I found out that Theo has a show name. Expect The Unexpected. It's so damn appropriate.
We went to our first outing yesterday. It was the same little show that I once hacked Fiona out to with Dorkzilla. Tiny, casual, I didn't even wear tall boots. It's the perfect spot to figure out what a horse is like away from home. After the big spook experience, I was aware that I would probably have my hands full. A Friday lesson showed that we're very well suited over fences and ended with me cantering around at 2'3" with a huge grin on my face. It's just a matter of when he'll hit the FU button.
As an experienced rider, all of my classes were at the end of the day. Papi and I hung out all day, hand grazing and watching other riders. I even did the trail class in hand just for the fun of it, making my poor pony wear the big yellow slicker as part of his desensitization. He gave the rope gate exercise some big eyes, but walked over the bridge like a champ. We even got a blue for our effort!
Finally it was our turn to ride. I got tacked up and walked him around the ring in hand. I introduced him to the judges and made sure he got a good look at the shed just outside of the ring. Everything was good. Then I got on. That doofus gave me such a round of theatrics when they were breaking down the equipment for the trail class. It took me thirty minutes to get to walk, trot, and canter around the ring without him plunging around or flying backwards.
His mind set changed for the better once we started jumping. Giving him something to focus on that he liked really helped, but it was still a constant state of alertness in case something was going to happen and send him dive bombing off the rail. Very alarming when there's kids and beginners warming up around you.
Our actual jumping rounds went well. Once there were fences in front of him, he was too focused to care about what else was going on. Our flat classes were mixed bags. He did very well until I asked him to canter to the right at the scary end of the ring. We got a spook/buck combo that bumped us down to third out of four. In our very last class, I didn't even attempt to canter on that end of the ring due to another rider looking petrified. Every time Theo went off, her horse would react. I just bowed out, that's not fair.
So now I have to think. I could have won those flat classes if he'd held it together. He did beautifully right up until he didn't. I've got spooks off both leads, so I don't think it's a vision thing. I will look into saddle fit, since it's possible that something is off. I'm looking for a new jump saddle that will fit him, since jumping in a dressage saddle sucks. Especially when he's feeling good and decides to crack his back over a fence and almost jumps you clean out of the tack.
I know at least part of this is him being a bully and trying to push me out of asking him to do something he doesn't want to do. His manners in hand are appalling and he'll be getting a lot of work on that. I just need to stack the deck more in my favor when in the saddle. If I get his head down and neck long, he's good. That head comes up and I can forget it. I may need to swap some bits around, bring in the baucher for flat work and the pelham for over fences. A little leverage will help out, my hands were torn up pretty badly after the show. I'm also going to start carrying a stick because a sharp smack on the shoulder he's considering plunging through is very effective. It's such a delicate balancing act. I need to set myself up to win, but I can't walk into the ride like there's a fight coming. His reputation for pig headedness makes it clear that I don't want to actually get into a fight with him.
There was a photographer at the event, so hopefully there will be some pictures soon of me and Papi that don't include bucking or profanity.