It’s hard to ride both Pearl and Eliot in the same day and not compare the two. Eliot is like driving a semi. It takes forever to get going, forever to turn, forever to stop…just a long time for any sort of signal to reach the brain and then travel back to the legs. It doesn’t feel necessary like it’s a matter of not being sharp enough off the aids– even when corrected for, say, being way behind the leg, you can feel him process and start to respond, it just takes what feels like an extra long time to get it in gear.
Pearl is like driving a sports car with a flat tire (I don’t know anything about cars or trucks, but it seemed like a decent enough analogy). She’s hot off the leg, quick to turn… you have to pump the brakes a little sometimes, but not in a runaway sort of way. She just genuinely enjoys going forward, thinking through new challenges, and being told she’s
a good girl the best mare in the whole wide world. When I first started riding her after almost a decade of pluggy school horses, the forwardness intimidated the crap out of me– I was honestly scared to canter her in an outdoor arena for fear we wouldn’t be able to stop.
After 6 years with her, I trust her in any situation. Not that she’s a babysitter beginner type, but I know her responses to situations and I know that while she might spook or buck or take off, the brain is always still between the ears and she’s easy to bring back down to Earth. I’ve been so spoiled by that leg-softly-holding ride that I honestly just don’t enjoy dealing with the backed off ones. I know how to correct it, and I can and will do it, but it’s not the type of ride I’ve grown to love.
I’m trying very hard not to project my disappointment at the Pearl situation onto my work with Eliot. He’s a good horse in his own right, and he’s doing well for a horse that has pretty much never been consistently worked for more than a few months at a time ever since he was started. But when he does things like decide he won’t be caught in the pasture today because you made him work yesterday and that was plenty thank you, it’s hard not to feel the resentment at having one young, sound, well-built horse that just doesn’t wanna play, and one older, conformationally sketchy, chronically lame horse who gives her whole heart no matter how much it hurts. Day-to-day, I’m doing much better facing reality than I was a year ago. I’m so thankful that Pearl is happy and comfortable enough to hang around and be a horse, and very grateful that I have other horses to ride. But having my first very own horse, my soul mate with four legs and a tail retired too soon when she by all rights should have had years left… that’s not something I can easily get over. So it’s really hard not to get frustrated about spooking in the same damn corner where there is NOTHING THERE I PROMISE, when I would rather be out galloping the trails, ears happily pricked forward.
I’m trying to keep E’s work as consistent/frequent as I can because that’s the only way he’ll be better about being ridden *gasp* multiple times a week, but it’s hard to muster up the motivation when the previous ride and the one before that were all just sort of meh.
Today he ran away from me in the pasture and only let me catch him when I brought Pearl in for her snack. He was kind of a turkey yesterday handwalking on the little trails on the property, so today I lunged him hard in the arena and then got on him to walk the trails because that’s happy fun relaxy time. He was very good, a little unsure but not balky. I’m trying to remember that he is making progress and he can be well-behaved even though it feels like his heart’s not it it. It’s not fair to expect him to be a different horse than he is, but then again, what in horses is fair?