A week or so later, I was out to see the horses again. I overheard my instructor say that she might play with Caleb today but that she really, really needed to play with Scooter. She also said that she needed to go into town. I sighed, figuring that my long-awaited playdate was being postponed again. But before I gave up entirely, I asked, "Can I at least go say hi to Caleb in the field?"
Her answer was quickly encouraging. "Absolutely, you should play with him," she said. "You can bring him to the arena -- in fact, I prefer that -- and play with him here." She did not seem reluctant or impatient; instead she was very happy and encouraging.
As I gathered a lead rope and halter, my instructor talked to me. She went down a list of Caleb's bad habits. He had a bad habit of running off when he was behind you. Occasionally (especially in circling game), he would squeal and bolt if his person brought up her energy too quickly or too strongly. He would likely be moving-slow-and-thinking-fast and would outsmart a non-savvy human. He also had the potential panic and run, kick, buck, etc.
She also suggested that I saddle him when I rode him and to use her saddle. No bareback stuff.
"I'm not riding Caleb today," I interjected. Yikes. I wanted to get to know him, to figure out who he was, and to let him get to know me and trust me before I jumped up on his back. I was not in a hurry with this horse. I had no deadlines. All I wanted was to give him love and to develop some of his potential for his future owners without scaring or scarring him.
My instructor said she most certainly hoped I wasn't planning on riding this horse today. Caleb hadn't been ridden in 3 years. She assured me that the idea of jumping on his back on "day one" was not on her mind -- these tips were for my future knowledge.
By this time, I had my 12-foot lead rope and a halter. I glanced down at the herbal fly spray, hanging by its nozzle on the fence. "Can I offer Caleb flyspray?" I asked.
My instructor gave me a worried look.
"I will ask permission from Caleb before I spray, I won't spray if he doesn't seem okay with it, and I ABSOLUTELY WON'T spray him in the face no matter what," I promised.
My instructor agreed to my plan with those terms.
Basically, as much as I hate for flies to be bothering my Caleb, it would still be better to let him be pestered by flies than for him to lose confidence in me and be forever ruined against future attempts to apply flyspray.
"Is that a 12-foot line?" my instructor asked me, eyeing the rope over my shoulder.
"You may want to use the 22-foot line with him -- especially for circling game and some of the other games, too," she suggested. "On the other hand, you need to be really careful with your rope. Don't let yourself get tangled up in it. Don't wrap it around your arm. Don't let it get wound around your legs. If Caleb bolts..."
I decided that I would stick with my tried and true 12-foot rope. I was planning to be moving pretty slow that day, and I really wanted to try to use the longer rope with my sweet WhiteStar before trying it out with a new horse. My instructor left the 22-foot line over the fence anyway, just in case I decided to use it.
So, with a 12-foot lead rope and a halter, I moseyed out into the field. This was going to be very different from playing with WhiteStar...
(to be continued)