I get this a lot, particularly from people around the barn. Why did I buy the 12 year old school horse when I'm a good enough rider to invest in a green bean with massive potential and bring them along for the same amount of money. That's what I thought I was going to buy when I got back in the saddle. Buying inexperienced or somewhat damaged horses cheap has been my MO since my twenties. I could have bought some very talented, athletic four year old with no miles, but stunning gaits. I can handle green and baby theatrics, done it before. So why did I buy a lazy, stubborn draft cross with an attitude problem, very average gaits, and a habit of jumping out of dressage rings ?
Because he's the horse I need today. And that's a painful realization.
My beloved Hellbeast taught me a lot and could jump the moon, but it was a steep, sometimes dangerous learning curve. My Princess taught me just as much, but it certainly wasn't a position lesson. Her incredible talent came at a price. My position in my dressage pictures is really not good and my jumping position suffered because I was always in 'do or die' mode.
Seriously, hands, what are you doing?! And lower leg, where are you going?! Tush, back in the saddle!
I picked up some bad habits with my hands that I couldn't fix because I had too many survival type issues to handle. The Meathead helped my confidence in stadium, but made the dressage and cross country worse. The years add up and the basics start to suffer. I could never do a position lesson because I couldn't mess around. These were all sensitive, reactive athletes that weren't suited for an amateur.
I'm at the point where I need to have the option to work on me. The bad habits are piling up and becoming ingrained. When I did my jumping lesson Saturday, I could focus completely on my position in the air because I knew Theo was going over the fence and that he was going to do it in a completely reasonable, safe way. My abs still hurt from the experience. Riding a decent sized fence with a properly independent release takes a lot of core strength. My hands picked up some really dumb habits like hanging out around my crotch and I now do things like stand on my toes. I can put all of my attention on my position because my horse is going to just cope if I botch it or overcompensate.
It's really kind of amazing to me that when I'm trotting around with no stirrups, trying to get my body back, trying to fix my hands, and generally looking like an idiot, Theo just deals. He goes better when I get it right, but he doesn't lose his mind or explode if I get it wrong. I trusted Allen and Fi completely and utterly, but with the caveat that I trusted them to be themselves. Fi would jump like a bomb, Allen would toss me if I did anything dumb. Theo just keeps trotting. Or walks if I'm really out of whack.
Not very talented, but so very tolerant
Theo is the only amateur friendly horse I've ever owned. All of his nonsense aside, he can take a complete beginner and flop around the ring with them. His sensitivity is increasing, but his default is still to flop and ignore when possible. He's also very honest to a fence and has enough self preservation to do what's necessary to get out safely. The grid in our lesson was tight and high but he got us through it safely while I worked hard on turning my thumbs out and following his big effort.
It's hard to see the fantastic sport horses out there with their effortless gaits and think that I could have one, but instead I have the plopping pony. I know this isn't the time for stretch partnerships. I don't need another couple years riding defensively while getting some green bean started. I'm not going to get past First if I keep doing that. I need to grow, not bring along a talented baby, as much as I enjoy the process.
This is me, sinking almost as much into training as I do into board so that one, glorious day, I will sit the medium trot across the diagonal and not end up eating sand. And Theo is the poor, tolerant sap that is going to get me there.