I’m fortunate enough to have a very quiet, well-mannered four-year-old Thoroughbred gelding named Carter. Since the day I brought him home I’ve heard how “good” he is and how lucky we are to have such a good guy. Enter Spring. Enter mid-four. Enter spawn of Satan.
It all began with an unassuming grooming session before our lesson last night. Like any other day, Carter was munching on hay when I arrived; happy to see me when I approached his stall, and eager for me to take off his coat and soak in some fresh air. We went about our business, our routine of brushing, hoof picking, tacking. He was even a little bit better when I secured the girth. I should have known then that he was saving something for the naughty corner!
It came time to bridle him. Now, typically, he’s been great and ready for the bit as soon as I near his mouth. Often he’s even mistaken the flash for his bit – eagerly trying to please and get into the arena. Today, easy does it… bit in mouth. No, wait! Spit bit out! Try again… he wasn’t having any of it… head up in the air mouth turned as far away as possible. Third try – not so much.
In walks my trainer who promptly moves him into his stall for her first attempt – usually that does the trick. Certainly, it did. Bridle on…bit in mouth… time for the nose guard. This is when all hell broke loose. He reared! Not once, but twice? WHAT?! I spun around to see my little; sweet boy on his back legs belly showing the world it’s here! WOW… THAT’s never happened. Crisis contained, bridle on…coaxing, relaxing, everyone breathing. We enter the arena. It’s spring. Remember. All the horses are a bit on edge; each one taking on a bit of an attitude when it’s time to work. And, I’m supposed to get on this wildly beast…oh, I don’t think so. And, neither did my trainer.
After a quick assessment on the lunge line to see just how crazed he was going to be – he appeared a bit calmer and didn’t even fight getting to the mounting block. She hopped on and off they went. For the next 45-minutes there were moments of pure bliss… he was forward, he was collected, he was my up-and-coming dressage horse. Then there were moments of Satan Horse – head pitching in the air, legs bracing for impact, moments where I thought I saw a bit of “grab the mane, now!” exhilaration. They went round and round at the canter and trot while my trainer coaxed, no really she pushed, through several moments of “I don’t wanna!”, “You can’t make me!”, “I’M BIGGER THAN YOU, little person!” attitude adjustment until he returned to a more recognizable Carter. It took the full hour for him to come down.
The evening ended with me hand-walking him a bit; working on some in-hand skills and a return to normal after a long post-apocalyptic grooming session. Never having experienced this side of him before, it was something to see for my first time. Stressful, tense, and almost shocking that this display of a young horse feeling his oats was my “he’s so good” horse. It was then that I realized that I’m still new to this whole horse thing and was thankful that my trainer sees it all the time and it’s normal; he’ll return to his typical self as early as next ride. But, to come to anticipate the return of Satan Horse for the next few years each fall and spring… can’t wait!
Now we begin the “I will win the bridle war” daily. The dentist is already scheduled – he’s due for his six month check-up. Learning continues. Tomorrow is another day.
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