Trainer Z came out to visit! I was so happy to see her. Scheduling problems kept her away for longer than expected and I was super eager to get kicked back onto track. My ride on Saturday was quiet and positive, the weather was beautiful (40* in December is lovely), and the ring was all ours. Perfect.
Then the horse trailer showed up while we were working the canter and the horse clamored out with a bunch of noise and it all got rather electric. Theo was up on his toes from the start, probably due to the winter storm blowing in tonight. It was nice at first but it started to boil over.
He got completely overwrought in the flying change work, lost his lid, and danced the dance of his people all around the ring. Grrr, damn it Theo, we'd gotten past this! True, we were working the changes harder than usual and I was making some changes to try to get them more uphill, but that level of lost chill was unwelcome. I knew he was checking out stage right when he suddenly dove off the wall in a 'spook' followed by one of his leaping bucks. Ugh. After that, it was a matter of keeping the lid on while he bucked, cantered in place, tried to spin, and generally had a melt down.
The finale was when he launched himself straight up in the air and kicked out while passing the spectators. Honestly, Theo. Don't kick the barn manager or Trainer Z.
Whelp, rides like that happen and we sent him to big trot to reset his brain. Trainer Z was frankly delighted with the snorting, powerful beast I was riding. I was far less thrilled as he was still looking to come flying off the rail the second I let my guard down. Good day to be in a double. Yes, it was fun to sit that crazy powerful trot and do some laterals, but that was a hell of a lot of horse.
"Ride that big fancy horse!"
"I don't want a big fancy horse!"
"Well you have one so you better ride it!"
Once his brain was back, Trainer Z got out the lunge whip. Seemed like a good day to make Theo jig and it was time for him to start working on half steps. Theo knows Trainer Z well so I wasn't worried about him freaking out and striking her like he would a stranger, I was more worried about him dumping me while overreacting. He has zero fear of lunge whips but he has been known to scoot under pressure.
Turns out I didn't have to worry. We started with tapping his hocks to get him to pop his hind legs up. He figured that out very quickly and was eager to pop up his hind legs in exchange for a sugar cube. Touching with the whip while he was moving worked a bit too well and he'd tuck his butt too much. He couldn't trot like that and would try to canter. We ended up having the best results when I did it without a ground person. Walk trot walk trot walk trot walk trot very collected walk Half Steps! Theo is a very quick study when it comes to earning sugar and we got two real steps.
I expected him to be even more wound up after that but the half steps work seemed to settle him down. He was calmer afterward, like he'd gotten something out of his system. Trainer Z laughed and said 'Muffin doesn't spook anymore, he just piaffes and passages'. That will take some getting used to.
So it was the tale of two Theos. On the one hand, complete meltdown with big bucks and leaps. On the other hand, we had some big, clean changes (which led to the meltdown so there you go) and our first half steps. He's such a complicated critter.
Two weeks until our next dressage lesson. I'm supposed to be working on those uphill changes with the full understanding that they will be dramatic but I can sit it so I just need to ride through it. Which sucks and is hard for me emotionally but I need to face it. With everything he unloaded tonight, my butt stayed right in the saddle. I never lost my stirrups, I wasn't in danger. I didn't like it, but it was within my wheelhouse. I can't drop him on his forehand to keep the change non-dramatic. I'm going to need to wear my silicone full seats, sit back, and just go for it.
I'm starting to understand why people are willing to pay so many thousands of dollars for a horse with a change.