I Get to See Debbie Riding Bingo

This week at Debbie's stable I got to show her how I “customized” my new Free Jump Collar so I felt comfortable using it on a horse. I used a combination of a Western curb strap, a 1” metal ring and a doubled up stirrup leather attached to the girth to keep the collar down at the base of the horse's neck, I added a pair of “breast-plate Ds” to the breast-plate rings of my saddle to make up for the pommel of my Pegasus Butterfly saddle being further back than that of a normal treed saddle, I then added two Western curb straps, one on each side to lengthen the collar enough so it would not rise up on the horse's windpipe, and I added a pair of nylon spur straps to the hand holds to make them longer. Since Bingo does not have the long and well laid back shoulders of Mia I did not have to use the Western curb straps to get the collar straps reaching the breast-plate Ds. Bingo accepted all of this new gear with good grace and our lesson proceeded as normal.

Debbie was quite interested with everything I had figured out about the Free Jump Collar, how it can get the rider to be more aware of their hand position and motions while at the same time enabling the rider to bring their hands way forward like the rider would need to do over a very high jump while keeping contact with the bit (automatic release.) I had some trouble getting used to holding the hand grips between my fingers while carrying the rein to the bit in the proper position (for me, under the little finger) and my hands felt full with the reins, hand grip and my crop. Bingo was rather patient with me while I figured out how to do this and he was very, very good. After I had Bingo trotting properly (with suspension) I was getting tired so I suggested that Debbie ride Bingo so she could get some idea of what her students would be going through.

I got the Free Jump Collar only after Debbie said she could use it with some of her students, since I am not jumping now and I don't really need it to keep track of my hands on the flat. My only condition I put on giving it to her was that I would get to use it whenever I thought I needed it. I just thought it was something she could use in her lessons and I saw no point of me keeping it at home, to be used only occasionally by me. I did want Debbie to ride with it where I could give her assistance with figuring out all the straps and what riding with the collar could do to help a rider improve.

So I lent Debbie my helmet, shortened my stirrups a hole for her, and she got up and rode Bingo. I was SO PROUD of Bingo, he was striding forth properly at the walk, his trot was fine, and at one point, misunderstanding Debbie's aids, he volunteered a canter, a true three beat canter and not the pacey canter she had told me about when he volunteered a canter before in the group lessons. He did not invert, he did not rush, and he looked interested instead of fearful and confused. After a few minutes I realized that, if Bingo were my personal horse, I would be considering going up to the next level of “fine riding” because he looked ready for it. After the ride I told Debbie about this, and that if I did go on training Bingo that he may not end up as a suitable lesson horse for beginners. Bingo has so many conformation faults that seem to preclude fine riding, a VERY high, short croup, a swayed back, and a VERY thick neck up by his head, and a neck that all too easily goes into an ewe-neck shape, that it had never occurred to me when I started riding him that he might have definite promise as a fine riding horse. Unfortunately there is no market at all for pony sized, badly conformed and ugly fine riding horses, but as a lesson horse at Debbie's he faces a life of moderate work and excellent care. It definitely would be best for him to keep him at the level of a lesson horse.

After my lesson Debbie told me she wanted to try the Free Jump Collar on her horse, the Arab gelding Tercel, while I rode Mia on Friday. I had ridden Tercel in lessons a few years ago before the Gilenya totally messed up my body. When I started riding Tercel he was prone to sudden bolts for no discernible reason and he was very frightened of anything that was new to him. A few years ago I got Tercel a pair of the D'yon blinkers which helped a good bit (he stopped bolting for no reason), I later bought him a Fenwick face mask with ears which helped even more, and Debbie has trail ridden him a good bit since then, wet saddle blankets can really help settle a horse down! Debbie made sure to put his Fenwick mask on for trying out the Free Jump Collar on him, but she forgot the blinkers. I was really impressed when a police siren went off nearby and Tercel did not act up at all though he used to be absolutely terrified by sirens before. Tercel accepted the Free Jump Collar, with all the dangling ends of straps, without any problems even when Debbie dropped the hand hold strap and it was dangling around his front leg. Debbie got a feel of riding with the collar, and found out just like I did that the rider could end up keeping contact with the collar through the hand-hold straps instead of the bit. I told Debbie that she would have to make sure that her students worked on having an independent seat because it is so very tempting to use the hand straps as something to hold on to for keeping balance, a habit that could wreak havoc on a horse's mouth when riding with just reins. When Debbie got off of Tercel she was ready to use the Free Jump Collar for lessons, in fact just after our ride she asked me to put it on another horse for one of her adult beginner students.

During our ride Debbie pointed her new Thoroughbred gelding as a possible lesson horse for me. While I am enamored with Arabians, Thoroughbreds used to be my favorite breed, I have ridden a few of them, and I have been wanting to ride one again. The first horse I got lessons on after a several year gap of not being able to ride my own horses was a off-track Thoroughbred mare, Maggie. Maggie was a WONDERFUL horse, she immediately obeyed all my aids and improved under my riding (while I got comments of “how did you DO that?”) However much I love, love, love Arabians, I will cheerfully admit that Thoroughbreds tend to make better riding horses since their conformation is that of an ideal riding horse for hunt seat. Debbie's told me her new Thoroughbred, named Coach, has good gaits, is sane, and seems to be quite intelligent, just the type of horse I like riding. Hopefully I will get to ride Coach soon for lessons while Bingo goes back to being a lesson horse for beginning riders, minus his earlier problems of bolting, inverting, and going where HE wants to in the ring (the gate) though I am sure I will get to ride Bingo again when he decides that he does not HAVE to obey his little riders, just to remind him that he DOES have to obey.

I am getting so happy about my riding ever since I started doing the “rider's push-ups.” My riding muscles are getting stronger, my lower legs stay in place better, and I feel like I am riding with the horse's motion instead of always being behind the motion. All the horses are responding favorably to the improvements in my seat and old ambitions are popping up in my daydreams, of galloping and jumping! Instead of being stuck doing the same old things and never improving, doors are opening up for me as I get stronger and more secure in the saddle. And now I may get to ride a Thoroughbred, HALLELUJAH!!!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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