Fire, a 13 year old purebred Arabian gelding, came to our barn in the middle of March. He was trained as an English Pleasure horse and his owner needed to move him from his old trainer's barn, so she came to our barn because she is very good friends with Marge, the barn owner. Fire's owner doesn't ride, and he hadn't been ridden in months. I put him on the lunge line just out of curiosity and saw that he had tons of potential as a dressage horse. He has a nice rear end and really can swing his back.
So I starting working with him just for fun. He had some major fear issues at first, and was very nervous about being worked, or handled on the ground. Slowly over the course of six weeks I could see him relax a little bit and let his guard down. The barn staff were also reporting that he was more calm about going outside and coming back into his stall.
Then my friend asked me to ride her seven year old Half-Arabian gelding, Skyy, who she had for sale. Her hope was that he could get experienced enough to be able to qualify for, and do well at, Arabian Sport Horse Nationals and then he could be sold. It would be tough for me to ride three horses (my horse Kaswyn, my friend Susan's horse Albert, and Skyy, all Arabians doing dressage!) but I thought I could get it done. And with the support of my husband, and tons of help from my trainer, I was able to pull it off.
Well, that's only partially true. Yes I rode all three horses four or five times a week after work. And I took lessons, and took them to shows. I was able to qualify all three horses for Nationals, but ended up only taking Albert and Skyy because Kaswyn had back issues associated with his long bout with a splint bone injury. By the time he was really pain free there wasn't enough time to get him into shape to go. Anyway, I took Albert and Skyy to Nationals. And I fell off of Skyy in the Training Level Amateur Championship.
My trainer came to the rescue and rode Skyy in the Training Level Open Championship and went Top Ten (7th really) out of 40 horses. He was great for her. But I left the show with pain in my neck and arm, which I'm still struggling with today. And Skyy left the show and went back home, so he is not at our barn anymore.
Since I felt like I had an open slot in my training routine with Skyy gone, I put Fire back in rotation. He regressed right back to being afraid of being worked. This made me sad, but I knew that he was just scared and not a malicious animal. Of course I wrote about this on my blog, and Craig, my husband, read it.
I have to give him credit, because he's very careful not to interfere in my horse affairs at all. He brought up the fact that I had ridden another lady's horse (a warmblood) and been bucked off at a show. This resulted in a torn medial collateral ligament in my right knee which put me out of commission for eight weeks (read about that here). Then this latest fall in the show ring (you can see that here), again off of someone else's horse, has resulted in a whiplash sort of injury to my neck which still gives me pain today even though the show was a month ago.
Then he asked me to please not ride Fire anymore. He said he trusts Kaswyn and Albert, both of whom I've been riding for years. His feeling is that neither of these horses would do anything to hurt me, but since Fire has so much fear he just might do something out of fear that could hurt me, and he really doesn't want me to get hurt again.
I had to admit that he was right. Even though I know that Fire is really a sweetheart and is just fearful because of past training issues I couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't melt down someday and run off with me or something. No person who rides horses can guarantee they won't get hurt, and I know that. But I trust Kaswyn and Albert so much that I am confident that the chances of either horse hurting me are almost zero.
So, sadly, I will only be riding two horses, Kaswyn and Albert, and will no longer be riding Fire. He has a lot of potential, but maybe he's actually happier this way. He gets food (too much sometimes!) a nice stall, and daily turnout with his buddies. All this plus no stress of having someone ride him.
However I can't help but imagine what he'd feel like going down the centerline for the first time. I guess sometimes you just have to let go.