To read the story from the beginning,
Blair was moving her training business to a new barn, and would have no school horses. So who was I going to ride? We talked about it, and she thought we could work out a deal where I groomed for her and got lessons and ride time on her horses or, maybe, client horses. She also said she'd teach me more about training.
This all sounded great to me. Blair had three horses at the time - Porteeya, wild young western and halter mare; Llano (pronounced yah-no), half arab western gelding who Blair had bred; and Bo, half arab saddle seat gelding. Teeya was out of the question for me to ride at that point, but I would have loved to have ridden either Bo or Llano.
We moved to the new barn. I can't remember the actual move, so it must have been uneventful. The owners were an interesting pair - more on them later. It was a very nice, brand new facility, and it looked like Blair's business was taking off.
I can't remember the specifics of what we worked out, but what I remember is that she never paid me. I worked after school as much as was allowed by my parents and on the weekends. During the summer I worked more. My job was to groom a horse for her to ride, and while she was riding that horse I would groom and tack up the next one. When she was ready for the next horse, I'd hand them over and take the horse she had just ridden. Then I'd cool that horse out, groom them, and put them away. Then onto grooming the next one. I think the most horses she ever had in training at one time was 22, and she really needed a groom if she was going to work all those horses in one day. Sometimes she'd have me lunge a horse while she was riding.
She also had other horses that weren't in training, but were clients horses. These clients would ride their horses themsleves, and take lessons once or twice a week. Some of the clients didn't have time to ride their horses as much as they wanted to, which ended up being a great thing for me. Blair would tell them that I would exercise their horse for them, for free! It was a win-win situation - I got my butt in the saddle for a few hours a day and the horses got worked. I also got to sit on many different horses at various stages of training, and at different disciplines. I learned hunt seat, western, saddle seat, and side saddle. It was really a blast and taught me a lot.
One summer Blair got a little bay thoroughbred gelding in training who needed to be broke to ride. She wanted me to take him on and do the training myself under her supervision. Larry was a very sweet, small horse, and I think she figured he probably wouldn't try and kill me. She let me do all the things she had showed me on Missy - tacking, lunging, long-lining, and finally getting on for the first time. All of this went completely without a hitch. Larry was smart and willing - I was lucky.
Then came the day that I was to canter on Larry for the first time. He had all of the verbal commands down pat, so I figured that it was just a matter of getting on, asking for the trot (which we had already done without a problem) and then kick him a little and say "Canter.", like I do on the lunge line. A few people were standing around watching with Blair, and she told me to go ahead and ask for the canter.
We were trotting in a circle, at a medium speed, and so I sat down, kicked with my legs, and said "Canter." Larry just trotted faster. I slowed him a little, per Blair's instruction, and tried again. "Canter!", a little more firmly with the voice and leg. Again, what I got was a fast trot. We tried again, and again, each time getting a fast and more determined trot. the last time, I didn't slow him down, but just kept kicking and saying "Canter! Canter!" Since I was told not to post the trot into the canter, I was bouncing in the saddle like crazy. Everyone started laughing.
Then the saddle started slipping. I thought maybe it had just shifted a little, so I kept at it, bouncing and kicking. Suddenly the saddle was really tilted, but I didn't want to give up cause I thought he almost had it....but then...
I fell off. Well, I kinda just bounced off the side as the saddle slid completely sideways. In any case, I hit the ground. Everyone was really laughing now - Bair couldn't even talk. They said it was like a cartoon, the way I bounced off.
The only thing that got bruised was my ego. Blair hopped on, got him to canter, then had me do it, and we called it done for the day.
You never forget your first. So, Larry, wherever you are, this one's for you.
To be continued...