I’m prefacing my account by beginning with my conclusion. Even if my Waterford is loved, carefully started, very intelligent, generally accommodating, I have my work cut out for me. I have to win his respect. And he’s five!
Today was my long anticipated solo flight on my youngster bred especially just for me, by me. Up until now, I have had a few rides with Jen holding the lead line and me acting the SRS eleve. Meaning no rein contact. But today was supposed to be that solo twenty meter circle debut that I have looked forward to all winter.
And Waterford was having none of it.
We began at the mounting block. As soon as I put my foot into the stirrup, he stepped away, surprising me into a rather loud admonition. I know, you don’t have to tell me. Totally the wrong thing to do, but he caught me unawares. And I yelped. Second attempt went fine. I sat for a moment to relax. But he already picked up my worry. I mean I am 66, he’s 5 and over 17 hands. It’s been a while since I sat in him ( or any new horse for that matter). I think for most of us, a solo ride on a new horse, even one you know on the ground, means some elevation of heartbeat. I picked up my reins, asked him with my seat, rode a few reluctant steps ( he was reluctant , not me) and he halted. Jen marched to his nose, I asked again and I think we made a half circle before he ground to a halt.
So now I’m worried, because he’s behind my leg, because I’m not sure how hard to kick him, and he’s got my number. We lumbered forward again. He’s falling in, trying to get to Jen in the center. Now I put more leg on him and kick. Nothing. Jen walks back to his nose. She clucks him forward, I kick. Nothing. I kick harder and he starts backing up.
He’s never done this to anyone. So I’m in new territory. Jen is in new territory. I’m feeling reluctant to escalate tensions and equally reluctant to get off. I say out loud to Jen, “I really don’t want to let him get away with this.” So I try again, this time Jen grabs the inside rein and we have some reluctant forward, stumble around a quarter of circle or so. I attempt to cross the diagonal. Nope. He sees the exit, he’s tired and hot ( Jen had just worked him), and he knows lunchtime is nigh. He also knows he’s got a timid rider up there who is not impacting him at all with her aids.
So now when I kick, he goes into reverse. In all fairness, he has not threatened to rear or buck, but I feel him bunching up a little. Probably due to my growing tension. Jen asks me to lighten my seat and lean forward a bit to get him forward. I was so proud of sitting back in my seat, resisting any fetal position but I try to be game. A few reluctant forwards steps and he quits again. I send Jen across the circle with the hopes of taking advantage of his liking to be near her. It’s a no go. I know I need to stick this out but it’s getting worse. I can tell Jen wants me off and safe but knows it’s not good for either of us to give up now.
Again I gain few steps when rein grabs the reins. She ends up slapping him on the butt with her hand. Three more steps. I guess I look more worried. Jen advise me to hop off and she gets back on.
I feel better when I see that he doesn’t want to go forward for her either! She resorts to the short crop and with reluctance, the kid eventually responds with a good trot and canter.
So, yes, I’m disappointed. I guess I really expected just to get on and do some walk. By the time I got off I was shook, which my confidence certainly didn’t need. But I told Jen, should this happen again I would get back on after she put him to Rights. I decided right then and there to just assume this was an anomaly and it’s also his age. He’s going to test the rider. Next time I will carry a crop. I did kick him enough to know he wouldn’t buck or get dirty today. So next ride, I feel I can be more assertive.
Now I need to put aside the dream first ride. That just wasn’t in the cards. Tomorrow he gets a hack with Jen, so I will try again Saturday. Maybe it’s better for both of us to have early disagreements in a somewhat controlled scenario. We just have to believe in each other.
The best thing about today? It can only get better! “Forward” is the new mantra!