When I brought Theo to live with Trainer Z, I didn't think I'd ever get to ride again seriously. I wanted Theo to find a leaser or at least have his brain cells reinstalled so he wasn't considered dangerous anymore. Now I'm in regular lessons, schooling Third in preparation for going after those scores next year, and reaping the benefits of having my very own schoolmaster that is always tuned up. It's been a huge change for the rider that did everything on her own, showed alone, and lacked consistent training. It's been very hard to swallow at times that I'm not the one having 'those' rides on Theo anymore. That's someone else's job now. I ride the result of her hard work. Not to say I'm not working hard, Theo does not believe in rider's getting to flop along for free. But for the first time ever, I have a professionally trained horse.
Trainer Z's barn is both friendly and serious business. It's small with ten stalls on the indoor and another seven or so horses living outside full time with run ins. Her riders are mostly dressage focused with some eventers mixed in. Not a lot of high level dressage trainers in this area welcome eventers with open arms but Trainer Z loves OTTBs and eventers. She has a member of the local hunt take her out on trail rides to give her dressage horses a good example, up to and including the GP level stallions.
That's also taken some getting used to. Random mutts like Theo rub shoulders with fancy stallions like Schroeder and are taken just as seriously. It feels surreal. Today I was heading into the ring while Schroeder was in the cross ties after his ride. Theo and Schroder know each because they trailered together to GMHA. We had to scoot Schrodie (no, fancy stallions get no respect from me) back a couple steps so I could mount without him messing with Theo. The fact that Theo gets the same handling and respect really changes how everyone looks at him, including me.
"He's the most impressive ride I have right now." That startled me considering the kinds of horses Trainer Z rides but it's not about the scores. He's her most complicated horse and her biggest achievement because the margin for error is so small. He apparently was doing caprioles in his turn out yesterday and getting up high enough to ding the top rail in his turn out. Even the junior stallions were staring at his behavior in awe. She knows what he's capable of and the baggage he carries. He's not a fancy import, born and raised to be a dressage super star. He's Theo, the wannabe stud with limited coping strategies for his emotions and the nastiest spin in the state.
Today I rode my half passe in the canter and felt him lift his shoulders up and out of the way. It felt like a completely different gait, a series of jumps instead of strides. I had my hands up because that's where his shoulders were and I must have been far enough back because he was happy to do it. He was balanced and powerful, happy to carry himself in the movement. It was amazing, a tiny glimpse of true self carriage and what the high level riders get to experience. It's a struggle right now to get my hands up but that's me learning to trust that this is real, it's not fake or him tricking me.
It's been a completely different experience since we moved in with Trainer Z. Theo is whickering happily before his rides and looks like a million bucks so he's clearly enjoying life. And me? I'm still getting used to my new role but it's a lot more than I'd hoped for just a year ago. And when the show season rolls around? I won't be out there trying to do it all myself. That sounds like a slice of heaven.