Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Second Level Test 3 Shenanigans

Ok, show of hands. Who knew the Dover Medal program was ending this year?

I sure didn't.


That doesn't align perfectly into my plans! I had planned on riding the 2-3 Medal classes and 3-3 all next year until Penn was ready for 4th... finishing my 1*/2* centerline ratings, Penn's second and third level performance certificates, and hopefully winning a Dover Medal along the way.

Obviously if I want a Dover Medal, that can no longer be the plan. I have one more recognized show weekend before championships (champs is not the place for me to attempt to get a Dover Medal!). Since this upcoming show weekend is conveniently two separately numbered shows, there's two Dover Medal classes.

Of course, I snail mailed my entry before I found out about the Dover Medal Program... But the bright side of snail mail is that I don't have to pay an entry change fee since the secretaries don't even have my entries yet! (I sent emails and extra checks)

So we're signed up for 2-3 and 3-1 both days. If 2-3 is after 3-1 on Saturday, I'll ride both tests. If 2-3 is first, I'll scratch it. My bronze is more important to me, so the 3rd Level tests get the fresh horse. If I get my bronze Saturday, I'll scratch 3-1 Sunday and give 2-3 my full attention. So much is up in the air, it's all pending scheduling and results!

Anyway, that meant I needed to do a run through of 2-3 to see what I was working with. I haven't actively worked on counter canter since June's recognized show, only flying changes (swapping them out for simple changes or changes through trot when I need to mix it up).

I set up a dressage court in the outdoor this past Sunday, which ended up too narrow for the length so some stuff was awkward, and went to it to get a baseline: (the video was taken up and down and had a lot of shake, so this is cropped and stabilized, which is why it looks funny)

I made plenty of mistakes: the trot needs more power/forward/step/impulsion, and it needs to be not BTV. The TOH needs to be better, the halts need to be better, but the canter work was surprisingly good and uphill (until Penn got tired). I used my leg off technique for impulsion as I went into the first serpentine and Penn misinterpreted that as a cue for a flying change, hence the bobble starting that movement. In the first simple change, he went to hop immediately back into canter... I stopped him, then positively nailed him with my left spur for the right lead. I had to spend the time before the next medium apologizing to him for my rudeness.

BTV much?

Overall, I would have been happy to have that go down centerline! Would it have won a medal? I donno.

I scheduled a lesson with the local dressage trainer at her farm for Tuesday this week. She has a standard size outdoor court and an eye for test riding. I emailed asking to work on 2-3 because I decided to enter it on a whim. #3weeksisplentyoftime

She was immediately thrilled with Penn's topline. She last saw him about 2 months ago and thought he looked good then but a lot better now ("Whatever you've been doing is working!"). She also loved my new "fun button" that I found in walk: Penn sometimes comes out laying on my hands, which pissed me off to no end the other day. I gave him the kind of half halt I'd give him in the canter to sit the fuck down now (it's a motherfucking big one), leg slightly back and on lifting his barrel, then a few sharp taps on his hip with my whip. He makes an angry face, but lifts the front end and sits a bit more. DT thought it was great, and said I should start playing with half steps using that in trot (I can already feel a piaffe wanting to come out, but I am not pushing the button that hard for a few months yet!). She warned me to be careful with his walk- it gets a bit unorganized when I overshorten it.

The aforementioned outdoor. A little spooky even though it's neatly tucked into a hillside. 

We went right into what I would do to warm up at a show, but then stopped to mix in some turn on the haunches work:

  • Work on a square at first, doing quarter turns.
  • Keep them slow since he wants to rush through them and get unbalanced.
  • When working 180s, stop at the 90 mark, then proceed.
  • Until he gets stronger in them, make the beginning of the 180 tight behind, then let him get a bit bigger in the second half so he doesn't plant a hoof and get an automatic 4.
  • Work him on a 10m circle in haunches in, bringing him around into a TOH and back out again. Make the center of the TOH vary in size like you would as you school pirouettes.
  • If he's reluctant to make the TOH in a particular direction, begin it with a shallow haunches in, then bring it around.
  • When bending right, keep my balance to the right. He wants to drop me off the left side of him and fall out. Release the left rein a hair.
For the trot:
  • Let his nose out by pushing him forward then bringing him back with the "fun button".
  • When tracking right Tuesday night, he did not want to bend right. Flex him with the inside hand and scratch his shoulder every now and then with the outside. His whole picture changes.
  • Along the lines of bend, in 10m circles right, keep the outside leg on to force the left hind to keep up and stay in. It's almost a haunches in feeling for him. If I don't do this, I lose the hind end to the outside and it'll be a 5 or less.
In the canter:
  • Same right bend/flex right/scratch left problem.
  • More prep for the simple changes.
  • Keep the outside leg on in the right lead - he is suddenly weaker this direction and wants to leave the outside hind behind and 4 beat.

Someone had to "tie" to the trailer upon arrival because we cut it too close to lesson start time for me to schlep his stuff into the barn. He was extremely unsure and definitely still needed his helmet on.

Off we went to the test!
  • Keep the entry centerline straighter. Maybe I need to track left to enter. He's been especially fussy to the right which makes for a squiggly centerline.
  • Let his nose out just a hair in the medium trot.
  • Shoulder-in is good.
  • 10m circles are good as long as I keep my outside leg on.
  • More angle in the haunches in right- from C, it doesn't read as enough. Push him forward and resteady myself to the right and add some extra outside leg halfway through. A lot of the same theory as the TOH right.
  • I need to keep my right hand extra down in the shoulder in left so he doesn't tilt his head.
  • Same 10m circle rules.
  • Same more angle in the haunches in left. Keep my hands down and quiet because I end up wagging him.
  • Get better halts.
  • Know your count for the rein back and stop asking one step early.
  • Same rules as above for the TOH.
  • Free walk is good, play the fingers to keep the topline round.
  • Walk/Canter was excellent.
  • Medium canter A++
  • Serpentine good.
  • He dropped out early at the first simple change- she had me represent the change and add more new inside leg in a leg yield thought (without actually moving sideways) to keep him straight and get him hopping, and to start riding the change after the centerline so he won't break early in my test.
  • Medium canter A++
  • Serpentine good. Keep applying leg to keep him hopping.
  • Same rules in the second simple change.
  • Trot and final centerline, A++, easy 8.

Nothing much huh? Lol

We reviewed the haunches in after the test and added more angle, but by then Penn was pretty beat. She was thrilled with how his canter was looking- like night and day from when she saw him last. It's so much more uphill.

So that's the story of how we entered two more classes at the next show and took a lesson I never planned on taking (which was very beneficial). I might take another one before we go to Loch Moy, but we'll see. The next few weeks get tough for me to do anything extra as we gear up to finish my bronze and then hopefully smoke them at First Level AA Championships by riding a third level horse

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Finding Our Inner Hippo

I was going to include this on my lesson post, but it really deserved it's own post.

One of my goals for the year was to go to GP Trainer's, have lessons, and then go swim in her pond. It has a lovely beach in with good footing, and is big enough and deep enough that you can walk around in really deep water, or actually swim. I spent a bit of time working towards this goal of playing in the pond: the Cowboy Dressage lady and I worked on getting Penn to step in water. We played in the water complex at Loch Moy. I started riding him bareback.


Next year we're going to go for actually swimming, but this was a ton of fun too! I don't think I'll get down to her farm in time to swim again while it's warm enough to do so, so that's why it's getting pushed back to next summer. Just enjoy the photo montage... which is actually a mix of photos, gifs, and video clips!

First steps in. He liked blowing bubbles and lipping the water.
He was so game to get in the water and go to a deeper section of the pond!
I think he stepped in an underwater hole or something, or was just surprised by the ground falling away!

A good time was had by both of us!

Sadly, we couldn't get M's horse into the pond. We tried Penn leading her in, but he was enjoying himself and playing like a little kid, so he was pawing and accidentally splashing her, and then swished his tail and got her pretty good with water drops... The offended mare look was legendary, haha! The water was great BTW- the pond isn't spring fed, so by the end of July, Virginia's hot summer has heated it up to almost bathwater warm.

Until next time everyone...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

7/29-30/2017 Lessons: Getting All Jazzed Up

Last weekend, M and I drove to GP Trainer's for lessons. I don't have much video because her Pixio wasn't working, and we had our lessons back to back, but I do have some good media from the trip!

Saturday 7/29

Still working on finding these square halts.

Saturday's lesson covered simple changes and 10m circles at the canter... and jazzing Penn up a bit. Through our warm up canter work and our real canter work, Penn kept breaking from the canter, no matter the lead. As soon as we'd turn down the diagonal to simple change, he'd break. We'd get through 2-3 10m circles (go around the ring and 10m circle at P, R, C, S, V), and he'd quit. I'd be digging an inside spur into him, pushing him forward with my seat, and making sure I was allowing with my elbows, and he'd still break At one point, I cued for canter and he didn't pick it up, but there I am throwing my seat and shoulders at him.

GP Trainer had me put him together in walk, then lift both legs off, and pony club kick him. She said let him run off a little bit, praise him, and bring him back and repeat once more. She had me put him back together and cue politely for canter. He leaped off into it (in a good way), and we repeated the 5 10m canter circles to the right.

He did them wonderfully- I was able to use infintiely less leg, and got a bit more sit and collection out of them With a better response to my leg, I also got a better response to the canter-walk transition. We nailed them!

We repeated it tracking left- he is weaker left, but we still got all 5 circles. GP Trainer had me "threaten" him by taking both legs off halfway through each circle, and that was more than enough encouragement to get him to dig deep and continue the canter. I made sure to ask him to walk soon after the 5th circle, and it was a wonderful prompt downward transition.

We finished by going for a little walk down her driveway. Penn got a bath and turned out for the night, and M and I painted the town red by going to Applebees and Tractor Supply, with lights out by 10pm, haha.

Sunday 7/30

We rode in the outdoor for our Sunday lesson. On Sundays, the indoor gets taken over by cavaletti lessons, so we opted to work outside in GP Trainer's standard sized court. I want to do one of their cavaletti lessons eventually. I have trouble justifying it though. If I'm going to make the drive, I want two lessons with GP Trainer, and I just don't think Penn could do 3 days of work so we could include a cavaletti lesson.

We worked the trot halts some more since I continue to struggle with them. GP Trainer understood why I'm working them so much- 1-3 has a halt at X with a double coefficient (a side note, she's going to be riding one of her baby horses in 1-3 in a few weeks and despises the test, haha). Penn likes to rest a hind leg in the halt- the left more than the right.

That left hind ruining a beautiful halt. 

We worked on giving him a major halt half to get him to sit in the turn across the school, then letting him walk a step into the halt. It feels like he's taking a ton of steps into the halt, but she said it looks like he's just settling himself. I found thinking one step wasn't enough- I need to think about letting him take 1.5 steps. Enough that I'm not going to shut him down early, but not so much that I actually let him sneak out of it.

This is from Saturday's lesson, but whatever. It worked!

I rode some lateral work- SI down the long wall (at the angle from Sunday's test, which she said was good otherwise it doesn't look like enough from C), and half pass from corner letters on the rail to X. She reminded me to ride the end of the half pass- make him straight again. I rode a really sucky medium trot early on, but the laterals were good.

I moved on to the canter and did some shallow loops, and then tossed in the left lead half pass from 3-3.

It felt INCREDIBLE. And easy. OMG it was the best. It's not the steepest, and doesn't look like much when shot from the side, but I was thrilled with it. It is the first left lead half pass that actually made it down the line I wanted, the haunches didn't lead, the horse didn't break. I was able to start it (albeit slowly), and FINISH it. I can see where it needs more inside leg though to create more jump.

I then decided to be super clever and use a flying change to get to the right lead... Yea, I'm not so clever. It failed miserably because I didn't prep or plan for it well enough. We spent a good amount of time jazzing him back up (making him "itchy"), and then doing renvers in canter and being able to apply the same jazz up aids within the renvers and being able to collect him again. The next few changes we made we a mixed bag of unclean- however he started to change the hind end first, then the front. I have to remember to continue pushing him to sit through the change, not pushing him forward through the change.

We did a few to the right, which has actually become trickier to ride properly and he still bucks through them a little bit. GP Trainer wasn't concerned about it- he's finding the hop he needs behind to change. All of the mistakes he made in unclean changes she wasn't concerned about- he's sorting out where to put his body parts.

I did some more jazzing him up in the walk before the right to left changes, and inadvertently got a few steps of piaffe. I am not calling it that myself- GP Trainer did. Of course I don't have it on video though, M had to go tack up her horse. She said that's how she develops it- essentially walking the fine line of jazzing them up and letting them get frustrated in the walk until they offer it, and then praising them.

Throughout all of the canter work, I need to keep the inside leg on and really sit to produce the jump that Penn needs to do the work.

I finally got around to doing the right lead half pass towards the end of our lesson. I wish it was on video. I didn't hold my line- I let it get steep because Penn offered it so easily. I asked for half pass to centerline and he got very light in the bridle and floated across the diagonal from the corner to 15m sideways to somewhere between X and E. GP Trainer had to yell at me to finish it properly because I showed signs of simply enjoying the ride far too much and letting him fall out of it... I halfway succeeded in finishing it properly and was just tickled that it felt so easy for Penn. GP Trainer said the "tricks" come very easily when you've done your boring homework in finding straightness and balance. I absolutely cannot wait to ride 3-3 so I can show off his trot and canter half passes.

Fancy trot picture.

We finished with looking at the TOH (we were going to look at it after he got warmed up, but got sidetracked by changes).
  • The TOH left is OK, but she wanted him to take slower and bigger sideways steps because he's taking way too many tiny ones to get it done (like 6-7 instead of 4ish). I did a little opening the left rein and bringing the right onto his neck.
  • The TOH right is weak. I had to use the same opening inside rein, but she wanted me to step into my right stirrup, and to get after his left hind by taking my leg back and pretending to kick him in the stifle to keep it active. He likes to start well then fizzles out halfway through.
She said neither is really good enough for Third, they're still in Second level type collection. That's fine- I'll keep working on them!

I wish I had more video - I really rely on it to look back at exactly what she said for each movement and we covered a ton of ground in this lesson. We looked at all the things from First to Third (except medium and extended gaits). GP Trainer is lamenting having to ride First Level herself (it's apparently been years- she usually takes horses out at Third and then not again until PSG), and she is completely on board with continuing to show 3-1 and finish my Bronze (but not 3-3 yet, she thinks the canter is a bit too long for him at this stage), and basically only show 1-3 a little as possible. She also applauded me sticking with First at Championships and thinks I have a very good shot at Finals because I'm showing him two levels above our championship test (which we'll ride in a month and a half). She said to make as much of the 1-3 test of Third Level quality as I can- that will really bring in the good marks.

Penn didn't get a bath when we were done because...

Which deserves it's own post! :-D