Before more of the same old, same old, here's a Speedy G update. I know you must wonder when he gets ridden since I'm always talking about Sydney. Rest assured. He gets out plenty. I have actually had some of the best rides on him the last couple of weeks. Since I am using my quota of stress-outness on Sydney, there's none left for Speedy G. He and I are just out there having a good time. Speedy has become my go-to pony which is funny because even just a year ago, he could make my stomach do flip flops. Now, he's fun to ride and we're actually "working." I am really looking forward to the Louise Caccese clinic on Saturday and the Santa Barbara show at the end of the month. I think we might actually bring it.
And now, more on the Sydney front. First of all, THANK YOU all so very much for your many suggestions and insights. I used many of your suggestions, and while modifying them to suit my particular circumstances, your original comments guided my hand. The first thing I did (Saturday?) that was new and totally different was that I lunged Sydney in a halter with the lunge line connected to the cheek ring of the halter. This was a new experience for him and gave me much more control of his head. Instead of running around wildly with his nose bent to the outside, I was able to rock it back to the inside while sending his hip out. Ooh. Some success.
When I rode him that same day, I could feel electricity zinging through his body even after our lunge work. My body screamed at me, GET OFF! I didn't, but it took all of my will power to ride him. He squealed, reared, and tried to bolt away, but I sat back, bent his neck, and sent him into the fence. Each time he tried to "escape," I simply bent him a different direction and sent him moving forward with my outside leg. Within minutes, the tension left his body and he started working relatively quietly. I was encouraged, and the fear evaporated. That was the last "naughty" that he has offered.
On Sunday, I adopted yet another suggstion: long lining. In a halter. With the surcingle. I think this weirdly combined three different suggestions, but it was as though a miracle had occurred. Sydney liked it! Well, after I quit looking like a spaz with the lines wrapped every which way. I haven't long-lined since Speedy was four. He's now seven.
Anyhoo. I ran my long lines (AKA as flat lunge lines) through the side rings of my surcingle much like you would place side reins. JL has encouraged me to run them (side reins) through the top rings as she feels that more closely mimics the feeling of a rider's hands, but I went with my gut and put them down lower. I suspected that the lower position would give me more control. I was right. I chose a halter over the bit because I wanted Sydney to not feel so trapped by the bit. I also knew I could tug a lot harder without hurting him in case the need arose.
Aw ... Success, how sweet you are! The long lines have become my new best friends. Sydney took to them with absolute relief. Either he's been down this road before, or I finally tried something that he understood immediately. He looked as though he felt safe and supported. When I lunge him, he cuts the circle smaller and smaller until he's nearly pivoting around me. If I "send" his hindquarters in an effort to increase the arc of the circle, he hears, RUN FASTER, DAMMIT. Simply lunging him serves no purpose. yet.
With the long lines, he was a different animal. The outside line gave me control of his outside shoulder and prevented him from falling into the circle. It literally took less than two minutes for him to figure the exercise out. Walk? Oh, I can do that. Trot in a circle with my neck lowered? Okay. And my God! The licking and chewing? I had not previously been able to elicit that response from him. We worked on walk to trot, trot to canter, and so on. We did changes of direction which improved as my control over the lines improved. Long lines make the dorkiest of us even more dorky!
I put him back in his stall for 30 to 40 minutes while I rode Speedy G. I hoped he'd think about the work we'd done. I then saddled him up and had an absolutely wonderful ride with zero tension from him and no fear on my part. Something about that long-lining exercise gave him some confidence or helped both of us understand the aids better. I know the reading I've done over the past week has really helped me connect the purpose of many of the aids. It could simply be that I using them in a more effective way.
Now, don't get me wrong. He is not "fixed." I am not (completely) rid of the fear. But (and its a big one). I think I made a very positive move in the right direction. I know that for me, having a plan or a strategy to deal with my fearful situation does a lot to alleviate that fear. I can do this if I have the right tools. And right now, I feel like I found some tools that are helping me do the job.
I finished the weekend unafraid and my horse seemed relaxed and happy. Two steps forward ...
[Post Script ... I repeated the long lining exercise on Monday with the same positive results. I may be on to something here!]