We did have two rails down, both when the jumps changed and he didn't notice. He chested one of them, clearly not noticing the change until he'd already started to leave the ground. I'll take a calmly chested rail over the drama any day.
The adult ladies of the barn went out for drinks this week and Theo came up as a topic of conversation. The current bet from the group is that I'll buy him in the next 6 to 9 months. Trainer A thinks I should wait until I see how he goes cross country, but it dawned on me that I don't care if he can go cross country. Even if I never got him over his fear of going out alone, I really enjoy him. I enjoy spending time with him. I enjoy my lessons with him and going out to do things. We go out trail riding or jump around or do our serious dressage business rides or go to random shows.
Our blue from the discipline rail class
I think I've come to the part of my career where having a horse I want to see every day is more important than having the wildly talented prospect. I have very little interest in moving up the ranks of eventing anymore. I would enjoy getting back to the beginner novice level, sure, but I don't have the urge to return to 400 mpm again. As far as the dressage goes, I know he's not built to float across the ground or turn heads with his extended gaits. I'm okay with that. I enjoy working with him to get as far as we can manage. He's talented enough for what I need and our personalities are complimentary. At this point, that's more important.
Who wouldn't want to see this face every day?
So now it feels more like a matter of when than if.
I've got two weeks until our first attempt at a 3 phase. We're in the 18" division. Walk trot dressage test, 18" stadium, and a trot around the woods with poles on the ground. In theory, a cake walk. In practice, something Theo has never managed to complete. Trainer A suggested I move him back to a 2 phase, move up a couple divisions, and end my season that way. I don't know. I'm warring with myself. I want to try and see if our months of work have really made a difference. And if they haven't? Probably for the best I know about it.
I've learned my lesson. Don't ditch a great partnership in order to chase a specific discipline and don't shove a round peg into a square hole. If he doesn't want to play that game, so be it. I'll still be there to give him his massages, feed him cookies, and convince him that pushing off of the right hind is not actually going to kill him.