So, backstory first: Back in July I purchased my first horse, a great AQHA gelding that I knew could take me where I wanted to go, and would help teach me how to get there. The first time I test rode it felt like coming home, I have no other way to describe it. He had been in training for a few months, and he was going great.
He's what I needed- something well trained in his job, BUT makes you work for it. He tells on me bad, if I'm not doing something right, neither is he. I got a bit frustrated at first, he quit picking up his left lead shortly after he came home, and it took me a few weeks to realize that it was a collection issue (yes, other factors- like pain, have been ruled out). I now know that I have to work him right, he won't just give me it on a silver platter. And I'm coming to peace with that. My horse isn't being "bad," he's not trying to play mind games with me, he's just a horse that needs a rider that knows how to work him. When we get it right, I'm invincible, on top of the world, and after a bad day, well, I try to figure out what went wrong and how to do it better next time. It's not easy, and I won't lie and say that I love it always. But at the end of the day, I know that I have the right horse for me, and we are making progress, and yes, I am a better rider for having him and working with him- and I love the big goofball.
So the barn went to a show today, and since there was extra space on the trailer, I had him hauled along to, to see what he does away from home. I expected that he would be a bit nervous and strung out to start with, and he was. I lunged him once, tacked him up (after a battle to get the bridle on- we're still working on the head-shy issues) and had to lunge him again to get the leftover jitters out. So I get on, just a bit nervous (don't worry, my helmet was on!) and took him out. He was super fast, blowing me off. So I work him down a bit, get him halfway listening, put him back at the trailer and let him settle down a bit and get a good look around. About 30 minutes later, I came back for round two, and he was much better. Granted, I put a training fork on (which I try to avoid), but occasionally it has it's uses... We stayed out for a bit, and once he was calming down and listening to me, I let him have another breather. Came back, hoped on for a few minutes and had a decent horse.
So I wait for the lunch break when I can get him in the ring and went to schooling him. Man what a great ride that was! He was moving great, nice and collected and gave me both leads very well. It took a few tries to get the left one, but once we had it it was magic. We were all over that ring, avoiding traffic and working circles- and he stayed nice and soft the whole time. It was cathartic, to know that in what could have been a stressful situation I had total control over my horse, and that we were turning heads for all the right reasons. I also finally clicked into feeling him drop his shoulder and trying to run away at the canter. I knew he did it, because my instructor told me so, but I didn't really know it. I felt it today, and adjusted him, and wham, much better. I let him have the afternoon off after that, seeing that he was so good the last ride, and I wanted to end the day on a high note. He had a chance to chill at the trailer, and it was good for him to watch the other horses leave him and him to realize that he was ok, he didn't have to freak out and panic over it. He weaved and called a bit in the morning watching the other horses come and go, but by the end of the day he was much better about it.
Our trailer neighbor was talking to us at one point early this morning, and looking behind us (towards our horses) remarked that "the big one's freaking out back there." I didn't even have to give it a second thought to know she was talking about my guy, and that I could picture in my mind exactly what he would be doing when I turned around. He went from being the slightly crazy horse that people wanted to avoid to just another show horse.
All in all, it was a good day, and totally worth taking him up for the show. Not a week goes by that he doesn't teach me something. We're at a place now where we're learning each other, I know much better what buttons to push when, and he's learning that I do occasionally know what I'm doing, and that he can't get away with everything he wants. Over the winter my plan is to take some lessons with his trainer and really get us going together, so I can't wait to see where we are come spring.
Sorry for writing a book on your guys, I just had to put it down somewhere! I should really start a journal for him or something...