Bingo's Mouth Stayed Closed!

But first an update on Cider. She has been flinching just about every step (though more or less trotting “sound”) so when it came time in my budgeting I finally gave in and got her some Back on Track stuff. I bought her exercise boots, for both the fore legs and her hind legs, and a BOT exercise sheet. It is getting hotter so we just use the exercise sheet after we saddle, through Shannon tightening the girth (which takes a few minutes of walking), then we take it off because it is getting hotter in the ring. Cider did not mind the exercise sheet at all, but then most of the times I ride her she has had “clothes” on, the butt blanket in the winter and the fly sheet in the summer. An extra thing over her hind end was not a problem and I think it felt good to her.

The exercise boots were another thing. Since Cider had done events and showed before Shannon got her I assumed that she was familiar with boots or bandages on her lower legs. I may have been wrong in that assumption. After Shannon put the boots on Cider was not easy with them, and when Shannon started walking her about Cider lifted all four feet high and kicked out some with her hind legs. Shannon walked her around until she stopped being so expressive with her hind legs but when I got on it was obvious she still considered the exercise boots as dangerous, risky, foreign traps on her legs, so I just walked her around so she would get used to them. It took around 15 minutes until she stopped kicking with her hind legs and throwing most of her weight on the fore legs. Then she settled down some, but it is too early to see if they help her front legs. I hope they do, they did help Bingo's legs, so maybe they will help some when Cider finally accepts them on her legs.

I felt really happy when Bingo was led into the grooming stall on Wednesday. He may be the ugliest horse I've ever ridden, but when he feels content he starts looking cute and appealing. Now he LOVES having his ears groomed inside and out, lowering his head so I can reach them better, turning his head slightly so I will move on to yet another scratchy part of his ears and giving every sign of enjoying the process. Such a big change from where he was when I started riding him again when I had to stand on tip-toe and stretch my arms to reach his ears. Debbie had a little problem getting both bits in his mouth but he settled down immediately.

Bingo was GOOD during our lesson. It feels to me like, after 7 weeks in the double bridle, that he thinks he has finally figured the whole thing out. Contact was fine and Bingo did not suck back at all. He strode forth confidently reaching for the bit and obeyed my rein aids for turning well. I had no problem getting him to stride forth at longer, faster walk, which elicited praise from Debbie. Then came our first halt, and Bingo halted readily from two light hand aids (both hands at once) without any bracing or other resistances to my hand and he stood still peacefully until I asked him to move again.

This was a BIG improvement. Of course I praised him mightily and sent him to Debbie for even more praise. This is part of my long term plan to get Bingo to learn that the riding teacher is part of a three entity team of Bingo, me and Debbie, all working together to get Bingo to feel more confident in the riding ring. Of course Bingo is learning to love praise, and every time we pass Debbie he “asks” politely if he can come to Debbie for more praise, but I keep him walking past her. Praise from Debbie is for him accomplishing something beyond just walking around peacefully.

His turns in place also improved, instead of two or three strides to “plant” his hind or fore end in one place, it took only one stride. He is finally getting it! Due to his rather severe conformation faults I cannot “make” him do these turns in place, so I have worked on him understanding my aids for these turns in place so he can voluntarily decide to cooperate with me.

After our usual meandering around the ring and jumps we did a few trots. During one of them I “gathered” him by alternating light hand aids on the bradoon rein with my leg aids, and he responded by organizing his trot better and lightening up a bit on his forehand. Then during my last trot I asked him to change direction and his body bend and he cooperated fully.

Then came the big test, backing up. He was warmed up and did not show any stiffness so I thought he was ready. We halted, rested a few seconds, and I used a light leg aid then a light drawing back on the bradoon rein. The second time I alternated my aids Bingo actually did a full step back instead of his usual micro-step back, and when I asked him to do a second step back he cooperated fully. He also felt ready to go on backing up but I did not want to overdo it and ruin the experience for him. After months of tentative micro-steps back it was so nice to feel him doing full steps back! And Bingo did not open his mouth AT ALL when I halted or backed up, for the first time since I started riding him again.

During our ride I think I just tweaked the curb rein once, instead of three or four times during our ride. Everything else was the bradoon, usually from contact.

I am still totally amazed about how much Bingo has improved in the double bridle. This improvement does not come from using the curb bit since I only do a tweak or two from a sagging curb rein, and most of the time the curb reins are not active. Since this time I am putting the curb bit right above the curb groove and the bradoon with one wrinkle, the double bridle bits are definitely working on different parts of his tongue. Bingo seems to actually LIKE this, much to my surprise, and he has shown so much less confusion about my hand aids that I wonder why in the world I waited so long to put him in the double bridle. The next horse I ride, if its lips are long enough for two bits, I think I will introduce the double bridle even earlier. I can explain stuff to the horses fine with just a snaffle, but having two bits in the mouth seems to make it easier for Bingo to understand what I am “saying” with the snaffle/bradoon bit. We are both much happier and Debbie likes our progress.

Due to the long range weather forecast of a “heat ridge” parking itself over the South for weeks I finally broke down and got myself an ice vest. For many years I made it through the summer thanks to the marvelous new technical fabrics, but this early heat wave has really dragged me down. Tomorrow I will be using my new ice vest for the first time when I ride Cider. It is sort of heavy (3.5 lbs.) and it is cold, the ice for this one is actual water ice so I am wearing lots of little ice cubes on my torso. I did walk outside during the hottest part of the day yesterday while wearing it, and it was a lot easier for me to walk to my mailbox and back in the direct sunlight. The ice is supposed to go on working for around 2 hours so it should last all the time I am out at the stables. Hopefully it will help me enough so I can go on using the double bridle on Bingo instead of me having to switch to a Wellep bit like I usually have to in the heat of the summer.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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