Wanting to vent here a bit - and I’ll start by saying I work really hard to maintain the attitude that “there are no bad rides - it either goes well, or you learn something”.
My trainer doesn’t run a “sale barn”, but occasionally she’ll have people bring a horse to her barn to polish them up a bit and get them out the door. It’s not uncommon for her to let me lesson on them, as it gives me an opportunity to sit on different rides and she trusts that I can give them a decent school at the same time (and of course, under her supervision, and with the owner’s consent).
So a new horse shows up at the barn a few weeks ago, and the owner pretty much doesn’t have anything nice to say about him. He doesn’t stand, goes too fast, he has a spook, has a bolt, bucks, crow-hops around the ring, doesn’t trail ride. So my trainer had me ride him, and said up front - if he’s dangerous, nobody rides him and he goes home. As it turns out, this guy ends up being the sweetest, kindest ride. Wonderful barn manners, ground ties, stands in the wash rack and crossties, etc. Very green and easily distracted, but willing and with a super awesome mind - he figures it out once, and he doesn’t need to figure it out again. He has those classic OTTB sharkfin withers, so we thought maybe saddle fit had been causing the issues, but aside from that, we’ve just been baffled as to how or why this horse got such a bad reputation.
Hopped on him for a lesson and everything is going great. And at the end, my trainer set up a small gymnastic of a few trot poles and a small x at the end. Went through it a few times, and then she set up a small bounce at the end, again with tiny little crossrails. He was a bit intimidated by seeing all the poles, and kept sucking back at the last second, making it awkward and difficult for him, so my trainer handed me a crop and asked me to just give him a little tap behind my leg a few steps before the first crossrail to help him figure out that going forward makes it easier for him. Given how the rest of my rides on him have gone, we figured once he does it well, he’ll have it figured out and do it right the rest of the time.
The moment the crop was in my hand, this guy started to unravel at the seams. I asked for a trot and he almost jumped out of his skin. A big circle got him settled, so I aimed him at the gymnastic. Knowing he was already a bit edgy, I decided to be extra-conservative with the crop, and barely touched him behind my leg - this guy came unglued. Leapt through the gymnastic (correctly, yay?) and bolted to the end of the ring wide-eyed in terror with his head in the air, followed by many many hectic circles trying to bring him back down to earth while trainer and I realized what we had just done, followed by immediate regret. We stopped there, but even after several minutes of walking with the crop sandwiched between my leg and the saddle, he was still strung tight as a bow and ready to explode.
And that’s how all the progress and trust we’d built with this guy over the last few weeks went up in smoke with 30 seconds of ignorance. Makes me just want to cry. Mystery solved.