Here's the thing: I always thought that the reason I was terrified of jumping and trail riding and windy days and bad weather was because I was a crappy rider and if my perfectly reasonable horse did something predictable, I wasn't good enough to hang with it and I might get hurt badly. I was basing this supposition on the fact that it had happened before.
Spending time with this old guy made me realize a few things.
1) I am not that terrible of a rider. I certainly had issues when I came to Stephanie in November, but I have improved drastically and am doing really well.
2) There are horses out there who will straight up let you ride them. He may not really, really -want- to do something, but if I ask him to, he will anyways. He won't rear. He won't threaten me. He's just generally a good guy.
3) Izzy is something less than the perfectly rational creature I was envisioning. Actually, most horses will go on trail rides. Many horses jump reliably. It is weird that she's usually great and occasionally terrible regardless of the style of care she's receiving.
4) Jumping and trail riding and new situations are not necessarily causes for complete panic. They can be fun. They should be fun. This picture of Izzy was taken on one of our best jumping days ever. It's gorgeous. I was terrified, and we were jumping crossrails.
After some pretty serious conversations with people I know and trust, I have come to this conclusion: Izzy is a lovely, lovely mare. She is an awesome mover, a reasonably scopey jumper, and she is not the horse for me right now. She really needs a rider who will either not push her or who will push her and not care. Izzy is smart enough not to hurt herself--it's just that she can stop well short of hurting herself and still scare me to death.
It's not that I need to just "grow a pair and get over it". This is something I do for fun, and she isn't fun for me. Cuna is fun. Other horses are fun. Izzy scares me and she knows it, and there is no reason for that to keep going on. Trust me when I say I haven't taken this decision lightly. I have waffled for weeks. I've probably driven everyone around me completely mad talking about it, but the feedback I've gotten is pretty unanimous. Even my husband, who is in no way a horse person, told me I should sell her. His words: "you sound way less confident now than when you started riding her". A blogger friend whose advice I solicited said this: "...the whole tone of your writing changed, you are comfortable, you are confident..." when referring to my stint on Cuna.
And you know what? I want to be that way. I want to enjoy this. I want to roll out of bed in the morning, excited to go for a ride because I know it will (usually) be a good experience. I don't want to dread jumping because of my horse. She can jump. She can jump very well. It's just that she and I have a personality conflict that goes deeper than training issues. She is a horse that HAS to be ridden forward--constantly. I am comfortable on a horse that just is forward. I don't want to chase them to the jump; I want them to take me.
It's a completely different paradigm. I cannot ask Izzy to be that horse, because she isn't that horse and there's nothing that will change that. She needs a rider that appreciates the gorgeous, vivacious creature that she is and can handle her quirks, and right now, it isn't me. She is a fabulous horse. I want all the best for her, and I am torn up about the whole thing--I want her to be right for me, but she isn't.
For three years, I've been sitting here saying, "Next year I'll enjoy this. Next year will be better." The truth is, "next year" cannot come for a meeting of incompatibles. Realistically, this year can be the year we both find something that makes us happy--Izzy can be someone else's ridiculously photogenic horse and I can find something that makes me happy. I don't know what that is yet, but I'm certain I'll find it.
Please don't take this the wrong way--Izzy is not a bad horse. She's still the Wondermare and I love her. It's just that I love her more from a distance than I do up close, and I want us both to be in a situation where we'll be happy.