Ineke did a beautiful job braiding him on Saturday evening. I showed up on Sunday morning, in the dark, and felt along his crest to check to see if all of the braids were intact. Ineke had done such a great job that not one braid was rubbed out. By the time I led him to the trailer, there was enough light to load, but not enough to really get a good look at the braids or his coat. He didn't walk right on like Speedy does, but he was loaded in under a minute. I was relieved as that was hurdle # 1.
The drive to Tehachapi went fairly smoothly, and Sydney traveled very quietly; that was hurdle # 2. We pulled into the equestrian center right on time and found a parking spot close enough to see the other horses, but far enough so that he had plenty of room in case he had a melt down. I cautioned the rider next to us that it might get loud as Sydney unloaded. Her husband was wiping down legs and I didn't want to spook the horse. Unlike the schooling session from the day before, Sydney backed out slowly and carefully, A+. Over hurdle # 3.
I walked Sydney around and let him eyeball all of the action. He was happy to walk and enjoyed nibbling the weeds. Since the round pen was empty, I took him in a for a mellow lunge. His head was high, but he didn't race around in a panic. In fact, he really wanted to just walk around and look, but I sent him at a trot anyway. I wanted him to see stuff while trotting since that he was going to have to do later.
I tied him at the trailer and walked up to the show office to check in and get my number. He wasn't nearly as happy as Speedy is, but he stood relatively quietly and munched on his hay. He paced around a bit, but there was no wild rearing or screaming. All in all, he handled being left at the trailer like a real trooper; we made it over hurdle # 4.
Once I had him tied to the trailer. I took a good look at his braids and clean coat and had to do a double take. Who was this horse and what had happened to plain-Jane Sydney? This horse was really quite handsome!
I walked over to the warm up with nausea building. Seriously? I couldn't believe how anxious I was. Sydney had been nothing but charming and full of try. He had done nothing to give me a reason to be anxious. I swallowed hard and just told myself to toughen up.
I hopped up on Sydney like I do at home and headed into the warm up. We walked and walked and walked. Fortunately all of the other riders were doing intro tests on green horses, too. Everyone was smiling and apologizing for getting in the way. We eventually made it to a trot and after some initial tension, Sydney warmed up quite well. And then from over the hill, a loud round of applause rushed towards us. Sydney's four legs went flying in four directions, and his head shot straight up.
I am so grateful I've mastered the "spook deflator." I quickly bent Sydney's neck and asked for a circle. Rather than bolt, he stopped square and asked to look at the noise. I pat his neck and let him look for a moment and then I insisted he moved his feet. We never got quite the same level of relaxation we had before the spook, but again, he kept it together and stayed with me. Hurdle # 6 - done.
In no time at all, I was called to the arena for my first test. I never ride Speedy for more than 20 minutes. I had been on Sydney for 35 minutes and could have used more. The ring steward was calling and there is no I am not ready. We headed up to the arena for our first test of the morning.
To be continued! Although if you HAVE to see my scores today, pop over to here and check them out. You'll have to scroll down to the very bottom.