The week after the show started our training of getting Vana to accept me riding him and accept the bridle. This was not going to be a good thing but I started into it easily. First we walked. Each time he sucked back and got behind my leg, I booted him into the bridle. Occasionally I touched him with the whip and kicked him up when he kicked out/bucked. Gotta get a proper response to that aid rather than EFF YOU.
OK, we managed to do that somewhat and he was begrudgingly participating.
So after walking, I decided to go for the canter. This is our easier gait and seemed less homocida for me to try. So we start cantering, he gets behind my leg, I boot him up and he.. does nothing. I touch him with my leg AND whip and he actually goes. More or less. Keep asking for him to come back and forth promptly and he puts in some good work with minimal issues with contact. There's hope for us.
Then we trot...
This is when shit got real and for the first time in my life I thought Vana might kill us both. Not over exaggerating. My green horses looked more broke than him. He couldn't bend to the right. He couldn't go forward. He couldn't do lateral work. He couldn't he couldn't he couldn't.
For a trainer that just asks for a try, this was not a good thing.
I did a one ring stop for the rearing. Nope, horse apparently has experience with hyper flexing and so he touches his nose to his shoulder (like the curling in the ring) and won't allow me to boot him/tap him/whip him/kiss him into the contact. Nope, no way, not happening. What he COULD do was throw his head at my nose, athletically fling himself sideways, and slam everything in reverse and run into things with the whites of his eyes showing and hs curb chain smacking as I have no rein contact.
It wasn't fun.
My goals suddenly became just to go forward without trying to kill us at the trot (walk was still doable). It took about 40 minutes, but I got a 20m trot circle in the end. Once he's forward, he's great in the contact and we can do things... until we.. can't...
Mentally I felt him more "with" me at times so it'll be the right pathway but man. I hope I don't die and he doesn't hurt himself. *sigh
I won't lie, after rides like this I always re-evaluate how it went. Did I do the right thing? Was I safe? Did I push too much for the level the horse was at? Did the horse learn something? Do I keep going in this direction?
The answer in this case was all Yes. I tried to convince myself to keep Vana at 3rd or 4th level and just putter there. I thought about retiring him to just be ridden at home. I was mad at his previous trainers for training him this way (although because of his age, this was the norm for training the horses). The list of things that went through my mind were lengthy but in the end, the best thing for both of us won't be the easiest - I need to tactfully fix this issue as we've known it was brewing. I'm going to focus on bringing up Jade more since I do really like riding her and we'll give her a chance to start showing. I just want something I trained and I enjoy to offset when Vana goes all Vana-y. If Vana and I ever get to GP, that'll be great but for now we're just going to keep working on his acceptance, his gaits, and keeping him with me. We'll hit shows but we're also going to start overlapping the younger horses and not make everything "The Vana Show" each show. I'm happy with this but it's going to be a long road. Or maybe not, he's a smart dude and wants to please.