You know what's hella fun? Writing a blog post about how you feel like you're making progress and then falling off the damn horse a few days later. Who did that?
I'll admit, I probably should have seen it coming. And ridden a lot better. But, the more you suck the more you learn...? Right? Oy.
The day started out great, with Java being super good for tacking up, standing like a gentleman and not messing with the horse on the other side of the fence. We got all dressed, including a bridle I hadn't used on him before.
I took him to the round pen to free-lunge before hopping on, looking for signs of his attention coming back to me. He had one heels-to-heaven buck, but settled in steadily and followed me to the gate to reattach his reins. Roddy had given me the rundown on the bit/bridle situation. Clip the reins one way first, and if it was too much bit, clip them another way instead. Cool, got it.
I did not "got it," as I would learn 30 minutes later. Roddy stayed in the arena to work some new client horses, and I rode with his second-hand girl, D., out into the front pasture. A handful of horses and a mini (!!!!!) were out in it at the same time, but it wasn't a big deal. Java doesn't seem to mind other horses milling around, carriages, dogs, the works. We crossed the stream; "Look up!" said D., when I - classically - got stuck looking down at it. I think I do that as a reflexive if-I-look-too-we-can-get-over-easier-because-I-understand-the-obstacle thing, but I'm learning to try to trust him to manage himself. It was 100% better on the return crossing.
We rode up around the perimeter, trotting up the first side, a big hill, walk/trotting the along the crest, and walking down the opposite side. It was about this time that D. said she likes to canter back up the hill. Awesome. I'm always down to canter a hill. And apparently, so is Java.
He was feeling fresh, and when D. cantered on ahead, I don't think I anticipated the lunge/lurch/borderline runaway pickup he went after her. Muscle memory did it's thing, which is to say I clamped down on him with my knees and picked up more contact. I don't think I grabbed him, but the bit, being on a curb-y setting, certainly did. He bucked once, I stayed, twice, I stayed, and three times, I sailed away, coming down hard on the righthand side of my back.
I hopped right up in time to call "There he goes!" and watch him charge past D., and her to whip around and see me, wholly surprised, before she went off to catch my horse. I was disappointed in the whole damn thing and marched across the field, but by the time I got to the stinking horse, he was so pleasant and unrattled that I had to laugh. D. fixed the bit setting for me and as we walked back over to the hill to try again, she talked to me about how she felt like she knew nothing when she came to Roddy's, too, and had the same habit of "pinching with her knees" that I did. Casually talking through my screw-up went a long way in fixing my attitude. We trotted up the hill civilly, came back down, and cantered it again. It wasn't perfect, but it was better, and I can live with that.
But, come on. How can I be mad at this face?
Back at the barn, I cleaned him up, put him out, thanked Roddy and D. They were both apologetic, and I couldn't help but laugh. I bought the young horse, and I bought my fair share of falls to come with him. I'm sure it won't be the last, and that's ok, so long as we learn from every one.