The heat has come back to NC. Both my teachers have already started murmuring about me coming out an hour earlier to ride. My wonderful half chaps have come off--they are too hot. Fortunately my new support stockings are tight enough so my lower leg has some idea of where it is. Soon I will have to start riding in my ice vest, though I am delaying this as long as I can since the ice can trigger muscle spasms if I use it when the weather is still coolish. We have been blessed with RAIN and the grass is green and the buttercups are having a population explosion in every pasture, growing higher and thicker than ever before. So far this year our drought is over. We are blessed.
When we were grooming Mia on Wednesday I looked at her neck. Her crest muscles are growing bigger which makes her neck look much more Arab with a nice arch in the proper place, up toward her ears. This is gratifying to me. When I started riding Mia she just did not have much muscle anywhere. After over a year of sane correct riding Mia's neck, shoulders, withers, back and rear have swelled with muscle, but I was not able to get the muscles near the top of her neck to develop further. Because of Mia's improvements Debbie has now become interested in the effect of the running martingle, she has not worked much with a running martingle before because they are frowned upon in the classes her students compete in. Since the first running martingle I got was way to big on Mia I am lending it to Debbie to try (with a bit) on a head-tossing inverted mare. I also finally found my old Chambon so I larded it up so that the leather was no longer dry and lent it to Debbie too. Chambons are for use during lungeing ONLY (using both a bridle and bit for the chambon and a lungeing cavesson for the lunge line), and since lunging makes me super dizzy I haven't used it for years. Debbie can make much better use of it than I can!
While riding Mia using the Spirit bridle, following Allan Buck's suggestion, I changed my aids for the turn on the hindquarters and Mia understood immediately, all I did was use my inner rein aid before I used my outside leg aid at the girth instead of the opposite when I ride with a bit, leg first, then hand. I do not know why this little change made such a big difference, but it did, Mia moved immediately into a turn on the hindquarters. It never ceases to amaze me how horses can be so sensitive to little things! Mia did not pick up contact on her own this time, but all the time during the ride she was very responsive to my reins, legs, seat and posture. All stops were soft and all the turns were prompt. The only time Mia got restive was when I tried to initiate contact myself. When I returned my contact to slightly sagging reins she stopped shaking her head started cooperating with me again. I'll just have to wait until MIA decides that it is time for good full contact. She is obviously the only one who can tell that the time is right.
By the time Mia was warmed up enough to try a canter Debbie noted that I was probably too tired to handle Mia's rather rough uncoordinated canter, so I worked at the three speeds of the trot instead. Mia slows down her trot fine, and her slow trot is becoming a little more bouncy. Maybe, just maybe we will get out of a Western jog and develop a true sitting trot with suspension! This is a little harder for me to ride but I would rather have a correct gait even if it is harder to ride. But an exciting thing happened when I was doing the fast posting trot. I experimented with using my legs as I sat down and lightly feeling the reins as I rose, and after a stride or two Mia flexed at the poll and I felt Mia's balance shift under me from slightly on her forehand to slightly on her hindquarters. WOW. I normally don't get this result! Then, in this slightly collected fast trot she started offering a canter on the correct lead, just a little feeling of her inside lateral reaching a little furter forward. I felt it and Debbie saw it. Since I was too tired to correctly ride the canter I backed off to a regular trot, but I think if I had given the signal she would have gone immediately into the canter. Of course this also means that I was asking her to trot fast a little beyond her current capability so I will have to spend time gradually increasing the amount of fast trot until she no longer feels that she needs to break into a canter.
Today I got to ride Cider. After all the problems I had had riding Cider in the anatomically shaped girth I changed back to my old girth and Cider stopped acting like a spoiled nappy pony. I do not think that round barreled, tubby, mutton withered horses do well in an anatomic girth! Today Cider was pretty happy, glad to be back in her old more comfortable girth and also comfortable in the Spirit bridle. I tried working on the three speeds of the walk, and Cider did not really want to slow down enough for a counted walk so I changed to extending her stride. Cider ALMOST gave me an full extended walk, with the "rolling" back as well as the longer stride. I asked a few times for a longer striding walk, and when I felt her back starting to go into the extended walk movement I let her go a few strides and then backed off with my legs. We almost got there! Then we worked on straight lines and I had to use MUCH less hand and leg to keep her straight. Even walking past Shannon I was able to keep Cider mostly straight. Then I decided to try a circle around Shannon. Usually my circles with Cider should be called amoebas, roughly circular with large blobs to the outside and to the inside toward Shannon. Today I got an honest to goodness circle! This is a first with Cider, and I had to use minimal aids, mostly a spiral seat with light course corrections with my hands and legs. Utterly amazing, I did not know that Cider COULD do a decent circle under me. I also noticed that my old "energizer bunny" was back, Cider strode out just like she used to, totally eager to move forward.
Debbie and I were talking about the effects of the Spirit bridle after my lesson. Debbie has been watching me ride in both the Nurtural and Dr. Cook's cross-under bitless bridles for years and she has never seen me make so much progress in a bitless bridle. Her comment was that she never thought that the two little changes Allan made from the regular cross-unders, the rounding of the cross-under straps and sewing the reins directly to the cross-under straps, could make such a big difference in how the horses work, but seeing the dramatic changes in Mia after using it less than two months she is interested in seeing how she can integrate this bridle into her training and teaching. Unfortunately all the showing has to be in bits, so she can't use it there. When I save up enough money to buy more Spirit bridle roundings and leather reins from Frontier Equestrian and to get then get to the saddler and get the flat rein part shortened, I am going to change my Dr. Cook bridle to a Spirit bridle and I will lend my beta Spirit bridle, with the shorter reins, to Debbie to use for training and maybe some in her other lessons. Debbie especially wants to try it on her current problem child, an Arabian gelding, who has improved greatly in the Nurtural, but who is not quite up to where Debbie wants him.
What can I say? With both horses I am getting correct movements that I could never get before. Of course if I wasn't already a good rider my results would not be as dramatic, but as it is I am starting to get light collection with absolutely no resistances, I ask, release, and the horse cheerfully flexes at the poll. As long as I time my aids correctly and release them promptly I get prompt, correct responses even on a sagging rein. One time, as an experiment, I asked Mia for a sudden halt from a full trot, and flexed at the poll she gave me the most sudden halt that she is capable of right now (remember, she has a spavined hock.) Both mares are moving with more impulse too. I still miss the conversation that I can have with the horse using a bit, but since I can't use a bit during the summer I am thrilled, Thrilled, TRILLED to be using the Spirit bridle. I can't believe that I am getting BETTER results than with the bit, but I am. I am getting results equivalent to those I got using a double bridle oh so long ago, and now I only need to handle ONE set of reins, not two. Thank you Allan, your bridle has made me a better, more effective rider even though my MS is currently making me worse physically. You do not know what this means to me. I had sort of given up at getting much better at riding, now the possibilities are infinite.
Have a great ride!