I haven’t had time to write in a while — the whole life on a farm thing and working a full time job. But I think an update is long over due for the grey beast, AKA the horse who tried to take his leg off in the gate & other owner worst nightmares.

Last we left off, I was taking his rehab slow enough that Oliver was ready to cry and he began taking rehab into his own hands by insisting on flying swaps instead of simple, and trying to drag me to the jumps when we would flat in the ring back in late February. I managed to keep him entertained until about mid-April with flat work, small cross rails working to small two-foot courses at home before I started lessoning on him again.

The first time I put the tack in the trailer and prepared to load him he nearly danced with glee. My goal was to show in mid-June at a big local show. Things progressed well, so we went. Mother Nature being the comedian that she is had other plans. We showed Friday in two classes over fences. Great first course, second course we missed a swap — my fault, so I skipped the hack, making excuses that maybe he wasn’t quite fit enough, but he was SO happy to be at a show. Sadly Friday night & Saturday night there was a MONSOON. I just decided  the ring was too slick and I didn’t want to risk it.

I do find myself strategically planning my HUNTER courses now. Make the step, find eight jumps with two clean swaps, exit stage left.  Now that I know he’s back from the injury, I scope out the ring for slick spots and places that may have deep footing. May be I’m over cautious, he is 100% much to the amazement of everyone involved. I’ve been instructed to let him do his job by the vets. It’s always going to be in the back of my mind though. So, I do my best to take the scenic route without making a big deal or having it look awkward. I gave it another six weeks and entered another show.

This past weekend the ring was sloppy but not flooded so I committed to showing the weekend if Oliver was game. He was a little silly — ok very sill — finding his inner Thoroughbred when I schooled him early on Friday. Lots of traffic usually doesn’t bother him, however he was very playful. Oliver is always game face on, when it’s time to show. Saturday I was really nervous, the poor judge was very kind. First course I steered around a ‘hole’ in the footing coming toward a line, looked down, pulled, then pulled some more. I found the deep one and said, “No, not deep enough,” and pulled again. We pulled a rail going into the line, then I panic and thought, “No do the add, OLIVE do the add stride!” Oliver at this point is getting annoyed, because he knows his job and what he needs to do to get out of the line. I hold my ground and insist on adding the stride, to which he finally agrees, and drops a foot on the back side of the oxer, as if to say, “See, I told you!”

Now I’m rattled and there’s a slick spot coming out of the corner of the ring that goes up to the diagonal, so I cut the corner, have added no leg, no pace and again find the deep one. Again I panic, resist with steel will to not pull, Oliver opens his stride eats up the distance, closes the gap and jumps out beautifully. I almost have myself together at the last line, two more over fences courses and I’m finally starting to trust that he knows he can do it. It’s so frustrating. I know what I need to do, he knows what he needs to do, I’m just scared to ask him. Because I know he would happily break his leg off and hand it to me, before telling me it’s bothering him.

I’m getting annoyed with myself because the deep one HAS to be more difficult for him then adding leg and pressing up for the good spot. My trainer, Kelly Kocher, tells me all the time to be consistent and ride with a powerful pace to the base. The powerful pace has all the options, speed up, slow down, stay the same. If your pace has no power, you have no options.

Sunday we came out and I set some goals to not pull and RIDE well, not just sit up there and pull hoping for the best. I wanted to help Oliver out and give him clear instructions. He hacked great, sadly I was trying to work my way out of getting sandwiched as the judge called for canter and I accidentally asked him to counter canter. Whoops! Can’t fault him for doing what he’s told.

The course had my nemesis from my last show of 2015 (see blog post about owing the judge a bottle of wine!) It’s a bending line, but the ‘in’ is a straight vertical that you have to jump at an angle to make the eight strides. I am super proud we bulldozed over that demon. I kept my leg and pace around the corner, rode to the base and nailed it. Apparently we were both SO FOCUSED on each other and the course, neither of us happened to notice a band of local trail riders taking advantage of the race track at full tilt. I was told they galloped right past my ring and behind the judge while I was in the middle of my course. Oliver and I were completely unaware. The second course went well, but I let him fade around the corner to the bending line and found the deep distance, but managed to lope out on stride.

Sunday was a day of confidence building for both of us. I know Oliver doesn’t understand my hesitation, and I’m hopeful I can work out of it for him and give him the rides that he deserves in the future. He’s such a good boy, and tries so hard for me, I owe it to him to ride better and help him instead of getting in his way.