You Would Think That Spring Was Here


Between nights in the 20s F and days and nights of rain, it has been difficult for me to ride, therefore last week I seized the chance to ride twice, on Mia, two days in a row.

Wednesday morning came in at 23 F so I did not get to ride.  Fortunately Debbie did not have a lesson already scheduled for Thursday morning so I got to ride then.  When Debbie curried Mia gobs and gobs of Mia’s sub-coat came off, and when I got after her coat fungus even more hair came off.  Debbie and I discussed this, and Debbie told me to go ahead and get the fungus out of Mia’s hair and that she would blanket Mia for the nights in the 20s F.  I found many clumps of fungus in her coat, and some pretty big areas where the fungus was establishing itself on the skin.  I had to use my fingernails to get this skin level fungus out, and so much hair came out with it!  Mia is shedding like spring has finally arrived, as are all the other horses at the barn.  Coat fungus is also rampant in the other horses from the unseasonable warmth, inches of rain, and the long, thick winter coats.  When it came time to do Mia’s hooves Debbie looked at me, I am still sort of sick in my gut and I don‘t have much energy, and suggested that I skip rasping Mia’s hooves so I would have enough energy for my lesson.  This ended up being a good and a bad thing, the good thing was that I had enough energy to trot; the bad thing was that Mia loosens her hock joints by kicking back and forth some when I pick up her hind feet to trim them, so Mia’s hindquarters were visibly stiffer than usual during my ride.

The weather Wednesday was definitely winter weather, cold, dank, raw, and a cold breeze from the North blew through the ring.  I put both butt blankets on Mia though I did not need to put the second one over my thighs since I kept quite warm by using my legs to keep Mia striding forth.  Debbie had to tell my to correct my back by straightening up and she got after my lower right leg early in the lesson, and I was able to correct my position to her satisfaction.  This was just the second time I rode with the narrower Wellep bit, and Debbie agreed with me that Mia was taking contact better.  After a fifteen-minute warm-up, I stopped Mia, established a soft contact, and asked Mia to back up by advancing my waist to my hands.  Amazingly, Mia backed up without any other aids, one step for every time I advanced my waist (relaxing my fingers every time she moved rearward, then reestablishing contact before the next waist advance.)  For the rest of the lesson I mostly walked around while Debbie and I discussed Debbie’s personal horse, Tercel, and how he was reacting to his headgear. 

Apparently Tercel has decided that the Spirit bitless bridle (cross-under with rolled leather cross-under straps) is no longer comfortable when Debbie gets after him for his “startles.”  She thinks he does not like the nose pressure any more, and has taken a dislike to the “head hug” from the cross-under straps.  Now she really likes riding him with my Wellep lever cheek snaffle, and Tercel apparently appreciates the Wellep mouthpiece, from how he can roll it with his tongue and from how it releases immediately at any slackening of the rein pressure.  Since Debbie now has a regular 4 ¾” Wellep full cheek snaffle she was wondering if she should switch him to it, I got the feeling she wants to play with her new bit!  I was coming from the point of since Tercel has improved so much with the lever cheek Wellep bit, it may be because Debbie has been very, very good about releasing her hand aids immediately because the lever cheek Wellep bit adds a mild gag effect and mild poll pressure to the rein aids.  If Debbie was riding Tercel everyday and he was getting quieter and not “startling” so much, I could see Debbie successfully transitioning to the milder regular full-cheek Wellep snaffle.  However, since she cannot find time to ride him regularly and every ride feels “new” to him, I hesitate to change his bit until he, by his reactions, tells her that he is ready to work with a more constant, firmer contact.  Of course, Tercel is Debbie’s horse and she has lots more experience training than I do so it is her call.  The reason for my line of thinking is that I get this mental picture, one of Tercel being able to deal with his anxieties better by “playing” with the super mobility of the Wellep mouthpiece.  If ridden with the regular full-cheek Wellep snaffle on contact, the Wellep mouthpiece effectively becomes a more rigid Mullen mouth and Tercel would not be able to play with it when he starts feeling anxious.  Anyway, after my lesson Debbie gave me back my Spirit bridle because Tercel just does not like it any more and nowadays he reacts to the Wellep lever cheek bit a lot better when he feels anxious than he does to the cross-under bitless bridle.

The weather forecasters had been predicting rain for Friday morning, but it held off so I was able to ride Mia again.  I found even more clumps of fungus in her coat and I concentrated on getting every clump of fungus on her back out of her coat.  I did not use the slicker brushes at all since they take so much hair off of a shedding coat, so I was reduced to using my fingernails after my husband curried her.  I have to use my fingertips to find these clumps; Mia’s coat is so thick that I do not notice them otherwise.  After successfully clearing all the fungus clumps off her back and croup, I trimmed Mia’s feet.  She did not kick much with her left hind but she more than made up for it when I got to her right hind leg.  I managed to finish trimming her foot in between the fortunately not very vigorous kicks, it really helped that her hooves are not growing as fast in the cold weather.

It was not any colder than it was Thursday, but I had to put the top butt blanket over my thighs to stay warm since I did not have to use my legs as much to keep Mia moving.  Kicking her hind leg when I trim it loosens up and warms up her hocks better than 10 minutes of walking and trotting.  I tried backing up by just advancing my waist again but Mia did not react at all, so I then asked her to back up with my normal aids and she stepped back willingly.  She was pretty good with contact, but then it started to drizzle, and since Mia simply HATES rain falling on her face when being ridden, she started slinging her head even when we were going around on loose reins.  One of Debbie’s boarders was schooling her horse at the same time, another thing that ticks Mia off since she does not particularly like sharing the ring when I am working her, and it limited my usual meandering around the jumps.  When the drizzle got worse I stopped for the day and took Mia back to the barn.  I gave her an extra two handfuls of feed for her treat to help make up for all the hair that came out of her coat.  Debbie promised to blanket her again when the weather dips into the 20s again, but it will be a challenge to keep Mia from getting too cold this winter.  Too bad she is shedding already; she had grown an excellent winter coat for temperatures in the 20s.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran   






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Comment by Paula Stevens on January 9, 2016 at 9:30pm

Michigan  currently looks like spring. Glad you got to ride though.

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