A Soggy Mess

Sunday was wonderful, nice and sunny. I got to ride Cider and I tried out the Fager “Frida” double-jointed tongue relief snaffle on her. Cider did not cuss me out, but she “told” me that she did not like this bit, her contact was not steady at all and she was harder to stop. I rode mostly on sagging reins and I practiced her turns using seat and leg aids and leaving the reins alone. Something interesting happened when I used my inside thigh to ask for a turn (I used my inside thigh when my seat went UP), she started turning sort of sharply and I asked a little harder with my inside thigh and she did a turn on the hindquarters with no other leg, seat or rein aids.

I had not expected this. I had noticed that it was harder for me to make a turn nice and wide when I used my inside thigh this way, and for the rest of my ride I tried a good bit to get a nice big smooth curve with my inside thigh and I failed, with just my inside thigh Cider wanted to turn sharply. This may be because I am sort of unsteady in the saddle, by the time my inside thigh aid is obvious enough to “hear” over the usual unsteadiness of my seat, it is more than enough to induce the horse to turn sharply. I will have to work on this.

Rain was predicted all through Tuesday night but I was lucky, the rain had stopped in time for the ring to dry out a teeny tiny bit before my lesson on Wednesday. It was soggy, big puddles, little puddles, with short stretches of sand that were just saturated with water though the hoof-prints quickly became mini-puddles. We do need the rain.

When Bingo and I started the lesson we were, as usual, in the main riding ring. After walking around Debbie started muttering about maybe moving to the other ring which had fewer big puddles. However, walking through the ring I noticed Bingo was sort of reluctant to cross where there were lots of hoof-print puddles, he did not balk but there was a good bit of “are you SURE?” going on.

When the weather is not so soggy Debbie usually asks me to avoid the puddles in order to protect the base and I comply. However then the horse gets the idea that during a ride any and all puddles should be avoided. I figured since the whole ring was a series of big, middle and micro-sized puddles it was an ideal opportunity to school Bingo in going through puddles and saturated footing, as long as I kept to a walk. I avoided the normal deep puddle places, but there were a plethora of puddles for my ride on Wednesday and I took advantage of them while I tried to protect the base.

Bingo did not balk, but he definitely was not sure about walking around in all that standing water. While Debbie made sure that the drainage places of the ring were clear Bingo and I meandered around, mostly on the “higher” ground and trying to find the least soggy path to the next batch of “higher” ground. I had to use a lot of leg to keep Bingo moving at a somewhat decent walk, and for the first several minutes I had to persuade Bingo just to move forward into the soggy footing at a rather slow walk.

I had Bingo in the Fager's “Lilly” bar relief bit and I can tell you that the bit was basically a non-issue for Bingo, especially when he faced all those puddles. Most of the time Bingo was willing to halt and it just took three tweaks of the reins (alternating left-right-left or vice-versa) to get a halt, then he stood on loose reins.

After Bingo warmed up some I decided to see if I could get a turn on the hindquarters from him just using my inside thigh. I used my inside thigh as my seat came up on that side a little bit more strongly than usual, with a gradual increase of pressure and a full release more or less at the same speed.

As usual he started with a sharper turn than if I had used my usual alternating outside leg-inside rein tweak aids. Over three steps to the side I increased the pressure of my inside thigh and, as usual, at the third step to the side he “planted” his hind end and gave me a step or two of the turn on the hindquarters. Good Bingo! After a minute or two I asked for a turn in the other direction and we went through the same thing, three steps to the side, then he “planted” his hindquarters and gave me two steps of the turn on the hindquarters. I then told him to “go to Debbie so she can praise you” since this was the first time he gave me a turn on the hindquarters when I just used my inner thigh, and Bingo immediately went to Debbie. Bingo really likes being praised!

So I have a new (for me) turning aid when I want to do sharper turns.

I had just received the two other bits I'd ordered from Fager, their “Madeleine” double-jointed fixed ring bradoon and their “Kim” titanium Kimblehook (sic) double-jointed side-lock Kimberwick equivalent with a curb chain. As I handled the “Kim” I noticed that the mouthpiece was similar to that of the “Frida” side-lock double-jointed tongue relief bit, and I realized that I, personally, would probably not have much use for this bit since the horses I ride right now have definitely voted for the Fager bar relief bits. So I showed the “Kim” to Debbie and told her what the Fager bit people wrote about the type of horse that this bit is best for and she immediately told me one of her horses' name. Well I am not going to be using the “Kim” in the near future so I told her I would lend it to her after the holiday season ends. There are just too many people coming and going from the stable during the holidays for me to risk losing this expensive bit, and Debbie will be too busy to try it out thoroughly anyway. Much better to wait for the doldrums of January when this bit can be studied at leisure and fewer people are roaming around the stable. She promised me she would keep the bit locked up in her personal tack area when she's not using it.

Both Debbie and I own a large number of bits, Debbie has the usual hunt-seat stable range of bits and I have those plus a number of unusual bits. Debbie uses me as a bit bank, she describes a problem she is having with a horse (or a certain horse-rider combination) and sometimes I suggest that she uses one of my odder type of bits to get the horse past its resistances. She may use this bit for a few months, then switch back to one of her normal bits and eventually I get my odd type of bit back. In the past it was the Wellep and Pee-Wee bits, and now we will start on the Fager bits. Debbie may look at the bits oddly at first since they do not always look like the normal bits, but my odd bits have helped in transitioning a few of her horses back to the normal bits after their problems are resolved.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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