Top and I had two lessons with Carrie this weekend. It seemed like a good idea in light of his new (old?) propensity to rear. (Man, I hate rearing). Funny thing is a rear is a way easier move to ride than a buck, at least for me. The problem is, it's just so damn dangerous. I think of it as the ultimate evasion. Well maybe not the ultimate, I did know a horse that would just flop over on the ground and lie there. (Talk to the hand bitch, what are you going to do now?). I just stepped off and swatted him, gave him a tug up and got back back on. The horse was totally shocked. It had worked well in the past I guess. He tried it one more time. I swatted him harder, and hollered at him this time, got back on. End of that game. I guess he'd flopped over on the previous owner. Previous owner didn't step off on the way down and had a leg pinned under the horse and couldn't get free. They went and got my shoer, who got the horse up and off the guy. That was Om. He turned out to be a truly great horse. He just didn't do stupid well.
I arrived at my lesson about 45 minutes early. Let Top chill for a bit. Then tacked him up and lunged him. He was really calm, very good boy on the lunge. I led him over to the mounting block to get on. One of my students had roached what was left of his mane off. What was left resembled the hair attached to those rubber Halloween masks. Very sad. Think thin and straggely. He'd rubbed most of it out sticking his head through the bars of his pen. It was a truly lovely Freddy Kruger kind of look. Figured it would be best to start from scratch. He actually looks really good. One small problem...the girls roached it all. I didn't even have a tag of mane at the withers to get on.
So, I'm on the mounting block (not nearly tall enough in my opinion) with the reins in my left on his slick withers, and my right hand on the back of the cantle. I went to step up, and my left hand slipped (huge surprise, right) and I bumped his mouth. He waited until my butt was in the saddle, and then filed his protest. A sharp kick with his left hind to one of the letters holding up the dressage rail. I didn't get after him, figured he could make his statement regarding my klutzy ham handed-ness.
So I start walking loopy soft circles waiting for Carrie to be ready for us after the lesson before me. When the other rider exits, we walk toward her. I say, "We need to have a talk." Carrie cocks her head, "Okay, what's going on?" I replied, "Well, I think I know why I'm the third person to be given this horse for free." She laughs, "I like the way you said that. What's he doing?" I made a motion with my hand of going up. All laughter is gone from Carrie. Instant serious. "He's rearing?!" I nod. "That isn't allowed. He can't even think about going up. We can't have that."
Some years ago a horse reared with Carrie, and went over on her. Hurt her bad. Broke (crushed?) her pelvis. It was a long hard road back. She did it, and in someways came out better. The woman has amazing focus and discipline. (Two things I lack. lol)
I have to admit I was twitchy. Any change in his movement, any hesitation, or pulling I was reactive. At one point he went to halt, and kind of hollowed and I tensed. Carrie smiles, and says..."He has to pee." Oh, huh-huh...no I'm not on pins and needles here. lol That made me realize how tense I was. Carrie say, "I really sympathize. I know this is tough. You have to ride through it. You can't let this go. I know it's scary." I don't scare easy, but I was not comfortable. It could have easily escalated to full blown fear. Then we'd of both been sunk. Carrie is very good at sending me confidence. I don't know what it is, but I feel like it will always be okay.
Poor Top, even when he wasn't being a jerk, I was waiting for him to be one. One thing I've learned, and it isn't always easy to follow through on....ride the horse you are on at that moment. Not the naughty horse you had yesterday, or the horse you hope to have next year. Ride the horse in the moment. If you expect them to do something 9 times out of 10 that's what they'll do...good or bad.
So we go to work. Back on the diamond. Walk halt, walk halt, over and over, until he was just soft soft soft. Hung neck, back up, quiet chewing happy guy. We'd add a little trot here and there, as soon as he'd build, back to walk halt, walk halt, walk halt.
So, I told her the advice I'd been getting in town. I didn't give any names, as that is just not nice. When I told her, she said "Don't listen. Tune them out. You were doing fine with this horse. We had walk trot canter. Walk to canter, halt to canter. No problems. Stay on your program. That advice will get you hurt. You need to go find a quiet place to work, ignore everything except your lesson. Stay focused." (Yeah, focus is an issue for me.) Top and I are a pair to draw to. Neither of us can keep our heads in the arena.
I then asked her about how heavy he is or can be. That I've been being told, 'You just aren't used to this kind of contact. That's how these horses are.' I hate heaviness. I prefer a light horse. So I was thinking 'Well crap if this is how it has to be, after all these years I don't want one of these.' My Swedish mare was light and responsive. I was told that's because she was 'hot', and not the usual WB. (Hmmmm????) Well, hell give me hot then. Top is hot. So none of this is working in my pea brain. I say, "I think he's just hanging on me." Again, "No, they have to have that kind of contact to be able to do upper level work." Okay, I've never been 'upper level'. I've made it through 3rd, training 4th. I was sitting on a TB and a quarter horse. Maybe I am clueless.
Carrie is momentarily speechless. (accent on momentarily) "NO! We ride great big horses, and they are light, light, light. You know how he feels when you halt, and he gives? That's how light he is. That's how light he can be all the time." Allrighty now, that I can live with. I needed a light at the end of this tunnel.
As we're wrapping things up, I let Carrie know I have another lesson the following day. She says good. We need to get this handled now. I agree and say, "I have to get a saddle that fits me, and him. This is the closest fit I have for him, and I still have to pad it. And it's a 16.5"...I don't have a 16.5" butt." Carrie says she thinks she has a couple of saddles that might work that she would sell me reasonably. I'm thinking...oh man what's reasonable to Carrie may not be remotely reasonable for me. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
So, that was the end of day one.