I apologize for the length of this post, but there's a lot of ground to cover, and it just won't work to split it into two posts.
After much soul searching, I made a major decision this weekend: to put Poco up for sale. You all know how I feel about the big lug, so I suspect I have your attention.
Although Poco and I have come a long way, he needs a much stronger and more capable rider than I am (and possibly will ever be) to bring out the best in him. It's not that I lack confidence in my ability, and I certainly strive to improve my skills, but I also have to be realistic. I will be 59 years old in May. I did not ride as a child, didn't grow up around horses. I naively bought Poco as my first horse in 2006. I am basically a weekend warrior, which means that I don't really get to ride enough to make dramatic improvements in the short term.
Poco is not a lesson horse, but that's how I've been using him. He has tolerated me on his back, but the last couple times I've ridden him, it's obvious he's whatever the equine equivalent is to bored and frustrated. You all know what I'm talking about when I say that I could feel him about to explode under me. It's been the grace of God and the bond we've built on the ground over the last five years that he hasn't purposefully ejected me.
And yet, if I take him down the road with Jaz on walkabout, he has always been perfect. As long as he's not the point horse, he is intrepid and will willingly do things that Jaz won't, like descend a (relatively) steep ravine, cross water, etc. Forget trying to get him out by himself. I've worked on the buddy-boundness as much as I am able, but again, it's the whole weekend warrior thing. He's already latched onto one of Heather's client horses, Cruz, since he's been up at Iron Ridge. Unfortunately, I don't always have the luxury of having another rider for our excursions, and our road is not a safe place to pony another horse.
I take 100% credit for Poco's impeccable ground manners, because when he came here, he had NONE. I'm proud of that, and grateful to have learned that I have a strength in that area. My instincts are best on the ground. Poco will do anything for me on the ground. He'll stand tied for hours and let me do anything I want. He loads on the first try. He's still a tad bit heavy-footed, but he does pick up his feet willingly. He doesn't crib, bite, or kick. Both times I've come off him, it's been because he was scared and I was unable to ride us out of it, which a more experienced rider may have been able to do. I have to work really hard in the saddle; it does not come easily to me.
All you have to do is read on Heather's blog what she has been able to get out of Poco, and it's obvious that the difficulties I have with him stem from my lack of ability, not his. I have to step up and say that this is as far as I can go with him, given the fact that I still have to work full time, and am not able to ride any more than I currently do to rise to this occasion.
Now, Poco and Heather have a love-hate relationship. She has his number and can make that horse do INCREDIBLE things. He hates that. And yet, he loves the challenge. He is thriving. I wish you could see how good he looks.
Poco actually has a lot of good qualities. He is completely sound and tough as nails. He has good feet and is very sure-footed. He has stamina to spare. You can't wear him out; you will just make him stronger. Although only 14.2hh, he is well able to carry a larger rider.
He's smart. I was goofing around with Jaz one evening after he'd finished his food. I taught him to touch and bump a ball using clicker training. Poco was sticking his nose in my pockets, trying to get the treats. I stepped away from them both to give Daltrey some more food, and I see Poco push his way in front of Jaz and start pushing the ball around, like, "So, how does this work? Where are my cookies?"
And I have learned so much from Poco. I knew nothing of the true nature of horses until I got him. I had to step up at every turn because of that crazy-ass, psycho gelding. He has played the pivotal role in how far I've been able to come.
I made the decision to put him up for sale, not expecting that anyone would buy him. And that's fine, because I committed that he has a home with me until death do us part. He is not one of those horses that pines away when he's not being used, though that's not really what I wanted for him. On those occasions when someone would come over, I loved being able to take him down the road. But, unlike Jaz, he's not a horse that you can not ride for a couple months then just jump on.
If the right circumstance were to present itself, I decided that I would not hold him back from being all that he can be.
That opportunity presented itself most unexpectedly.
When I told Heather of my decision, almost immediately, she suggested a trade: Poco for the remainder of what I owe on Daltrey. I was not expecting that AT ALL.
I heard myself say "done."
Over the last few weeks, I've felt Poco and I detaching from each other. I can't explain it. I have been troubled, and perhaps he has sensed that. When I went up there today to give him a spa day, uncharacteristically, he didn't want to be caught. I won, of course, but the point is: he is already her horse, and has been for weeks.
I'd be a liar if I said it wasn't bittersweet. Poco (or Poko, as he will now be known) was my first horse. My love for that beast made me weak in my knees, and probably always will. I am grateful that he is in a situation where he will be worked to the full extent of his potential by a kind, experienced rider and trainer. I am also grateful that I will still be able to see him, love on him, and ride him whenever I want.
I'd also be a liar if I said I wasn't excited. I very much like the new dynamic here with just Jaz and Daltrey. I had a fantastic ride on Jaz yesterday. I was able to concentrate on my riding rather than simply controlling my horse. My experience with Jaz has been that when I'm ready, he'll take us to the next level.
What a weekend it has been. So far, I haven't cried. Maybe that's because it hasn't really sunk in yet. Maybe it's because I constantly affirm that all is exactly as it should be. I feel like I've grown up, in a way, because I was able to set my emotions aside and make a decision based on what was best for both of us.
And life goes on.