Our barn neighbor, L, recently acquired the loveliest Oldenburg gelding. He's a bit of a senior (late teens), but he is trained to a T, and a lot of fun to ride.
L had been looking for a horse for a while; her old man is more than 30 years old. She recently found Austin, a jumper who needed a much easier job. L isn't interested in jumping big things so it was a perfect fit.
Austin is BIG, like 17 hands big, but he's so well trained that he doesn't use his powers for evil. And even though he is a bit of senior citizen, he still has a ton of spunk and personality. He's cranky in the cross ties - grooming, no thanks. That girth, it's too tight. He's also opinionated in the arena - There's a shadow over there, and since I feel good today, I will do a little buck.
Before I knew it, we had hatched out a plan where I was to ride Austin for the next few weeks when I had free time. He doesn't need any schooling, he just needs to move to keep his joints lubricated and his soft tissue pliable and elastic. Those older guys get stiff pretty quickly, especially in the cold.
The first time I rode him, I felt so bad that I couldn't give him a good ride. I used a ton of leg, but I just couldn't get him to soften or move out. And when we tried to get a canter, he lurched into the gait with me pony club kicking him the whole way. L wasn't deterred by my poor riding. She told me to ride him as often as I had time for.
I insisted that he walk however; there was no way he was going to tweak something on my watch! I wanted him to be thoroughly warmed up before we did too much trotting.
Once we did trot, I realized I was on a totally different horse. I didn't have to use any leg; he was already nicely forward. As we neared the shadowy corner, he sucked back and got a little light up in front. For a moment, I felt that sickening feeling in my stomach that I was about to be a passenger on a very large runaway freight train.
I did the only thing I knew, I rode him forward and protected the left side (he wanted to shoot left). All of a sudden, he shook his neck a little as if to say, yeah, I still got it, baby! and then he totted forward. Each time we came around to that spot, he tried to get a little uppity and bossy, but I kept my leg on and rode him forward. We circled through that spot a few times until he got bored with the show.
After the first oh crap! moment, I just laughed at his silliness. Riding this horse, even if only a few times, has already done a lot to boost my confidence. Every big horse is not set on my death or destruction. Riding him is certainly different from riding Speedy, who is fairly close to the ground. And even Sydney's 16 hand height doesn't compare to this dude's stature. Izzy is a solid 16' 3 (I used a measuring stick on him), so building some confidence on this sky scraper is just what I need!