If you’re thrown into the deep end you either sink or swim. This happens with all of us; riders and horses.
Sometimes, they surprise us.
A few weeks ago, while I was disappointed that I’d had to pull Otis from a big competition, a friend suggested I found a mount to borrow for a sponsored ride. To my surprise I was inundated with offers, and ended up picking the Diva. I hoped that me taking him would give him the confidence in travelling, staying calm in crowds, and giving him a good experience with a steady round that would make his owner feel more confident about going on her first sponsored ride with him.
If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure how he would behave. He is usually calm but can overreact and get a bit, well diva-ish, over the silliest of things. He loaded into the trailer okay, travelled like a dream, and was alert yet calm when we arrived.
I was going on the ride with a friend and her pony, so the Diva had to wait for a bit until they arrived, but he still seemed quite calm, although definitely ready to start!
We set off at a keen canter – I think he thought we were going cross country! But after the first field we managed to have a walk. It was a very enjoyable ride: walking calmly, trotting or cantering on command, going through water, and popping over any jumps I pointed him at.
I popped a line of bigger fences whilst my friend bypassed them. Or tried to. Her pony however, had different ideas. The end result was an argument which was broken up by a tree. Along with my friend’s arm.
From atop of the Diva, I caught the cheeky pony and then because of a lack of medical help at that area of the ride, my friend had to remount so we could continue until we met the paramedics.
The Diva became Mr Sensible, and walked calmly through the next field, and when a group of riders overtook us in canter he stayed in walk and let me lead the pony, who had started jogging.
We walked for another quarter of an hour, being overtaken by horses galloping and jumping, and then we met the paramedics. With my friend safely in their care I carried on the ride with the two horses.
We made it back to the lorry park in one piece, and I was very pleased with how the Diva had coped with being thrown in the deep end. He kept his cool and didn’t get excited as others raced by – far exceeding my expectations. After all, Otis would never have let anyone gallop past him!
Although our ride didn’t go to plan, the Diva was perfectly behaved and will hopefully go to his next sponsored ride calm, and confident in his rider, focused on how they want to go. Whilst I wouldn’t have nominated him as a horse to ride and lead from, or thought that he was the horse least likely to canter off with passing horses, by throwing him into the deep end we gave him a chance to prove himself – and he did!
On a side note, I was really impressed with how everyone pulled together with our little hitch. Friends of mine led a completely unknown pony, untracked her, washed her off, and helped load her. It was also lovely to have people enquiring after my injured friend and showing genuine concern. It just shows how great the equine community is!