If I look like I belong on Oliver, it's probably because I do. I know all of his quirks... and all of his gifts... in much the same way I know my longtime friends.
I made a promise to my husband, Ron, that I wouldn't jump any horses after my riding accident. But ya' know, when it comes to riding and horses there are just some promises you simply cannot keep, not even to your husband. (Single horsewomen, take note of this fact). One of the very few horses I still jump is Oliver. Ron has finally accepted that he cannot keep me off the big bay gelding. But I think he's finally okay with that. You see, Oliver is not a green or unpredictable horse. He's an older teenager, and he's been in training at Sue's barn for nearly 10 years. Over the years I've often been the one to school Oliver. Many times I've climbed aboard him at shows and tuned him up for one of his young owners before they took him into a medal class. Want to know something even more special? Oliver was the last horse I rode right before I hopped on Barbie for the fateful course where I was injured. And Oliver was the first horse I rode when I finally got back in an English saddle a year later. So you can understand why I feel safe on Oliver. He's like an old friend.
Lately I've had more opportunities to ride Oliver because his current owner, Kiersti, is off to school and simply doesn't have time for him. She'd love to lease him to a deserving competitor, but in the meantime I get to ride him. Lucky me! Because he has so much schooling, I get to polish my skills at the counter canter, execute flying lead changes down the center line of the arena, and practice shoulders-in and leg yields. I can almost imagine that I'm back in the show ring, or at the very least, preparing for a competition. And while I'm limited to how high I can jump-- and so is Oliver, due to his age-- that doesn't mean that I can't relive a few medal class rounds by occasionally zipping around a rollback turn to a small oxer or cantering through a bending line.
Like many warmbloods, Oliver is a slow burner: he isn't apt to dash off toward a jump. But he can be a little faint-hearted at times, because his brain is about a half-step behind his body. Fortunately, I'm aware of this, so I synchronize my mind to coordinate with his. I prepare to ask for a canter before I actually press my leg into his side to get the actual transition. I think he appreciates that. I certainly appreciate having Oliver in my life.