What Affects the Legs Can Affect the Back

What Affects the Legs Can Affect the Back

When we got to Shannon's last Sunday Cider was all groomed, draped with the BOT and Fenwick ¼ sheets over her back, and all four exercise boots were on her legs (plus the Fenwick pastern wraps on her front legs.) Cider did not look completely happy, but hey, it was cooler and nippier, plenty of reason not to be totally happy.

After tacking up Shannon led Cider into the ring, and Cider did the string-halt type movement with her hind legs with added little kicks all through the tightening of the girth (Shannon has to walk Cider around, do the girth up one hole, then walk some more). Shannon removed the hind exercise boots before I mounted but by then the “damage” had been done.

Cider's back was moving oddly again. She obviously wanted me to get up into 2-point but I could only manage a half-seat. I felt no flinching with her front legs even over the rougher ground and heading down-slope, but her back motion was quite excessive, more excessive than it was before I had started booting her ouchy front legs. When I asked Cider to stretch her walking stride just a little bit—well that did not happen. As I walked Cider down to the far end of the ring Cider's back went through some more contortions for a few seconds, then Shannon told me that the Fenwick ¼ sheet, which is made of some very slippery fabric, had slowly slid down Cider's croup then all the way down to the ground. Cider was a good girl! She could have made her opinions about this painfully clear to me, instead she just shrugged it off as another oddity that comes from interacting with humans.

We went up to Shannon so Cider could tell her all about it, and after a minute we went back to walking around the ring. Again I gently aided Cider to extend her walk, this time she broke into a trot. I let her trot for a few strides until she transitioned back to the walk on her own, and Shannon told me that she did not see any head bobbing from Cider! Extending the walking stride takes more of the horse's energy than going up to an equivalent speed at the next gait, so this did not surprise me though my aids for extending the walk, alternating gradual legs aids, is different from my aids for the trot when I “abruptly” squeeze with both legs at the same time.

Tonight I am going to tell Shannon that I do NOT want hind boots on Cider any more, even for grooming, at least until it gets into the upper 20°s F. All that extra and vehement motion from her hind legs is affecting her back, which results in me feeling like I riding in a car slowly going over a badly paved cobblestone street instead of her normally mild back movements when her legs feel good. SOMETHING about the hind exercise boots is bothering her even if they are BOT boots, and that ends up affecting her back motion big time.

Debbie was late getting to the barn Wednesday. Mary brought MJ up and cleaned out his hooves and offered to do more grooming, but I am experimenting with my grooming now that I am thinking in investing in more Haas brushes. First, though, I went over MJ's lower front legs to make sure that they were clean for his Fenwick pastern wraps and BOT exercise boots+ the Fenwick leg wraps. Then I curried his back with the Retriever Dog Washing tool, followed by the Tiger's Tongue, and the the Haas small Diamond Noir horsehair brush. I got a lot of dust out of his coat and then I used my Haas Diva as a body brush, and while he looked shinier I could tell that there was still a lot of dust in his coat. Yes, there will probably be more Haas brushes in my future buying plans.

Debbie showed up and since he was groomed she went ahead and put his Fenwick Western pad on him to warm his back up some, then she went off a few minutes to deal with something else. While she was gone MJ got antsy. You see someone had passed him with an armful of hay while he was being led to the wash stall, and she DID NOT GIVE HIM ANY!!!!! That was totally unacceptable to MJ, he was more restive than usual in the wash stall to show his displeasure, and the saddle pad slipped off into a small puddle. Luckily it was only the mostly water-proof topside that got damp, Debbie wiped it with a towel and said it was good enough to use. She saddled him and put his BOT exercise sheet on to warm up his croup muscles. All through this MJ was still royally pissed off that the stable lady had not given him his own hay, since he lives out 24/7 he has to share the hay in the paddock and he really likes being able to eat some hay without another pesky, greedy horse around to bother him.

When I mounted MJ was pretty good, but it took him a few minutes to “forget” about the no-hay incident and I had to get up into 2-point some until he switched his brain to just moving. Then we did our usual walks around the ring and around the jumps to warm him up. When I asked MJ to extend his walking stride a little bit he indicated to me that he'd rather trot, I told Debbie and she told me to go ahead. MJ at first gave me his usual QH shuffle of a posting trot which does not thrill Debbie, then the second time at the posting trot I alternated using my legs when I sat down and tweaking the sagging curb rein when I rose, and MJ's trot improved greatly which made Debbie really happy.

Then Debbie was curious to see if me alternating my legs (which are alternating anyway) with tweaking my curb rein at the walk would help me get MJ to extend his walk. Well I tried, but instead of stretching out his walk MJ shortened his stride and started switching his weight to his hindquarters like the first step to collection. I stopped using the curb rein and he finally consented to stretching out just a little bit at the walk.

Then Debbie started talking about one of her upcoming shows in which she has a walk-trot class for all of us older folks, but she cannot find anybody willing to sign up for it! I looked at her in minor horror, for one all of my tack I use for MJ's and my comfort is unconventional, the Rider's Grips on my saddle flaps, my RS-tor riding aid hanging off the front D rings, my Western length saddle pad, my bluish Tech Venice safety stirrups, my wide stirrup leathers, my very odd double bridle (Micklem, chin strap removed, bradoon hanger over the crown piece instead of under), my titanium bits, the fact that I ride with a double bridle, the fact that I no longer own a hunt seat riding coat suitable for showing (my nearest substitute is a red plaid), yeah, I do not look conventional at all. I am thinking of telling Debbie that if she wants me to canter this fall I have to save my energy, and doing one show class even it someone else did the braiding, grooming and tacking up would take up my limited “extra” energy for a few months (from experience 50 years ago, my only other real horse show.) I can do some limited physical challenges, but I think that showing in one class just might be too much for me.

Debbie only remarked that my right lower leg was too far back twice, then I got my rectus femoris muscle working and my lower leg got in the right place. She praised my contact, she liked how MJ was cooperating with me even though he was still pissed off about the no-hay incident. Then she asked me to try the sitting trot. Oh boy. The first two strides were bearable, then I guess I was just too tired by them because I did something that caused MJ to make his back stiff and I was back riding a jack hammer again. My neck which had not bothered me all morning started hurting big time, the inside muscles of my right thigh started hurting, and I was hobbling on the walk back to the stable. MJ does have a rather pleasant sitting trot that does not bother my body but I was not riding anywhere good enough during my lesson to get it out of MJ. Note to myself—when MJ's back starts jarring my body start posting again because it just is not worth it to ride four strides on a jack hammer.

After my ride, while Debbie was taking MJ's tack off, she was talking to her next student of the day. She told the lady that I was training MJ for Debbie! Of course every single time I have ridden one of her horses I train the horse, it just comes with being an experienced rider, but it was sweet to here her tell another rider that I was training one of her horses for her!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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