I started with a quick ride in the arena just to work on softening our canter transition, apparently I have a tendency to pull back there as well, and then we head out to do The Loop. No Drama. We did it in 10 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly, 10 minutes! The first day it took an hour, and the second time it took 20 minutes. I'd say we've made progress.
Near the beginning, he needed one little reminder circle to help him focus. The rest of the time, I used my legs and pulsed my ring fingers to tell him to get his head back down where it belonged. When he ignored my fingers, I picked up the reins and insisted that he flex his poll to the right and left. As soon as the stiffness was gone from his neck, I gave him all the rein back.
When we passed through the far end of the loop where there are barking dogs on both sides, I noticed that the house on the left had every dog in the yard - 3 HUGE Mastiffs and three little yappy things. The house to the right had two big dogs. Sydney marched right down the middle of a single lane road with all EIGHT dogs barking furiously at him through wrought iron fences. He had Eeyore ears the whole way. Woo hoo!!!!!
There was no way I was quitting after only 10 minutes so we continued on to the dirt loop. The barn owners were parked in the middle of the road with a wooden pole lying over a wheelbarrow with an electric saw and a big orange extension cord. I stopped to chat while they dragged everything to the side so that we could pass. No drama. We then passed by the neighbor's two large labs who did bark at us today; still no drama.
The grass field was next. As Sydney stepped onto the grass, he thought about getting a bit high, but I put him into a 10-meter circle with a lot of inside leg and told him he could trot all he wanted. He made it through several circles before he decided that walking seemed like a better idea.
Instead of making circles to the end of the field, we did loops instead - at the walk. At one point, he begged to stretch his neck so I gave him the rein all the way to the buckle. He ambled along with his nose touching the ground for a bit before he realized that he was walking on grass and that he really likes to eat grass. FINALLY!
He grazed a bit and then we head on back towards home. We passed though our fence with a dry coat. My BO was working in the garage so we stopped and chat with her for a few minutes until Sydney realized that rooting the reins out of my hands wasn't going to happen. I untacked him and gave him lots of love and cookies.
I have no idea how Sunday's show is going to go. I don't know if I am just desensitizing him to our trail, or if he is getting the concept that ignoring my aids is a lot of work. I think I need to ride the loops backwards this week and see what I get. He's also getting the Focus Equine, but I don't think that is having any affect yet.
As before, my confidence is growing which can't do anything but help.