We arrived with very low expectations. We looked at the jumper first. He was a beautiful appaloosa/Hanovarian cross, bay with a blanket of spots on his butt. His feet were like rocks. There was something about his eye that I connected with immediately. It was slightly goofy and fun loving and kind.
I rode him without spurs or a whip. The arena was huge and divided into a dressage court, a jumping area and an open area. We worked in the open area with lessons going on all around us. Despite all the commotion, he kept his focus firmly on me. He has had next to no exposure to dressage but he tried to figure things out. When we cantered, I asked him to transition down by half-halting and sitting deep. He didn't get it. He kept going, then sped up, then slowed down, then finally came down to trot. I praised him profusely. Next we hacked out around the boarding facility, through trees, past peacocks and dogs charging a fence. He spooked at the dogs -- just a hop sideways and then he waited for instructions. Yes! After a very fun time riding a very solid, safe and sane horse we put him away and got out the other horse.
Ugh. Three years old. He wasn't a bad horse but he didn't do it for me at all. Plus, he's already tall and still growing -- I don't need a 17h horse.
At that point, I checked the video camera to make sure Brett had caught everything on my ride on the first one. He had captured ... nothing. He had turned the camera on to standby but never hit "record." He felt horrible. I was hugely disappointed. The trainer said, no big deal - we'll get him back out and do it again.
So, we did. He wasn't sour about coming out and he wasn't sour about going into the arena and working again. Brett got it on film. I felt very connected to this horse. I felt like we were already partners. And when I asked again for a downward transition from my seat, he aced it. Smart horse.
Oh, and he was half the price of RA. I could afford him. I felt like an elephant had been squishing me and the idea of an affordable horse was like having the elephant get up and walk away. It felt wonderful.
Brett and I talked as we drove home. I called my trainer. She said being comfortable with the price is huge. I told her I would upload the video when I got home and send it to her. She promised to look at it Sunday morning and call me with her impressions.
When she called, she said she liked the way I looked on the Appy cross. She said I looked comfortable. His gaits are solid and good. They aren't fantastic like RA but I'm not headed to the Olympics. I like low stress, low key, small shows.
Here's video of me riding RA. I struggled a bit with keeping him forward and keeping my balance. He's young so he isn't strong and balanced yet. I wasn't always helpful:
And here's video of me riding the Appy cross. He spooks slightly at the far end of the arena but its so small that you hardly notice it. He's solid in his gaits and easy to ride. Very light in the bridle. We were able to immediately correct it when he picked up the wrong lead.
The next step is a trip to Fresno with my trainer for her evaluation. Then a vet check. Then, if all goes well, a new pony in the barn to play with.
His name is Winston. Winston Churchill.