So, today was NOT a good day. I nearly threw in the towel and said "Screw it."
So, my friend and I were planning on riding in the arena today, but I had to run to Chino first (about a 15 minute drive each way) and pick up the new stirrups I had ordered through one of the local tack shops. I was on my way back to the barn when my friend called me and asked me how long I was going to be. I told her I was almost there and then she said that if I was up for it, two of the other boarders wanted to go on a trail ride with us up the mountain. I said sure and hung up.
So, I get to the barn and it's pretty much chaos. The BO, his son and his step grandson are working on cleaning up around the round pen, there's someone riding in the arena, horses turned out across the street (still part of the barn property), and my friend and one of the other boarders starting to tack up at the front of the barn. Right after I got there and got Aires out of his stall, another boarder showed up with her family for a trail lesson with the trainer, so they went and got their two horses, while the trainer got two of the lesson horses out to tack up. So, at one time, there were SEVEN horses tied at the hitching rails out front being tacked up. When I got Aires out, I went to go lunge him like I usually do before we tack up, but my friend said that the round pen was torn apart (the BO was working on fixing some of the damaged boards) and that there wasn't time anyway, so I just went and tied him up and started tacking up.
Aires was being a bit of a pill while I was tacking up, but nothing extreme, so I didn't even really think about it. I went to mount up and he would not stand still. So, I asked one of the people who wasn't going on either trail ride (a friend of the boarder who was going with us) to hold him while I got the mounting block and brought it over to mount. As soon as he saw the mounting block, he absolutely FREAKED out. He reared up (not very high...just far enough to get his front feet of the ground), ripped the reins out of the lady's hand and took off trotting to the turnout gate across the road. I trotted after him, knowing he'd just stay there. Well, my friend and one of the ladies who was already mounted thought it'd be a good idea to canter over and try to block him into the half-circle driveway where the turnout gate is. When they cantered over, it freaked Aires out and he took off, almost ramming into my friend's gelding (who he usually loves) and then he took off down the road. Luckily he didn't head toward the highway or I would have been in deep trouble. Anyway, he dodged around the other lady, freaked when he saw two people running toward him from the barn driveway entrance and trotted on down the road. By this time, the BO, his son and step grandson had heard the commotion and were running out to the road to try to help catch him. Another of the boarders (who was down by the arena) hopped through the fence further down the road just in case he went that far. Aires finally stopped on the side of the road next to the new POA's stall and started eating grass. The BO fell in next to me and asked me if he'd spooked or was just being an idiot. I told him both and explained what had happened.
So, I took Aires back up to the barn and asked the BO to hold him for me while I tried to mount, because I figured Aires wouldn't move with the BO holding him. The BO VERY sarcastically said "I wonder why not," pretty much implying that I don't discipline Aires, which is SOOOOOOOOO not true. He gets into trouble quite a bit and I am NOT lenient. So anyway, I had a hold of Aires' halter and the BO comes walking up in front of Aires and it was like Aires had never seen the BO in his life. His head went up into the air, his eyes and nostrils flared and he jerked back. I pulled his head back down and the BO went to reach for Aires' halter and Aires absolutely and completely FREAKED again. This time he reared again, then turned and rammed into CJ (my friend's gelding...with her mounted!) and kicked out at him, then ran off toward the new boarder on her appy and kicked out at them, then jumped sideways and almost ran into one of the other boarders' horses that was going on the lesson ride and kicked at him, then trotted over to one of the stalls and stood there. I grabbed him and my friend and the other two took off on their ride, leaving me to deal with Aires (I wasn't upset...I knew if we had gone it would NOT have ended well).
So, I fought with Aires for ten minutes, trying to get him into the round pen, before the lady who had held him the first time asked if I wanted her to come behind him with my lunge whip and "drive" him into the round pen. As soon as she got behind him, he was a perfect gentleman walking into the round pen. Well, we had a serious "Come To Jesus Meeting" in the round pen after that. Turns out the round pen was indeed put back together (my friend didn't know that, though).
I literally made him run for twenty minutes, changing direction a few times. Any time he slowed from a canter if I didn't ask him to, I would pop the whip (he's never been around a lunge whip before). If he ignored the whip pop, he got the whip across his rump. After twenty minutes of running, I slowed him down to a trot and we worked on some gait transitions (extended trot to relaxed trot and back again, then down to a walk...that sort of thing) and direction changes. I let him come into the center after another ten minutes or so to rest, then sent him back out again. He was NOT happy that I sent him back out, but I was beyond caring at that point. So, we did a lot of short direction changes (made him trot one way for a quarter circuit, then change directions, then change again after another quarter circuit) until he was changing direction with just a shift of the whip in front of him and the word "Switch."
So, we came out of the round pen after I desensitized him to the whip (rubbed it ALL over him), and I took his bridle off and took him on a short walk up the road. We worked on ground manners: stopping, yielding his hindquarters, backing, turning, etc. I was going to ride in the arena, but one of the little girls was down there with her gelding and I didn't want her to have to deal with Aires' idiocy (she's like 10-years-old and just the cutest little thing with a horse that is ranch broke and can do just about anything). When we got back to the barn, I untacked Aires and turned him out with the other two geldings that were across the road, then went and cleaned his stall and changed his water.
I was feeling EXTREMELY frustrated. I can handle being made to look like a fool, but not in front of our BO (he already thinks I can't ride and made up my horse experience because he never got to see me ride before Gypsy threw me and my confidence went to hell). I ended up looking like a complete moron who can't handle my own horse today.
I went down to thank the lady who had hopped through the fence at the end of the road to keep Aires from going any further and she and I got to talking. She bought the Percheron filly that came down from the same breeder with Aires, but she got Liberty (the filly) when she was right off the truck as a weanling. She has always loved Aires, but couldn't afford another horse. Anyway, she was going on and on about how glad she is that I bought Aires and how I've done so good with him and come so far with him. She told me how impressed she was that I took a 2yo stud colt that was 15hh and ~1200lbs that hadn't really been handled all that much and turned him into a (usually) solid equine citizen with good ground manners. She said how it was a testament to how committed to him I am and how much I was able to teach him that I have gotten him to where he would have been now if someone had been working with him since he was a weanling and how impressed she is that I was able to do so much with him in such a short time. It really made me feel much better, since she's not a friend and wouldn't feel "obligated" to boost my self-confidence like that.
Anyway, I realize now that there was WAY too much stimulation going on for Aires and he was not focused at all. In time he may be confident/relaxed enough to deal with that much stimuli, but right now, it's just way too much for him to process.
So, this next week and a half or so before my surgery, we're going to try to do as much arena work as possible. I'm going to head out to the barn every day after work and try to ride at least for a little while.
On the surgery front, I had my pre-op appointment today. Meh. lol
Do not tell me I can't...because I will show
you that I can.