The Heat Wave was Hard on Me

I ride earlier in the morning during the summer, 8:00 AM, and while the temperatures were somewhat lower in the heat wave it still felt like a sauna when I opened my front door. I wore my summertime technical fabric riding clothes and my ice vest so I could at least ride some without too much harm but between riding and getting my house ready for house-guests that week just plain drained me.

I did get a lesson from Sam, Debbie's daughter. It was my first ride with her since I started using the double bridle on Bingo so I started off asking her if she had ever ridden in a double bridle and she had. I explained how my riding in a double bridle on Bingo was very different than how the dressage or saddle-seat people use the double bridle and how I was adapting my use of it in accordance to the reality that Bingo does NOT have the “proper” conformation for double bridle work.

Bingo did quite well. He readily took contact and accepted my hand aids, just not obeying them immediately but within a stride or so. I even trotted, and Sam really liked how Bingo acted when I asked him to slow down to the walk. We talked some about what Bingo did during the one lesson she used him for summer camp, and she said he behaved quite well at the walk and trot, but at the canter he was running around without much control. Well, I've been riding Bingo just at the walk and trot since I am still too weak and unsteady to canter him, much less school him at the canter. Maybe in the fall when it gets cooler I can start cantering him and convincing him that he STILL needs to obey his rider.

This week Wednesday morning was very nice, cool, with a cool breeze, and the humidity was lower. I took my ice vest out to the stable, but even after grooming Bingo I did not feel hot enough to put it on. It was SO NICE out in the ring! With Bingo obeying the double bridle quite well, Debbie and I talked about what Sam had told me about Bingo in the summer-camp lesson, and Debbie muttered something about him being used for just the walk-trot lessons. I suggested that she ask one of her granddaughters to school Bingo at the canter since I just cannot physically do it right now in the heat.

There was a new wading bird, a white crane, walking around the pond near the riding ring, then the bird got to the small grassy area right next to the ring. One time when I passed the bird he exploded into flight, almost right under Bingo's nose, and he flew right next to Bingo's right eye. Of course Bingo shied (who wouldn't?), but when I applied my hand aids to stop him he obeyed me immediately and stopped still. He was leery about that side of the ring for the rest of the ride but there was no more shying though I could feel him getting prepared to shy if something sky-rocketed past his eye again.

I also worked on the super-slow “counted walk”, using alternating touches on the rein, a “shhhh” voice command, and my lower legs when needed. I did finally get him to the “counted walk”, really slow, always ready to stop, and I needed my alternating lower legs for each step. Debbie liked what he did.

When I showed Sam my attempts at a leg yield he gave me his usual half-assed attempt to obey me. Sam noted that Bingo was crossing his forelegs fine, but he did not cross his hind legs at all. I had thought about this all week and I decided that maybe, because of Bingo's sway back/high croup conformation, Bingo found it too uncomfortable or impossible to obey me by crossing his hind legs. So for my lesson with Debbie I experimented with getting into a half-seat (getting my weight off my seat bones) when I asked for the leg yield, and Bingo improved some. Obviously Bingo's back has to get stronger, and he just cannot do the work necessary to get stronger when my outside seat-bone is glued to the saddle. I do not know if Bingo will ever get his back strong enough for this, being ridden just 30 minutes each ride once or twice a week, but I will be working on getting his hind legs to cross using leg yields and turns on the forehand while I am in half-seat.

On Friday I rode Bingo in the single-jointed thick eggbutt titanium coated snaffle, the snaffle bit that he seems to be OK with. Bingo was basically good, until I asked him to stop—DUH??? He would start to slow down, but he just kept on creeping around as I reapplied my hand aids until he finally consented to stop. It felt like Bingo was waiting on confirmation from the Weymouth bit that I wanted him to stop and not just go slow, but I do not use the double bridle during my homework rides in the heat of the summer. I am getting the impression that Bingo prefers the double bridle to a single bit because I can tweak the sagging curb rein to tell him “YES, this is what I want”, and Bingo then feels less confused because he is not running through his mind what exactly I could mean from that particular rein aid. Bingo now seems to understand right now that the bradoon is for steering and preparing to stop, while the curb bit just confirms that THIS rein aid, at this particular point of time, means to slow down or stop. He seems to like the clarity he gets from the double bridle even though I am just tweaking the loose curb rein, never engaging the curb bit fully (as in the curb chain is not coming into play.)

It was still cool Friday morning so I did not put my ice vest on, but this was a mistake. I was pouring sweat and getting weaker and less coordinated every second of my ride. Next week I am going to assume that I will need to use my ice vest and put it on immediately when I get out of my car. There won't be a heat wave next week thank goodness, just normal Southern summer weather.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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