I am not as much of a fan of the number 48 when it's written on my score sheet. Yep. A 48.something% is what we earned for our second test of the day. I've never earned a score in the 40s, but pal JK pointed out that now that it's happened, I don't have to worry about it anymore. And in reality, I don't really care. This show wasn't about the score. It was about having fun, riding the tests, and getting some relaxation ...
After finishing the Introductory C Test, I went back down to the warm up. We had some trouble getting back into the warm-up ring as some (ahem) guy, kept CRACKING the whip at a pony just as I trying to pass by. Sydney spun and left the vicinity. The warm-up is nestled below a hill, and to get to it, I had to funnel through between the hillside and the round pen. We tried three times, but each time I was dead center, the dude cracked the whip. For the third pass, I had tipped Sydney's nose toward the sound so that he couldn't whirl around which meant that he just leaped sideways instead.
I did one of those outside toe hanging in the stirrups but the rest of your body is in midair things. And I did it all while Sydney leaped up the hillside. Fortunately, my pal JK saw what was going on and hustled over to lead Sydney past the scary round pen. In the meantime, I will admit that I gave a loud, DUDE! EASY WITH THE WHIP! He glanced my way and seemed quite surprised to see anyone standing there.
JK stood outside of the warm up ring with me as we let Sydney nibble at the weeds. A lowered head is good for a nervous horse so I decided a green mouth was worth what I gained in relaxation. We stood there chatting, me mounted, her gently guarding the reins, for at least 20 minutes. With my eye on the clock, I finally decided we should get back to it.
He was better for this warm up round, even though there were some tense moments. I was finally able to stake out one corner of the arena (it's HUGE), which helped him to settle down. We were finally able to canter, and I was able to use one my 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 exercise: two counts neck bent to the inside, two counts straight, two counts neck counter flexed. His left lead canter got really relaxed (yah - goal number three met). The right lead canter was definitely problematic. He had no bend that direction at all which was just a foreshadowing of what I would get in the show arena.
In retrospect, I think I over-rode him for the Training Level Test 1. By that I mean that I felt like he was more relaxed so my expectations got higher. I pushed for a little more. As soon as we made our first trot circle at E, I knew it wasn't going to happen. He was so strong and racey. The judge's comment on the collective marks was that he was too trapped between hands and legs. I just didn't know how to let go without having him bolt.
At one point, I had to haul his neck around to make the right turn. There was absolutely zero bend in his body despite how much leg I was using to move him sideways. So yeah, he was trapped between my hands and legs.
On Monday, I asked my trainer about the judge's comment. Knowing Sydney like she does, JL felt that he wasn't really trapped because if he had been, he would have launched himself. Instead of being trapped, he was simply too forward into my hand. She agreed that when a horse gets like that, keeping them from exploding is the best you can hope for.
I earned my first ever 3, and just to make it extra special, I got two of them, both at the canter. For the first canter, he bucked all the way through which caused him to drop the lead. I wasn't upset about it at all. I just brought him back to trot and picked up the canter again where he bucked and swapped leads. I think we went through that pattern three times during movement 3 and 4 and then again for 11 and 12!
The one thing I really liked about the test was his free walk. I thought it was fabulous, but the judge only saw it as a 6. I probably liked it so well because it was the one time during the test where he actually relaxed and stopped trying to run off. I let the reins out slowly and he gratefully dropped his neck and walked off.
The rest of the test was just as wonky. He was all over the place drifting or bucking. After our final halt, I thanked the judged for her patience. She and her scribe both laughed when I said that I liked how relaxed he was as we left the arena on a loose rein. The judge said she liked my attitude.
Rather than go back to the trailer, I had Sydney stand around the arena with the spectators as I chat with some friends. He acted as though he had done this part a thousand times. He nibbled the weeds, flicked an ear at the applause and hammed it up with random people passing by.
He literally grabbed one woman as she passed us on her way by. She had a cup of coffee that must have smelled enticing. She passed just close enough that he was able to wrap her in a head hug. Fortunately, she didn't mind and returned the hug. He schmoozed all over her and she hugged him and gave him lots of love. He got those super cute doe-eyes and his ears flopped all Eeyore style.
I unsaddled Sydney, gave him some beet pulp and rice bran, and went to change. He seemed very relaxed at the trailer, although he did call for me a few times and seemed relieved when I came back into view. I left him for a while as I went up to get my tests. I was able to watch Sarah ride her second test and then get a photo of her and King Casanova leaving the arena.
I am encouraged to try again. Sydney will go back to Tehachapi for the show on June 23rd and then head to Hansen Dam the very next weekend, June 30th. With Speedy, I had the benefit of having done so many endurance rides before we started to show. The show experience was nothing exciting for him. Will Sydney ever get the ho-hum attitude that Speedy has? I don't know, but I'll certainly keep trying.
Here he is at the end of the day looking pretty mellow and a lot handsome. Not that it's any good, but the score sheet is down below.