I've had to think long and hard about how to prepare Sydney for his second showing debut. Nothing good happened at the first debut so I am giving him another chance at a more sparkly entrance into the dressage showing world.
He is now quite happy and relaxed at home and willing to go wherever I send him. His left lead canter is awesome and his right lead canter is not far behind. He is quite happy with a nice, steady contact, but we do need to work on shortening his neck. For Intro and Training Level 1, his level of contact is just fine. He can maintain the trot and canter in the twenty-meter circle, although maintaining the trot at the half circle when tracking right or left at C takes some encouragement and a lot of leg. The same is true as we come up the centerline.
Overall, he is happily demonstrating the requirements of an early Training Level horse. At home. Away from home? I have no idea what I am going to get. The only way to know is to go somewhere else and give it a try.
I never ride through the complete tests with Speedy. Instead, I ride pieces of the test and connect them with other pieces. Speedy is so smart that it wouldn't take him long to figure the tests out on his own while simultaneously working on a plan to foil my best efforts. Sydney's mind doesn't work that way. He wants me to be the leader and is quite happy to follow along with whatever I suggest as long as I genuinely seem to know what I am doing.
In an effort to build Sydney's confidence, and to some extent my own as well, I've started riding the Intro C test from start to finish, but I am doing the whole thing at the trot. My thinking is this: Sydney will be used to working the whole arena at the trot; I will be more familiar with the test; Sydney will be confident that I know where we're going; and I am finding his sticky places.
After I run through the test at the trot, I pick up the canter where we'll need to do it for Intro C, but I canter the circle several times to help balance, and then I turn it into the canter circle for Training Level Test 1 where we do a half circle at E and B.
I don't know if this is a good test prep strategy or not. I don't think it will hurt though as I am feeling better and better prepared. I know for certain that if I feel confident and prepared, it will help Sydney to trust me. If he can keep his focus on me, he'll do just fine.