Working on My Two-Point

This week I got to ride Bingo twice, and I hope I can ride Cider tomorrow.

I got my lesson on Wednesday on Bingo. It had rained a lot the first few days of the week and the ring was SLOPPY in spite of over 10 hours without rain. Debbie suggested going over to the other slightly drier ring, but since all I needed to do could be done at a walk I was not eager to get out where the wind was not blocked much at all. I worked a lot on my two-point, my “rider's push-ups” and my “vertical far”, going from one to the other and back down. This worked out my thigh muscles, including those on the outside of my thighs. For the first time in my riding life the muscles on the outside of my thighs were sorer than my gripping muscles, especially on my left leg.

Debbie pointed out that my right lower leg was STILL drifting backwards in spite of me concentrating on my right leg when I was practicing outside of my lessons. Sigh, those proprioceptive nerves have not healed from the damage from my last cold. I just cannot “feel” it when my right lower leg drifts back, and when it is too far back it feels to me like it is in the correct position. This is why I NEED Debbie's eagle eye to correct me for months on end!

Half way through my lesson I checked with Debbie as to whether she thought I was ready to go back to using the double bridle on Bingo, and she said it was fine. Then I asked her about which bit I should choose as a bradoon. I had been using the Madeleine single-jointed bradoon but I was beginning to suspect that Bingo, at least in the Fager bits, might do a bit better with the double jointed snaffle/bradoon. So I asked for her opinion of choosing between the Fager Madeleine double-jointed bradoon and the Fager Bianca double-jointed roller snaffle bit, the one that Bingo seems to like better than any other bit I've used.

First we discussed ring size since the ring on the Bianca snaffle is bigger than the ring on the Madeleine bradoon. I told her that I had read on the Fager site that people had successfully used the bigger ringed Fager snaffles as a bradoon, including the Bianca snaffle. I also reminded her that when I had used the double bridle on Bingo she had always remarked on how far apart the bits were in his mouth, which is super evident whenever he yawns and it looks like there is a full inch of space between the mouthpieces! Since Bingo has never in the months I've ridden him in a double bridle tried to get his tongue over or between the double bridle bits I did not consider this a problem. I would not try this on Cider who has a very short “smile” and does not have enough room for two bits, but on Bingo with a nice long “smile” it certainly seemed feasible to me. After this discussion Debbie decided she would like to see Bingo with the bigger ringed Bianca as the bradoon since he likes this bit so much.

So this weekend I will have to make Bingo's bridle into a double bridle. I wrote down the holes for the proper fit of the Weymouth curb and that will not change, but with the bigger rings on the snaffle I will have to shorten my bradoon strap several holes.

The last few weeks using the Bianca snaffle on Bingo I have noted that while he does not set his jaw as hard against the bit as with the other snaffles, it still takes 15-20 minutes of good following contact and light rein aids before his mouth becomes truly soft with no resistances. Considering that I had gotten very few instances of softness from Bingo before I had ridden him in the double bridle, it feels truly wonderful when his mouth becomes soft and responsive in just a snaffle every ride even though it takes most of my ride to get there. I am hoping that, in the double bridle with the Bianca, that Bingo will soften earlier in my ride. It seems like I have to remind Bingo each and every ride that it is possible to carry a bit calmly in his mouth with a relaxed lower jaw, and it is much quicker to remind him of this by just tweaking my sagging curb rein when his head is at its highest point in his stride.

In the six months I had ridden Bingo in a double bridle, whether with stainless steel or titanium bits, he seemed to finally “get” my light rein aids. Before then, with whichever stainless steel snaffle I had used, he always seemed to be in a state of trying to guess what I meant rather than understanding that this hand aid at this time in his stride meant THIS. When I stopped the double bridle in order to test the Fager titanium snaffles out with Bingo this guessing state returned, though not as bad. Still, I get rather tired of having to train Bingo from the start about contact each ride. I know that this guessing is probably the result of being ridden by people with brutal hands for decades, and that he just does not TRUST that a properly timed hand aid actually means something rational and sane.

The double bridle changed this. With two bits in his mouth Bingo entered a whole new world, one in which comparing one bit to the other bit made everything clear (of course my hand aids had to be properly timed, I had to use my leg for forward impulse, and I had to release my hand aids promptly.) Bingo started relaxing his mouth. Bingo started considering that Debbie and I were really doing all we could do to make his life better. He looked at us with a kinder eye, where he used to get scared he started to shrug minor irritations off, and he decided that grooming was one of the higher pleasures of life.

I have been experimenting with the Fager titanium snaffles for five months now. With the roller on the Bianca he is still softer in contact and obeying my rein aids, but I am starting to notice some small problems on the ground, sometimes Bingo's old defiant attitude starts to reappear.

I worked on my two-point, I got enough strength back to get my butt completely out of the saddle. Now I get my supreme reward, I get to ride Bingo with the double bridle again!

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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