After the initial ride I rode Cat a few more times. Hated it. Kept thinking there had to be a way to lighten this mare up to the aids. I didn't want to go to a crop, or spurs, or a bigger bit. But she was a miserable ride. So, being the adult I am, I threw her out in the field for another six months. I'd look at her, groom her, have her feet done, etc. All the while she's relaxing more, not being such a schizo. Still has her moments, but getting better. I'd look at her and think, 'gawd I can't believe I bought this horse.'
Still to this day when you halter her, call her so she comes to you, open the halter wide and tell her, "Put you head in here." She dunks her nose into the halter, and you flip the tail over her neck, and quietly fasten it. Don't hurry, don't reach your hand up quickly. If you do, she's likely to come off the ground in the front, and fly backwards. Then she's snorty and big eyed, and you have to start the process all over again.
One day I'm working in the barn. I look up and my toddler is gone. Stealth boy. Every mom knows that sudden clutch, frozen inside feeling. I can hear him humming. So I walk out of the barn, and there he is, with psycho Cat. She has her head down, and he's giving her head a full body hug, rocking side to side, humming to her. I now feel like I'm going to be sick. I don't want to startle Cat. I also don't want this to continue. So, from the barn walking slowly I ask, "What ya doin?" He stops, turns his head to look at me, still holding Cat's head with a big smile, "I'm singing to Cat. She's my horse." Great. Great combo, she's 3 and half or 4, he's 2 and a half or 3. Oh, my personal nightmare.
He pats her between the eyes, and comes towards me, she follows him. She really likes him. I think it's probably a safe bet it wasn't a kid that cooked Cat. She loves him to this day. When they were both a little older he'd ride her. He'd have to kick and kick to make her go. If he got off balance, she'd halt. The first thing I tell adults that get on her, "Stay off her mouth, stay off her sides." She's not as forgiving with grown-ups.
This incident was enough to light a fire under me, to get busy on fixing this filly. We start really slow. Still having to untie her to put a saddle on. First order of business is to fix the walk, and lighten the rein aids. I'd take a contact in one rein. When she'd give, even a hair, I'd drop the rein...and I made it a point, almost tossing it on her neck. Pretty soon I was releasing as soon as I felt her even start to give. She got lighter and lighter. To keep her moving in the walk I'd squeeze, as soon as I got any response, I'd take my leg off. It was like popping the clutch on a car at first, but got better. It took six months of work before I got a swinging walk on a loose rein. Then we started on the trot, that had been this little shuffling jog. She still prefers a hair of contact in the trot. Which is fine by me. I don't think they did much canter work, it was pretty much fine. Except to the left. She was an absolute hag about picking up the left lead. Bucking nasty about it. I'd have to shut her down, make a circle and ask again. Odd, she's better to the left. You just gotta wonder sometimes.
So, I'd been riding her for about a year. A few of us decide to go trail riding. Sheri needs a horse. Yanki was off, and someone else was going to ride Splash. So, she gets Cat. Cat still isn't going the greatest. Sheri likes a horse that walks out, and is higher octane. Cat is still just kind of starting to get it together, and a new rider knocked her back a few steps. By the end of the ride Sheri is irritated, and frustrated. She says, "This mare is never going to be any good, what a stupid horse." Oh, throw that gauntlet. I say she'll be fine. Something along the lines of you'll be surprised when she's done. I think Sheri actually snorted. (Nice friend. lol)
I start hauling to an indoor in the evenings with my friend Karen during the week, and hitting the roping arena on the weekends. Karen's mom is a really good barrel racer. So, we start pattern-ing Cat. Just going slow, you know perfect practice and all that.
Well, I decide to take her to the first gymkhana of the season. She feels a little twitchy. I tell Sabrina she feels like she wants to buck. Sabrina poo-poos me. Okay, first event of the day is barrels. So Cat and I take it in a long trot, midway between the first and second they say something over the loudspeaker, and it crackles. Her head pops up, she then sees all the horses along the fence, and people sitting on the fence...and just breaks in two. I have my stirrups too long (like equitation length) a french link ring snaffle in her mouth, and I'm trying to pull her head up, while reaching for my stirrups. She snaps again, lands on her front end, ass in the air and shoves backwards with her head down.....and I'm outta there. I hit the ground so hard. She takes off flying around the arena. I tell the guys that are trying to help not to chase her, they'll just scare her more. Sabrina walks into the arena and yells, "Cat, come here." She looks up, sees Sabrina and flies over to her. Sabrina (another nice friend) says, "Did they scare you sweety?"
I come walking up to get my horse. Sabrina is trying not to laugh. Asks if I'm okay. I nod yes. She starts cracking up, "Man that mare can buck. I hope my mom got that on tape." Yup, love you too Sabrina. Her mom did get it on tape. Oh, Sabrina's mom was the breeder, by the way.
So that evening at dinner, I get to watch slow motion, frame by frame my buck-off. Sabrina saying things like, "Look, look there you were already done for, she already had you. Right there" Pause tape. I'd nod. "I don't know how you made it to the next jump....but then you were off." And watch it again, just in case we missed something relevant. This is all very educational you know. "Hey are you sore, you're probably going to be pretty sore tomorrow."