I have taken on a summer project; his name is Jack. He is almost 4 years, but has the mind of a two year old. He likes to keep busy- very busy. It is not uncommon for him to be running around the paddock with large sticks- usually about four feet long- playing with them as a dog would. He is covered in war-wounds from playing with the other horses. These mark his story that he likes to play and he likes to play rough. I brought Jack into the barn. My goal was to lunge him and do some ground work with him and then possibly get on his back for the first time (if he was a good boy).
I had him all tacked up in the cross ties, the barn was buzzing, the students had just left for the ring for the lesson. I tightened the girth. Jack has had the saddle on many times and never had a problem, but he tensed after I did it up the last whole, so I loosened it again. I asked him to walk forward. He took two very awkward steps forward than lept forward then back and over he went head-over-heals with my saddle and me still attached to the end of the rope. Four times he stopped, then lept forward and reared backwards falling on his back. I kept calm but my insides were shaking. People in the barn were horrified. I just stood still, and didn't dare to let go of that rope. It was the only thing that kept me with him. Finally he was too scared to move, he was back on his feet, frozen in his place. Help had arrived and we got him out the barn. We tightened the loose girth without incident and continued on to the outdoor ring. Two of my fingers were bleeding, but I was determined not to get frustrated. This is horses- expect the unexpected.
I lunged him and did ground work without incident. Jack's ego was deflated. His horrific experience seemed to turn him into a man, so much so that he let me get on his back without flinching, without fear, without any doubt about what I was doing. Strangely enough I had his complete trust. What a miracle it was and what an experience. Lesson: no matter how good your three year old is, still treat them as a three year old. Anything can happen in a blink of an eye.