Riding Between the Showers

Wednesday morning was sort of dreary, passing showers left the ground damp and there was a breeze. Driving to the stable raindrops would start to fall, taper off, stop, and start up again. Since Wednesday was the only day I was guaranteed a ride we just drove on, maybe it would stop precipitating by the time Bingo was ready for riding.

We did not rush too much at the stable. Luckily they had brought Bingo in before the drizzle got too bad and he was well on the way to drying out. Debbie showed me the Wintec dressage saddles that seem to be the only ones that Debbie's new Arab, Noah, can stand. I told her that I saw no problems with me riding in these saddles when the time came for me to ride Noah, but that I would need some help getting off since I would not be able to lever myself up without a knee roll to lean on. Debbie has tried several saddles on Noah, and the Wintecs are the only saddles with which he does not show extreme displeasure when someone rides him.

Some horses are just picky. When the time comes for me to ride Noah I will probably negotiate so I can use my Millbrook stability leathers, my Tech safety stirrups and my RS-tor rider safety aid. At least changing leathers and stirrups is not too hard and we could slip on my RS-tor before we slid my stirrup leathers on, and I would definitely feel safer! I will definitely miss my Rider Grips but the horse has “spoken” and all I can do is rejoice that there is any saddle this horse likes at all.

By the time we got Bingo groomed and tacked up there was not much precipitation, just occasional small drops of rain. Walking out to the ring I noticed that Bingo was sort of stiff, well he is old and the weather was guaranteed to make any arthritis worse. We started off slow as Bingo made it clear that his preferred speed was a slow, slow walk, just shuffling around the ring. I gradually asked Bingo to lengthen his stride and after several minutes of walking he was warmed up enough to comply.

This was the fourth time I used the Fager “Frida” three piece sleeved loose ring snaffle. Bingo seems to have classified this bit as acceptable and he takes contact readily. He was still “sticky” when it comes to halting, his attitude seemed to be “why bother when you will just want me to start walking again?” Debbie told me that Bingo's mouth gaped some when my escalation of the aids came to “I really mean this” as I stiffened my fingers and arms. Debbie was not too upset about this because she knows that when Bingo starts to stop I will lighten my contact immediately.

All in all Bingo could have been much worse. After 25 minutes of riding I was getting tired (I had to use a lot of leg to get him to move out,) and when Debbie proposed another period of light activity I decided I'd rather stop riding as the drops of rain were increasing. I put my wool jacket over the saddle to protect it from the rain, and when we got to the wash stall the rain started coming down much harder. All three of us were glad I had decided to stop riding when I got tired!

I have been studying the Fager bit site lately, trying to figure out their biting system. There seems to be two main themes in their snaffle bits, the bit either gives the tongue more freedom (which can increase pressure on the bars) or the mouthpiece's effect is milder on the bars (which could increase the pressure on the tongue.) The “Frida” bit looks like it belongs to the tongue relief group like the Fager “Fanny” egg-butt single-jointed tongue relief snaffle bit I had tried on Bingo three weeks ago, though Bingo does obey the “Frida” a bit better than he did the “Fanny”. I think that Bingo appreciates the “Frida” more because he has a CHOICE of how the bit acts on him mouth by altering the angle of action of the bit while my fingers are light and supple. Of course when I “set” my hands in my “I really mean it” rein actions, he looses this freedom of choice and he acts like he did in the “Fanny” snaffle and gapes.

Luckily the rest of the time when I am on regular contact with supple fingers he seems to find the “Frida” an acceptable bit.

Right now I am thinking that I should try the bit I'm using on Cider on Bingo, the Fager “Lilly” bar relief single-jointed snaffle. Maybe Bingo has more problems with pressure on his bars than with pressure on his tongue. I do know that Cider's contact is steady all the time when I use the bar relief snaffle, instead of the “ducking back” a microscopic amount with the other bits I've tried on her. Before using the “Lilly” on Cider my fingers had noticed this tiny ducking back, but since she immediately took good contact again I figured it was because of faults in the way my fingers reacted to her mouth and I had never considered that her bars might be the more sensitive part of her mouth. Shannon made a good call on this when she told me she wanted to try Cider in the bar relief bit first!

I will be ordering more bits from Fager when I can spare the money. At least they are not as expensive as the Herm Sprenger bits. I will be trying to figure out the three piece snaffle that goes more to bar relief than tongue relief, preferably with the plate in the center like the “Frida” bit instead of a lozenge. Until then I will be reflecting on something I've noticed before, often with the “gentler” varieties of bits my contact needs to be even lighter to get good results (this also holds for bitless bridles.) The main problem with this is that these really gentle bits often have little “authority” and the horse finds it quite comfortable to just lay on the bit, letting me support the weight of its head. When this happens all hopes of a light, responsive contact just fly out of the window, something I had problems with when I used a Mullen mouth snaffle. When this happens my hands need to get harsh, temporarily, to lighten up again when the horse finally obeys me.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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