I thought I knew my type. But then again, most people think they know their type, but it's often the one they overlook that changes everything. I wanted to overlook Theo, he wasn't my type. That's what I thought, anyway. Even when I leased him, even when I bought him, I had it in my head that he was the exception. I bought him despite himself, in a way. He wasn't really what I wanted, but I didn't want to share him. But when cantering mi papi around completely on the buckle this weekend, I couldn't help but declare 'I love this damn horse'. To which Trainer A said 'he's amazing'.
Not for the reasons I thought I prized and not for the reasons most trainers list for their mounts. His movement is average at best and he's pretty inflexible through his whole body. He's prized because he's innately chill. Even when I can feel the buzz of excess energy running through his body, that electric, popping feeling that most riders are familiar with when the horse's skin shivers and moves when you touch them, I can drop the reins and have him stretch and walk. He was hot all weekend, eager to move out and looking to burn off that electric feeling. I had a hard time finding the bottom of it. He barged through my hands at the trot, picking up the canter and threatening to bolt. But when I dropped the contact, his head went to his knees. Trainer A prizes him because my lessons are reliably productive and enjoyable.
He's the only horse in the lesson program with that reaction to life. Little Girl popped a full blown capriole in our last lesson, leaving Trainer A a bit pale. I hung on to papi's mane and practiced my breathing while he napped. I put my friend on him to practice her canter and jumping because, in the ring, there is no safer horse in the barn. When did I start to prize this? When did that feeling of safety become the most important feature?
Have I been a secret draft cross fan girl this whole time?
At Trainer A's insistence, I'm branching out to other horses again. I'm fit enough and in practice enough that things like bucking and barging don't bother me anymore. I'm a gutsy rider, I think the temper tantrums most horses toss at me are cute more than anything. I've ridden the Hellbeast at his worst and after Fiona? A below average moving pony having a temper tantrum isn't a problem. This is the part I can't wrap my head around. If Baby Pony's bolting and Juicebox's broncing make me giggle, why do I need my completely chill horse to really relax? Am I secretly a coward?
I don't think I am. When papi has his moments, you still need to be a gutsy rider to handle it. When I take him out to the Ritz for that first time this spring, I'll be wearing my cross country vest and probably have him in a wonder bit for some extra leverage. He's got a big buck in him and I've made him very strong.
Maybe I'm just coming to terms with the fact that I'm not a professional and I'll never be one again. I'm not riding to win the Olympics or compete at Grand Prix. I'm an ammy adult. I miss nights of riding due to meetings. Some days I just want to go hack on trails or chase a soccer ball.
I'm competitive, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'll be in the low to mid levels forever. With that realization comes the fact that I don't need a talented horse. I need an enjoyable horse. I need a horse that will forgive me for missing a day and will go for a long walk down a trail without missing a beat. I'll never score a 70%, but I'll make kids giggle by riding backwards on my horse.
Yeah, I did that. Theo was amused. His girl is weird, but she has cookies.
I can't decide if my tastes have changed or if I'm more in touch with what I've really wanted all this time. I could go either way. While I'm adding naughty ponies to my dance card to keep me in practice, my partner has become a refuge. I feel safe on him. Not because he's predictable, but because he's inherently lazy. While I can power him up, he will always stop if given a chance. And if I want to be lazy, that's always an option with him. It's been a long, long time since I partnered with a horse where I could be lazy.
Who knew laziness could be perfection?