A few years ago I went on a trail ride with a friend. I was riding an arabian gelding that her daughter had taken over. He was super cute, really responsive and smart. After ducking forward to avoid a tree branch I learned two things about my friend's daughter: she likes to run and she has a nasty habit of leaning forward when she asks for it.
I'd forgotten about that experience until last Friday. For a while now I've been thinking that the quarters will need a buddy after the move- otherwise I'll never be able to ride without knowing that the horse left behind has engaged in war with the fence. I found out about a 15 year old warmblood mare that's free to a good home through a coworker. According to the back story she was kept at a dressage barn for years and just wasn't working out, her owner wanted to move on and was going to euthanize (!) her. My coworker's friend offered to take the mare just in time. Sadly this friend has too many horses, too little time, and just got screwed over by her landlord- thus the free mare. Since I can (sort of) ride now I went over Friday for a test ride.
The first thing I noticed was that the mare, Laurel, shifted away when I tried to put the saddle on her back. Later she shifted away from the mounting block, I had to ask someone to push her hindquarters over so I could get on. Once on her back I asked her to back up since the other horses going were standing right in front of us. Nope, Laurel has no reverse. We got started down the road and she rushed off, I asked her to halt from my seat and got nothing, she completely ignored it. I asked her to move off my legs and she blew right threw them. She only responded to a strong pull of the reins and then only for a split second before plowing through again. Besides that she was tense and inverted. With my ankle at only 75%, I was starting to think that this ride was a bad idea.
Laurel was telling me that her last owner rode like a clod. I could see why she wanted to get rid of Laurel, riding a horse like that is no fun, but she had created that herself! It was obvious that she had extremely hard hands, used way too much leg, and had no concept at all of the seat aids. Her bad riding had created a horse that just plain didn't like to be ridden. I'm also willing to bet she has a temper, Laurel spooked when one of the girls I was riding with smacked a bug on her horse.
There I was, feeling worried but trying hard to stay relaxed for Laurel's sake. Dreading the point when we would turn around for home because I didn't want to fight her the whole way back. But something interesting happened. All the while I had been asking her for little half halts off the bit, when she'd give me an ounce I'd give her the bit right back. She slowly started to soften, eventually she asked for more rein, stretched out her neck, relaxed and started swinging through her back. All of a sudden I was riding on the buckle and having a good time. Perhaps her last rider didn't totally sour her on riding.
Maybe I will take that horse home...