It's a challenge, sometimes, to handle a BIG guy who doesn't think you've got the stones to make him do the job he is signed up to do in this life. Given that he's rather opinionated as it is, and then he discovers his new regular rider is....me....coming off a bad fall with injury, and trying to get my balance and strength back, and learn the buttons to push to get Joe to work at the level he is capable of, well, sometimes it doesn't go as planned. Like anything with horses, really.
A few weeks ago, he started stating a very strong opinion about actually going forward when asked to do so by his rider. This opinion he made known by kicking out with one hind leg or another, and if the rider were persistent enough, he'd plant his front legs and throw in a huge buck. He declared working as a school horse to be completely out of the question, and then he decided that that short, middle-aged woman with the loud red hair was not possessed of the mettle necessary to convince him he really needed to do his job.
I started to worry maybe the universe was trying to tell me something, after a string of other mounts just didn't work out in a pretty persistent and obvious way. I started to worry that maybe he hated me, or that I was annoying him in some way, or that he was just not for me. Then, worse, I started to think that maybe I *didn't* have the stones necessary to be the pack leader, so to speak. Bucking isn't always a big deal, but it can escalate, and I've been bucked off enough to know how much it hurts, and how easily a horse can throw you off their back if they want to. THEN I started to worry about getting hurt again. Joe is HUGE, well over sixteen hands, and the distance from his back to the ground seems like falling off a building. But I knew that attitude, keeping that fear in my mind, would color every ride I took from here on out, no matter the mount.
And I don't want to be a timid rider. I don't see myself as someone who can or will just get on any horse at all, but neither do I want to be limited by my own brain to horses who don't have at least a little brilliance in them, if that makes any sense. So, with the help of my fabulous trainer, we set out to solve this issue. It took a team on Sunday, people cheering me on, encouraging me, my trainer getting on, a couple people to work with Joe on the longe line, and then me getting back in the saddle and reminding him how this whole situation was going to go. I got off after we did some nice work together, and although my legs were jelly with nerves, I knew I could handle him.
My weekly lesson was today, and my trainer warmed him up for me, through a couple of bucks and a bit of resistance. When I got on, I just grabbed mane and let him know I was running this show. One buck and a little bit of horsey whiny drama, and we were working together beautifully. It was incredible. I felt him just like I did back in December, before I got hurt, all smooth and rhythmic and forward. I could stay with him, sit up tall, hold my position, tell him where to go and how to arrange his feet and it was beyond wonderful. I could feel myself riding, really riding, instead of bracing for drama or getting flopped around like a sack.
My confidence shot up tremendously. I felt like I could ride and ride and ride forever. I can make plans for the show season now, and think about the things we will do together. One good come-to-Jesus meeting in the Church of the Arena, and we are well on our way. It turns out I *do* have the stones, and they are big ones. Today I (re)learned to never underestimate what I am capable of in the right setting.
I love this guy.