The Final Cold Morning of the Season

This Wednesday morning it was quite crisp, 45°F with a brisk breeze at dawn and it did not warm up much in time for my lesson. I had to put my cold weather breeches back on and I could wear my BOT back brace without getting too hot. I even used my home-made bit warmer on the bits. Of course the horses felt it too.

Bingo was a little bit peeved at being groomed, shifting around the wash stall as I got him clean. Debbie was raking the riding ring but Sam helped me by cleaning his hooves and putting his exercise boots on. Debbie came around in time to do the final brushing and she tacked him up as I got his face mask on. Bingo's head shyness came back a little bit, at least until he remembered how GOOD it feels to have the inside of his ears brushed out! Debbie put on his riding fly sheet, but we both forgot to put his BOT exercise sheet on which may have contributed to some of my problems in the ring.

When I got up on Bingo he was restive as I got myself situated, getting my right foot in the stirrup and sorting out my reins. As we walked off Bingo was looking here and looking there, feeling antsy and refusing to settle down. He would take contact but he was also quite willing to drop contact if anything, anything happened around the ring and in the pastures. After a minute or two I told Bingo that we were going to go in a circle around Debbie until he settled down. I worked on convincing Bingo to pay attention to me and ignore everything else as I kept him in a good walk on the circle.

When I finally got him focusing on me we went out of the circle, first going around the jumps around Debbie and gradually to the fence line. He noticed the birds, the cows hidden in the woods, the wind shifting, the dogs and the other horses, and each time I had to bring his attention back to me. He felt shifty enough under me that I picked up my RS-tor for the first time since I put the double bridle on so I had four reins, my crop and the RS-tor in my very crowded hands. This, I admit, probably made my contact more irritating to him.

Then it came time to halt. “Halt? What is a halt? You want me to do what? Why, oh why do you want me to halt? Is this halt really necessary? Oh, OK, if you insist” as he grumbled his way down to the halt. He was not happy since I had to “set” my hands on the bradoon rein when he ignored my first two alternating bradoon rein then curb rein halting aids. My praise only mollified his sullen mood a little bit. The only good thing about that halt was that he did not open his mouth.

After that he settled down a little bit though he never became cheerful. I worked a bit at lengthening and shortening his walk stride and he cooperated a little bit. We continued our turns, which improved a little bit, and I worked more at the “scary” ring fence. He finally settled down enough so I felt confident enough to trot, and he did behave while trotting, accepting contact and my rein aids. I did not do much trotting since I was feeling tired, just enough to get two decent trots in.

Then I decided that he was responsive enough to back up without problems. I was wrong. Using my legs then tweaking the sagging curb reins he just stood there. I repeated my aids and he ignored me again. I switched from the curb rein to the bradoon rein and he ignored me again. I finally had to “set” my hands on the bradoon rein before he reluctantly backed up two strides. This time he did open his mouth a little bit, but nowhere as bad as usual (full gape as far as he can open his mouth.)

We went back to walking around with me practicing even more halts. I finally got a half-way decent halt, with a relatively prompt response to my reins while keeping his mouth closed and I got off.

When I laid down at home and thought about my ride it occurred to me that Bingo may be “telling” me that the French-link bradoon does not feel that comfortable to him. I remember reading in Dwyer's book that double jointed snaffles can act as a painful twitch around the lower jaw bone. Most of the time I ride in with just a double jointed snaffle my hands are further apart than they are when I ride in the double bridle. Could holding my hands closer make this bit more uncomfortable for Bingo?

Luckily I have single-jointed eggbutt bradoons and I can try one next week to see if there is any improvement in contact and in response to my halting or backing up aids. I also went ahead and bought a “Magic Snaffle”, a Cambridge mouth ported unjointed snaffle with small bradoon sized rings to use on horses that do not like jointed bits, as it seems that at least some horses do not like jointed bits with my hands. Since there are only 4 sizes available for the Magic Snaffle this bit won't fit him quite as well, but if he objects to the single-jointed bradoon it will give me an alternative to try. I just wish it was not a loose ring bit. With the Magic Snaffle I will have to be sure to support the bit with my outside hand, because it is loose ring it needs to be a little bit wider than an egg-butt snaffle, which means if I use one rein for a hand aid the port can drag across the horse's tongue, something many horses do not enjoy. The small rings also mean it is easier to pull the bit through the horse's mouth—OUCH! In other words the Magic Snaffle will be an excellent excuse for me to use my legs and seat more for turning aids.

Ninety plus degree days are starting to appear now. Soon I will be in full summer riding gear, trying not to literally melt in the saddle!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

P.S.  Sorry about the font size, my word processing program was jumping around on me.

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