Crisp air means apple picking, pumpkin carving…and fresh horses. Nado found it to be especially invigorating and if I thought he was feisty during the summer, he was downright conniving in the fall.

When our barn headed to a schooling show one fall day, my trainer assigned me to Nado.

“It’ll be good to get him off the farm,” she said.

“Yeah, I haven’t had a good spill in a while. Jot down, ‘Nado ejects Lydia’ between show jumping and the dressage test,” I replied, knowing full well that cold weather + new environment = possessed pony. My trainer laughed and didn’t change her mind.

To my surprise, Nado was cool-headed and casual when we arrived. He strutted his stuff around the warm up ring and received numerous, “Your pony is so handsome!” compliments. Nado shook his thick, golden mane like a mini Thor and arched his neck. He was a complete ham.

As our dressage test approached, I went over the test with my trainer and spurred Nado into the arena. He was supple, soft, and lithe – I could feel the good ride. We started our warm-up lap around the ring…and that’s when all the good feelings I had went out the window.

Nado quickly morphed into a bucking ogre. I pulled back on the reins and there was no response. So there I was on a rocking horse gone wild as we bolted, kicked, and cursed our way around the ring.

The judges decided to give the one-minute warning right as we passed them. Nado lunged forward. I managed to steer the 1,000 pound freight train into the arena and down centerline. I hauled back with all my weight to get him to halt. He stood still long enough for me to bow my head.

“Ugh,” I thought, “just let me stay on.” I urged him into a trot. Nado settled into an even rhythm and collected himself. It was a total 180 from the warm up lap to the arena. There were a few turns that I felt him coil into an energetic ball, but he listened to my aids and didn’t bolt. I was sure he was done with his tricks.

Until we got to the show jumping warm-up. We calmly picked up a trot towards a small crossrail. Two strides out, he knew he had me duped. Nado latched onto the bit and charged.

We soared three feet over an 18-inch rail and landed at a dead sprint on the other side. All I wanted was one semi-controlled jump before going into the ring. Armed and ready for his shenanigans we trotted toward the crossrail for a second attempt. Nado politely hopped over the fence, and I compliantly released. It was a cordial exchange of take and release –textbook perfect.

“There’s a good boy,” I cooed as we cantered away. Nado snorted, looked back at me, grabbed the bit between his teeth, and flew off. Ugh! He had me again with his stupid good behavior. I’d had enough. I didn’t care how the show jumping went, just as long as I survived.

My trainer hollered, “One trip out!” I sighed as we crow-hopped our way to the ingate. I was tired of fighting, tired of being tricked, and just wanted to finish the day. Nado jigged as we entered the ring. I gave a half-hearted tug at the reins to check him.

And our trip was beautiful! There was no bull in a china shop, no rails, and no refusals. Upon exiting the ring he shook and gave a snort as if to say, “See! I can be good.” My trainer hailed us with compliments. “That was the best you’ve ridden. I’ve never seen Nado jump so well!”

A smile crept on my weary face. “I swear,” I said as I leaned over his broad neck and ran my hands through the thick mane, “this pony is bi-polar.”