I must admit, as I heard the rattling of the gates, I thought "Poor Percy." This horse was really being tested. Green horses aren't supposed to have to deal with this much stuff thrown at them all at once like this.
It did not surprise me to see the horse spook. Even a seasoned horse might have been thrown by such an incident. How many people actually school their horses to deal with a rider mounting too close to something, let alone an eight foot tall pair of chain link gates rattling overhead like that. This would have been a lot for many horses.
What did surprise me was what happened next. After Percy's initial reaction where he jumped upwards and then slightly forward(a spook much like his sire's in the showring had been) the horse rolled over and into the bridle and stopped dead in his tracks.
Jessica, with her poor balance, fell onto his neck from his initial spook but that didn't faze him. He stood like a rock. The "whoa" on this horse was as solid as any well broke riding horse.
His eyes told the story. There was fear there but also something else. The horse was looking to me for reassurance that "whoa" was really necessary. He really wanted to flee but in his mind he had been told not to move so instead he was doing what he was told.
The truly amazing part of this is the horse responded to a cue that was not delivered by the rider. Jessica didn't even have hold of the reins and her fall forward was the opposite of the weight shift I teach as a whoa. When the horse jumped the sheer force of his reaction caused the reins to move which in turn caused a light roll of the bit. That little movement is what stopped this green horse. I could not have been more proud of my horse. Percy had definitely proven he was a star.
Jessica struggled to right herself all the while trying to understand what had stopped Percy. Once she was straight in the saddle she reached for the reins. I had to remind her to pat and praise this horse who had just saved her b*tt. Percy, however, was already locked in on my voice and the reassuring words of praise I immediately used to encourage him as his feet hit the dirt in that whoa. I don't know that Jessica's words meant anything to him since his gaze never faltered from mine. He was definitely looking to me for direction.
I couldn't help but think how differently this could have ended. I had had a similar experience nearly twenty years earlier with Aidol. Some of the details were different but a toe caught in a gate while riding a green horse had been the same. That horse too had stopped immediately but the height of my toe had been much lower so when the gate released my foot it sprang back and whomped my horse on the side. The horse read that blow like a cue and I suffered a serious injury. Yet in both situations the green horses had responded with incredible bravery in a very scary situation.
It is this kind of heart that fuels the devotion I have to Arabian horses. The trust they give to me is such an incredible gift, it is sometimes hard to fathom I actually deserve it but I am incredibly proud they have. Both Aidol and Percy's story remind me of the obligation I have to return their gift in kind. As I looked at this brave gelding, I couldn't help but think how he deserves someone as equally special as he is.
To be continued......
That's It for Percy......