Debbie Enjoys Bingo's Transformation

Fall has arrived, and I hope it stays around! Once again I can wear some of my Back on Track stuff while riding, the neck wrap, the back wrap/brace, and the BOT T-shirt. Hurrah!!!! I did not bother with the fly sheet for Bingo (though I did put fly spray on) and Bingo could wear the BOT exercise sheet all through the hide. Happier rider, happier horse, what could be better than that?

During the warm-up part of my lesson Debbie and I continued our “seminar discussions”. I reported to her the improvements I've seen in Bingo during the six months I've ridden him in the double bridle. I expounded on my observations, telling Debbie that I thought that a lot of problems riders have with their horses could be “cured” by going right to the double bridle rather than trying snaffle after snaffle and the same with Kimberwicks and Pelhams. I also got a bit into my usual rant against tight nosebands, nosebands that are tightened to try to make up for the deficiencies of these supposedly “milder” bitting options.

Debbie is getting one of her horses back from companionship status, the mare whose companion she has been has gotten so bad she is being put down. This mare, Tilly, has had issues with contact, and at times she compulsively shakes her head, usually approaching a jump. This greatly limits her usability as a lesson horse in a hunt seat stable. Though I think that another remedy might work much better for the head shaking, I approve of trying to improve contact with the double bridle. I reminded Debbie that Bingo “seems” to refer from one bit to the other one and that seems to improve his responses to my hands.

Then came a perfect time to show her what the double bridle can do. After a vigorous posting trot near the end of my lesson I had to make an emergency pit stop. I got off, took off my helmet, gave Debbie the helmet and suggested that she get up on Bingo and ride him for a few minutes. I rapidly ran to the porta-john and left Debbie alone in the ring. When I got back to the ring Debbie was a true convert, she had ridden Bingo before, she knew how Bingo sets his jaw as a matter of course against the action of the bit, and she knew how uncooperative Bingo can get when he is uncomfortable.

Debbie was PLEASED with Bingo. She purposely left the curb rein sagging, just keeping contact with the single-jointed eggbutt bradoon. His contact and his response to her hand aids were much better than the previous times she had ridden him. With her ride fresh in her mind Debbie now understood when I mentioned Bingo referring from one bit to the other and coming to the correct conclusion. If I am right it means that a rider can get the benefit of having two bits in the horse's mouth without engaging the curb bit other than with the weight of the sagging reins. This is probably the “proper” way to ride hunt seat with a double bridle, with a sagging curb rein 99.9% of the time. The other .1% of the time I usually find it sufficient to just jiggle the sagging curb rein to get a response from Bingo. Engaging the curb bit fully is reserved for my “I really mean it” statements, with a smooth closing of my relaxed fingers with an immediate release.

Bingo now keeps his lower jaw relaxed the majority of my rides (and when he stiffens it, well that is my fault.)

I also reminded Debbie that several months of riding Bingo with the double bridle resulted in a more useful lesson horse. Yes, in the normal lessons Bingo is in a snaffle bit, and he still is not super relaxed and confident in his beginning rider's hands, but from reports from the few times he has been used lately he is much better behaved and much less likely to just “cuss out” his rider. All in all Bingo seems to be much more relaxed about having a bit in his mouth.

When Debbie gets Tilly back we can measure her mouth for the double bridle bits, measuring for the curb bit vertically above the curb groove and for the bradoon just at the corners of the mouth. I have the bits, I have single-jointed, double-jointed and Cambridge mouth bradoons that Debbie can choose from, and I have Weymouth curbs in 1/4” increments from 4” up to 5”. I told Debbie she could have a pair of my ½” reins to use as a curb rein, and when I asked her if she wanted me to pick up a bradoon strap when I visit the tack store next week she said yes. I will also probably get a bit strap, they are so useful for keeping the curb chain attached to the curb bit!

On Friday, during my “homework” ride a new rider came into the ring riding Coach, the OTTB. I had seen her earlier in the barn while Debbie was finding out what the girl had done so far in riding so she could select the correct horse for the new rider. The girl mentioned that in college she had started trying out dressage. When the girl was getting ready to mount I rode up and told her that the best dressage book I had ever read was Udo Burger's “The Way to Perfect Horsemanship” and how that book had finally shown me how to coordinate my aids with the horse's stride, vastly improving my riding. I am a strong believer in getting riding students off on the right foot when they start to get into the more refined riding of dressage, and I do not think one could do any better than reading this book.

Debbie's main goal in teaching is to help her riders develop to the highest level they are capable of. She gets results, I greatly admire the riding ability of her advanced riders, they can get stuff out of the horse non-abusively that I would have great difficulties replicating. I think and hope that this one ride on Bingo has shown Debbie the positive effects of the double bridle and given her a reason to start using one in her program. If the mare Tilly ends up improving as much as Bingo has I foresee some of Debbie's advanced students learning how to ride with a double bridle without abusing the horse.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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