Bingo's Selective Memory

Due to Debbie's endless list of tasks to get her stable ready for a show today I had to take my lesson on Thursday. I'm just glad that Debbie was able to fit me in!

When I got to the stable I noticed a sign in the wash stall, to NOT shed the horses out in the wash stall because all the hair had started to clog up the drains. Before bringing Bingo into the barn Debbie spent several minutes using the shedding blade on him and got PILES of hair off. Of course when she groomed him in the wash stall even more hair came off, just not as much.

One thing that Bingo has yet to remember is how much he previously grew to enjoy me cleaning his ears. Instead of lowering his head so I would not have to stand on tiptoe, he mimicked a giraffe and I had to stretch up high before he relaxed and decided it was not too bad. When I came to put on his BOT poll cap and his Fenwick face mask with ears it was the same, instant giraffe. At least I did not have to put his bridle on.

When I mounted up and started my ride Bingo was still sort of iffy about the meaning of my aids, except for one aid, using my legs to get him to move forward or lengthen his stride. So far I have not seen or felt any hints of his old bad habits of balking and scooting on backwards, when I closed my legs he moved forward promptly. After a few minutes of walking, with lots of encouragement from my lower legs to stride forth confidently, I asked for a halt. When I put my tack up last week I noticed that Debbie had inadvertently, when she shortened his cheek pieces, left the right side a hole longer. I thought that this might be a reason for Bingo being so resistant to stopping last week and I lengthened the other side of the bridle so the bit and bridle would be even on his head. So I had hopes that Bingo would improve, possibly, though after my ride last week I did not expect his old prompt obedience.

Bingo stopped the first time without too much trouble, I had to repeat my alternating hand aids once or twice before he stopped. This was a BIG improvement from last week when I had to set my hands for a minute before he remembered the signal to stop, with the concomitant gaping of his mouth. I get more gaping of the mouth from Bingo when I set my hands than I do from the other horses I ride, but then Bingo has horrible conformation where his head meets his neck since the muscles on the sides of his upper neck are an inch or so wider than his jowl bones. There is NO WAY that Bingo can get relief from a hand aid by flexing at the poll, his jowl bones just dig into his neck muscles, and there is no way around it, to get a “pretty” halt I have to teach him to obey my lightest finger aids. Bingo and pretty head sets are completely incompatible and I have to accept whatever he gives me willingly.

While Bingo remembered my driving aids fine he was still a bit uncertain when I used one leg for sideways movement. He was better about it this week, his turns on the forehand and turns on his haunches did improve but again were nowhere near the level we were at before his lengthy vacation started. This is fine, with Bingo's high croup he has difficulty figuring out exactly how to move his legs and body in a way that does not hurt his back. His muscles weakened during his vacation and we will have to spend time getting them stronger. The turn on the forehand seems to get his back the worse, and I had to get up into 2-point for around a quarter of the ring before his back got back to “swinging”, then I could sit down and proceed normally.

This time going around the ring Bingo remembered the new judge's stand and the herd of steer in the next paddock and ignored them completely. Letting him have the time to LOOK a few minutes at those distractions last week paid off completely, now they were old stuff, and nothing to worry about.

I did not get any “zings” from the cable through the mouthpiece this week. I do not think my hands were much more stable and I give Bingo credit for meeting the bit fully. Contact he remembers, it is the hand aids that he does not remember, yet. Still he is improving with the bit somewhat though it may take more rides to get back to our old days of “glory”. The Arabs, part Arabs and my Paso Fino mare really spoiled me with their memories, even after years of “vacation” they promptly obeyed all my rein and leg aids. With Bingo he seems to remember one to three things each ride but reacts to the other aids like he had never been trained before (“Does this mean something? What in the world could this mean? You mean I am supposed to obey this? How in the world am I supposed to obey this? Why in the world do you want me to do this?” throughout the ride.)

BUT he is not defiant this time around. He may not remember exactly what to do right now, but he works at figuring it out. My duty is to give him clear, properly timed aids, to give him the time to process my aids, and to make clear to him exactly when he obeys my aids that he is doing what I want him to do. Eventually he will remember everything from before, it just takes him longer than my old hot-blooded horses. He is not dumb, it is just that nobody ever taught him how to learn something new. Fortunately older horses CAN learn new tricks or I would be up the creek without a paddle.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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