April with Tobi has been the same as every other April with Tobi. A complete and utter disaster.
Spring grass and the hooligan are never a good combination, and this year has been no different.
Our sessions have either been extremely encouraging, or highly idiotic, and the exciting (said with extreme sarcasm) part is that you never know what you're going to get until it’s too late.
One such incident last week occurred within 30 seconds of entering the school. We hadn’t even made it once around the track in walk when the letter ‘K’, which had come unstuck at the top, folded over.
If we'd been right next to it, I could have forgiven him, but we were at least seven walk strides away from it and it flopped with such pathetic-ness that only a complete fool would have wasted their energy being frightened of it.
Unfortunately, I was sat on a complete fool. Tobi had very quickly interpreted its actions as passive-aggressive and decided that he had to save us both from a now A5-size apocalypse.
Impressive teleportation skills followed and we performed some skilfully executed spins, followed by some sort of Rumba-style shuffle.
It was this exotic dance move that then proved to be our next downfall, because he had managed to send some of the rubber surface up onto the kickboard.
The horse-eating letter was now completely forgotten and replaced with invisible noise-creating monster, to which a hasty exit was clearly the only option.
And so, we hastily exited, by means of a 6ft leap off the track, followed by another 180° spin.
I do believe that I deserve some credit here for my stick-ability, but I’m not going to lie, I think my gel pad seat saver played a large part in this.
By now, I was sat aboard a jibbering wreck who point-blank refused to go anywhere near the track for fear of certain death.
Taking the positives out of this evasion, he did perform some excellent half-pass, although it was difficult to enjoy at the time, given that I felt like I was sitting on a faulty landmine.
The most I got out of him that session was to get him to walk one long side without exploding, and I considered that a success.
Six years with this horse has taught me that you must accept the little things and quit while you’re ahead.
It then took me a further ten minutes to dismount him, which is an issue that always arises when he's tense, so we stood like a pair of complete idiots on the yard with him threatening to stand on his back legs every time I so much as dared to attempt to get off.
It was a fun session and I went home thoroughly relaxed and excited about our next ride, as you can well imagine…
Facing the problem head on
Never afraid to expose horses to things, I decided to tackle the ‘surface-hitting-the-kickboards’ issue head on.
The next day I took him out into the school on the lunge line to try and replicate that event best I could, and calmly, but persistently, encourage him to deal with it.
But at first, all I wanted was him to walk around the edges of the school in a relaxed manner and then do the same at a gentle trot. Not asking too much really, I didn’t think. So off we set.
The first near-disaster was a ridiculously over-dramatic spook at the letter ‘M’, for no reason other than that it existed.
I’m not quite sure how he managed it, but he leapt that high with his front legs, that one leg went over the lunge line.
He then panicked when he felt it appear somewhere that it normally isn’t and set off like he’d been fired from the barrel of a gun.
Fortunately, he only managed half a lap of the school before I persuaded him to stop and let me sort things out, albeit with an accompaniment of dragon-snorting.
Crisis averted, I thought, although my original plan of a calm and pressure-free session was looking a lot less likely, as he was now eyeballing the lunge-line like it were a highly-unpredictable serpent.
The saga continues
Five minutes later and I was stood in the middle of the school, with 16 hands of bay idiot flying around me at a 45° angle to the floor.
Every half a circle or so, he would erupt into a mass of bucking explosions that had me mentally adding up the cost of the hundred or so physio sessions he was going to need to put him back into place.
I decided to just stand quietly until he stopped, because that switch in his miniscule brain had clearly gone again and no amount of ‘whoa’ was having any input at all.
Except he didn’t stop, he got faster and faster, like some sort of spinning top who was generating power with each turn, and now he was now lathered in sweat and his veins were popping out so much that he looked like a poster-boy for equine steroid abuse.
Envisaging tendons snapping all over the place, or a heart attack, I decided I had to step in.
Besides fling myself in front of him, which I had no desire to do, I opted for gentle persuasion and a subtle ‘reeling’ him in.
It took a further five minutes to get him down to trot, and by now I was that dizzy that I was staggering around like I’d just spent four-hours on a fair-ground waltzer.
By the time I finally got him to stop, his eyes were bulging scarily out of their sockets and he was breathing in such a way that I almost felt compelled to read him his last rites.
Needless-to-say, the useless creature was cooled down and returned to his box, while I went through every emotion in the book.
During the 20 or so minutes I had to walk around to cool him off for, I had mentally shot him, taken his shoes off and turned him away, sold his tack and spent the money, enlisted the help of a shrink, considered the cost of brain-transplant surgery and sold him to the meat man.
It was only afterwards, when I sat consuming copious quantities of coffee opposite his stable, with him staring at me lovingly in-between mouthfuls of hay, that I started thinking clearly again.
I remember a past instructor telling me, very nicely, that he was a complete idiot.
She was right. But he’s my idiot. And I will make something of that idiot one day.
It’s just going to take a lot of time, patience… and coffee..
‘Til next time,
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