Bingo Did Not Like the Change in His Routine
When I arrived at the stable on Wednesday for my lesson, Debbie had to go and search the stalls for Bingo. When she brought him out Bingo was obviously in a high dudgeon over something, it turned out that Bingo was not put in his regular feeding stall, and he WAS NOT HAPPY. Ignoring the hay in front of him Bingo fussed over everything, so Debbie gave him some feed in case he had not dined well enough in the strange stall.
Since Debbie was still busy feeding all the other horses I got out my grooming tools and started to groom Bingo. Since I always start with the HandsOn grooming gloves Bingo's attitude toward the world improved, though he gave little signs that he was still irate over the stall change. As I groomed him Bingo started getting into being brushed, and I got him clean, getting really hot and tired. By that time Debbie finished her other work and took over on cleaning his hooves and putting on his BOT exercise boots while I worked on brushing his mane and cleaning his head. Then, a sign of progress! Bingo allowed me to put on his BOT poll cap and his Fenwick mask with ears from the left side! ALL the time I've worked with Bingo I always had to put on his “hats” from the right side of his head since he is so ear and head shy on the left.
When we went out to the riding rings Debbie told me they had to drag the footing in the main riding ring for her show this weekend, so we would be riding in the second ring. I mounted in the main riding ring since the three-step mounting block stays there, and I rode Bingo to the second ring. Bingo was “What are you DOING?” and when I got to the gate of the second ring he balked, there was NO WAY he was going into that ring. Debbie kindly led him through the gate for me so I would not start my ride with a major battle. When we got inside Bingo started “commenting” about how unfair it was for me to expect him to be happy with yet another change in his routine. He sucked back, refused to stride out, and he tried to argue with my aids. Then he started balking, and then when I told him to move on he backed up. When I told him to move forward he gave me a turn on the forehand, something I had threatened to do previously when he balked. Maybe Bingo is starting to understand English, because I was careful to keep his nose pointed forward and I did not give him any leg aids for a turn on the forehand.
Then two other riders entered the ring to work on preparing their horses for the show. Bingo was displeased, he does not like having to share the ring. One of the horses passed him at the trot and Bingo started to rocket off because he hates, hates, hates having another horse pass him. I got Bingo's attention back on me and for a minute we were fine. Then he started sucking back even more, and at one point, next to the gate, he started slowing down into another balk. Losing my patience I told him that I could MAKE him move forward, he “said” no you can't, so I started “pushing” him forward with my seat bones, and after a few strides he decided that life would be more pleasant if he moved forward willingly. Normally I avoid using my seat bones to “drive” Bingo forward since his back is so weak, but I was not going to allow him to develop a habit of balking at the gate in that ring.
Then Bingo's attitude changed and he decided that life was not that bad after all. He willingly got ahead of my legs and started striding out at the walk. As we rode around I told Debbie about a new exercise I had read about on the Chronicle of the Horse Forum, an exercise called “rider push-up”, used to get the rider used to fold their hips and push their butt back for jumping. When Bingo halted, I got up into two-point then I leaned forward, keeping my back straight, until I touched his neck with my head. Well, I sort of did it wrong, I was supposed to keep my face up and forward and touch the mane with my chest, not my nose! Then I got back up into two-point. Debbie noted that I was letting my lower legs drift backwards, so she stood beside me when I tried it again so she could show me where my lower leg should stay steady. After a few more tries, Debbie suggested that I include the “vertical far” position, where my lower legs stay in the normal position and I straighten my hip joints until I have a vertical line of head, shoulders, hips down to my knees. I tried this a few times then I got really tired and my back was hurting.
All the time I was doing the rider's push-up I was wondering why no riding instructor had taught me this, and that I had read no riding book had described this exercise when I was learning to jump a horse 47 years ago. I would have done so much better! You see I had this problem back then, I was an elementary level rider on a green horse with only a few months of casual training, trying to teach myself and my horse how to jump at the same time. My horse did end up being a reliable jumper at 3'6” and he did not dump me too often. All this time my undiagnosed Multiple sclerosis was gradually getting worse and I just could not get the feel of the proper things to do with my body at the proper times. This exercise teaches my body how to move my body above my knees through the range of motions needed to jump any jump, up to the giant fences. As long as I concentrate of keeping my lower legs stable, my back straight, and my face looking up and forward I can now work at getting my body stronger and moving properly. I can do this even at a halt, working up to doing it at the walk, trot and canter, so maybe, when Debbie decides my seat and security is good enough, I can start jumping again.
I “rediscovered” several muscles while I was doing the rider's push-ups, in my back, my hips, and my butt. I have no doubt that doing these rider push-ups will strengthen my back, hip and butt muscles significantly. It will also get me used to keeping my lower legs stable no matter what my body does above the knees. Along with staying balanced in the two-point position while the horse moves, this exercise will be the most effective one I've run into for making my seat more secure.
After I practiced the rider push-ups Debbie noted that Bingo had started looking a lot more cheerful. We went on riding around the ring while Bingo politely ignored the other horses and paid attention to my aids. I ended up having a decent ride in spite of all of Bingo's shenanigans at the beginning, and Debbie was quite pleased with both of us.
I will be practicing my rider push-ups every ride from now on, at least until I get strong enough to gallop and jump. I practiced it when I rode Mia on Friday, and I am already noticing that I am getting stronger and better able to get up and down and walk around. Finally, I might be able to get out of the rut I have been in riding as my body gets stronger and more secure in the saddle.
And maybe someday I will get to jump again.
Have a great ride!