Pearl has settled into the herd nicely. So far, the herd dynamics have not shaken out the way I thought they would. Just over a week in, it's Copper as the alpha, followed by Pearl (very, very recent), then Skeeter. I would have thought Skeeter, Copper, then Pearl. Copper stepped right up the minute Pearl moved in, which bumped Skeeter down, but she still out-ranked Pearl until yesterday/today. They're still fine-tuning the hierarchy, but I think this is pretty close to being done.
Jessica came out on Sunday for our first lesson with Pearl. We'd not done much other than just let her settle in and give her some loves, so Sunday was her first work day. Jay and I have both worked with Jessica, so we had L.E. do the groundwork lesson. It's overwhelming, because Jessica knows so much and when you're trying to learn it, it's like drinking from a fire hose.
Pearl was a bit worried that we'd taken her away from Skeeter and
Copper, so we brought them over and tied them to the trailer. She calmed
down immediately with her "support crew" near. It was good for Skeets
and Copper to stand tied at the trailer for an hour, as well.
L.E. learned about how/why Jessica does circling work the way she does. It's helpful to have had the same trainer with all of our horses, because we can work any one of them the same way. After trying on a few saddles, Jessica decided Jay's brown Aussie fit her the best, so we tacked her up and L.E. did more work with her.
It didn't take long for Jessica to decide it was time to mount up. L.E. was a bit nervous because it has been about eight years since she was on a horse. I can certainly understand her apprehension. It's hard to climb back up on a horse if you haven't been on one in a while.
Even though the saddle is way too big for L.E.'s little rear end, she did really well. Pearl was perfect and L.E.'s grin was infectious. She's pretty in love with Pearl about now.
At the end of the lesson, L.E. wanted to make sure Jay got up on her while Jessica was there. They lengthened the stirrups and Jay started to mount up. The step-stool/mounting block was a bit far away, but not too far away. It was just far enough that he had to reach a bit to mount. He dragged his foot across her butt, which was no big deal, but then got his leg caught on the cantle, which causes a bit of worry. By the time he got his butt in the saddle it was too late, she was well and truly worried and set to bucking. Jay managed to ride out a little buck and then she let loose with a big buck and off he came.
Luckily, we were out in the middle of the field, so there wasn't much to hit on the way down. His years of TKD training as a kid paid off and he managed to tuck and roll before going splat. Pearl has never offered a buck - ever - so Jessica was stunned.
She asked me to climb up on her, as we assumed it was just too much for her with the foot dragging across the butt and the getting hung up on the cantle and the general awkwardness of the mount. We started off just like she was a new colt: foot in the stirrup, add weight, get down; foot in the stirrup, add weight, lean over, get down; rinse, repeat. She was calm and taking it easy, so I threw my leg over and plopped down to simulate an uncoordinated mount. Pearl took offense to that and off I went. I landed stuntman-perfectly - flat on my back. The only thing missing was the crash pad. The air whooshed out of me and I had a moment of panic before I rolled over to my hands and knees to attempt to catch my breath.
As much as it hurts to admit it, it was good for me to get bucked off. It's been a while (about ten years or so) and I'd let it build up to be some horrible, horrible thing. But it's not. I hit the ground, which hurt like a mofo, but I managed to get back up, which reminded me that I just lived through what I'd built up in my mind to be the worst thing that could happen on a green horse.
There were things I could have/should have done differently, but I'm not sure it would have changed the outcome, so it's not worth entertaining the "what ifs".
Jessica told us that she would not have believed it if she hadn't seen it with her own two eyes, up close and personal. Hell, I wouldn't have believe it, either. We discussed what happened, but couldn't really come up with a good reason. Jessica climbed back up on her and rode a circle without a problem, then she changed to her own saddle, which she's more comfortable in, and rode around some more. Pearl was an angel.
After a couple of days of thinking on it, I have a hypothesis. Jay's saddle has a channel down the middle, with pads on either side. Neither Jessica nor L.E. are heavy enough to compress those pads. However, Jay is. My thought is that when he finally got into the saddle, those pads compressed (bulged) inward toward her spine and "bit" her. Pain will definitely cause bucking in a horse who's never offered one.
While, I'm not as heavy as Jay, I've got fifty pound on both Jessica and L.E. When I plopped down into the saddle, I also "bit" her on the spine and she said "ouch". If I'd eased into my mount properly, she might not have bucked, because the compression of the pads wouldn't have been so sudden and ouchie. We might have had problems later, at a trot, if I'd missed a post or inadvertently slammed down on her back.
Both of us are sore as all get-out and Jay has some amazing bruises, but we lived through it and now we know that his saddle is not one that we should use with Pearl (and we both should lose some weight).
We hobbled through getting the horses put away and had to get pretty for family pictures later in the afternoon. We both knew it was going to suck and it did, but we managed to smile, not grimace, through the pics.
I had no sooner crawled into bed after an eventful (and painful) day when there was a knock on the front door. Jay was in the living room and yelled out, "babe! Someone's at the door." To which I reminded him I was nekkie and in bed, so he pulled on some britches to answer the door. It was one of our neighbors to tell us that the horses were out.
"Are you freaking kidding me?!" I grumbled as I pulled on some clothes to join them outside. Turns out, it wasn't our horses who were out, but the across-the-street neighbor's horses. Since Jay and I horse-sit for them when they're on vacation, her horses associate us with food. They allowed us to catch them while they were grazing in our yard and let us lead them back to their paddock.
It was reminiscent of the livery's break-outs, but much, much easier to handle, thank God. I don't think I could have dealt with one of those scenes.