Bingo Behaved During the Summer Horse Camp!
Two weeks ago Debbie had her Summer Camp for kids. This is the second year Bingo was used in the camp, before the first one I had been riding Bingo for 3 months, and he was not a good boy—he inverted and ran away with his little rider, who then fell off. He was wearing a soft rubber D-ring single jointed snaffle that year. Debbie did not use him the whole week of camp last year, as that was not his only instance of misbehavior, just the worst one.
Debbie was surprised when Bingo's rider last year asked for Bingo and said she wanted to ride him again. I like that, the girl has guts! Debbie liked that too, she had been wondering who would be the most suitable rider for Bingo. This year another horse had to use the D-ring soft rubber single jointed snaffle (she head been using it on Bingo for lessons,) so Debbie put her single-jointed Wellep bit on Bingo. Before I got my double-jointed Wellep snaffle bit I used the Wellep single-jointed bit on him, so he already had lots of practice of being good to his rider while wearing that bit. This year Bingo also got to wear his Back on Track exercise boots to help his lower legs during the long week of work.
Bingo behaved this year! He did not invert, he did not run away, he did not balk, and he obeyed his rider. Bingo was a GOOD BOY! Debbie was so pleased with him. He made it through all five days without a meltdown, and she felt confident enough in him so he participated in their little end of camp “show.”
Bingo was saving stuff up for me. Of course.
I rode Bingo the next week, and I did not get a lesson because Debbie had to go off somewhere. Bingo was sort of “sticky” in his response to my aids, a normal response from him when a elementary level student rides him between my lessons. I just calmly re-applied my aids and got him to go where I wanted at the speed I wanted. I did a lot of two-point as his back was stiff when we started off. Gradually his back loosened up and I was able to get a decent walk with a “swinging” back. After a lot of curves and a few turns in place I was directing him to walk between two fences and he slammed on the brakes. “No Ma'am, I'm not going there at all!” He tried to go to one side—I said NO. He tried to back up, I said NO. He tried to go to the other side, I said NO. Then he started fretting, and gave me two subtle threats of “You know I can bounce up and down on my forehand” alternating with “You know I can whirl around on my hind legs.”
I just chilled. I got him pointed in the direction I wanted to go and I relaxed my body. When Bingo relaxed (it was boring after all) and pointed his ears forward I asked for one stride in that direction. I had to repeat this request, a little stronger, twice. Then he gave me one stride and stopped again. I chilled out again until his attention switched from me to what was in front of him, and asked for the next step which he gave me before stopping again. Rinse, repeat. When we got through the third step Bingo relaxed and continued walking forward, we had gotten past the scary spot. The next time I directed him through the scary spot he still balked but he was not as emphatic about it and I got him through with minimal difficulties.
Later that week Bingo gave a little boy a lesson and he behaved perfectly (at least perfectly for Bingo.)
This week I got a lesson from Debbie. She was full of praise for Bingo's behavior under his little riders! Bingo's back was stiff from giving the kids lessons, so again I spent the first several minutes up in two-point until his back started “swinging.” He was still “sticky” to my aids so I worked a while on getting him to listen to my legs, seat and hands. He was pretty good with his contact, he never inverted with me at the trot, but he was sluggish to my leg. As his muscles loosened up I got to working at extending his walk and trot a little bit. He started reaching into the bit, chewing and licking, relaxed even more, and started striding out. He got more and more prompt to my aids until I pointed him to going between the fences where he balked last week, and he slammed on the brakes again.
“Uh-uh, I'm not going there!” Really, Bingo? There is NOTHING scary there, I've taken you through there countless times. Just because the jumps got changed around for the summer camp does not mean that this particular piece of ground is scary at all. All the while Debbie was calling to Bingo to move forward, I chilled out again, he relaxed and gave me one stride then stopped again. It was a repetition of last week, but this time without the treats to bounce or whirl around. After three reluctant steps through that absolutely horrible spot Bingo responded to my leg aids and walked on. Since it was near the end of my lesson and I was hot and sweaty, I just guided him to Debbie and stopped riding.
In spite of my problems with Bingo I am very encouraged by his behavior. He is showing signs of being able to modify his reactions to the ability of his rider, a great blessing in a horse used for beginners! He behaved for his little riders, he did not give them any challenges that they could not overcome easily. But me? I am a different case, I know what I am doing and I am a good enough rider to get through Bingo's little melt-downs. So Bingo behaved for his little riders and saved up his desire to disobey his rider for me. On my last two rides with Bingo I have had to insist on obedience, his “stickiness” to the aids was a threat to disobey me, but after he has made his “threat” to disobey me he went where I wanted at the speed I wanted, until he balked at that super scary three strides between two of the jumps.
It also occurred to me that Bingo disobeying me may have been a protest against my weight. Bingo's other riders usually are young children, and I weight 2 to 3 times what they do. Bingo has to work harder carrying me, and he gets tireder when I ride him. My weight aggravates his back more that the weight of his smaller riders, which is why I have to get up into two-point until his muscles warm up, while his smaller riders can just sit on his back without causing much pain.
All I can do is to continue to strengthen the correct muscles on Bingo, with the hope that his stronger incorrect muscles gracefully retire from the struggle. Bingo is muscling up more from my 30 minute weekly rides, his back and croup muscles are getting bigger, and his back does not sag quite as much as it did when I started riding him. By strengthening the correct muscles through slow, low-impact movements, I have developed Bingo to the point that it is easier for him to carry his child riders. My lessons and rides on Bingo are the equivalent of him going to the gym and working out with weights under the supervision of a personal trainer.
Because I seriously doubt that I am ever going to weigh forty pounds again!
Have a great ride!