That pretty much sums up Fi's second showing.
It started out well. I technically wasn't there, but I needed to drop off white polos for the princess so stuck around to ride Ben. And yes, I did want to meet the people that were considering buying my princess. They were quite nice. They mentioned the lady had been riding for five or six years, so that sounded promising. I walked Ben into the ring as the trainer was riding Fiona and she looked like a million bucks, trotting around very chill with her head down. She tossed the rider up and they trotted around together, looking wonderful. Fi wasn't on the bit, but she was being polite and quiet. The rider wasn't experienced enough to really get her on the bit or adjust her trot, but they looked happy together.
I didn't know the lady was scared of cantering. They asked for a walk to canter transition, but the lady didn't have the experience necessary to prep Fiona for it and then would get scared when Fi hopped up into the transition. It ended with Fi trotting each time. The problem was that they tried again, and again, and again, and the princess started to get tense. She was doing what she thought she was supposed to do, but they kept stopping her which she takes as a correction. That always upsets her. Her tension made the rider nervous and the situation started to escalate.
She had a lovely canter from the trot and I told her to stay on a twenty meter circle if she was nervous. Fi will offer a lenghtening on the long side, but will hold steady on a circle. The woman was quite nervous, I'd say she'd crossed into being scared at this point, and abandoned the circle to return to the rail. Fi got quick, the woman flat out panicked, and for the first time since I bought her, Fiona panicked. Whites of her eyes, head in the air panicked.
They made it around the ring twice before the woman got herself together enough to sit up and say 'whoa' with intent. Fi shifted back to a little canter, still looking terrified, and then spotted me. I've never been the one standing on the ground calling for a scared horse before. I called for her at the same time the lady got her back and she made a bee line for me, trotting up and halting right in front of me. Poor thing was just petrified. She'd been bad, she knew she'd been bad, but she had no idea what she was supposed to do. She just wanted me to pet her and tell her she was okay. I held her and let her calm down. She was blowing like a freight train and still trembling.
The lady slid off and everyone declared that it wasn't a match, Fi was too advanced for her. When the rider asked for a canter, she would get things like haunches in which freaked her out. If you're not used to it, horses going sideways or swinging their haunches around can be scary and usually comes before them being very naughty. If she was nervous about cantering, that had to be mildly terrifying. Then there's Fi's big, round canter. Even when she's being quiet, she covers some serious ground. If I'd known the lady was this nervous about cantering, I may have nixed the whole thing. The princess is a kind, forgiving, gentle horse, but she's exactly as brave as her rider. No one has ever panicked with her and now we see what happens.
I did have to sit and think back at all of the things she's faced, trying to figure out what caused today's incident. This is the mare that will face absolutely anything without panic, she's never bolted in all the time I've had her, what the heck? But as I went through the list, I realized that she's never had a scared rider. We've only put confident riders that would enjoy her on her back. Experience was secondary to a rider that was just confident. Even the less experienced juniors that borrow her for lessons enjoy cantering and the fact that she'll just go and go all day. They're comfortable with her getting a bit quick and know that she'll stop if they ask. They know that she's got some fancy buttons and just laugh when they get the wrong thing. Fiona has not had a rider that rode scared since . . .
The lady I bought her from. The one that was terrified of her and couldn't ride her. The one that knocked Fiona over while trying to canter.
Ding ding ding. That would be my lightbulb turning on. Holy crap.
I'll talk to my trainer tonight. We'll have to tighten up the screening process. They need to be confident at all three gaits to try her. Experience, skill, and confidence aren't the same things.
I'm trying to not beat myself up too much over this. The woman was so broken hearted, she'd really enjoyed Fiona and was all ready to set up a vetting. She was so excited for this pretty, fancy, sweet mare she'd found and I was excited that this nice lady in a great situation was interested. But at the same time, I'm glad it happened now. Better now than two weeks after they bought her and poor Fi being up for sale again, except this time as a bolter. On the one hand, I feel like I should have trained her better. Desensitized her a bit, made her a bit less responsive, but my friend just about whacked me in the head for saying that. As she put it, Fiona is a talented, correctly trained horse. You don't change that, you just find her the right rider. Someone with more experience is coming out tomorrow, so we'll see what they think.
Tonight I switch to martinis. Tomorrow, I think Fi and I are going out for a hack. Poor little mare, this has been just as hard for her as it has been for me. She needs to go out and defuse for a bit.