Tiny Little Steps of Improvement
THIS is the way most horse training goes.
Wednesday there was a cold, cold wind blowing when I took my lesson even though my lesson was 2 ½ hours later than usual (it was in the low 20s F at dawn.) I got to the stable and Debbie did not look like she felt very well, her sinuses were acting up. I had brought my Anxiety and Nervousness homeopathic combination remedy and lent it to Debbie, and she chose to give him a dose before we started grooming. I did my Ttouch circles on Mick though this time I did not do his girth area because of the problems we found last week. Mick did seem less anxious during his grooming, but when it came time to girth up he was as girthy as ever in spite of the fact that I had put my thickest fleece girth cover on his girth. This girth cover is so thick I had to use my next biggest girth on him, and the girth cover was such a tight fit on the girth, I had to anchor one end of the girth to a door knob before I was able to get the girth cover on.
Except for the tightening of the girth Mick was not anxious at all during my lesson in spite of the brisk, cold wind. He was so un-anxious that I had to use a LOT of leg to keep him moving, a case where I got more exercise than the horse did! For my next ride I am thinking of switching from my wonderful Spursuader spurs to my smooth rowel spurs which are just a little bit more noticeable to the horse, and since I will have stronger spurs on I will probably switch to my Spirit bitless bridle. It is only fair to Mick to take his bit out of his mouth, at least for the first time I switch to stronger spurs, since my seat is so weak in the cold weather. Debbie won’t mind the Spirit bridle, Mick has been ridden in the Nurtural bitless when his little owner jumps him, and I don’t think she will mind my smooth rowel spurs since I never argue with her if she decides to take my spurs off if I irritate the horse with them. I had a totally unexciting ride, it was like Mick had lost ALL of his forward impulse. But there was improvement! In spite of the bitterly cold wind Mick’s right hind did not drag like usual even when he was just poking along at his new totally non-impulsive trot. Usually I have to subtly use my right leg to get him to pick his right hind up further while all the time urging him forward with my legs, on Wednesday he picked it up all on his own. Even if it was in slow motion.
The good thing about switching to the Spirit bitless bridle now is that I have been riding Mick with the same bit for months and months, thus not giving him any interesting variations to play with. Since I mostly just go around the ring at a walk and trot I like changing the bit, bridle, or saddle to give the poor horse some variety to relieve the boredom. This year the horses pretty much told me that my hands were suitable ONLY for the Mullen mouth bits which meant that I could not give the horses much variety by changing the bits. I have been able to keep good contact with the Mullen mouths, but now I will have to get used to riding with a lot less direct contact with the Spirit bridle and go to playing with the reins. Since the cross-under parts of the reins are rolled leather on the Spirit bridle at least they give my fingers the illusion of contact. I have found that, with pure Arabs at least, the horses most definitely prefer me keeping a constant contact with a bit over me keeping constant contact with their nasal bones. The tongue is a superior cushion to the thin layer of skin over the nasal bones. Sometimes I use a Cashel noseband cushion but a lot of the horses do not particularly like it when the thicker noseband blocks some of their view, and Mia, for one, still hates me keeping contact with her face even with the extra cushioning.
Friday it was freezing, rainy, sleety, snowy, a freezing rainy so I did not get to ride Mia. Maybe next week I can introduce her to the Ttouches and reintroduce her to the Spirit bitless bridle. Maybe now she will accept the Spirit bridle better if I do not insist on trying to keep constant contact with her face.
Today it is gloriously sunny but there is another cold, cold wind blowing. I gave Bobby his Ttouch circles and then Shannon tacked him up. I am still keeping Bobby in the Mullen mouth Kimberwick since he learned to resist the Nurtural bridle big time, and I just need to use the bit to give him a reference for straightness. Bobby is still improving! Every time he started pretzelling himself up I gave up on contact and straightened him just using my thighs and lower legs, and when he got himself more or less straight I went back to contact. Backing up is still not perfect, but instead of getting two steps back with the same diagonal my first attempt yielded two even micro-steps to the rear, and the next time I got two full strides back, still small strides but a great improvement over what I could get weeks ago. I spent some time following Nancy on Cider, then passing Cider, then circles (not as good as last week), some turns on the hindquarters and even a turn on the forehand. A few times Bobby started bulging out at his outside shoulder, but Bobby responded to my thighs (for a while my very active thighs) and first stopped bulging out at his outside shoulder and then stopped craning his head towards Shannon, all this without using my hands. He got plenty of praise for that! Even when I’d ridden for 30 minutes and decided it was a good idea to make Bobby work a few minutes longer. Bobby continued obeying me so well when we went right past Shannon that when we reached the fence I gave in and sent him in to her. A few weeks ago he would have been in a super snitty fit if I had asked him to go over 30 minutes, today he just obeyed me, did not pretzel himself up going past Shannon and was just generally an agreeable little pony. It is soooo nice after months and months of constant struggle to get these small improvements each and every ride! I am definitely going to continue using the Ttouches on him before every ride, they seem to make a big difference in his attitude.
May all your horses improve each time you ride them too.
Have a great ride!