R.I.P. Bingo

I was not able to ride at Debbie's for two weeks. When I got to the barn Debbie told me that Bingo had died, he had gone down, could not/would not get up, and the veterinarian put him down. The vet had known Bingo for many years, and she told Debbie that Bingo could well have been even older than the mid to late twenties we had assumed. Debbie stayed with Bingo during the process since Bingo had learned to trust her.

My first ride on Bingo was on April 6, 2016 and my last ride was on June 5, 2020. Then the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions limited my riding a good bit AND Bingo's moon-blindness took a significant turn for the worse. The poor guy was old, he was never able to adapt to new stuff easily, and he just could not figure out how to feel safe and be blind at the same time. He ended up being scared and confused about the world whenever he could not see or touch his paddock mate, and would express his dismay by trotting around in a circle. He just picked the wrong place to do that blind trot in, the one really muddy place in the paddock, and he went down and could not get up.

When I started riding Bingo four years ago he was a mess. His favorite speed was a full halt, his second favorite speed was backing up as fast as he could, and his third favorite speed was bolting to the gate. He would take contact, but he had no real understanding of the actions of the bit and how to respond to them. I started him off in the mildest bit I had, the Wellep snaffle, and I started the rather long process of teaching Bingo the basic A-B-Cs of the aids.

That September I got my new Pegasus Butterfly saddle. Of course I tried it on Bingo. At first I had some problems with the saddle because of my horrible side-to-side balance. Bingo had every chance he could ever wish for to get me off, but he patiently carried my around while Debbie repeatedly corrected my seat. This went on for a while until I finally figured out that I needed a 6-pocket pad with bridging shims, and it all got better.

I took a long break from riding Bingo as Debbie wanted to give me lessons on her “new” OTTB Coach, and then after I fell off Coach I switched to Cinnabar for several months. I then decided I wanted to go back to Bingo, however ticked off Bingo was at the human race I, at least, had gotten Bingo to move forward willingly. Cinnabar did not even want to try, all his other riders were content with a 2 ½ MPH, why in the world should he work harder for me?

So in March 2019 I went back to Bingo. In April I introduced him to the double bridle with stainless steel curb and bradoon, and something truly amazing happened, Bingo started to UNDERSTAND my rein aids. It was not instant perfection, it took many months, but Bingo started to settle down about the bits acting in his mouth. Then I ran into the Fager titanium bits and I rode him in various Fager snaffles and found one that he actually liked, the Bianca.

Then, February of this year, I switched back to a double bridle, but this time I used the Fager double bridle bits. He was not “perfect” but he did quite well considering that his “moon-blindness” was getting worse. I think he was somewhat happy that he had finally figured the bits out and he was happy that the bits did not irritate his mouth at all. In spite of his problems Bingo almost became a pleasure to ride in the ring, responsive, moving forward willingly, and generally much more cooperative with everybody, including me while I rode him.

Then the pandemic came, and after the initial weeks I think Debbie got worried that something would happen if he was ridden. She switched me to MJ.

Bingo taught me a lot about how to turn a completely resistant, badly trained horse, into a willing riding companion. His positive results with the double bridle, both with the stainless steel bits and the Fager titanium bits opened my eyes to exactly WHY horsemen of yore preferred to ride in a double bridle. He expanded my knowledge, opened my eyes, and ended up giving me his best possible even while he was descending into blindness. He was such an UGLY horse, sway backed, thick throat-latch, low set neck, croup high, he was a picture of what not to pick for a good riding horse, but buried deep inside of him was a rather neat little riding horse. All I had to do was treat him humanely and patiently teach him all the stuff that no one before me had considered worth while to teach such an unpromising horse, and after years of work he did come around. Moral—never give up on a horse that just has problems, at least as long as the horse won't kill or maim you. Often all you need is a great amount of patience.

My lesson on MJ was quite good considering that my body had degraded some after two weeks of not getting a lesson. I switched him to a 125 Weymouth from the 135 Weymouth, and to a 130mm double-jointed Fager bradoon from the 130mm single-jointed bradoon, basically back to the “normal” and historic bitting measurements of the double bridle. MJ was much more responsive to the double-jointed bradoon, requiring less emphasis for turning, both the regular gradual curves and the turns in place. He also halted better. The only thing that was worse was backing up. One of Debbie's students (not his usual lesson rider) had ridden him in a flat class at Debbie's little show two weeks back and he got Reserve Champion, so my riding has not done him any harm. This other rider might be the reason his backing up was worse, if so it should not take too long to get his backing up to return to a light response to the rein aids.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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