Is he what dreams are made of or is he an absolute menace to society? The answer is both.
On Sunday I took Presto over to Majestic Oaks for a jumper show. I was kind of looking forward to it, because it was going to be his first 3’3″ class – it was time to check our progress. Hillary was also taking Lex, but 1) her classes were a little earlier 2) I really did not want a repeat of his behavior when we went for a lesson with Lex and Presto lost his last shiny little marble. He’s chill and easy alone. He’s completely terrible with friends.
So Hillary left earlier than I did, with Lex in her trailer. I was hoping they just wouldn’t know the other was there. That dream lasted for all of about 30 minutes. And once Presto did figure out that Lex was there, that was the end of us having a fun easy happy day. Much chaos ensued. He spent the next couple hours screaming non-stop, punctuated with periods of flailing his front feet in the air or trying to dig a hole to China.
It was not the most fun I’ve ever had.
I did finally get him to settle a bit as we got closer to the start of our division, mostly by letting root around the tack room of my trailer and make a mess of things, but I was on the last bit of my sanity by that point. I had started the day tired, and he used up every available ounce of my brain power and emotional energy with his theatrics.
Luckily once he has a job to focus on, he’s an entirely different animal.
When I finally got on he was LIT, and jigged his way over to warmup. I immediately starting bending him left and right, getting him to move his rib cage and accept my leg without yeehawing away from it. That plugged his brain in, and after a few laps we were able to get to work like normal. He actually warmed up great, and was less worried about the other horses than he was the last time we were in that ring. Once he jumped his first jump he was game on, mind on the job, and he was the wonderful animal I know and love. I do appreciate that part of him – for all his theatrics, he does do his job like a trooper once you give him one.
We did two classes – a 3′ and a 3’3″. The 3′ was fine… I was a bit of a space cadet and cantered right past the last jump. Everyone was like “ahem… there’s another one”. Oh right. Pick up the canter again, jump the last one. My brain was mega-fried by this point after having a horse screaming in my ear and flailing in my face all morning. My response to that is to just go real dead inside, and perhaps I went a little too dead.
Then we had the 3’3″, which was also fine. By this point he had thoroughly worn himself out, so he was getting a bit behind my leg, which my dead brain was a little too slow to fix, which led to a couple awkward distances. What I do appreciate is that Presto really gives no shits where you get him, he’s gonna jump the jump. Also neither of us were intimidated at all by the increase in height. Nothing we’ve jumped yet looks big on this horse, and he’s still mostly just loping over them. It’s a cool feeling, to have not even come anywhere near to approaching his limit. I think we’ve barely even poked a toe into “trying” territory.
Ideally the perfectionist side of me would have loved to do one more class and smooth things out a bit, but we were both out of quarters at that point. We’d done what we came to do, and despite Presto’s naughtiness all morning, I appreciated that once I got on and said “sir, you have a job” he got down to business and said “yes ma’am, let’s do it”. I love this horse both because of and despite his chaos… some days it just tests my resolve more than others.
I think the best moment of the day was when I saw a bit of a bigger distance into the oxer-to-vertical one stride. The Presto of a couple months ago would have been totally incapable of jumping big into that, compacting himself into the one stride, and jumping up and around the vertical – he’d have just punched that rail right out with his hind feet. I think every rail he had last year was coming out of a combination. But even with me jumping in a bit big, he landed, sat himself on his butt, and jumped the vertical fantastic. When I get little peeks of his true ability like that, it’s kind of exciting. It most definitely is in there. The harder it gets, the better he gets.
So really, mission accomplished? It was an annoying day, with all of his screaming and theatrics, and it’s possible that the hearing in my right ear might never be the same…
But we did get to jump around the 3’3″ and it was no big deal, so… we’ll call it a win?