Bingo Obviously NEEDS his BOT Exercise Sheet
This year North Carolina is having a true Southern Summer. Hot, humid, highs in the low 90s F, heat indexes going up over 100 F. Yesterday it was already 74 F at 6:00 AM, and as the sun rose the temperature quickly increased. I rode Mia for just 25 min. and I was hot and sweaty. We only walked so Mia did not overtly sweat, but her coat was definitely damp when I used my HandsOn grooming gloves on her after our ride.
It was also hot on Wednesday for my lesson. I got to the barn at 8:15 AM and stepped out of my air-conditioned van into the humidity. It was so hot that I knew Debbie would not want me to use my Back on Track exercise sheet, but I did bring out my Amigo Fly Rider mesh neck and croup coverings. I did negotiate so Bingo got to wear his BOT exercise sheet out to the ring over his Fly Rider croup fly sheet on our walk out to the ring, where we took it off of him. Bingo was SO STIFF when we started the lesson, he had no desire to stride out and his back felt tense under me. After a minute or so I got up into two-point and kept my whole seat out of the saddle for 5 minutes, took a break and sat down but Bingo was still stiff. I got back up into 2-point and I kept on using my legs until he consented to start “swinging” his back. His back still felt stiff when I stopped riding after 30 minutes.
His stiffness was particularly evident when I did turns on the hindquarters and even more so when I did turns on the forehand. It took a few steps more until Bingo “planted” his fore or hind quarter and rotated his body around it. After the turn in place Bingo's back was definitely more tense, and I had to get up in two-point for a minute at the walk until he relaxed his back a little bit.
Bingo is now being used to teach a little boy to ride, a little boy who weighs maybe a third of what I do. Under the little boy Bingo is only being asked to walk, with short trots, for an hour. I deal with Bingo's back stiffness every time he is used for a lesson, even though his rider is lighter than I am, his beginner rider does not know how to get Bingo to loosen his back. Even so I think that under a lighter rider Bingo's back does not tense up as much as it does when I mount him. I do all I can to mount lightly, I use a 3-step mounting block and I do not plop down into the saddle, but from his first step Bingo's back feels tense and he moves gingerly. He does this even when he wears his BOT exercise sheet, but when he wears it he feels warmed up after 10 minutes or so, and he continues to improve throughout our ride. Without the BOT exercise sheet he only improves a little bit and his back never feels “loose.”
Unlike most of my rides, Bingo was sweaty enough after this ride for Debbie to hose him off some. She thinks he gets a little hotter under the Fly Rider sheet and neck covering. I proposed a compromise, I would leave the Fly Rider sheet off of him (at least until the buzz-bomber flies appear,) but Bingo NEEDS to wear his BOT exercise sheet for at least the first ten minutes of my lesson if I am to have a decent ride. Bingo, since he is SO HIGH at the croup, is going to have this problem for a long time. His back is starting to muscle up and it looks stronger, but I do not know if I will ever be able to get it strong enough not to be bothered by a heavier rider. I know I will ALWAYS be a heavier rider than a child, that is why I want Bingo to wear his BOT exercise sheet when I ride him, at least until his back loosens up.
Bingo cannot help his conformation faults, there is no way that I can “cure” his overly high croup or significantly reduce his enormous neck muscles on each side at the top of his neck. The one advantage that my greater weight gives me with him is that just by riding him I strengthen his hidden “sling” muscles that support his rib cage. Eventually his forehand will rise a little bit because of these stronger “sling” muscles, but I seriously doubt they will get his forehand up two and a half inches. Often, when I look at Bingo's back, I regret that there are few jobs for harness horses. After all, the foundation sire of the Standardbred breed, Rysdyk's Hambletonian, was notorious for being croup high and that did not prevent the Standardbreds being harness horses! Bingo would probably do quite well as a harness horse. But today there are pitifully few jobs around for ugly, thick necked pony sized QH harness horses, and I doubt that Bingo ever got trained to pull a cart. So after failing at several riding horse jobs he finally had the good fortune of being abandoned at Debbie's stable in his twenties and she asked me to help him.
Both Debbie and I believe that even ugly, badly conformed Quarter horse ponies deserve a good life. In many ways that is the essence of true horsemanship.
Have a great ride!