This Time Bingo Remembered

Earlier this week Bingo had a different rider, a rider different from me in many ways. His rider is a man that goes to Debbie's church and she had been telling him about Bingo and his handicapped rider, me. This man has cerebral palsy, disabled, unable to drive, and I don't think he had ever been on a horse before. Somehow this guy ended up with a Western saddle and he wanted to ride a horse, specifically Bingo, and Debbie said yes, that she and other people at the stable would help him ride.

I do not think that the saddle fit Bingo at all, the guy was not very coordinated, and he had no idea of how to signal a horse and no physical ability to give clear aids. It took three people to get the guy mounted up on Bingo (luckily only 14 hands or so) and Bingo decided to start the ride by standing still, after all the guy was not giving him clear aids, so when in doubt Bingo stops. He did not move until Debbie started walking by him, then Bingo consented to do a slow walk. After the guy's ride was over it took three people to get this rider off the horse, but at least this guy got to do something he'd been considering for a while.

This was not an ideal experience for Bingo but he proved that he is not a crazy horse. Due to the guy's handicap Bingo was correct, the best idea was to stand still until Debbie got there and made sure that the guy could stay on. I am sure that the saddle hurt Bingo's back some, but again, due to this man's handicap, Bingo did the correct response of standing still or walking very slowly. Bingo did not blow up, he did not try to scare this rider, he did not go too fast for comfort, he just plodded around following Debbie at a slow walk. I do like horses that respond that way with handicapped riders, it is like the horse telling the rider “I'll move when you can prove you can tell me correctly, then I'll move slowly, so slow that you won't get scared until you learn to ride well enough to go faster”, not in words but in general attitude. This guy did not get scared riding Bingo.

Debbie told me this would not happen regularly since it took so many people to get the man on and off the horse.

Then, while out in the pasture, a horse had kicked Bingo on the muscles of his near hind leg, so one leg also hurt him as well as his back.

So Bingo was not in top shape when I mounted him for my lesson on Wednesday. My tack is completely different than the tack this guy used, I have a jumping saddle that fits Bingo decently and I use a double bridle based on my Micklem bridle, there is no way that Bingo could mistake me for that handicapped man. It was cool enough so I could keep the BOT exercise sheet on Bingo my whole ride, between it and my BOT properly shimmed saddle pad, Bingo's back got some effective therapy to relax the muscles that got into contraction. I mostly rode in half-seat (my weight more on my pubic bone) because every time I let my weight go into my seat bones Bingo went into a crawl, so slow, so obviously uncomfortable, that I did not feel like I could sit down fully in the saddle.

Basically Bingo had every excuse to start balking again. His routine had been disrupted, he had been back in a Western saddle that hurt his back, his back still hurt some by the time I rode him, and Debbie and I were expecting some minor problems with getting him going. Bingo really did not want to move, but after I insisted he walked. Whenever I sat on my seat bones he slowed way down and his back stopped moving. Finally I got his back “swinging” some and I asked him to extend his walk a little bit, and it took a lot of leg to get that little bit. He would not extend his stride as much as he usually does but I did not blame him, his back hurt, his leg hurt, and he was giving me what I wanted to the limits of his comfort that day.

Fortunately Bingo remembered what my hand aids meant. He halted without much repetition and he turned fine with the bigger, sweeping turns. His turns in place were not as good as usual but he TRIED instead of sinking into a dark mood of “I don't want to, I hurt, quit nagging and why don't you get off.” Instead he kept on walking, and while he really liked me stopping him and did not want to move off again he did not balk, he was just reluctant and moved gingerly, but he moved.

Bingo has heart.

After the first few minutes of our ride Debbie decided that trotting might be too much for Bingo considering the state of his body. I was fine with that, as far as I am concerned it is impossible to do good work with a horse until the back moves freely. I imagine that the next few weeks I will be spending a lot of time in a half seat, keeping my weight over the strongest part of his back and avoiding as much as possible the part of his back that looks like it is sagging down (he has a very high croup.)

I was pretty pleased with our ride. Bingo did not balk with me even though he had good reasons to balk. Bingo took care of his other handicapped rider even though it was not very pleasant for Bingo given that the saddle did not fit (I am sure it bridged badly.) He did not forget the rein and leg aids even though he went through a very different type of experience, one that normally would have given him an excuse to forget everything he ever learned.

Bingo was a good boy.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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