Since Friday was a minimum day at school, we were able to leave two hours early. Two hours is plenty of extra time to really work both horses and still get stalls cleaned, horses groomed, and other barn chores completed.
I took JL's advice and dug out my lunge line and side reins. I am not a huge fan of lunging, and I use the side reins judiciously. After Friday, my view on lunging and side reins has taken a gigantic leap to the land of Oh my God, what a brilliant idea! Let me explain. JL suggested lunging with side reins as a way to let Sydney argue with himself without putting me in the oh-so-scary-seat.
I saddled Sydney up, clipped the side reins to his bit, and asked for a nice working trot. What I got was a pissed-off squeal, a wringing of the head and neck, and a bolt forward. Lovely, I told him. Just what I meant to get! I dug my heels in, braced a bit, and let him whirl around me. During Wednesday's lesson, JL pointed out that while I needed Sydney to think that forward was just what I wanted to do, I also had to avoid pushing him forward. He was doing that enough on his own. So as he hustled around me on the lunge line, I kept the whip on the ground and just made soothing good boy sounds whiles he had a lengthy argument with himself.
Eventually his frantic gallop to trot to gallop became just a steady trot and with a few walk, nows, he came to a quiet halt. I patted his neck, told him what a good boy he was, and let him stand and blow. Then I moved him around and we repeated the work to the right. This argument didn't last as long, but he was still soaked and blowing hard when he was finished. I took off the lunge line and side reins, walked him to the water trough for a drink, and then pushed him over to the mounting block. No way was he finished. He needed to learn that it is much simpler to just do his job without all of the drama.
He was steady as I got on, but as soon as I asked for a nice, working trot, he took off with a stiff neck and tried to bully his way around the circle. Knowing this was not because he had energy to burn, I gave him a hard HALT that got his attention. After that, he decided that maybe it was better to just get to work. He wasn't completely soft and on the bit, but it was vastly improved. He tried leaning on my inside leg a bit and then tried popping his outside shoulder at the top of the arena, but a few bumps with my inside leg, and a few whacks with my outside leg got him moving around the circle in a pretty respectable fashion.
I think that Sydney is going to see that lunge line and those side reins a few more times over the next two weeks. Thank goodness for Christmas vacation!
Oh, and the HUGE elephant named Fear? Nowhere to be seen!