Here's how his first three shows went:
- September 2012 - sucked back and could hardly trot. We didn't even try to canter.
- April 2013 - head like a giraffe and still very much behind my leg, but we did canter a little.
- May 2013 - slightly more forward, but still very tense and very crooked. We did canter, but there was lots of bucking.
I hung his hay bag outside the trailer, filled his water bucket, and zipped up to the show office to check in and retrieve our number. When I got back to the trailer, he whinnied at me but he wasn't overly nervous. I decided to saddle him right away and was pleased with how mellow he was being. When I went to change into my riding clothes, he called for me a few times but relaxed when I came out to show him that I hadn't gone far.
Given our experience the month before, I wanted to have plenty of time in the warm up in case Sydney went Looney Tunes again. I got on at least 35 minutes before my first ride time. He was tense, but nothing like last month. I tried to just walk, but he had too much nervous energy brewing so I asked him to trot. We stayed in a pretty basic circle for quite a while. When I thought he might be relaxing, I changed direction.
Last month, I never was able to do a single trot circle during the warm up. This time, we were able to trot and canter without a massive blow up. There were a few whirls and bucks, but he came right back to me. In my mind, the show was already a success.
Everything about the Introductory Level C Test was better than the month before. My score was slightly lower for this test, but that was simply because of the canter. He was definitely forward without sucking back. Unfortunately, he was also a freight train plowing through my aides. No matter, at least he was going forward.
What was so interesting about this test was that it felt absolutely horrible. I was using a TON of leg to keep him next to the rail, but even so he was fish-tailing here and there. When we finished the test, several people came up and complimented me on keeping so calm. And even though the test felt terrible, the judge obviously saw something else. I have suspected all along that Sydney is far more capable of higher scores than Speedy ever will be. Don't get me wrong, I love my little gray pony, but he doesn't have the natural ability that Sydney has.
For this test, we started with three 5s, followed by four 6s. I have worked really hard to score 6s with Speedy and here I was fighting with Sydney and still getting those scores. At the left lead canter, our better direction, Sydney blew through the right shoulder, his oldest trick, and quasi-bolted back toward C. I brought him to a quiet halt, patted his neck, and returned to the test. Since I was supposed to still be cantering and transitioning to a trot, my next movement scored low as I wasn't in position to make the transition. But check out what happened after the error:
Here's the whole score sheet.