The Heat is Getting to Me...

And the smoke from the wildfires in the North American continent just makes it worse for me. The horses deal with this more easily than I do so at least I have the comfort that I am not asking the horse to do too much as I walk and trot around the ring.

When I got to the stable for my lesson with Debbie on Wednesday the stable was crowded and the rings were crowded with people trying to get their lessons and schooling sessions done before the midday heat. School is starting so soon there will be fewer people around in the morning at the stable but there are Debbie's students and boarders who home school and will still be able to come out early to take advantage of the relative coolness.

I had to do a lot of the grooming while Debbie dealt with another horse that had partially wrenched its shoe off of one of its front hooves, leaving the branches of the shoe starting to dig into the horse's sole, I got MJ pretty shiny after using just the curry comb and the Haas Schimmel really stiff dandy brush, the Debbie got back to us and took over. While she brushed him I cleaned his head, brushed out his mane, put his fly spray on, and put his “hats” on. This got me so tired that I forgot to put my ice vest on, Sam brought it out to the ring before I mounted. I was not the only forgetful person, Debbie forgot to put MJ's Hoof Socks on which affected my whole ride since MJ's knees had nothing on them to make them more comfortable.

When we got to the ring I had to cautiously walk around all the other horses until the other ring got free for their lesson. When they left there was still one lady schooling her really pretty feminine small TB mare. MJ and I walked around with a few trots thrown in before he started to bob his head a little bit because of his knees. The whole ride MJ could have done better if we had only put his hoof socks on. At first he did not want me to post on the correct diagonal going to the right, normal for him but without his hoof socks it took me longer to get us together properly. Doing turns in place I could feel his left knee flinching just a little bit. Whenever I asked him to extend his stride walking or trotting I got just so much from him, with the message that I was not going to get any more from him that day.

I did make it my full thirty minutes this time in spite of the heat, which could have been worse. I am glad I had my ice vest on.

In between all of this I watched that pretty TB mare. This mare is well conformed and she should have given her rider better movement but something was working against her. After watching her off and on for a while I went up to Debbie and asked permission to suggest something to her rider even though she was not in a lesson herself. Debbie asked me what I wanted to suggest, I told her that I thought the mare would move better if her rider spread her hands apart a little bit more. Debbie then shouted to this rider, at the other end of the ring, to spread her hands so the mare could see her hands. The mare improved immediately, lowering her head some, reaching out for the bit much better than before, and both mare and rider looked a lot happier with life.

Often when training a horse the rider has to forget about everything an equitation judge wants to see from a rider especially when it comes to the rider's hands. Many horses just do not understand the action of the bit immediately and when they feel confused about this they suck back and do not reach for the bit with confidence. I have found with these horses that if I spread my hands so the horse can SEE my hands, the horse relaxes, gets less confused, and moves with more freedom. It may take time to get a horse like this in a proper relationship with the bit, but in my experience they figure it all out quicker if they can see my hands. After the horse has figured it all out then it is possible to bring my hands closer together though I am always ready to spread my hands apart if the horse starts to get iffy with contact again. I think that when the horse sees my hands the horse stops guessing about what in the world I mean from my rein aids and goes “OK, I understand it now”, relax, and reach forward into good contact with their mouth.

I will be so glad when it gets cool again. I will be so glad when the wildfires stop burning. This summer has been harder than usual on my physically, but at least I am still riding horses.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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