Today I had the first of now three potential leasers come out to try Bijou. I was expecting a ridiculous mess since Bijou really hadn't been worked (other than light lunging to check soundness) in 11 days! It rained, she slipped, and then I've been giving her some time... phew, that's a long time off!
So, #1 is a 4th year college student who hasn't ridden consistently for 5 years but when she stopped, she and her horse were competing at Training Level in 3-Day in Colorado. She is a super cool chick who seems really honest and down to earth. She kept saying how good it felt to be back in the saddle, how pretty/nice/cute/good Bijou was, and how she feels soooo out of shape. From what I saw, there was a rider in there who really knew what she was doing, but is very rusty, which is very understandable. I started off the ride with a bit of a long walk warmup, and then asked Shelly to watch as I picked up a trot. Bijou was a little stiff and protective all over, but I just popped into my two point and let her loosen up. As usual, when I'm expecting to be riding a doofus, I get an angel, and that was the case today too. She was really super good and mellow and just trotted around with a light contact on the bit, and then danced her way into a beautiful canter transition and went once around the ring nice and slow with her head just above vertical. I'm so happy that we seem to have made it over the cantering-is-really-exciting phase and are working towards the being-round-and-cantering phase. I called it good there since I didn't know how much #1 would want to do, and she nervously got on. They walked around for a while, and I left her pretty much alone while she reveled in being in the saddle again. She picked up the trot, her leg fell into chair position, and fumbled she fumbled around getting a little left behind, and then falling a little ahead. I asked her if she wanted me to give her a few tips and she said of course, so I helped her a little bit and saw major improvement in just a few minutes. Then someone tossed their crazy horse in the round pen and of course Bijou thought there was a horse eating dragon thrashing around just barely contained in there and decided to bolt away. #1 stayed on, got quite a bit tense, and then I told her to relax, and she let go of her death grip and Bijou relaxed. I let her work in the other half of the arena because she was definitely shaken up, and we went back to doing some exercises to get her leg under her and have her pick up the right amount of contact. Overall I think she did a good job, she passed the spooking test, and she said she'd love to have me around for the first few times she rode so that she could learn more about her and make sure I was comfortable with her riding on her own.
I really liked #1 just as a person, we hit it off for sure and she seems super cool. Bijou overall seemed to like her and not try to fight with her too much. #1 really liked Bijou, commenting on how responsive she was to the seat and how light she felt in the bridle. The jury's still out until we have seen #2 and #3, but if they royally suck, I think I can make #1 work.