Today was a whole different kettle of fish. As usual, he was as nice as you please in the paddock, and I had no trouble catching him and putting a halter on him. He started getting squirmy and difficult when my partner Martindale and I saddled him up. When I rode him into the arena, the fun started. I spent a good hour trying to persuade, cajole and push him into trotting when I said trot, stopping when I said stop, and turning at the appropriate moments. He started out being a bit difficult about it, and got worse and worse as the lesson progressed. Michelle (the riding school owner and my riding instructor) put him on a lunge line, and we tried to get him to settle down and trot in a nice regular circle, but that didn't work either. He'd trot for a couple of steps, stop, start, go sideways, backwards and then round on the spot... everything but what I was asking him to do. Then he decided that performing a normal horse gait like a trot was "selling out to the man" and even that wasn't going to happen... every step was a little leap-into-canter from his front end, while his hind end... oh, I dunno. It wasn't trotting, it wasn't cantering, it wasn't useful or really rideable at all.
After an hour of Dubbsy getting more and more disobedient, Michelle's daughter Jade was summoned. Jade is the best rider in the school by far - very skilled, very capable, wins prizes at competitions regularly. On a couple of occasions previously when Dubbin's been particularly frisky and/or bratty, Jade's taken over and ridden him firmly and strictly until he's settled down (or worn out, whichever comes first). Dubbin usually behaves beautifully when Jade rides him, because Jade knows how to not let him get away with anything. But not today. He upped the ante bigtime. He resisted everything she did, squirmed, pig-rooted, leapt about, zigged when he was supposed to be zagging - and she was only asking him to trot regularly and smoothly around the arena. It wasn't anything that should have been particularly challenging and strenuous... but he was spending so much energy and effort resisting her that after half an hour of what should have been very gentle exercise for a big fit horse like Dubbsy, he was quite literally soaking wet, with rivers of sweat pouring down his legs and belly.
Eventually Dubbin settled down to the point where she was willing to dismount and pass him back to us. She had quite a bit to say about how obnoxious he was being. It wasn't because Martindale or I were doing anything particularly wrong in our riding - he was just being obnoxiously bratty. If he could have spoken when I was riding him, he probably would have said "I don't wanna do that, and you can't make me"; for Jade, he was all "**** you!" She had a lot to say about how she had never ridden a more difficult horse than Dubbin, ever; and she mentioned that she'd ridden unbroken horses that were less difficult than Dubby in jerk Mode.
I suppose his one big redeeming feature when he's like this is that even at his worst, he's never mean. He's never tried to get rid of a rider, never been aggressive or hostile. When I'm riding him I don't ever feel afraid of him; just sometimes a bit worried about how I'm going to handle it if he gets particularly bratty and refuses stuff.
It's so strange. Most days he's fine... a little bit rebellious here and there, but nothing that isn't easily manageable. And generally he settles down after he has an opportunity to assert his independence, and is fine thereafter. But every so often, he gets a bit of devil in him... and on those days, he's a complete jerk.