I cheated on Shiloh this past weekend…and I really liked it. I feel so guilty and confused!
On the weekends I like to set apart a chunk of time to go ride some friends horses that don’t get much exercise. I rode three separate horses and all of them are pretty typical quarter horse types: calm, level-headed, short and stocky, with bangin’ cute butts.
The first was an 8 year old 14 hh mare named Petals. She’s an absolutely stunning pale, creamy palomino color with lovely brown eyes. “Petals” was basically just green broke with no specialized training, but I had a blast riding her. I can’t put my finger on why I enjoyed her so much. I think it was a combination of her laid back personality and her smaller compact size. She was just so relaxed and uncomplicated. We walked, trotted, and cantered in both directions with no blow ups. It’s kind of sad that my new definition of a good ride is one where I don’t get unseated or emotionally rattled! She had such a cute, comfy little trot and canter, too. Occasionally she sped up going downhill, but I never once lost track of the rhythm. I was surprised at how much I like the way I fit on smaller horses better than the big ones. Shiloh is basically a 16 hh Gumby toy, so it’s a lot to manage.
My second ride was an oldie-but-goodie little 14hh quarter horse named Cooper. He was a little stiff at first, but seemed to loosen up over time. He’s been out of work for a while due to several bouts of lameness, but was fairly well behaved for the duration of the ride. The whole ride, I was dumbfounded at how he could move so well with his cute little head practically scraping a ridge in the ground. I guess I would consider this kind of movement “heavy on the forehand,” but I think it has more to do with the fact that his neck attaches to his body so low he physically can’t really travel up hill at this point in his training. At any rate, it was practically a vacation being about to hack around on a horse without micromanaging his head carriage. Cooper is probably an inch or so taller than Petals, so his size was still in my happy range.
Then as the finale to my three blissfully uneventful rides I rode Piper, a slightly larger quarter horse. The guy is utterly unflappable. You can take him out on a trail ride all by himself (a suicide attempt if I tried that with Shiloh), and he just walks along like it’s totally cool to leave the barn and his herd mates in the dust. He’s a bit of a chubbo coming out of the winter so we had to take frequent breaks to catch his breath, but that wasn’t much of an issue.
I keep running it over and over in my mind, trying to parse out what made these horses feel so much more fun than riding Shiloh.
Is it just because Shiloh and I are going through a rough patch, any other horse will feel more “fun”…simply because it’s less nerve racking?
Is it the size/speed difference?
Is it because I had no preconceived notions about hopping on these horses, whereas I have to give myself a pep talk every time I get on Shiloh lately?
And the scariest question of all: are Shiloh and I an incompatible fit?
It’s not that I don’t have good days with Shiloh. I do. It’s just that lately (for the past several months) my only productive. semi-controlled rides have taken place with my trainer walking me through what to do when he gets antsy or when I’m by myself and not asking him to work. I can ride him out of his pasture and through the woods now with no freak spins, but only if I dismount immediately when I get to the grassy meadow to let him graze and settle. Which is okay. I like sitting around in the meadow and reading while he munches. Yes, we’ve both come so far together.
But I want more than long grooming sessions and good rides twice a week. I don’t want to fight every time I get on. I want to ride a horse that can build my confidence, not tear it to shreds everyday.
I’m hoping all this confusion and angst boils down to the difficulty of learning new things after being stagnant for so long. I believe that if I can keep dumping gallons of blood, sweat, and (mostly) tears, I will understand what Shiloh needs from me to be able to succeed. In the mean time, I am trying to push harder than ever with Shiloh in hopes that I can finally find the edge of the learning curve and calmly drift back down….for now.