I have stage fright. This Thursday T.S. is coming to work with us and the goal is to get Rugby ridden. And I know T.S. said he would mount up first, then I will but I'm feeling the knot-in-the-stomach-nerves already. I know this horse is not rank, mean or wild but I've got butterflies.
The groundwork has been moving smoothly, any issues I have been getting very good at catching and correcting immediately. After my last session with T.S., I started doing groundwork with Rugby wearing his bridle over the rope halter without reins. All he had to do was carry the bit - the lunge was always attached to the rope halter and work through the same basic exercises. At first I could see a slight difference in attitude. More of a confusion as if, "Why am I wearing my bridle? What are you going to do with me?" and as I did the same movements we have been perfecting before, he relaxed. After a few days of this I added him wearing his saddle. Again, I noticed his hesitation but he worked with it and relaxed.
I had to miss a few days in between due to family stuff and lousy weather. And when I next worked with him I could see something wasn't right. Not a lameness or illness, more of an emotional shift. He seemed less connected and though he did what I asked, I knew it was just not him. So I let him have a day where he wore no tack, just the rope halter and lunge line and we did a long work session, then rewarded him with 10 minutes in the grazing area. And I was glad to see that the mood seemed to lift. He was less aloof after that and interested in the attention I gave him. I don't like to anthropomorphize too much but I'd swear he was ticked off that I didn't have time to spend with him for a few days.
Over the weekend when I put the tack on and took him out to work, it was as if he was just wearing the halter. His attitude was no different. So I took that as a good step forward.
I'm finding him to be an interesting horse. He's obviously immature. He is generally a very mellow fellow but can become emotional very quickly. I think that's more connected to his immaturity than temper. He's not usually reactive in the usual sense but his size makes him a force to be respected. He is very smart, but he learns slowly with clear cues and once he has them he retains them. I get the feeling that once I win him over completely he'll be an amazing partner.
So I am 3 days away from my mission. And I'm nervous. I just want it to go well. I've been going back through my photo albums and looking at all the pictures of me riding and showing and jumping and galloping over the years on so many horses. And keep asking myself what the hell am I afraid of now? I didn't suddenly forget 35+ years of riding and I'm not a quitter. I will do this.