I am not sure what got his panties in a bunch, but as soon as we reached the "scary" end of the arena, he tensed, whirled, and reared when I hauled him to a stop. It wasn't that I particularly wanted to have that conversation with him, but I grabbed the moment with both hands and went for it. I sat deep, exhaled, and lowered my shoulders.
We spent the next 30 minutes discussing whether or not he should rush and be heavy on his forehand, or better, simply listen to my aids and be more relaxed. He chose to relax, but it took a lot of work on my part.
What I ended up doing was using Chemaine's voice to coach myself through the ride. Every time I felt myself tensing my core above my belly button, I let out my breath and imagined a heavy sack of potatoes. Immediately, my center of gravity dropped and my seat felt much freer.
As Sydney tried to rush the corner, I told myself to close the outside rein and outside leg. As we continued on the circle, I was able to feel when I could be neutral. That moment was followed by the need to open the outside rein while still maintaining contact as I asked for flexion with the inside rein and leg.
And round and round we went. Fortunately, Sydney doesn't get bored with an exercise like this. We worked the circle for more than a few minutes until he really started to get even between my aids. I laughed out loud and remembered to praise him a lot.
We took a walk break, and then repeated the exercise to the left. What I really started to feel was that he isn't trying to run off and dump me. Instead, he's just very unbalanced and running to keep from falling down. Each time he rushed, I reminded myself that my job was to help him lift his front end. I sat up, gave two squeezes with my outside hand and added leg.
Eventually, we repeated the exercise at the canter. To the right, I opened the outside rein and asked for flexion with the inside rein when he wanted to fall in, but then closed the outside rein when he wanted to fall out. To the left, I really just needed to ask for inside flexion; he doesn't fall in that direction.
I am sure many of you think I must be an idiot: how hard can all of this be? This horse is much more difficult to ride than any other horse I've owned. Frankly, he's just a lot of horse. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn on him however, as he doesn't let me fake anything.
The good thing is, I am making tons of mental connections right now and developing a level of feel that I would probably not have achieved on Speedy. I wake up each day eager to ride because I know I am getting closer and closer to having a really fancy horse that I can actually show off!