I decided to ride Sydney at home in the morning before even heading over to the "show grounds" to see if that would siphon off some extra energy. Either he knew I was up to something, or he was having an off day, probably the former. I warmed up for the briefest time possible and then cued for the right lead canter. He rolled into it smoothly without a hint of anxiety.
I followed that up with some work to the left, which went well, and then tried for another right lead canter. Nope. Our work turned into a hot mess. I know it was partially my fault; I just wanted him to trot the 20-meter circle at A, but each time we approached the open end of the circle, he wigged out. I did 10-meter circles at the spot over and over, but he just refused to soften.
He finally reared BIG, and I quit. I sent him walking around the arena and decided that I didn't care if I ever showed him; it's just not worth it. We walked a lap around the arena, and I put him away. I then pulled Speedy out and proceeded to have a great ride which lifted my spirits and reminded me that dressage can be fun.
I seriously toyed with the idea of simply not going to the "show." If Sydney can't show, why bother? But since they were expecting me, I decided to just show up, warm up a little, and then leave. I wouldn't even ride a test. And that's what I did.
For the first time at a "show," I simply did not care. Not caring is totally different from hoping for a good score even though you know you might not get it. Hope and indifference are two completely different animals. I hadn't even bothered to change into cleaner or nicer clothes. I was still wearing my sweaty, horse slobbered on t-shirt and some old endurance tights. No show clothes were worn by anyone, but still, a clean t-shirt might have looked better. Again, an example of me not caring.
I unloaded Sydney and tied him to the trailer. He started to paw and fuss so I gave him a hay bag, but when he reared, I just shrugged my shoulders at him. Not caring, Dude. I walked around and visited with a few friends and then casually bridled Sydney.
The show secretary had done me the greatest favor possible: my ride time was the first one after lunch which meant that no one was in the arena. When she came over to chat, she said it was fine if I rode in the arena to warm up. This is a very low stress event designed for green horses and riders.
I found a mounting block. Before I got on Sydney, I reminded him of a conversation we had had two weeks ago: my job is to navigate, and his job is to be the big and brave partner. He stood quietly while I mounted. We entered at A and just walked. And walked. And walked some more.
And then he remembered about being anxious. He started to jig and think about doing other naughty things. I used that outside rein FIRMLY and simply said NO! As we walked toward C, he gave some serious sass and bolted, but I put him in a quick bend and had his nose on my knee while I continued working the outside rein.
Using Susanne von Dietze's technique from the last clinic, I put Sydney into a figure eight with 10-meter circles that touched near G. We walked those two circles until he was pretty relaxed and submissive. It might not sound like much, but he couldn't/wouldn't walk at the last clinic. And I've not been able to get much walking from him at any of the shows we've attempted.
At that moment, I considered just leaving. I had "won" on that day, but after a quick word with the show secretary, I decided that maybe a 20-meter circle at the trot would finish things off well. The second I made that decision, Sydney took off on a very impressive galloping line that was full of bronc style bucking.
I immediately lost both stirrups and started looking for a soft place to land. I had my hands buried into his neck as I sat up tall trying desperately to get his head to bend to the side or at least get back in line with his body. Just when I thought there was no way I could stay on a second longer, I got him to stop his mad, bucking gallop. He had bucked his way from C to A.
Knowing that we couldn't end on that note, I circled him back to C and started over. After walking for a moment, I insisted on a 10-meter trot circle that quickly became 15-meters. After only 2 times around, he was soft and round, although not completely relaxed. I did a change of direction and got the same thing going to the right. I had to bump, bump, bump him off the right rein, but he finally gave for a few soft strides. I asked for a halt and quit right there.
I thanked the judge for the arena time. It was the perfect opportunity to school Sydney away from home without worrying about being judged. No one cared that I used my time to walk 10-meter figure eights. So while we didn't get any real dressage done, I made Sydney behave, and then held him accountable when he didn't.
What went really well was that I actively rode my horse with a purpose. This proved to be a valuable lesson to me for the next day when we attended the fox hunt. More on that adventure tomorrow!