There are days where I want to sell Theo. Days where I'm frustrated, aching, and feeling like we'll never get anywhere. I want to put him on the side of the road with a sign saying 'Free'. He's usually not a big fan of me, either, when we're having one of those days. Nothing says 'F U mom' like trying to take a chunk out of me after a bad ride.
And then there are days when Theo shows me exactly why I overpaid for his lovely, fluffy butt.
It's December and the winter weather has set in. We're up to the medium blanket with neck rug as his go to blanket. A lot of horses are starting to lose their minds. Snow is on the ground so there's not a lot of space for bucking or playing outside. Too much energy? Let it all out in your lesson! Especially the TBs. I recognize that look in the TBs' eyes. I've had a horse bronc'ing on a lunge line in the arena during half of my rides in the past week. Even the plodding school ponies have been bolting and bucking.
It's hard for me. I just see a horse pulling themselves up, preparing to blow, and my pulse sky rockets. I tense, tip forward, and brace for the explosion. I don't know if I'll ever get over this phobia. Today's TB losing her mind was particularly bad. Trainer A had to take over for the rider and flat out warned me when I walked in the ring that there was going to be a real circus going on. The mare got a couple days off for various (very valid) reasons and came down for her lesson completely on the muscle.
I share my jump lesson with this mare and another TB now. She's sweet, but sometimes a TB has to TB.
As I sat on Theo with no stirrups on my saddle (I hate using stirrups with my winter boots, I worry about getting stuck), the mare absolutely lost her mind on the lunge. It was all Trainer A could do to keep her from hurting herself or coming in and hurting the trainer. It was pretty dramatic. Let me just say, her junior rider is a brave young lady. When Little Girl has an opinion, she lets it allllllll out. For about five minutes, she was an absolutely dangerous bronc. She went back to being a lovely partner for her junior after her outburst and they had a nice lesson.
But for those five minutes, I was just this side of a proper panic attack. There was a horse in the ring completely losing their mind in a noisy, dramatic fashion. I stayed on. I didn't bail. I sat there and scritched mi papi's neck while he stood and ignored the mare doing acrobatics. My copilot was riding the Baby Pony and asked if I was okay. I guess I was pale and she knows me. And I could say yes, I was okay, because mi papi didn't move a muscle. And I can trust that he won't move a muscle. I forced myself to sit back, relax, release his reins, and pet him while the snorting and thundering hooves went on. When I have to, I can completely focus on me and trust my horse to hold down his end of the equation. It's a big step forward for me to stay on and just breathe through something like that. Trainer A looked surprised when I stayed on. Pale, shaken, but still sitting in the saddle.
That's papi's handiwork. As we continue to build up the miles, he continues to prove that acting like a fool is just too much damn work and I can trust him to take a nap when that's an option.
The TB riders love Theo now. He's a soothing influence. While their horses are losing their marbles, Theo stands with one foot resting, taking a nap. It works on several horses. They wind down when the other horse in the arena is the epitome of chill. One TB that has a lot of trouble with keeping his marbles in his skull does better with Theo in the ring. Lots of riders bail when she comes into the ring, but now I can stay and give her horse company without risking my own safety. Mi papi doesn't even register that a horse is acting up in the ring with him. Having a totally mellow fellow in the ring makes it easier for the TB to relax and focus. And it's nice for the rider to actually have company and not feel like she's chasing people out. I've been that rider and I'm very happy to give her some company, regardless of what her horse dishes out.
I bought Theo to give me my confidence back. To hold my hand when I've hit one of my limits and I need some support. He's proving to be exactly what I needed.