Tigger is an interesting fellow. He's a beautifully bred Warmblood gelding by Indoctro out of a Darco mare who jumped 1.40m herself. I purchased Tigger almost exactly two years ago as my move-up jumper. When I bought him, he was a seven year old pleasantly fancy jumper who had competed to 1.15m and was expected to max out around 1.35m or 1.40m. I searched for some time for him and was absolutely delighted when I found him. The jumping world was my oyster.
The day I first tried him
Fast forwarding a little, things went from okay to bad to worse to done. He started to consider the fact that he didn't want to do things - even little things, like cantering poles. Poles couldn't have been more terrifying to him. To be fair, he was a green horse; despite the fact that he was seven, his actual experience and pro saddle time had him more in the five year old range. He got really spooky and started to say no to some jumps. I was bewildered and hadn't ever dealt with something like that - bearing in mind he was more or less my second jumping horse ever and I'd been jumping for all of two years at that point with a season off. So I didn't handle it as well as I could, which is something I fully admit. But even with pro help, things declined. It all kind of came to a head when he tossed my trainer at the time into a jump and broke her arm the day before the first show of the season. At that point, he got labeled a "problem", I was taken off him and he went to be ridden by a local pro who had a deep love for tricky horses and could stick anything. To make a long story short, we spent the summer trying to fix him, and I finally had enough when I tried to jump him myself and ended up on the other side of an oxer, alone, for no good reason. So he went up for sale.
We spent awhile trying to sell him as a jumper. Through a trainer switch and more horse shows this ended up not panning out very well. By the time January 2014 rolled around, he was stopping every time someone tried to jump him. It wasn't that he couldn't jump well. God knows he was scopey. But he was done. He had decided.
This prompted some redirection, and in April I sent him off to a local dressage trainer who had shown to Grand Prix and had a lively sales program. When she got her hands on him, she thought he might be a first level horse we could sell for $10-15k. (Note: I paid significantly more than that for him in the first place.) But as time went on she started to call me really excitedly and tell me how talented she was discovering he was. First, it was that he could do second level, and then the realization that his changes were very good put him at a third level prospect. As the months have rolled on, however, my little jumper reject has blossomed into a shining star in dressage land. And today he is schooling Prix St. Georges and his trainer expects he will move up to Grand Prix in a few years. My jumper reject, a Grand Prix horse - just not in the discipline we originally anticipated!
I'm happy for him, that he's found a discipline that suits him and where he excels and shows real talent. He's not perfect, and there's still a lot of work to do, and he's never going to be a particularly easy horse. He does make you work for what he gives you, but when you work he works just as hard.
In which I try to ride dressage for the first time ever
The problem is, I'm not a dressage rider. I've taken lessons on him, even a clinic with an international Grand Prix rider which I thought might shake things up in the right direction, but it's not my thing. I tried to make it my thing. I wanted it to be my thing. Because it's not exactly every day you just suddenly have a Grand Prix anything, much less an accidental one. But it's not my thing. And so Tigger is still very much for sale, with his price very much increasing as the days pass, which bodes mildly well for the next horse purchase but makes my checking account really sad in the meantime.
Tigger and I have been through the emotional ringer together. I was on cloud nine when I bought him and spent every spare moment obsessively watching videos of him. I was so happy that I found him. And then that slowly transformed to fear... which transformed into terror and hurt and anger. I spent a long time being terrified of even getting on his back, which rationally didn't make a whole lot of sense since it wasn't like he did anything bad while I flatted him, it was only ever jumping. I spent a lot of time feeling hurt and angry and upset and sad about the situation. Today was the first time I've been able to go back and watch the videos we took, and that I put together with such love and enthusiasm, from the days I trialed him, without wanting to pulverize something or cry.
Because he is a good horse. He's a wonderful horse, actually. He's sweet. He's kind. He loves to be curried and cuddled. He's a bit mischievous and funny, but he's comfortable and safe (as long as you don't point him toward a jump!) and a hell of a lot of fun to ride. He loves to hack and will plod out on a loose rein. He's going to make someone really, really happy.
But I need that to happen... sooner than later. I've felt like I just wanted to move on for a long time, but that there was some lesson that needed learning first. After almost two years I finally feel like I learned it. Had an epiphany, maybe. I finally feel safe, and okay, and serene about moving from him, instead of just wanting him OUT OF MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.
So... universe, if you're listening? It's time. Bring Tigger his new person. It's just time.