got off.  The poor mare had to work an additional five minutes at a walk but you would think it was an additional ten miles the way she sighed when I finally dismounted.

Mia was back to her usual self (no shying), and I had a wonderful ride on her yesterday.  I got to practice my posting trot.  I tend to post high, and whenever I try to limit my upward movement it quickly makes me tired.  On the COTH forum I read a discussion about riding the big trotting horses and someone suggested using the lower belly muscles to help limit the rise of the post, so I tried it.  I think it worked some but this is something I will have to practice a lot more since my lower belly muscles are not very fit.  This got me tired, but at least I did not get as tired as when I try to limit the rise with just my leg and butt muscles.  Mia let me work a good bit on my contact which was good since I realized my hands were moving up and down too much.  So on Mia I got to work on my thighs, lower belly and hands all in the same ride.  After 30 minutes of riding I was REALLY TIRED.

When I tried using my lower belly muscles while pushing my solar plexus area out (to get my shoulders back) I was left with only my middle abdomen for breathing.  I had to be REALLY careful not to stop breathing and stiffening up all of my belly muscles which would have really wrecked my posting.  Just one more thing to think of and practice whenever I ride, along with the other twenty or so things I have to pay attention to.

Have a great ride!  Spring is here, we made it through the winter.  Now we can have fun again.

Jackie Cochran             




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