Tomorrow morning Sydney and I will be heading to the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center (HDEC) for an unrated schooling show. Claudia Roberts, the show manager, said that she is scheduling 40 rides for Sunday's event. That's quite a few for this particular series. Most of the time it's a small, quiet group. I know they've added western dressage to the class list so I expect that has something to do with the increase in participation.
It's a two hour drive to HDEC, and we have pretty early ride times; Introductory C at 9:24 with Training Level Test 1 following right after at 9:36. I sure hope we don't need a second warm-up!
All week we've been working on our canter departure. When Sydney's tense, that's where his tension really shows through. Fortunately, something spooked him during Friday's lesson so I got a chance to work on the canter departures while he was "show high."
JL had me really focus on two things; when asking for a left lead canter, I really need to make sure I keep my shoulders back, especially the left one, as I have a tendency to "let him go" as I ask for the departure. Along with that, I need to use as subtle an aid as possible when I ask. He's already going to be in front of my leg; he doesn't need a loud request. If my legs are in position, all I really need to do is scoop my seat just a little bit and he'll make the transition.
The other thing I am going to need to focus on is keeping him balanced to the right. If he's really tense, I am going to need a lot of inside leg to move him sideways which means I need to be really secure with my outside rein. Once he relaxes (I can hope), he'll need less inside leg and a lot more outside leg to inside hand. And when we pick up the right lead canter, I have to really make sure that he is off that inside rein. If I let him grab it, he's going to fall off the "balance beam" and panic.
We decided that I need to focus not on getting a relaxed horse as in on the buckle; that isn't going to happen. Instead, she wants me to think about having him feel secure. For him, that means "tight" and supportive aids, no loosey-goosey anything. I told her that in dressage, it is sometimes referred to as positive tension. She liked that moniker.
My plan is to keep him moving forward, use a lot of leg to support him when he loses his balance, and follow his mouth with my hands no matter how high I have to go. If he's a freight train, we'll canter and do our small, counter bent canter circle. If he's too light in the bridle, we'll trot until we can establish a rhythm.
Today, I'll get him bathed and braided and load up my tack. By 5:45 a.m. tomorrow morning, we'll be on the road. See you on Monday!