But really, I was pretty pleased with how things went. Ringo was actually quite tense and spooky for whatever reason, even going so far as to do some pretty dramatic bolt/spins away from the spooky door at the end of the arena (that alas we didn't catch on tape - isn't that always the way it is?), which I was actually ok with because it meant that I could have Kim help me work through his behavior when he's at his worst. He's been soooooo good at home recently that it's easy to forget that he can still be a naughty little monkey from time to time, so this was a good reminder!
Kim had us warm up by doing just some nice easy shoulder-in down the long sides; whenever Ringo wanted to spook at the end of the arena (which was... every time), she encouraged me to overbend him to the inside, put him in a firm but not mean shoulder in, and leg yield him as purposefully as possible back over to the rail, while showering him with praise whenever he behaved well. He never completely settled down, but he got a lot better, so it was very good practice for how he might be at the show. The upside of his spookiness was that he was actually more expressive than usual, resulting in some pretty nice shoulder-in when we could contain the bad behavior:
At the end of the video, we started working on one of Ringo and my weaker moves: the medium/extended trot. After seeing the pretty poor effort shown above, Kim had us focus and work on that movement specifically for a little while. She gave me a better step-by-step strategy for me as a rider for riding the extensions: come through the corner collected, drive him INTO the reins for a few strides, then release that power into the extension... instead of just sort of vaguely chucking him across the arena, which had been my plan up until today.
Then, we worked through the entire walk tour of the PSG, with specific focus on the walk pirouettes. This is not an easy movement for us, but Kim had us think about making them way too big to start, then only closing them up when he stops sticking and pivoting, and this was the end result:
Not bad!! Now just to do that with the pressure on in the actual test.
After the walk, we went on to do the whole canter tour in one go so Kim could see if we could do it. Here was the initial result (minus the opening counter change, which was... sketchy, but fixed on later work):
The consensus was that this actually wasn't bad. He was super wound up about the far end of the arena again (hence the craaaaaaaaaazy flying changes at C) and felt pretty wild, but heck, except for the 3s, he did it all. The pirouettes actually weren't awful! They're never going to be the highlight of our test, but they exist and are acceptable. We'll take it!
Unfortunately, the changes quickly went from sketchy to INSANE as Ringo got more and more worked up with the difficult work, as evidenced here after another pirouette attempt:
Ringo is pretty sensitive about the changes and I really struggle at containing him when he starts feeling the pressure. Kim told me to just go around the arena doing changes while keeping him under control to try to reassert to him that he should really listen to me and not just melt down and start leaping around the arena. The result is this fairly hilarious blooper reel (see if you can spot the unintentional 1-tempi and the moment where he comes verrrrrrry close to clocking the wall in a moment of extreme exuberance!):
Sigh. Ray. It's really not as hard as you want to make it sometimes. Obviously the goal for GMHA this weekend is to prevent him from ever getting to this tension 'red zone' in the first place. But the fact of the matter is that the changes do really naturally wind him up, and sometimes I can keep a lid on him... and sometimes I can't.
This was the part of the lesson where Kim really stressed to me that my expectations should be realistic this weekend: Ringo and I are perfectly capable of producing lovely clear tempis all the way up to 2s when we're both relaxed and on the same page, but the chances of that happening this weekend at our first attempt at the PSG are... low. So for this time around, I need to just try to keep him as relaxed and on task as I can, and ride it out if necessary. I'm totally ok with that and ready to do it, but it was good to be reminded of it today.
So overall it was a bit of a wild ride, but hopefully a good prep for the weekend to come. My expectations may be modest, but I'm still very excited!