I decided today to start keeping a journal of sorts of everything that Aires and I accomplish together. I had a very scary (for me) moment today when I almost threw in the towel and said "to hell with this whole thing," but my amazing boy put his head over my shoulder and suddenly everything I've tried to do with and for him in the last three and a half months seemed worth it.
I feel the need to put my "to hell with it" moment in writing, so here goes. Today I went to the barn early-ish (I am house-sitting for a friend, so had to go feed his dog and horses before I went to the barn). Being that today was my day off, I was determined to ride Aires. So, I brought him up to the hitching rails and began grooming him. It was an unusually busy Friday at the barn with quite a few of the regulars there, including my friend who boards there and the trainer.
I had just put the blanket and pad on Aires' back and went to get the synthetic Abetta western saddle I've been borrowing from the BO. Yes, I have a nice aussie saddle that I love, but because I'm not used to the saddle and because Aires won't stop when asked, I don't feel comfortable using it just yet. Anyway, as I'm walking out to my horse, the trainer (who is sitting there with the BO, my friend and a new boarder) says "What happened to your aussie saddle that you just had to have and that you think is so wonderful and [blah blah blah]?" (I say "blah blah blah" here because I can't remember everything she said, but none of it was very nice). For some reason her comment, which was truly said in good fun, made me feel quite humiliated and angry. I later realized that my reaction to her words was only caused by the fact that the BO was sitting right there and, according to my friend (who he thinks is the greatest thing since sliced bread), the BO has said about me "I thought she said she could ride." Yes, I can ride, but getting thrown from that mare hasn't done me any favors in the confidence department. If he had seen me ride before I was thrown, that comment wouldn't have even been made.
Anyway, I wish I could say that I ignored the jibe by the trainer and just went about my business, but I cannot. I tried to defend my using the western saddle instead of my aussie saddle and ended up just digging myself into a deeper hole amid the peals of laughter and almost horrified looks of the trainer and my friend (all while the BO sat there and just shook his head). So, I finally just walked away and finished saddling my horse. I was even more angry than I had been before and I am ashamed to say that when Aires pulled his "I don't want to go" stunt going into the round pen, I got even MORE angry. Finally, I was on the verge of tears (of frustration and anger) and my friend comes walking up and informs me that the BO is "standing by" to help me, but that I have to ask him to help. That REALLY didn't help me any, so I basically said "Well then screw it" and walked away with Aires trailing obediently behind.
I walked the property and the arena for a while, then decided that I needed to get away. So, I went for a walk with Aires. I'm glad my friend was tactful enough to realize that I wanted to be alone and not insist that I wait for her to saddle up or just come walking with me. So, I went for a walk that lasted an hour and a half (walked the back roads behind the barn).
While on my walk is when I had my "to hell with it" moment. I was walking along, thinking about all the ways I've screwed up with Aires in the last three and a half months and started seriously considering just giving him back to the BO (who I bought him from) and being done with it. No more of other boarders saying that I just need to get over what happened with that mare and ride. No more having to deal with the looks the BO gives me whenever he sees me saddle up Aires, but not ride him. I stopped in the middle of the road (don't worry, absolutely no traffic anywhere) and stood there just crying because I didn't think I could do it anymore.
And that's when it happened. This big lug that I've taken from being a barely-halter broke two-year-old stud with no ground manners at all to a well-mannered, greenbroke gelding (we still have our moments, but they are few and far between) put his monstrous head over my shoulder and wrapped me in a horsey hug. I am not ashamed to admit that I turned around, threw my arms around his neck and cried. We stood there for quite a while.
When we got back to the barn, we went into the round pen (with a little help from my friend) and had a nice, productive lunge session. I came out and untacked Aires, then went to go put him in his stall. As I was walking to his stall, the trainer came up to me and sincerely apologized for what she had said. She explained that she had meant it jokingly and wasn't trying to make me feel bad at all. I told her exactly why I had been so angry and hurt and said that the BO didn't need yet another reason to think that I couldn't ride. She said that the BO just thinks I need to work with/ride Aires more (which is true...I have slacked off in the past couple of weeks because I had bronchitis), but that they are both VERY impressed with the groundwork that I've done with him. That made me feel a lot better, as I respect the trainer and the BO very much.
So, I have a lesson set up with the trainer next Thursday (just realized I might need to change that as I don't get paid until Friday ) to do a trail ride. She is going to work with Aires for a little while in the arena, working on his stop (my ONLY issue with him under saddle...I can handle everything else but his not stopping), then she's going to ride him on the trail and I'm going to ride one of the dude string horses. We're hoping this will help me gain some of my confidence back and it'll give me a chance to see how Aires acts out on the trail.
I think my biggest issue is that I can picture (and almost feel) the way I used to be able to ride and how I want to ride Aires. But as soon as I swing up into that saddle, my brain completely shuts down and goes into survival mode...and that frustrates me beyond words! Especially because I don't know how to fix it. I am a fixer. If there's a problem anywhere (at work, at home, wherever), I fix it. It's what I do. Not being able to fix this is driving me up the wall and frustrating me beyond belief.