I Work on Stabilization

Debbie's first summer camp is next week so both of my rides on Bingo this week were geared to continuing his preparation for being a lesson horse for a kid who may not ride well.

I found this mildly frustrating, it really needed to be done but I had to take a break on developing Bingo's impulse. Bingo is going from being ridden by a decent rider who knows what to do (me) to carrying riders without my more or less advanced skills; kids learning how to ride a horse! Of course there is a bright point for Bingo, none of his possible riders weigh as much as I do so he may not feel like he has to defend his back as much. Their legs do not reach as far down his sides as mine do, and they will probably give lighter leg aids.

I think that Bingo has picked up that something is changing, and he may be somewhat leery of what these changes will mean for his life.

This week I concentrated again on getting Bingo to go gently, on sagging reins, while I used beginner level aids to communicate to him. Bingo was less quiet for me than usual, he always seemed ready to speed up this week contrary to his usual inclination to go as slow as possible. Luckily for training Bingo, both rides had another horse and rider in the ring so I could convince him that paying attention to me, his rider, was more important than paying attention to the other horse. Both rides I did do a turn on the forehand and hind quarters while the first few minutes of my ride, then I went completely to the more primitive aids, slightly leading rein for turns and both of my hands at once for slowing down/halting, the rest of my ride was mostly on sagging reins while I avoided any and all advanced hand, leg and seat aids.

Without a doubt having another horse and rider in the ring was exciting for Bingo, as in he was excited because he really did not know what to do! He kept on waiting for me to tell him to go faster and extend whatever gait he was in (walk and trot) and when I failed to do so he sped up anyway especially when headed for the gate. He gave me some gaits with serious impulse behind them. During these I gently did repeated retarding actions on both reins until he slowed down, then he was rewarded with sagging reins. Then he decided that since I was not actively urging him to go faster he could slow down a lot, from the trot to a walk and from the walk to a halt. Finally Bingo and I got on the same page for most of the way around the ring until the next time we headed to the gate.

This week I also used the Shire's Blue Alloy Mullen mouth bit with a port (Cambridge mouth, like a ported Kimberwick.) Bingo does not respond to this bit with as much sophistication as he does to the double bridle. When I had to give stronger hand aids to get his attention when I wanted him to slow down or halt, he opened his mouth, but he did not offer to invert or raise his head much at all. Bingo seems to consider this bit more humane than he does the single or double jointed snaffles. On purpose I have not been working on instant obedience to rein aids with this bit because I hope he will accept this bit as an acceptable one for beginning or elementary level riders. Bitless is NOT an alternative for this horse, his neck muscles up by his jaw are so massive that there is absolutely no way that a child could enforce commands, Bingo would just bull through them and do what he wanted to while the child pulled the reins with no response. That can really scare beginners.

This week I mainly worked at stabilizing Bingo's speed at the walk and trot. Plodding around without much impulse was rewarded, speeding up without leg aids was corrected. I did full ring trots, aiming for the same speed and impulse all around the ring, while I let the reins sag. This did remove the assurance that Bingo gets from contact (as in he knows what I want instantly), and he experimented with what was allowed. He would speed up, with take and release aids on the sagging reins I would slow him down to an acceptable speed, then he decided that maybe this allowed him to slow down completely and I had to say no—keep going. Eventually during both rides I got him to go all the way around the ring at a more-or-less even speed on sagging reins and he obeyed me better when I told him to slow down as he accelerated towards the gate.

Debbie was pleased with Bingo's response to my more “primitive” level of riding in our lesson. He did not invert and go wherever he pleased at his preferred speed. He did not try too hard to bull his way through my hand aids, and when he slowed down too much he did not “explode” into faster movement from my light leg aids. Bingo was in no way perfect and she cannot put a complete beginner on him, but for an elementary level rider with some previous riding experience he can be an excellent education on how to get a horse to obey his rider at the walk and trot. Since riders are never guaranteed to get rides on well-schooled horses this is a part of their riding education that is essential, how to get a reluctant horse to obey his rider who uses humane, if primitive, aids.

During my homework ride I could not use the main ring because Sam was working on the footing, smoothing it out and getting rid of some of the old hoof prints and ruts. Debbie was giving a lesson in the other ring to a lady who is moving away soon and wanted a last lesson on Cinnabar. I rode up to the ring and asked if they would mind me riding in it too, and Debbie and the rider told me to come on in. The lady was getting a lesson on jumping so I could not do my usual circuitous route around the jumps so Bingo got schooled on keeping a steady gait on sagging reins while the other horse cantered around and past him. Since the gate of the second ring is on the side and not on the side leading back to the barn Bingo did not have as much drive to get “home”, after all there is no point to carry the rider off to a fence that does not have a gate in it.

Even so Bingo did accelerate a little bit toward the barn, and he got sort of sticky passing the gate. Luckily I had previously gotten him used to the new judges' stand, even so he tried to keep a decent (to him) distance between his body and the judges' stand. He stood peacefully while the other rider was jumping a complicated course of jumps, and in general he acted like he was ignoring the other horse completely. He still opened his mouth some when I insisted that yes, he had to halt, but he did not get very upset over it. I did succeed in getting a mostly plodding trot all the way around the ring on loose reins, and he did not try to rebel against me and my demands.

Before I left the barn I transferred Bingo's new bit to his stable bridle, I put my old pair of rainbow reins on it because when I was trying to figure out which pair of reins to put on, there appeared in my mind a picture of Bingo's neck from a rider's perspective with the rainbow reins. Maybe Bingo thinks that elementary level riders would annoy him less if the rider had a visual reference to keeping both hands at the same point along the reins. Since Debbie had lost his ThinLine shims for his Contender II BOT/ThinLine pad I transferred my shims into his stable pad for the riding camp, telling Debbie I wanted them back for my next ride on Bingo two weeks from now.

I do not know if I've schooled Bingo enough for the riding camp. I hope that he will not scare his rider/s and that he will act in a moderately civilized manner in the riding ring. When I untacked him I told him he would get a rider who WANTED to fall in love with him, and that it would be very kind of him to treat his rider/s gently so that they could fall in love with him.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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