Shows never begin on show day, though. Things always begin days in advance, like during your last few schooling rides. Every stride that's above the bit or behind the bit is cause for concern. We had a near spin and bolt on Friday, but everything was calm and relaxed by Saturday.
After Saturday's ride, I braided Sydney and gave him a bath. I am "okay" at bathing; fortunately, my ponies are very healthy and clean up nicely without too much effort on my part. I use the EQ Solutions system which doesn't require much exertion to use. It leaves my horses shiny and clean with virtually no rinsing. If I actually exerted myself a bit, I am sure my horses would look like a million bucks with this stuff. As it is, I am more of a function over form kind of girl and am happy with good enough when it comes to grooming.
I am a complete hack when it comes to braiding. Speedy has a long mane so I just do a French braid, which looks decent. Sydney has a pulled mane, at which I am actually getting proficient at doing, which needs to be braided. Since he doesn't yet have a show schedule, I haven't been forced to learn how to braid correctly.
In the meantime, I braid with rubber bands. I did finally get some Quic Braid and liked it very much. Here is my version of dressage braids (the forelock's actually pretty good.).
On to some other parts of the show ...
I loaded Sydney at 5:50 a.m. in the dark. I turned the trailer's interior and exterior lights on and walked him up to the trailer in a relaxed but committed manner. I was thinking, off to work now, and I hoped he was thinking the same thing, but you just never know. I was quite proud of him as he stepped right onto the trailer without any fussing or anxiety. I shut the door, latched it, and pulled out of the drive before either of us could change our minds.
I haven't taken him very many places in the nearly two years that I've owned him. Over the last six months he's been somewhere twice. He's been driven around the block about a half dozen times, but that doesn't compare to barreling down Interstate 5 at 60 miles per hour with four lanes of noisy traffic traffic over a pretty steep pass.
I stopped for gas on the edge of town and was pleased with how quietly he stood and waited. From there, it was another hour and forty minutes until we pulled into the Hansen Damn Equestrian Center. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. giving myself plenty of time before my 10:00 a.m. ride time.
I knew I would have to do things differently with Sydney than I do with Speedy. The first change I made was that as I unloaded Sydney, I didn't stop walking. He backed out, and I just led him forward. HDEC is a rather large facility which has lots of room for hand walking. Sydney's neck was sky high as we started, but I purposely made my stride long and businesslike.
In no time at all, he was stretching his neck and marching alongside me. We walked up to the show area and made several loops in the dressage court paying special attention to the judge's tent. We spent at least 20 minutes hand walking, and I know it helped. I tied Sydney to the trailer, fixed a few wonky braids, and hung his hay bag and water bucket.
I can't ever saddle Speedy too soon as he quickly gets bored and looks for ways to be naughty. Sydney thrives on doing repetitive actions, so I decided to dress and saddle him even though we still had an hour before our first test.
He was a good boy for saddling and only whinnied for a friend occasionally. He nibbled his hay and would relax for a few minutes before the anxiety would start up again. Saddling seemed to give him something on which to focus.
It's a bit of a walk back to the show area so I again set off at a determined march. Sydney was still somewhat anxious, but he enjoyed moving and relaxed the farther we went. I spent the next 30 minutes hand walking him back and forth around the show area.
Leaving my jacket on the chair, I head over to the mounting block with another 35 minutes to go. I love this schooling show series. Every single person from the show managers, ring steward, other competitors, and spectators are always friendly and welcoming. As soon as I climbed onto the mounting block two strangers quickly stepped up to help. I didn't ask for help and Sydney was being good, but I took the help gratefully.
We walked over to the warm up ring and got to work. It didn't go as quietly as it does at home, but it was much improved over the three other times we've been at a "show" (2 ride-a-tests, and one rated show). He was squirrely and tense, but he kept it together. I spent a lot of time doing curvy walk serpentines, but then he insisted we trot. There was a lot of inside hand planting, but he eventually gave me a somewhat soft bend.
We worked on the left lead canter for quite some time before he finally got balanced and happy. The right lead eventually got sort of okay, but I knew we weren't going to get it for the test.
I can't say I am not a wee bit disappointed. I mean, we all want to hit a home run every time, right? But overall, he was much improved from the show we did in September where we never cantered and could barely even trot. He tried hard to listen, but he just couldn't really relax. More on the first test tomorrow ...