This year we are getting a REAL winter down here in the mid-southern part of NC.

It snowed last night, over an inch. The lows have been in the lower 20sF to the upper teens, with maybe one night a week approaching the freezing mark. Luckily for me that one night was Tuesday night this week, and that one night will be Tuesday night next week so I might get a lesson two weeks in a row. Maybe, just maybe, I will be able to ride on Sunday two weeks from now, depending upon the weather of course. I know other parts of the country are worse, and sometimes I envy the people who have access to an indoor arena.

And I missed my lesson two weeks ago because of a Covid-19 outbreak involving Debbie's grandson. Thankfully Debbie did not get it from him.

This has not been a good winter for my riding!

I got to the barn on Wednesday to the news that the barn had a lot of rain on Tuesday night, another lesson in a sopping wet ring. MJ had mud all over the places of his body that his blanket did not cover. Debbie hosed off his lower legs (she has hot water in the barn) and took him to his yummy pre-lesson flat of timothy hay. I went up to him, one side of his neck, ears and jaw bone were covered with caked on dried mud. I got my Haas Schimmel brush since it is the best mud brush I've ever owned, and got after the mud.

Previously, when his coat was not coated with dried mud, MJ did not like the Schimmel brush very much at all since the bristles are so stiff. Wednesday he seemed glad I was getting the mud off his neck, so I dared to try getting the caked mud off his ears and jawbone. I was expecting MJ to say NO, instead he stood there peacefully and when I thought I was through MJ indicated that I had missed some spots. I never thought that he would volunteer himself for the Schimmel brush on his head and ears, but last Wednesday he did so.

I curried him with the gentle Haas New Generation curry comb, and his feet stayed STILL. Debbie came up and tackled his hooves. His hooves were PACKED with freezing mud, ice and gravel under the bar on his navicular shoes, and it took her a while to get everything out including one last piece of gravel that had found a comfortable home deep down the side of his frog. Then she took over brushing over him with the next two Haas brushes, the Military and the Cavaliere. I did the last two brushes of the Haas Chestnut brush instructions, the Coat Gloss and the Diva while Debbie had to go help someone else. MJ's winter coat even started to shine.

We bundled MJ up for the lesson so he would not get too terribly cold out in the ring. Every step out to the ring squished, and the ring had some corner lakes, puddles in the take off and landing spots of the jumps, and lots of little puddles scattered around. Every single time before I rode MJ in a ring that was that wet and messy it had been a case of MJ telling me that no matter how many leg aids I did he was just going to saunter around the ring. Why hurry? Basically MJ did all he could to peacefully tell me that he does not consider a sopping wet ring a proper place to have a riding lesson.

But on Wednesday he was different. I had to warm him up a little bit more than usual because he felt stiff and creaky. After the warm-up he was a different horse. I cautiously asked him to extend his walking stride and he started responding, just a little bit at first. The third time I asked him to extend from his normal sloppy ring walk he did it! He gave me a decent walk that was a good bit faster than his sloppy ring usual of about 2MPH. We were marching around all those pesky puddles, squishing every step, at a decent walking speed without me having to use a lot of leg. Debbie was pleased with him.

Then I did a turn on the hindquarters, and he did it very well, “planting” his hind feet immediately (still moving them in the walking sequence) for a full 360 turn. Then I did it in the other direction with the same results. Considering that even when the footing is dry and the weather is warm MJ just does not “plant” his hind feet until three steps into the turn, this was an exceptional result. He got plenty of praise from me and Debbie! These were the best turns on the hindquarters I'd ever gotten from him.

Then we backed up. MJ moved back, keeping his lower jaw relaxed, first step hesitant then the other three steps back were smooth, regular and straight. He did so much better backing up than the last time the ring was sloppy, in fact he backed up a lot better than he usually does when the ring is dry.

The last few minutes I just walked around, talking with Debbie about my hypothesis that horses often do not perform well because they got super irritated from being groomed and that tension lasts the whole ride. I had been using various Haas brushes on MJ the last few months with decent results, but this time I was using the “new and improved” Haas brushes from the Eqclusive Shining Pack in the proper order for his coat color. MJ did not get irritated when we had to scrub the mud off, he did not mind being brushed at all on Wednesday, and maybe, just maybe, my ride on Wednesday was so much better than usual in those circumstances just because MJ was not irritated by the rather vigorous grooming we gave him. Debbie is starting to agree with me about this.

Since I finally have the Shining Pack with the brushes for the specific colors of the horse's coat I have been gradually donating my other Haas brushes to be used at the stable. I lent the girl that has helped me groom and tack up MJ several of my extra brushes—my older Schimmel, the Damen Wurzelkardatsche, the Amazone, the Go4Gold brush, and the Diamond Noir Soft Brush, plus I gave the girl my extra Haas New Generation curry comb. She rides one of the mares at the stable (Tilly) in return for her work, and Debbie told me that she has improved the horse she rides. I told the girl that I expected a detailed report on how the mare she rides reacts to being groomed with these brushes. If Tilly likes them they will probably end up in her grooming box because I am not using these brushes now. Debbie has my old Parcour, Lipizzaner and Cavaliere brushes for her “black” gelding and he is much better at being groomed. Because of me the Haas brushes are gradually taking over Debbie's lesson horse group.

I am now getting the feeling that a lot of the problems I had with my riding horses could well have occurred because being groomed irritated them and drove them crazy. How can I expect a horse to relax and give me a good ride when the horse's skin feels super irritated from the grooming brushes? Before I got the Haas brushes I basically told the horse “tough luck, you have to put up with it.”

But my ride on Wednesday showed me that I have finally found a better way to a happy, cheerful, cooperative and docile riding horse, Haas brushes for the win!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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