I got on AL tonight!!! ...And lived to tell the tale.
I can't really say I "rode" him, although there was a little bit of controlled impulsion. Just a walk in two opposite directions around the RP a couple of times under saddle with my snap reins on his halter.
I hadn't planned to do anything at all with him tonight but saddled Jewel for a 30 minute ride around the neighborhood. And boy! She sure needs a tune up! And Al was screaming his head off the whole time. I stripped off the tack and shuttled Jewel into the RP so she could roll in the sand and Al followed her in. I decided at that point he was a "target of opportunity" and intended only to work with the saddle blanket, the first time since his last blow up over it and the bucking under saddle, sans blanket.
Well, surprise of surprises, he took the blanket just fine. I sacked him out with it several times to be sure and he left it in place. So... I eased the saddle up, cinched it and sent him off for a few laps. No bucking. OK. I already have my boots on... the mounting block is close by... it was almost dark so I turned the RP lights on... clipped the reins onto his halter and just climbed onto the block to rub on him and tug at the saddle. There was a lot of quivering and shaking going on. And Al seemed nervous too. LOL!
I stepped up and down from the mounting block about a half dozen times between rubs on every area I could reach and shook the saddle vigorously. Al appeared to settle down a little so I finally hung all my weight in the stirrup and leaned across the saddle. I swore I could smell a fuse burning somewhere and stepped back down. I led him off in a circle, came back to the mounting block to do some more up & downs and hang in the stirrup again. That's all I intended to do. Honest. But with my full weight belly-flopped across the saddle and being so close to swinging a leg over I decided to go for it.
I remembered Clint's warning that Al was still pretty dangerous during the swing over but solid once you were in the saddle. And it's damned hard to swing that right leg when you're flopped across the saddle like a dead carp. But I managed to get upright and gingerly booted the off side stirrup. Al felt like a balloon about to pop. But I had my seat, a fistful of reins and was as ready for adventure as I could be. I stroked his neck, clucked just once and we were on our way... meandering around the RP for less than 5 minutes.
Holy bat crap! I was riding Al! No cameras rolling. No witnesses. No EMT crews standing by. Just Jewel standing at the RP gate with a "What's the big deal?" look on her face. I did two circuits in each direction with a couple of stops and direct rein turns and then gingerly dismounted. A leg coming across Al's croup in either direction is still unsettling... for both of us. But once solidly back on terra firma with both feet under me I was overwhelmed with a feeling I haven't had since my first solo flight and successful landing in a plane. I've had probably one hundred "first rides" over the past 40 years. But this one was on AL!!!! I think I spent more time hugging him than I did on his back.
Since it's AL I'm talking about I anticipate each additional "ride" will be a cautious event for some time to come. But if I should keel over tomorrow, my bucket list now has one less item on it.
AMM- great report on your new girl! Good on ya'! ~FH