Things started well; I cleaned my stalls, tacked up Sydney, and started to lead him into the arena. As I passed by Speedy's stall and turn out, I noticed that Speedy was quite focused on something in the distance. He's not a faker; if he says something is out there, it's something worth checking out. So instead of mounting up, I started leading Sydney down to the far end of the arena to figure out what had caught Speedy's eye.
I saw it before Sydney did. Just outside of the arena fence, the neighbors had placed a bunch of mylar birthday balloons to mark the turn down their road. I am glad I saw them before Sydney did. I kept on waking towards the balloons curious as to how Sydney would react. Within a moment, Sydney caught site of them, and his head shot straight up as his eyes opened wide. I gave him a minute to look, but then I continued walking. It took a bit to get to the far end of the arena because Sydney had to stop every couple of feet to check out the balloons.
By the time we got to the end, Sydney was in full flight mode. He did a wild spin and threatened to rear. I pat his neck and asked him to walk quietly beside me as we walked back to the barn. I was pleased that once we started heading back to the barn, Sydney relaxed and took a deep breath. I know the hardier riders out there would have taken the opportunity to school through the situation, but I just didn't have the energy. Instead, I walked back to the barn, put Sydney back in the cross ties, and walked over to the neighbor's.
I discovered that there was to be a BIG birthday party that afternoon beginning in the next hour and a half. The neighbors, the nicest people in the world, insisted on moving the balloons into their driveway so that they were completely out of site. I thanked them profusely and want back to re-bridle Sydney.
The neighbors' kindergarten son had friends and cousins over before the party started, and they were busy on the slide and swing structure that sits next to the arena. I grabbed my lunge line as I knew that Sydney's flight mode was still activated. Th kids moved over to a plastic roller coaster thing they have that is quite loud as they slide down it. I actually encouraged them to ride it faster so that it would be as noisy as possible while I was lunging.
Sydney was not thrilled with the sound, but he was able to keep his focus mostly on me as he cantered first to the left and then to the right. When he was breathing pretty heavily, I asked him to walk and pat his neck. I walked him over to the mounting block determined to get my ride done.
He was still tense, but he was willing to work. I spent some time just walking and asking him to relax and soften. I decided that finishing with a quiet walk would be good enough. But then Sydney asked to trot, and I figured I might as well go for it. We ended up having a very productive ride. Our left lead canter work was very solid although I decided not to use the long sides as I knew approaching the balloon end was going to cause trouble even though the balloons were gone.
I was even able to work on his right lead canter. It never was perfect, but he threw a little temper tantrum that I was able to school him through. Overall, I was glad for the birthday party shenanigans as it gave me a chance to work on the kinds of distractions that will be present when we finally start showing (ever the optimist!).
Once I felt that I had accomplished something sound, I asked Sydney for a relaxed walk and was happy with what he offered. The balloon end of the arena beckoned. When Sydney realized where we headed, he balked and tried to whirl. I have worked too hard on making that end of the arena a place where we can work comfortably to just give it up over a bunch of balloons that were no longer there.
I stuck to my guns and insisted that he walk in the corner. We made at least a dozen circles each direction until he finally gave up. When he relaxed, I pat his neck and made a big deal over his relaxed frame. We passed through the corner one more time and then continued on through the next corner and down the long side toward home. We ended the day on a very happy note.
And so begins another week!