Just Experimenting

After Cider (and Bingo) gave me the “not interested at all” reaction to the Fager “Frida” three piece tongue relief snaffle I've gone back to the bar relief varieties of Fager bits. Since I knew that Bingo greatly preferred the single jointed “Lilly” bar relief bit I decided that it stays on his bridle for right now. I just get tired of having to switch a bit from one bridle to the other, especially since I ride at two stables and I also have to change the reins (my riding teachers appreciate my care with this.) I am waiting for three other Fager bar relief bits to arrive (the “Max”, “Oscar” and “Bianca” double jointed snaffles) and I hope to find that Bingo prefers one bit and Cider prefers another one.

On Sunday, with Shannon's permission, I tried the Fager “Madeleine” single jointed loose ring bradoon with leather bit guards on Cider. Cider had previously given a vote of confidence to the “Lilly” snaffle and we were interested to see how she would react to this slightly different snaffle. The “Madeleine” bradoon is basically the same thickness from cheek piece to cheek piece since the center joint does not project out from the body of the bit, while the “Lilly” tapers from the cheek pieces to the rather small center joint, leaving a little bit more room for the horse's tongue. Cider upon bridling immediately showed us that the bradoon felt different in her mouth and she was not too sure about it.

When I started riding Cider immediately showed me that she preferred this bradoon to the “Frida”. She readily accepted contact, she responded better to my halting hand aids, she was a lot less resistant to backing, and she was more responsive to my leg aids. However she did not seem quite as happy as she was in the “Lilly” snaffle as her contact was not as relaxed. Shannon noticed this too, but she wants to see how Cider reacts to this bit for several weeks since Cider has to think through a bit for a while before she comes to her final conclusion. By then my other bits should have arrived, since Cider seems to like rolling the bit with her tongue I am thinking of trying the “Bianca” first since it has a titanium roller in the center of the bit.

When I got to the stable on Wednesday I learned that Debbie had been called away and that her daughter Sam would be giving me a lesson. The last time I rode for Sam I was using the double bridle with the Fager bits on Bingo.

Bingo has come to the conclusion that he does not like the cold now. Well he is old and I suspect his leg joints hurt more, so I just walked letting my BOT exercise sheet warm up the big muscles on his croup, and he loosened up some. Sam LIKED how Bingo was reacting to the Fager “Lilly” bit, she said he was a lot steadier in contact and that he objected to the bit a lot less than with any other bit she had seen him in when halting and backing up. Of course Bingo was not perfect, and that is not his “fault”, with his conformation faults it is rather hopeless to expect Bingo to be perfect, so we are all happy when Bingo just goes better. Sam's conclusion was that Bingo liked this bit.

On Friday I was lucky in that it did not go below 25º F so I could ride. Of course Bingo did not like that it was in the upper twenties at all. He was super reluctant to stride out, and he obviously thought that the footing in the ring was too frozen to be truly comfortable to his feet. So we moseyed around the ring at a walk, doing out usual turns in place, larger turns, halting and backing up, with me being accepting for less than perfect responses since the entire ride Bingo was “saying” “It is too cold!”.

The sun was out and it was bright, casting good clear shadows, so I was able to see for myself how Bingo was reacting to my hand aids. Let me tell you, I was not pleased with myself at all. While Bingo is reacting to the “Lilly” better than with other bits, as my hand aids escalated he opened his mouth, not quite a full gape but definitely visible. I start off with little tweaks of my little fingers in time with his hind legs, this he ignored. The second time I tweaked my fingers he reacted with irritation, still not obeying me. Then my hand aids gradually got firmer with prompt releases, he gaped, and by the third or fourth time he finally halts or backs up. At least I did not have to “set” my hands to get him to stop, when I “set” my hands he goes into a full gape, opening his mouth up wide.

Yes, this is my fault. I have not managed to train Bingo to consider little tweaks of my fingers as valid hand aids, unlike every other horse I've ridden this past decade, which means I HAVE to escalate my aids to get any type of obedience in slowing down. At least with turning Bingo has stopped resisting my hand aids so there is some hope, as he used to set his head and use his massive upper neck muscles to resist all turning hand aids. With turning I have been also training Bingo to my lower leg and thigh aids so I have some help there.

Friday I started to try to get Bingo used to me using my seat as a slowing down aid with minimal results, he did slow down for a few seconds at which point I stopped using my seat. As with any new aid it will take Bingo a while to figure out. I had not been using my seat, as in stopping following his back with my seat bones, as a halting aid because his back is so different from the other horses I've ridden, rapidly rising up toward his croup. The trick is for me to get him used to the seat aid without me triggering any resistance in his rather weak back muscles.

I refuse to use a nose band to keep his mouth shut. I NEED TO KNOW when he finds the bit or my hands uncomfortable, and he can't tell us clearly if his mouth is tied shut. His comfort is a lot more important than my ego.

Bingo is a work in progress just like me.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

P.S.  Sorry about the font size change.  Sometimes I just hit a key wrong using my word processing program and it all goes to hell.

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