This past Sunday Bobby and I hauled over to our dressage trainer’s place to ride in his nice arena with mirrors. Henry was a little high and tense, and after trying with varied success to work through it for most of the ride, I convinced Bobby to get on for a few minutes.
Henry has only had a few other people on him since I’ve owned him – a couple friends hacked him for me once when I first got him, and then my dressage trainer rode him once last spring. I have to admit that when I handed him to Dressage Trainer that time, half of me was hoping he’d get on and Henry would just magically be this lovely dressage horse. The other half was hoping that he’d get on and have the exact same struggles that I do. Of course, he had the same struggles, he was just better at getting through them.
While I don’t think that Henry is hard to ride necessarily, he’s certainly not simple. Well… jumping him is pretty simple. The flatwork, not so much. He’s not bad or naughty, just super sensitive and naturally anxious. Every tiny little move you make gets a reaction, and a lot of contact and leg sends him through the roof. Less is more. Lots less. Very little, really.
Even now, two years later, the fact that his brain was fried before I got him is still easily evident. There is no doubt that he’s come a long way even from just a year ago, but it’s very slow going. He’s also not a horse that you can drill or try to force into anything – he’s too sensitive and gets nervous too easily. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we will never be fantastic in dressage and I will always have to be very careful with how I ride him, and I’m mostly ok with that. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated sometimes. Anyone who has ever owned a horse like this will understand what I mean when I say they have the most spectacular ability to make you feel completely incompetent on a regular basis.
So when Bobby got on I thought it could be really interesting. Bobby is one of the best dressage riders I know. He has those long skinny legs that hang perfectly, a really lovely position, a great seat, and great feel. Would Henry go better for him?
Answer: No. He had the same struggles I do. In fact, I think Bobby was pretty happy to get off and hand the reins back to me, and I think he has revoked his claim to Henry in the event of my death. He just said wow a lot for the first few minutes, and gradually started to figure out how to ride Henry. Or really, how to not ride him, because Henry is the king of “oh my god don’t touch me leave me alone AHHHHH YOUR LEG MOVED A LITTLE”. Sensitivity, we gots it.
So… sorry Bobby for torturing you (not really) but thanks for making me feel better about myself. It’s not just me. Poor Henny, he’s a delicate flower.