My Neck Fan Helped

My neck fan finally came on Monday. It comes with a very short cord to hook up to a charger, but no charger was included. Luckily in these modern time my house is littered with chargers, for our smart phones, tablet, and other electronic gizmos that clutter our lives. The neck fan did have a charge on its battery and it worked when I pushed the button. Before we figured out that the chargers for other gear would suffice, husband figured out the slot on his computer that would accept the plug and I got it charged up for my lesson on Friday. Since I am staying mostly inside with the air-conditioning I did not need to use it before my lesson.

The predicted high on Friday was 97º F, the low was in the mid-70s F, and it was HUMID. When we got to the stable the car thermometer said it was 80ºF. I put on my neck fan right after I took off my neck collar and wore it for getting MJ ready to ride. I did manage to brush out his mane and clean his head and his ears, inside and out. The new wormer that Debbie is using on him is expensive, but he is SO MUCH better, he only tried to scratch his butt on the wall once but he stopped when Debbie snapped at him and the rest of the time he stood in place peacefully. I am so glad that she found something that works for MJ's itchiness!

I had ordered a bigger riding fly sheet for MJ, and he seemed happy that it was loose enough to feel comfortable and non-binding while he moved. Doused with fly spray and wearing the fly sheet the bugs left us alone. I did an experiment with myself, I did not put my helmet on until we got to the ring, hoping that with the fan I would not start my ride overheated. I did bring my ice vest out but I put it on the fence since I wanted to see if the neck fan was enough to keep me cool, combined with my technical fabric long sleeve summer shirt, my Ice-Fill tights, my Columbia cooling neck gaiter and my ventilated half-chaps. I wore the neck fan so that the vents pointed upwards just to see if it could still cool me in spite of my helmet being in the way of the breeze.

Since Sam was giving a lesson in the main ring we had to use the other ring, the one where the barn blocks a lot of the breeze so it feels hotter to ride in. That meant that I had to walk further and mount from a two-step mounting block instead of the three-step mounting block. I had brought my ice vest out and put it on a fence rail for if I needed it later. Mounting was not a problem, and we proceeded to walk. MJ felt a little stiff so I got a very short trot in, and since my neck fan can be molded somewhat around my neck it fan stayed in place. It stayed in place throughout my ride, through out my horseback calisthenics, and when it started shifting around a little I just tightened it a little bit and went on.

Debbie wanted to see MJ trot in the other direction, and this time I made it all the way around the ring! In the heat that was amazing. I recovered from my exertion fine and went on with the more fiddly parts of our routine. MJ's back was sort of stiff, it felt like I was turning a canoe and not a horse so we did gradual turns unless we turned in place. He improved. One time when I stopped to rest some Debbie asked me to back him up and she was very, very happy with how he backed up, a full six steps for the first time since I started riding this horse.

Then we got into a discussion about MJ. She does not own him. At one time a girl had gotten him and ridden him for years but then moved on and ended up far away and her parents kept MJ, lending him out to various lesson stables on lease, and he ended up at Debbie's when the last lesson stable let him go because of his navicular since he cannot be jumped any more. Debbie grabbed him for his wonderful disposition and decent conformation since she has some students, like me, that do not jump. So now he is a walk, trot and canter lesson horse, a job that is well within his capabilities so long as he is shod properly for his navicular disease. MJ's “grandparents” even paid for his shoeing, they must really like this horse (and MJ is a very nice and friendly horse.)

However Debbie had a little problem. She found out, through experimentation, that MJ's favorite bit for lessons with other riders is the titanium coated 20mm thick single-jointed eggbutt snaffle that I bought for Coach, the horse I fell off of several months ago. But Debbie is going to have a big deal at her stable in a few weeks and she will have to use MJ and Coach at the same time, so she was trying to figure out which bit MJ might assent to (Coach has made it abundantly clear, it is this one bit and no other.) Well, after Coach had accepted his bit I had gone ahead and bought another one for my own use in the future since I trusted Coach's opinion, and I told Debbie that I would lend her mine but I wanted it back. So MJ will be using the bit he prefers with other riders and Coach gets to keep the only bit he has ever liked in his life. A happier outcome for both horses (horses take their favorite bits really personally.)

Even though I was hot and sweaty, and though my hands' proprioceptive sense was off, MJ had no problems with how I used the double bridle. His mouth remained soft, his response to the bradoon improved (I only had to tweak the curb rein maybe three times) and he continued reaching out fearlessly for contact. He halted better and he backed up better. I did not feel any stiffness in his mouth, tongue or lower jaw, and MJ seemed to be pretty content with the world.

After I got off I let Debbie try the neck fan—she liked it. I let Sam try it out and she said she needed to buy herself one to use when she takes the kids to shows. In the barn were several mothers, I let them all try the neck fan and the universal opinion was “NICE!!!” One lady had been looking at the neck fans that have little bladed fans at the ends of the neck piece, but several reviewers had written about getting their hair entangled in the fans. Everything active on my neck fan is enclosed so nothing ends up getting tangled and I am less afraid of it should I ever fall off the horse again.

The neck fan did help me in the heat. In spite of the heat, humidity and intense sunlight at no time did I feel like I NEEDED my ice vest, and it remained on the fence rail. Yes I ended up hot and sweaty, but at no time did I feel like I was melting into a puddle in my saddle. Debbie noted when my right hand and right lower leg wandered out of their correct position, and I was able to correct them and keep them in their proper position. She also noted that my shoulders were slumping, I corrected that and she had no other complaints about my riding during my lesson. I was able to dismount without any help, I walked back to the barn without much difficulty (one stumble, I did not see something), and when I got home I was able to change out of my riding clothes, clean off the bits and put up my tack before I collapsed in bed. My sweat did not trickle down into my eyes, something that happens even with my ice vest on. All in all it was a pretty successful experiment.

Tomorrow I am going to turn my neck fan so that the vents point downward to see if I feel cooler with a breeze over my technical fabric shirt.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

PS  Sorry my computer changed my font size.  I don't know how it happened.

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