Here is a link to a lot of pictures from our week of riding. Helle took tons of pictures while we were actually out on the horses and I hope to include some of those when she's able to send them along.
For the most part I felt a little more in control of the situation on Zorro if I had both hands on the reins and my attention on what he was doing. He was a little bit like riding Hoover, I think. Very sensitive and alert . . . and very sensitive and alert. He could either listen to me so well that I could move a finger or a leg a fraction of an inch and he would do exactly what I wanted--he almost intuited what I was asking--or he needed to be controlled and soothed and cajoled and abruptly brought to task. A good guy over all and really sweet when I was on the ground with him; but also a little distractable, and given slightly to hysterics over unexpected things like the Three Blue Boxes of Death along one wall of the arena the first day, or The Ominous Chunk of Grey Cement in the Ditch Next to the Road, or the truly unexpected (by me as well) Old Rusty Washing Machine in the Woods.
On the first full day that we were out, a horse came up fast behind Zorro and ran into his rump as I was slowing him down to keep him from running into someone else's rump; he kicked out and Alison ended up in a ditch with a very bruised back. She was a trooper, though, and not only got back on that day; she continued to ride every day for the rest of the trip.
Also that day (it was a big test day, as far as my horse was concerned) Zorro tried to buck me off at a couple of different gullies. The horses like to walk down and trot or canter up; this happens in Idaho too and I do not allow it, and Zorro (perhaps talking to other horses whose humans were allowing the upward race) was annoyed in the extreme. At the first gully after he was knocked in the ass he tried to run, I held him back, he SQUEEE-ED loudly with annoyance and bucked his hind end up; I landed on his neck, completely out of the saddle. But not off of him. At the next one, I again held him, he again SQUEE-ED but with a little less intensity and bucked with a little less vigor and I stayed seated; the third one he kind of sighed an annoyed sigh and then never tried to run up a gully again without permission.
He finally decided that, if he couldn't get me off with acrobatics, maybe he could get me off with speed. Much of the way back to the pens we came to a long, wide, gently up-sloping mowed path along the edge of a grassy field. A canter, the first of the trip, was proposed, and we all agreed to give it a go. Several horses were in front of me, including Alex riding Alison's horse (she had, after all, gone home in the van that had met us with our lunch) and leading ("ponying") his own. I, having had some experience with Zorro's personality that day, decided to keep him on a pretty short rein. This all worked fine, more or less, although Alex trying to canter with a horse ponied to his seemed to wig out everyone a little. We all pulled up, and I rode around Alex to get a clear view. The signal to canter was again given and again several people took off--I think Mike Webb, Susan, Helle, and Rebecca were all ahead of me. So I asked Zorro to go, and he. took. OFF.
I did what I would do on any horse running very fast and clamped my legs on so I could stick with him, and HE. TOOK. OFF. MORE. I was coming up fast on Rebecca and so I steered out into the long grass and yelled "I'M OUT OF CONTROL!" as I went by, faster than I believe I've ever moved before, even faster than the greyhound I rode on the beach in Chile last year. So fast, in fact, that I'm sure the Doppler Effect was in effect, therefore rendering my shout as something like this "I'M OUt of control l l l . . . " to Rebecca as I shot past (she was cantering, but she may as well have been standing still). I didn't lose my reins with the brief losing of my wits, however, and I slowly pulled Zorro back, and by the time we were caught up with the others he was entirely my horse again. Talking to Rebecca about it later, she said she heard me shout and looked over at me, and I wasn't out of control as far as she could see. Well, nice compliment, and, in fact, at least half true. I was definitely in charge of the steering, but for a moment I was not in charge of the speed. Unfortunately, he never put on the afterburners quite so much again, and it would've been fun to experience it just one more time. Nevertheless, score one big one, Calin.
I actually loved that I was given Zorro to ride--I felt that I got to use my horse skills as well as my riding skills--and nothing was found wanting.
All in all, it really was a spectacular trip. I wanna go again. Actually, Susan, Helle and I are already talking about the next one . . .