Bingo's Vacation Ends

Bingo had a 8 month long vacation with nobody riding him at all. He's been fed, his hooves trimmed, and blanketed when needed (he lives outside), more than enough time for his body to heal from any little undetectable injuries. Debbie had started grooming out his winter coat the week before my lesson, getting a lot of hair off outside the barn.

Even so Bingo had a LOT of hair on Wednesday! Clouds of hair, floating through the air, clinging to our clothes, and getting stuck in our throats. Debbie has been feeding him a feed that is supposed to be good for horses with Cushing's disease and she thinks it has helped him some, but he is still shedding out an impressive amount of hair.

I think Bingo enjoyed getting some of his coat off, at least he got a good scratch!

Looking back into my records I decided to use the “old type” Wellep single jointed snaffle, the one with the longer cable through the mouthpiece. I did not want to change much from my last ride since Bingo had been cooperating with me back then. Of course I used my BOT Contender II saddle pad with the ThinLine bridging shims, his BOT poll cap, the Fenwick face mask with ears, the BOT butt blanket and his BOT exercise boots. Horses who feel comfortable tend to behave better.

I had mentally prepared myself for Bingo bringing out every favorite evasion during our lesson. I had reviewed my past successful strategies for his balking, backing up, and “forcefully” carrying me to the gate. I had no idea how Bingo would react to getting back to work, which set of memories would come up—the memories of his previous bad and unsympathetic riding, or the memories of when I finally taught him how to make sense of his rider's demands.

We had a good beginning, when Debbie led him to the ring he showed no reluctance and he behaved for her every step of the way.

Fortunately I only had minor problems. The first time around the ring he pivoted to see the new judging stand better, I shrugged since he had never seen it from the riding ring and I let him have a minute to get a GOOD look at it and decide that it was not a threat. Then on the other side of the ring he saw the steers in the neighboring paddock. I shrugged, he is a Quarter Horse, of course he has “cow”. I gave him a minute to examine the herd, The rest of the ride he ignored both distractions.

Then I noticed that Bingo had “forgotten” how to stop from my hand aids. So I started retraining him to my hand aids. He did improve throughout the lesson. At first he was a little sticky about turns but he remembered my leg aids fine so I had no problems eventually getting to where I wanted to go.

BUT Bingo did not balk or even give an indication of balking, he did not back up when he decided he did not want to go where I wanted to go, he did not invert, and he never tried to carry me to the gate or Debbie when I did not want to go there. He readily took contact with the bit and he willingly kept contact with the bit. Bingo was a GOOD BOY, and he really enjoyed me and Debbie telling him what a good boy he was during our ride. Bingo loves praise!

Once I was good and sure that Bingo was willingly cooperating with keeping contact with the bit I started talking with Debbie about introducing Bingo to the double bridle after three more rides. I PROMISED that I would not try to get Bingo to do anything that his conformation prohibits (like a “pretty” head set) and that I would not use the bits to punish him. Debbie indicated that she had full faith in my hands and my ability to introduce something new to Bingo. We measured his mouth just above his curb groove and he will take a 4 1/2” Weymouth curb to go with a 4 3/4” or 5” bradoon snaffle. Luckily Bingo has a long mouth and there is around 3/8” to 1/2” between his curb groove and the corners of his lips.

In the meanwhile we will use the Wellep bit. I did not get many “zings” at all from the cable sliding through the mouthpiece, the worst one was when he pivoted to take a good look at the new judge's stand. I heard a few small zings but on the whole Bingo was content to keep his head where I wanted it, pointing forward while striding forth decisively, carrying the bit confidently in his mouth. Since I am back to using plain reins I have to concentrate of keeping both reins at the same length, I sort of missed my “rainbow” rubber reins but I cannot use them any more because they were irritating my fingers.

We just walked. The spring time change is always a big challenge for me, and my grand-kids spent the next weekend at my house so I did not sleep that well for the first week of the time change. I also wanted to be sure to give Bingo a very good ride, something that is a lot easier for me to do at a walk! When we got to the end of our lesson Bingo started to run out of energy, he was not marching forth as fast as he had been at the beginning of the lesson, and he was a little more reluctant to obey my driving aids. If we had trotted he would have run out of energy earlier. I do hope to trot him next week.

I also think that Bingo is starting to understand English. I often tell him verbally what I want to do before I give him the first aid—as in we are going to go around that jump, then through the narrow gap between two other jumps, then in a large circle. Well I told Bingo that I was going to ask him for an extension of his walk going down the long side of the arena and I did not have to use my leg aids at all, we did the turn and Bingo immediately extended his stride (a little bit.)

By the end of my ride I was smiling. All the way back to the barn I was smiling. It is SO NICE to ride a horse who is interested in what I do, who wants to learn, who can learn, and who has this deep down desire to become a superior riding horse. Bingo has horrible conformation for becoming a superior riding horse, a low set neck, an extremely thick upper neck, and a very high croup—downhill all the way (on the positive side he is quite wide between the jaw bones, I can get my full fist in there, too bad his neck is so thick up by his throat-latch.) The Arabs I've ridden have been willing to learn, more than all the other horses I've ridden, but even the Arabs have not shown me the sheer willingness and eagerness that Bingo shows in learning what I have to teach him once I got him past his balkiness.

So I am in a wonderful place for riding. Bingo is willing (as long as I ride him well), Debbie is very interested in seeing how I train him and how I will introduce Bingo to the double bridle, and I am feeling eager again to ride if I am riding THIS horse. In a very good way the next few months should be interesting in the riding ring. This is a “graduate level” educational experience for all three of us.

I am so lucky!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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