I forewarned Bruce and told him about the horse’s checkered performance. Of course he knew the horse I meant and had seen him be naughty in the jumping field one day with Selena, but Solo had always managed to be pretty angelic when Bruce was in his immediate vicinity. I told Bruce about the horse taking me sideways through the gate and between the uncontrolled escaping of almost muted sounds that grew to unmistakable chuckles, he said that he and his team would be happy to help and to bring Solo over that afternoon.
Solo was to be ridden and assessed in his naughtiness by James Alliston who rides for Bruce. James is a great rider with even longer legs than Selena. He was looking forward to riding Solo whom he had admired on previous occasions. At 2pm on the dot, Solo was tacked up and Selena was walking him around in the work area. Bruce arrived and James took over on Solo. Right away Bruce asked James to start challenging Solo with firm circles to the right (Solo’s favorite time to launch an objection). Solo objected a bit and James legs sunk down farther and his seat got deeper and he just kept quietly kick kick kicking Solo to stay in trot while Solo tried to bring it into ‘leap, sideways, kick out, land” but James seat and leg were too tight and fast and he could only get in “hop up and down” in time to James determined aids. Finally hop up and down became less and less and trot forward very grudgingly was the next step. From there on, every time Solo tried to go from in front of the leg, to leap sideways or up and down, or anywhere else he shouldn’t be, James did the same thing until finally the horse pretty much gave up….so Bruce told James to take him straight to the ditch!!!! No warm up fence, no ‘get the feel of the horse’, just “go jump the ditch now James”.
Solo came into the ditch goggling and trying to go from side to side, James just sat quietly and TIGHTLY in the middle of the saddle with his legs wrapped around like steel. Solo tried to stop but James was still right there, legs on, body in the right place and Solo is not really a ‘stopper’ – he is an arguer, he just likes to argue the toss about everything, and it’s important that he doesn’t win….ever! He ‘won’ big time when he took me through the gate. Anyway…getting away from that particularly ego crushing moment and back to the ditch, Solo just gave up. No big fight, no huge panic, he leapt it a bit the first time and then he went over it back and forth like the experienced horse he is. Next he jumped around some exercises and show jumps – straight to the liverpool and the wall, Bruce was trying to get him to argue with James so that it could be assessed and dealt with, but by now clever Solo was paying full attention and knew the game was up. He finished with a couple of jumps over the Prelim corner. One with Bruce parking his horse as a barrier (same as he would do for any horse) followed by one of Solo jumping straight across it without a waver or a wiggle. He was magnificent and James loved him. Everyone wanted to know where we got him and how he was bred.
Bruce however was less glowing…..he told me I had babied Solo for far too long and it was a good job I had decided to finally teach the horse to be obedient…ulp….. He also said he would “see us at the same time next day”.