A Week of Nothing Much

At least as far as actually getting to ride a horse.

I did get a lesson on Bingo. Debbie was gone so her daughter Sam taught me.

Bingo is still losing his vision. Unfortunately his Guardian Face Mask is causing sores on his face. There is not much there to work on right now, Bingo trusts us now, me, Debbie, Sam, and Sam's daughters Addison and Shelby. But whenever his eye sight changes he has trouble dealing with it. He will obey me about going forward, turning, and backing up but he is hesitant. This is not a balk, when he balks he is defiant, and devotes all his energy into saying NO. Bingo now feels great uncertainty about moving forward into an increasingly blurry and ever changing world.

And Bingo has difficulty in adjusting to new things. I now think that Bingo's brain is “wired” differently than the brains of every other horse I have ever ridden.

Luckily he trusts me enough to go forward into uncertainty, he asks “are you sure?” and when I tell him yes he cautiously proceeds forward. Warming up, besides getting his muscles loose, now mostly consists of coaxing Bingo through between the jumps, past the suddenly scary judging stand, and when I ask him to extend his stride, he will go just so far and no further. Right now the world is a rather confusing and scary place for Bingo, the poor horse.

Sam and I talked about this. Debbie has had quite a few Appaloosas who have gone blind, these horses might have been weirded out at first, but then they adapt. Other horses at Debbie's have had vision problems and/or gone blind, and every other horse figures out strategies so they can find the hay, feed and water. One mare at the stable recently went through this. One day the mare placed herself right off the side of her best friend and would not leave her side, she was depending on her friend to lead her through the dark world. That was when the people at the stable knew there was a major problem and got the vet out. Luckily the veterinarian prescribed a treatment that worked so this mare got her sight back. But Bingo just does not seem to have the flexibility of thinking this requires, of accepting that something is different and coming up with various strategies so he can live pretty well and feel safe.

I showed Sam my “new” discovery of the muscle on the front of my thigh, how if I keep this muscle a little tense my feet end up in the proper position with lower heels, how relaxing this muscle causes my lower leg to go back, and the fact if I tense this muscle up too much my lower leg goes too far forward and I end up in a “chair seat”. I also showed her how I think this can be used for an “invisible aid”, relaxing this muscle lets my lower leg go back just a little, and then when I tense up my thigh muscle again my leg aid releases completely. Always before I when I gave a leg aid I either pressed my lower leg against the horse more and then release, or I “rolled” my lower leg from my knee to my heel and then release, or I bent my knee more to move my lower leg back (and then I had trouble in fully releasing my leg aid). This new way (for me) of giving my leg aids is MUCH MORE SUBTLE, and if I do it right a lot less irritating to the horse. I have to practice this more!

Then Shannon's eldest (and tallest) daughter Addison appeared on Sam's new horse, Zeke, a tall (16.3?) Belgian Warmblood bred in Argentina. Addison is even shorter than I am, but she can ride Zeke effectively even though her lower leg is WAY up on Zeke's side. Sam and I talked about how riding Zeke is making Addison learn how to use her thigh effectively to give the aids normally given by the lower leg. Addison has ridden since she was very, very young, and she can deal with all sorts of stuff that horses can come up with, she is a very capable rider. Riding Zeke is just expanding her repertoire of effectively using her legs to influence a horse.

The best thing that happened this week is that I ordered three Weymouths from the Fager bit company, the 125mm, 135mm and 145mm sized ones. Since I already got the 115mm Weymouth from Fager I have Weymouth curbs that will fit the vast majority of horses I might ride in the future. Since Louise Fagerson designed this Weymouth as a Mullen mouth I do not have to be as picky about the width of the bit since there is no port to injure the horse's bars if the rider moves the bit too much to the side. I also found an 120mm Neue Schule Salox Mullen mouth Weymouth so now I own a wide enough range of Weymouths to use on most horses, even the horses who are the pickiest about how the bit fits in their mouths.

Now all I have to do is save up for all the bradoons. The fit on the bradoons has to be more exact for the horse's comfort which means a few more special orders, especially for the bradoon sized ring Biancas. Then, to cover all bases, I will be thinking of getting the regular Fager bradoons, both single and double jointed, in the various sizes. The Biancas will be first, this is the most enchanting bit I have ever used on a horse! I guess I am hoping that the bradoon ringed Biancas will be enough for me, but horses all have their individual preferences and I am sure there will be some horses who DO NOT think that the Bianca is the best thing ever invented to put in a horse's mouth (at least for MY hands.)

And you know something? I have finally gotten to the place where I feel like I have too many bits. I look at my stainless steel bits, wonderful bits, and now I go “meh.” Luckily my “local” tack store accepts consignments, I just have to get the bits together, make an appointment with the owner of the tack store, and when she asks me how much to charge I just tell her that she knows her market much better than I do and I will accept whatever she thinks the bit is worth. It would be nice to get some extra money I could use for the “just in case” Fager, bits both snaffles and bradoons. At least now I have all the Weymouth curbs I'll need for the rest of my life (unless I end up on a huge draft horse.)

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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