Y’all. Omg. Y’all.
Eli got a real lead change.
Okay, okay, lemme preface. When I say “real” I’m not talking dressage, I’m just saying the casual but balanced swap that goes down in Hunterland (Brunello, by the way. Holy crap.). It’s kind of the same, but it’s not the same. And different trainers have different ways of training them, none of which am I very good at. And, yes, Eli had been doing some lead changes, but they were always hitchy or kicky or late behind–ugly, but sufficient for the jumper ring.
But this one. It was the real deal. It was a feeling I know well from riding countless lead changes on many horses who all did them consistently. I was coming off a line, landed on the left but needed to turn right, so I, for the millionth time, closed my outside leg and figured Eli would swap in front but not behind, but then ….
He swapped. So casually. So effortlessly. I was entirely shocked. I shrieked and laughed and dropped my reins and threw my hands in the air and then wrapped my arms around Eli’s neck. My trainer was laughing and clapping. Neither of us expected him to do that. But he did. He can.
Eli probably felt a little confused by the big deal we were making, but maybe not. Maybe he got it. I never thought ever that I could be ecstatic over something as simple as a lead change, something I’ve done thousands of times on other horses, but there you have it. I am thrilled.
When you have a horse that was so screwed up about lead changes (among other things), physically and mentally, as Eli had been, and you fix it, all of it, over a long time, so that you get back to square one and allow the horse to finally do something successfully that had been frustrating both you and the horse, it is a really, really good feeling. I have had to undo, untrain, a lot of seriously unfortunate stuff in Eli, and he is turning out to be such a cool, fun, confident, and certainly a little impish, and still spooky, but also very affectionate horse.