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JR Ride 11; Wizard Ride 54: Inspector Gadget

March 5, 2009


Thursday, 3/5/2009

I awoke to this text message from my friend Sarah: “UR going to need an Advil when I’m done with U.”


We started with JR. Sarah rode him for about 10 minutes as a warmup and worked on bending and softness through the ribcage. JR was willing and forward, but he has a habit of bracing himself with his neck whenever he does an upward or downward transition. I think that part of the habit stems from being ridden with a tiedown in the past. Riding him through it with light hands and lots of leg is what we normally do, so that he will learn to balance himself. But today, we used a gadget.

Forgive me, classical dressage masters, for I have sinned. A few years ago, I swore I’d ride in the mildest bit possible at all times and never use a gadget again. But today, we experimented with a well-known homemade training device. It’s an elastic side rein and a piece of baling twine. The side rein is buckled to the girth and snapped to the baling twine, which is attached to the bit. Sustainable Dressage has an excellent discussion of gadgets here. And here’s what should be done instead of gadgets.

I was totally leery about the side rein gadget, but I must admit that this one does not make me as mad as most gadgets. As you can see from the photo of us walking, JR can stretch his neck very low and in a natural and relaxed position. Secondly, he cannot brace against it like a horse can against a standing martingale or tiedown. It also does not interfere with a horse’s attempt to elevate his poll or round his topline. And best of all, it helped me to keep my hands really, really quiet. If I felt him bracing and tightening his neck, I could keep my hands steady and drive him forward and help him relax instead of fussing with him. I want him to relax his topline and elevate his poll, not tighten the underside of his neck. I hope not to have to use The Gadget very often at all or ever, but I have to say that it helped me to understand what I need to do to maintain JR’s rhythm and forwardness when he falls into his bad habits.

JR walk

We worked on circles, figure 8s, serpentines, a little cantering, and a baby shoulder in- yahoo! Then, we trotted over three poles. I rode in a forward seat, asking for JR to travel as straight and forwardly as possible. He was stellar! Now I’ve really got the jumping bug :^D

Trot pole

We then moved on to Wizard. No gadgets needed, just a quiet seat and hands. He has improved so much physically and mentally. Today was the first day that he was balanced and relaxed enough to trot figure 8s and smaller circles around the arena. His transitions were the smoothest they’ve ever been and his gaits were the most consistent they’ve ever been. He was able to respond to my cues to bend him a little bit. By the time we were finished, I was beaming with pride.

Wizard & Me

Today was my best ride ever on both JR and Wizard- both horses were willing, forward, obedient. I progressed more with Wizard more today than we have since we started in late September. Is it the Ulcergard regimen we began two days ago? Is it the Panacur PowerPac? Is it the shoes? Is it the chiropractic treatments? Is it the five months of hard work and careful diagnosis? I’m not sure, but whatever it is, I’m thrilled. When I left the barn, I received this text message from Sarah: “U did great today!” I smiled, and took two Advil.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. lori permalink
    March 6, 2009 8:55 am

    “Sweet Ride!” as the kids say. :O)

  2. anita permalink
    March 6, 2009 9:35 am

    Thanks for yet another idea! Duck does the same thing with the bracing. I knew it was most likely due to use of a tie down in the past and I wouldn’t use one. I like your gadget, though. I’ll try it on him

    I’m excited about reading and seeing your jumping progress with JR.

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