Bingo Slowly Improves
The shedding season is in full force and the bug season is just about to start down here. Bingo hair is all over my saddle pad, my girth, my riding clothes, and tracked into my mini-van and house, Bingo hair is taking over my universe (with some help from Cider.) You'd think after weeks of weekly thorough groomings that the quantity would decrease, that his coat would look sleeker, that his belly hair would stop swaying in the breeze, but that magical day has yet to arrive. The only comfort is that if one of those cold polar vortexes visit us again that Bingo will be warmer than the other horses.
When I got to the stable Mia, wandering around the barn aisles, went into a stall that was near me to vacuum up all the little bits of food that the resident horse had not scarfed up. Her stride was not sure and she moved gingerly. I went in to say hi and she pointedly ignored me as nothing was more important than those little bits of grain. I felt her ribs and I did not find the cushion that I like on a horse I ride, and she looked much older (she IS 33 or 34 years old now.) I also got a feeling from her that she was feeling really old and tired. I mentioned that to my husband and he said he noticed the last time I rode her that she was laboring more. I told Debbie who sighed and nodded, noting Mia's great age. It is time that I face reality, Mia's riding days are over. Maybe if I had not missed riding all those weeks after I fell off of Coach she would be stronger, but at her age I do not think I could get her strong again, especially when she feels so old and tired deep inside.
Mia is retired as a riding horse. I no longer can ride a pure Arab mare, but I am full of gratitude for all the years I've ridden her, all the times I came to her during an exacerbation and she got me back to walking securely on my own two feet. Mia is a great mare, a true Arabian who has done her war mare ancestors proud.
Debbie told me that I could do my homework rides on Bingo now. This is good, he needs more sane training to develop the muscles he needs to become the best riding horse he can within the limits of his conformation. I will be able to spend more time strengthening his sling muscles in his forehand because I won't be boring Debbie with Bingo doing super slow walks. I can also work on our contact, on his back, his stride length and getting prompt responses to my driving leg aids. It will take many more rides to get him back to where he was before his lengthy vacation, but then I will be able to explore what this horse can do when developed properly.
After much thought I changed Bingo's bit, from the Wellep single jointed snaffle to the Wellep double jointed snaffle, and he took up and kept contact better. He responded to my halting hand aids quicker and he was a lot less fussy with his mouth when halting. I get the impression that Bingo greatly prefers double jointed snaffles over the single jointed snaffles, since both types of the Wellep bit become like Mullen mouths when the reins are applied firmly I think his objection is to the center joint and how it fits in his mouth. Since I want to practice riding with two pairs of reins and since his mouth is long enough for a double bridle I will just have to wait for the eggbutt double jointed bradoons I ordered from England to get here, then I can make up a “double bridle” with my Micklem bridle, running the bradoon hangar over the crown piece instead of under it. I do not get the impression that Bingo would enjoy my single jointed bradoons at all. I bought the single jointed bradoons since I had planned on introducing Coach to the double bridle and Coach vehemently told me that he does not like double jointed bits. That's horses, they all have personal preferences, but it can get expensive getting all the necessary bits to find the one that they prefer.
Our lesson was fine, Bingo did not even try to swerve toward the gate when we passed it, a big improvement over last week! He accepted contact fine, and he did not take advantage of it when we were off contact, walking confidently in the direction I wanted. His turns in place improved a little bit, and I think he “planted” his hindquarters after a few steps of a turn on the hindquarters. Even his attitude improved as in he was willing to consider the concept that being ridden is not a form of torture (at least when I ride him.)
His attitude towards me is really important to me especially since I will no longer be able to ride Mia when I have an exacerbation of my MS. I do not expect the horses to love me riding them since I am so handicapped, but I work toward them looking at me kindly even when my body does not work well. This is why I am so obsessive about the horses' comfort, if their bit, bridle and saddle do not hurt or irritate them, then they tend to overlook it when I cannot ride them as well as usual so long as I do not hurt them horribly. This is why I have a huge bit collection. This is why I spent the money to get the modern grooming tools that feel so much better to them then the older type grooming tools (the HandsOn grooming gloves, the Tiger's Tongue scrubber and the Haas Diva body brush) so that they actually enjoy being groomed. This is why I buy all the Back on Track gear so that their body feels better when I ride them. Because I do all of this the horses are more likely to give me the benefit of the doubt when I get worse and I get irritating to them. Horses can take some irritations from their riders, but when it gets to too many irritations the horses start feeling abused and react. If the horse is comfortable he or she is so much less likely to explode under me!
So I cater to the horses shamelessly.
Somewhere inside Bingo is a neat little riding horse, if only someone gives him the physical and mental training he needs without triggering his resistances. My challenge is to develop him in such a way that he can learn to move more comfortably under me, which will take me time. This week I started to get hints that he was using the thinking part of his brain instead of just the reactive part of his brain, or rather he was using the thinking part of his brain to cooperate with me instead of figuring out how to defy me (remember that Bingo is a “rebel without a cause”!) Doubling my riding time on him from 30 minutes a week to an hour a week with two rides will help me get to where I want us to end up a lot more quickly.
Even so I will miss riding Mia.
Have a great ride!