Today I arose at 0430, readied myself and left for the airport. After checking in for my flight, I found out it was running 50 minutes late. I work for the airline and travel standby. I waited patiently until my name was called. It was going to be a full flight. I was the last passenger called. Once I got down the gateway and was at the entrance of the aircraft, the pilot called the gate agent and said due to the large amount of checked baggage and weight, the number of passengers on that aircraft had to be reduced... so I was the first to go! Ha...
I raced across the airport terminal to get to the next departing flight, waited patiently and was thrilled to be boarded - again on a very full flight. I took my seat, unzipped my purse and pulled out my daily devotional called Jesus Calling. I am behind in my daily reads, so I decided to read what it said for April 1st. You won't believe it:
"I am calling you to a life of constant communion with Me. Basic training includes learning to live above your circumstances, even while interacting on that cluttered plane of life."
I rolled my head back and laughed out loud catching the attention of the gentleman sitting beside me. I just pointed to what I read. He laughed too and asked me if I was a believer. Ohhhh Yes! I exclaimed. He was an assistant pastor of a church in San Antonio. We had a wonderful time exchanging stories of family, horses, and faith.
Once I arrived in Baton Rouge, got my rental car and drove out to Maranatha Stables, I saw that Sport was already groomed and ready to go. He looked magnificent!!! Tommy tacked him up with a wonderful Freedman cutback saddle. He wants me to buy a new saddle and is letting me try out the different ones he has. What surprized me is that he also had the full weymouth bridle on Sport....the very thing that had caused all of the strife and stress with him!
Keep in mind, in the past, every single time I tried to ride Sport with the full bridle, it was so chaotic, the grooms would change him out of it and back into the training bridle. The former trainer could ride him in in, but I could not. In the training bridle, I was instructed to ride with a good hold on him, especially on the bottom rein. In the full bridle though, if I made any contact, Sport would become so upset, he would toss his head and even start jumping off of his feet.
Now, here I was being asked to mount him and ride him in this astride saddle, which to me almost feels foreign since I have been riding aside for so long. I was quite nervous and very very reluctant to make contact with the bit, but tried very hard to do what Tommy told me to do. We walked half way around the arena and I was instructed to trot. I clucked him forward and slowly took a light hold of the snaffle bit. The curb rein was so loose, it was dangling. Tommy told me to take the slack out of it...and I did.. about 1 centimeter at a time! I was so very cautious. Sport worked hard for me. He trotted with beautiful animation and enthusiasm around and around the arena. We changed direction and trotted again. I started to relax a bit and was more comfortable feeling the snaffle bit - still reluctant though to use the curb.... maybe next time. We cantered 3 times as well, with wonderful success.
"Tommy, I want to ask you a very important question and I need you to know that there is no wrong answer."
He looked up and nodded at me.
"Do you believe that what happened to Sport is a result of me riding him sidesaddle?" I looked intently at him for the honest answer I knew he would offer.
"I do not believe that. I believe that too much was thrown at this horse at one time though. He was not working well in the full bridle, he was asked to be a 5 gaited horse and he was asked to carry a rider aside very close to the same time and I just think it was too much for him to handle, which is why he started to rebel."
Tommy went on to explain that he understood how badly I want to ride sidesaddle, but that his first responsibility was to his riders safety. Sport was in such a bad place when he arrived at Maranatha that he was on the verge of becoming a dangerous horse, offering to rear...or worse. He told me that in his entire career he had 2 riders experience horses not only rearing, but flipping back on them. He knew I understand the dangers of a horse flipping on a rider who is riding aside!
With that he laid out a plan. Since Sport did not have a totally clean ride at Pin Oak, the next horse show, Tommy will once again show him for me. Next up will be me in an astride saddle for about 6 or 7 shows, whatever the equivilent of about a year is. By then Sport should have regained his confidence and not be so sensitive in his mouth, or resentful for a mistaken off balance pull. Then, he said would be the time to reintroduce him to the sidesaddle. He went on to say that Sport is extremely talented and with a bit more finishing will not be out of place at the world championship show!! (shhh - don't tell - but I kind of already knew that!!)
A lot more was discussed - but I was so comforted by what Tommy said and by the way he handles himself and the horses... I gave him a huge hug and thanked him over and over!
I felt very comfortable with this plan.