It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written anything about Pilgrim because I just had nothing nice to say about him. We’ve struggled this summer, to say the least, and it got to the point where he pissed me off so much one night that before either of our sweat marks had dried, I had 2 calls in to two of my trainer friends to see if they would sell him for me.
Both talked me off the ledge, but I gave some serious thought to at least sending him away for a month or so to training, because we seriously needed a break from each other. If P could talk, this would’ve been our real life conversation:
Every plan I ever had for a ride was derailed by him spooking. I couldn’t get anywhere with him. I couldn’t get through warming him up without explosions. Saddle fit, teeth, ulcers…you name it, I had it checked out. He was chiro’d and PEMF’d, put on Training Day, increased hay, lowered grain, etc. This summer was a real letdown, riding-wise, and I found that I was making every excuse to not go ride because it just wasn’t fun. My last straw was when I had to ride during a lesson due to my work schedule and there were some potential lesson clients observing. So BO asked if I would ride “in” the lesson because a specific concern of the potential client was boarders riding during lessons. As luck would have it, at the previous barn she was at, a boarder’s horse ran into her lesson horse and it reared and flipped on her. Pilgrim had been behaving for a whopping 10 minutes so I was hopeful and said yes. Not even 2 minutes in, he had already spun around, done his pogo stick impression, and attempted to race a pony. I was humiliated and furious, so we skulked out of the arena (and then he spooked walking right behind them, because, well, humans). Sigh.
I scheduled a weekend with my trainer in Aiken for the following week with the intent of seeing how he was over the 2 days, and then probably leaving him there for a month or so. The next day I went out with a very non-emotional attitude, tacked him up with ZERO carrots (he was very offended), got on him and sent him right into the trot. Sorry dude, you don’t rate a warm up any longer. Straight over ground poles, serpentines, transitions, figure-8s, spiral in/out, he didn’t have a second to think about the outside world. And it worked. So that was our go-to for all the rides until I could make it down to Aiken.
Of course the night before we were leaving, P finally figured out how to coordinate a buck. And apparently got the timing just right (posting trot) and I fell off. This is the exact look Pilgrim had when I stood up:
We finished on a good note- LOTS of walk to canter transitions, which P struggles with to the left, so naturally we did ALL the left lead walk-canter transitions because I cared ZIP about his feelings. Then we packed up early the next morning and headed to Aiken for a much needed dressage school and, later on, a super fun XC lesson. We worked a lot on slowing him down and rebalancing through counter bend, which makes P think really hard and also prohibits him from running away. It’s been a tool I still use on a daily basis and has been great for strengthening that weak hind end of his.
Much to the surprise of my husband, Pilgrim was invited back on the trailer to head home, and we’ve been doing much better. Rides are short with zero down time so his mind stays busy, and I try my best to ride before lessons start so we don’t disrupt anyone else in case he turns into his asshat alter ego.
I’ve been trying to think very objectively and realistically about whether or not P and I have a future together and I’ve decided that I’ll give it to the end of the month. I haven’t been 100% convinced that P will make a good eventer because of his spookiness. He’s got a to-die-for walk and canter, and a better than average trot, and his jump is out of this world. His athleticism is incredible. These are all things upper level riders have told me and are a big part of why I’ve kept him despite our struggles. But if I don’t enjoy riding him, or he doesn’t enjoy all parts of eventing…we’ve got to call it quits so both of us can move on. I entered in a horse trial in mid-October, and to prepare, we took some friends XC schooling at Kingfisher Park yesterday. P had exactly one refusal and it was my fault because I was NOT convinced he would jump the table so…self-fulfilling prophecy and all. But he led our friends into the water, over ditches…and was game for everything. I truly had such a blast yesterday, which just leaves me more confused than ever.
We’re going XC schooling next weekend as well, and I’m hoping to get in a dressage lesson before heading to Aiken super early next Friday morning to get in a lesson or two, then compete on Saturday, and stay for some more lessons on Sunday. The following weekend we have a hunter pace with some friends, and by then I should know whether or not to continue on with Pilgrim.