Sydney is defintely a challenge, but I am not ready to give up yet. If high scores were my ultimate goal, I would have moved on long ago. With Sydney, my goals are more about helping him to find a way to be a working citizen. He wasn't successful on the track, nor in the jumper ring. He likes trail work, but it takes a good hour for him to relax and enjoy it, and as we all know, dressage is good for every horse no matter what discipline you're involved in. He can do this.
There is enough good stuff happening with Sydeny that I think he can learn to deal with the atmosphere at a show, especially dressage shows which are far quieter than most other type of event.
For this particular show (by design) I took a 45 minute lesson in the show arena on Saturday afternoon where other riders came and went during the lesson. This is also the same facility where Christian Schacht gives his clinics, so it wasn't a new venue for Sydney.
Early on Sunday morning, I took Sydney for a long walk which included some ground work in the show arena, particularly in the corners, in front of the judge's booth, and near A. I also free lunged him in the round pen. I was the first rider of the morning so there were as few other riders warming up as possible. The only better option would have been to be the last rider to go, but since I had a three-hour drive home, that wasn't really feasible.
When I said that I wanted to keep him to a walk in the warm-up, that was only because he was in full flight mood, bouncing from end to end. I couldn't get true forward, so I opted for relaxation instead. And he did relax. At the walk, he was able to hear me and listen. Had I had the warm-up to myself, I would have put him in a trot or canter, but I didn't want to upset the other horses by charging around on my fire breathing dragon.
I loved what Tracy (from FOO) had to say, "An amateur-friendly horse is worth their weight in gold, even if they aren't the fanciest thing in the barn." SInce I am an amateur rider, I just assumed I had amateur horses, but it occurred to me that Sydney is not an amateur-friendly horse. This doesn't upset me at all, but rather it helps me look at how I need to ride him a whole new way.
I can't expect him help to me when my aids aren't quite right; he can't help me. He's too worried about his own skin to try and take care of mine. Those of you with AF horses know that your pony can step in and save your butt when needed. Speedy does it for me all the time. Now that I get this about Sydney, I am going to be far less worried about irritating him which is what happens with Speedy if I try to over-ride him.
Speedy will cock an ear at me and say, Hey, listen-up, lady! I know my job. Quit screwing around up there! Sydney can't do that. He has no confidence in himself with a rider on board (although we're working on it). If given a multiple choice question, he always chooses A, run far and fast.
Tracy's comment about AF horses gave me such great food for thought. I've been riding both horses with the same end result as my expectation, albeit with lower scores in mind. For showing, I am going to need to ride Sydney with focus in mind as opposed to suppling in mind. There's a difference in that. He can't get to the suppling part because he can't hear me. I am going to be talking to JL about this. I think she'll be able to give me some specific tools to serve as a hearing aid.
As always, keep on pressing on; ever onward; one day at a time. And thank you for listening. :0)