My most senior horse is 25. His name is Calloway, and he is quite infamous in our area for being an outright bastard when he was a school horse. We met when I was leasing a suddenly lame horse at the university equestrian center, and I was offered a lease on Calloway in exchange. The director asked me “How are you with bucking horses?” It was an ominous opening, I answered with “I’m pretty good.” Luckily I wasn’t lying.
Calloway had developed a “fun” habit of jumping a fence, and while the rider was still out of the saddle for landing, he would lurch to the left and buck violently, which would neatly launch the rider skyward. He would follow these acrobatic feats with a victory gallop lap around the arena, before letting himself get caught. I was informed of this right before my first jumping lesson on him. The challenge was set.
My instructor had set a fence of negligible height, followed one stride later by something slightly more impressive. The plan was to get him over the first fence, keep him straight , get over the second one and turn right as hard as I could before he could put his evil plan into action. So off to the trot we went, approaching the miniature fence on an arrow-straight trajectory. He launched from a long spot, I stayed tight in the tack. We landed, I felt his right side tense and lean left, I sat and reeled him back straight to the next fence. He grunted, launched over the second fence, and in the air, I felt him start to flex left. We landed, I sat down as gently and quickly as possible, and he lurched left again. And he was denied again. I assumed we had settled who was boss. I had no idea that was just the warm up.
The next few weeks were fairly innocuous. I rode him, I jumped him, and we had no real problems. Until the evening lesson. The evening lesson with the course. The course with the *duh duh duh* diagonal line. It looked like a simple 18” vertical then five strides to a 2’oxer. No big deal for a 16.3hh thoroughbred who had previously been an expensive hunter, right? We approached the first fence with a verve that resembled a near-critical nuclear reaction. Took the normal long spot, then Cal leapt forward and bucked. I suddenly found myself without stirrups. Not one to give up, I pushed him on to the second fence; realistically, though at the light speed we were now hurtling along at, the second fence came up awfully quickly. After landing the second fence, Cal bucked again, completely removing the reins from my hands. I was atop a madly galloping horse without any control, and I was not jumping off at this point. As Cal began to embark on a premature victory lap, I reached down his neck, and I grasped for his windpipe. And I squeezed. At this time in my life, I had fake nails. I used them, and I shouted in his ear “Ho!”
We stopped, I won. He never behaved that badly again. We embarked on a relationship based on mutual trust after that day- I got rid of my fake nails, and he got rid of a crappy attitude. We showed and worked well together. For other people, however, he was still considered a liability for the university, so eventually I adopted him (well, technically, my boyfriend adopted him, but that is another story) and he began his second life at 21. His transition from ring hunter to dressage horse is certainly enough for another blog. And his current life, yet another. To be continued!