Sunday, April 21, 2013

Training Level Dressage

We officially have shown training level- at least a schooling show level. Just two weeks after our slightly disastrous test then somewhat respectable re-do (and just a day after going horse camping at a cross country schooling facility) we tried our first training level tests together.

I actually had asked my dressage coach to come out to warm us up. I figured with the approaching move, this may be my last show for a while, and wanted to make the most of it. A last minute horse emergency meant that she couldn't make it. While I think she could have gotten us stretching over the topline if she had been there, we did really about as good as we could!

First off, this was my third, and potentially LAST try at these braids. These pics were after the two tests, so I'd like to say the braids looked better at the beginning. But CLEARLY I need to change something. I refuse to pull her luscious pony mane because I see no point. So I need to braid to accommodate this. Maybe a few videos to refresh my technique might help, maybe I need to go Andalusian style and braid the mane long instead of shortened? Maybe I'll just roach the thing and be done with braiding forever? I think this last one might work slightly better for eventing than USDF rated tests that I hope to get to.

 Any way, the tests both went quite well. I had never done Training Test 2 before, so it was nice to get that under my belt.

She was very good in this arena too! It can be quite echoey with the birds up in the rafters. Although I had been there twice with Bear, Lola had never been to this place before.

We got some 7's and 7.5's on our trot work. Our free walk was not as good as it usually is, and lately I've been getting some stretch but no real over track. She'd rather take the chance to look like a deflating balloon strung out and pokey.
As expected, her canter departs and quality received some comments about needing improvement, but I already know that. I just keep plugging away, and little by little the red mare is figuring it out. The left is especially hard as she doesn't bend to the inside so easily that direction.

Her canter to the right actually got a 7 on our second test, and her downward transition to the trot even got a 7.5 Notes were well balanced with good bend (Well, yes, that's the direction that she LIKES to bend!)  I'll take it though! Even if it is a slightly generous schooling show score.

I do have to remind myself that despite the canter work not being what I'd like, it is still so much improved from what she has naturally, and what it was even a few months before.

We ended up with almost a 66% on each test, but definitely landed us in the mid-60's which was my goal for these first tests. We really didn't get much out of our stretchy trot or our free walk, so those are two clear places to improve on before trying training level at a rated show. 
Of course the fun of schooling shows is having similar level competitors. So my 65's were good enough to get me two blue ribbons and some horse cookies!

Training Level Test 1 Video

Training Level Test 2 Video

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Davis Derby Part 2

With our disastrous, and then respectable do-over dressage test behind us, it was on to jumping.

This was the first time I had jumped her on grass since she came back from her lease last fall. (Our cross country course at the jumping trainers was not yet open for the season). So I was surprised how much "ambition" to tackle this course! She was on a mission!

Round 1- Elementary height

Fence 1

Fence 2

Fence 3

Fence 4
 Fence 5

Fence 6

 Fence 7 was a cool skinny with a branch as the rail, so I'm sad we didn't get a picture.

Fence 8 

Fence 9 must have been missed too, but i love these canter shots.

 Fence 10

Round 2 BN height

Following the "its just a schooling show" logic, it makes perfect sense that if one course went great, the other would crash and burn!!!
Fence 1 was fine

Fence 2: this where it all went wrong
This spook/freak-out/refusal starting happening WELL before the fence. And then went backwards!
But we got over it second try.
Think this was jump 4, so we must have successfully jumped # 3 in between, but this rolltop was also insanely scary (not really, and certainly nothing she hadn't jumped before) however this lovely shot is our second approach.

Fence 5
Fence 6

Now for 7A&B: A was the ditch seen here.

B was the picket fence that she has clearly launched herself over! This was actually our courtesy fence, because we were officially excused from the class when she launched herself over 7a (ditch) and then panicked and ran out once she saw 7b was right there. Third refusal, thank you, please leave the arena before you run out of luck and fall off! Of course I begged one last try at the jump we just missed. I took it without A, and told her that it was now MY idea that the course was over.
She didn't need to know there was another 3 jumps. And I really was ok leaving it at that. You've got to pick your battles. She is a whole new horse after being gone, and I had accustomed myself to riding Bear (a whole different attitude and jumping approach), AND neither of us were really fit for the task yet. And based on her insane leaps over the jumps in an effort to tell me just how much she resented me making her jump them, I wasn't positive that she wouldn't eventually jump me out of the tack. Oh well. We have work, what's new? If it were easy, we'd be bored, right?

I chose to remember the fun of her going through the elementary course and after every fence she really felt like she was asking, "Ok, what next? That one? Oh, heck ya! I'm gonna jump it!!!" I had such buy-in from her, it was great.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Davis Derby Part 1

The UC Davis Derby (spring and fall) has been one of my favorite outings for my horses. So April rolled around and we all got busy about getting our horses out to a few jumping lessons to prep. I had been far more regular in my dressage lessons, so I had high hopes for that part.
This was our first outing in the new (used KN) dressage saddle, new bridle, and our second attempt at round fluffy rosette braids.
I felt pretty darn good going in! Good warm up, felt prepared, and unexpectedly our test started out with 6.5's, 7's, and I think even one 8.
Who would have thought that this thoroughly prepared and thoughtfully groomed horse/rider combo could do anything but a decent to above average test?
But then in the middle of our free walk we had huge spook sideways moment. I'm thinking at this point I probably made it worse. I usually do in tense situations!
We then had a terrible spook spin when we tried to pick up the canter, each time we tried to pick up the canter, and at least one halfhearted buck when I popped her with the whip.
 This was about where the score went 3, 3, 2, elimination. I kept right on riding, and thankfully the judge let me. 
Because despite Lola stopping to do a "half rear at x" where I thought we simply had a "trot M X K" we did manage to finish!

What I really wanted from this show was a reasonable idea how I would do on the BN dressage test, and elimination is not a score! Being a schooling show, I marched us right up to the check in desk and asked how we could make a do-over happen. Obviously that lovely elimination is what counted towards my BN derby score, but I just wanted another shot at the test to be sure she understood what her job was out there.
So we found ourselves out there again, after all the other tests, lovely braids gone, new dressage saddle in trailer, coat gone. We did the test over in our jumping get up (with a quick stripping of boots, vest, brest collar, and martingale).

The pictures aren't nearly as fun, but we got the job done. We left with a score and comments on a full test! Now we have a place to work from.
X halt salute isn't nearly as charming a picture on a wind-blown pony in jumping garb!
Oh well. Another learning experience, right? A few weeks later I had the fun of watching a few FEI horse totally lose their minds in the show arena. It was a moment, and then it was gone, each one continued with the test very well. There will always be a chance that these moments happen in the show ring, it will depend on how I learn to immediately let go of my emotions, and ride each next piece of the test how it needs to be ridden.