Friday, August 22, 2014

Another Failed 3rd Level Attempt

We had three weeks between horse shows to get our acts together. It almost worked out. But that's ok, I actually feel really good about where we left off and how much we accomplished this year. Maybe I should have done more third level tests this time out, maybe not. I think it was all good.

I decided to ride both days at the "local" (3 hour away) recognized dressage show. My mom traveled with me on Friday to settle in (best idea ever!) and my husband met up with us the next day. We got some crappy ride times (the last hour of the show both days), which worked out well for settling in, but not so much with the little bit of summer heat (ok, it could have been much much worse).

The last lesson I had pre-show was just a half hour open ended lesson for whatever I thought we should work on... I asked to do shoulder-in to haunches out in trot because we were going to ride 2nd 3 again, and hadn't worked on it since June. That wasn't going to cover enough material in a half hour though, and is too simple an exercise, so I opted to make it half-pass right, shoulder-in right, haunches out left, half-pass left (switch for the other direction).

For anyone who has trouble with throughness, bend, flexibility- give this a whirl in a snaffle or a double, doesn't matter. Had my horse like putty in a few rounds. We also agreed that for the stuff with left bend (our hole), open the left rein to guide him, and he became much more agreeable in steps. Little bit of curb rein as you open the left hand as a reminder.

So when I warmed up for my tests that weekend, and in our practice on Friday, I rode that exercise and left canter mostly alone and left the flying changes alone (except for Sunday, I did two in warm up to get him thinking).

Our 3rd level test 1 on Saturday was super through, super connected, super quiet, and super obedient. So good that when we botched the flying changes (zero effort to make the change except for a few sticky hops that didn't quite have the right canter), we almost made it to 60%. She nailed us for the changes (hey, I had to get them somehow by the end of the the diagonal, and it sure wasn't happening in canter!), and she should have. But she rewarded my horse when we were right, and the rest of the test almost made up for the lack of changes. I only needed 3 points to get my 60. Basically if we had them (or even one side!), we would have gotten our score. Her overall comments were along the lines of needs better bend in canter and needs more engagement and uphill carriage. I could feel he needed to be more uphill, but I wasn't about to trade throughness for uphill. I can work with through!

3rd Test 1

3rd Test 1

My Mikey!!!
For those who ride multiple levels at shows, don't take a horse who is learning his flying changes in third back to second level until you have it down pat.

2nd Test 3
Poor Mikey, our 2nd level test 3 was not his fault. I liked the set up for the counter canter (circle 10m canter, simple change on the long wall), nothing confusing for him like going across the diagonal to make the change to counter canter. But the poor horse, he said, "But Mom, we don't canter on the wrong lead. That's bad!" and he turned my half halts for the 20m half circle in counter canter into cues to simple change through trot in the first counter canter. The second counter canter I was more tactful and he got upset that I was not asking for the change. Not his fault. We ended up with a 60.119, a poor score considering what we're capable of. No 7's for our counter canters this time!

So the next day we hung around all day to ride 3rd Test 1 again. Mikey was better rested that day and I did work two changes in warm up because he was so sticky to the ground the day before. I tried to ride him more collected and uphill than the day before and wasn't really rewarded for it- I lost my throughness and some connection. But I did some math (because I'm sadistic) and if I had clean changes that would get a 6, I would have gotten my score. Instead, a failed change (the pictures showed leap, hop, front end change, stuck sideways hop, change back, forward again) earned a 1, and a no change earned a zero. Now I'm all for nailing us for missing it, ok? But by the end of the movement, I was on the other lead ready for the next movement. And we did try a couple hops for the change. But to each his own. Now I just need to hunt down the elusive 10. I've gotten all the scores from zero to 9.5 in our tests through the years.

3rd Test 1

3rd Test 1

A "Flying Fail"

3rd Test 1. At least we can do square!

I figure we did just fine for learning our changes in May and making the move up to third this year. I'm not a professional, I try to ride like one though and work like one, but I'm not. My horse isn't easy when things are hard for him. I figure if our failures in our third level test were actually satisfactory, I would have my bronze medal. The fact that correcting the changes would have given me the scores? I can live for the winter with that. That's what this winter is for anyway, correcting his changes. Making them so easy that they don't take much thought and I can ask for them anywhere. Cause let's face it, I sure can't move up to 4th next year without them functioning perfectly. A winter with an indoor will be good for us.

Oh and because I'm a glutton for punishment, we're going to a schooling show this weekend. After I spent the last week in my house after a bronchial asthma attack.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

No Mikey, flying changes do not mean change to flying.

So Mikey feels better after his injections. Yay!

I had a lesson on Tuesday to prep for the show this weekend. We did our usual warmup, tossed in some lateral stuff, then got back to the flying changes.

The way we've been approaching them is to halfpass to centerline out of the corner, 10m circle the direction of the half pass, repeat the circle if needed, then straight, change, regroup. Paying attention to throughness and rhythm (rhythm above all else as Mikey has a tendency to get a 4 beat canter or a pacey canter when tense).

Or something like that... considering we have no set 'centerline' and no arena walls and the arena is bigger than a standard size arena (so half pass to like the quarterline, 10-13m circle, straight on the quarterline again, change). It mostly works out to about where we are in the arena.

Mikey has figured out what the pattern is, which is helpful since he knows the change is coming, and we can work on making it better. The first few we did, his feet were slow off the ground. He was having trouble finding enough hop to make the change. He'd raise his shoulders, hop hop, no change. So my trainer had me tap him on the hip with the new inside whip (we decided to tackle just one side at a time).

So for a while it worked out quite well, half pass, half halt, circle, straight, tap, change. Clean changes too!

So Mikey caught on, and started adding LEAP into the equation. Half pass, half leap, circle, straight, LEAP, hop, clean change. Going left to right is harder for him, and boy did I find out how 'athletic' he could be. We had decided to take the circle out of the equation because it wasn't helping anymore, he'd unbalance even more as he got ready for the change he knew was coming.

One of the last passes we made left to right, he leaped into the change. Not like hop leap, like I used to be an event horse and I think there's a big table in front of me leap. I thought we were flipping over, I was just sitting up for the leap I knew would come, but holy cow he jumped into the air tossed me straight back, then pulled me back down with him and gave me whiplash on landing. Then he did a nice neat clean change and cantered off round in the new direction. My trainer was on the ground laughing. All she could say was go again. They got a bit better, we worked the other way and he tried to plow through me for the change he knew was coming (he's a little rude right to left and runs through my left aids... it's a hole in my riding and I'm desperate to find a shovel). Right now his changes all have a bit of expression as he does them (ie leaping). We're working on it again tonight, but now I'm anxious about it because while I stayed on him through his leaps, he's getting quite rude!

Mikey says, "Sorry Mom! When you said flying change, I thought we were supposed to change to flying!"

Friday, August 1, 2014

Horse Shows are Exhausting

I was rooting through the pictures on my phone, and found this gem from the horse show. Mikey took a nap between our tests and ended up leaning on the wall.

"Just resting my head on this wall. What do you mean I have a second test to do?"

Horse Shows and Hock Injections

July can pretty much be wrapped up with the above title. All we worked towards was the show on July 20, and afterwards I scraped up some money for Mikey to have hock injections a week later. Poor boy was still stiff and post legged behind 4 days after the show.

The week coming up to the show was busy- I saw the German Riding Master on Monday 7/14, went to my trainer's Ride a Test on 7/19, and then left immediately for the horse show several hours away to show on 7/20.

7/14- Lesson with German Riding Master
German Riding Master renewed my faith in my horse's flying changes getting there... eventually. When I walked in the ring, he asked, "What are we doing today?" and I told him "Passage! But not really, I'm having trouble with my flying changes still." His face lit up, then he looked sad to go back and work on the same thing. I was too! He then told me: "Passage is not so hard, he will learn." So that's what we're going to do next time. He broke down my changes again, gave me a new approach since Mikey has been bulging and throwing himself sideways and running at the changes. Basically we turned down the worry level for the horse. Circling, changing bend and where the haunches are on a circle, come up immediately to a pole on the short diagonal, change. Bam. We only missed two changes that night, mostly because I brought the wrong horse to the flying change party. He said it will take time, but it will come eventually. He also told me to relax and ride the horse, don't overthink, and don't worry the horse.

Friday night was when the rain started. It lasted for the Ride A Test and horse show. We're ex-eventers. We dealt with it.

7/19- Ride-A-Test
The ride a test was very helpful, I finally got to ride 3rd 3, and run through 3rd 1 again. I don't really school the tests over and over, I ride bits and pieces of them then string it together in public. I may end up riding a half or so at home though, but it's hard to get everything planned down to the step at home without a standard size arena, or a marked arena (we ride in an open field). A good experience, and I was very very happy with Mikey. Everyone said how lovely we looked, and how nice we were to watch.

7/20- Recognized Dressage Show
Extended walk... he said I lost my contact?
Downhill? Really? I doubt that comment from the judge.
Gotta figure out how to hold my reins better so I don't
end up with slack on the bridoon. That rein slips while my
curb rein is rubber backed and doesn't. :-(

The horse show was a bit of a bust, I only say that because of how tough the judges were. I checked Saturday's scores when I got there, at least half were in the 50% I'd say. I spoke with a couple people from the barn that holds clinics with the German Riding Master, and they said they'd all had their lowest scores to date.

I rode 3rd 1 first, and aside from botching the one change entirely (I had to salvage Mikey trying to drag me sideways across the arena instead of changing), I thought it was a nice test. Yes it could be more collected, and looking back on it a bit more through, but I thought it was accurate and competent. How wrong I was apparently. My shoulder ins were 4's (I usually get 6 or 7), the botched change a 3 (understandable), runny change a 4 (umm... I got the change, that has to count for something right?), and apparently our medium and extended canters are now downhill. I have pictures of those where his front end is 4 inches above his hind end (see left). I beg to differ. So that was a 54%, which I don't think we deserved. I am so proud of Mikey, he worked so hard for me in that test. Maybe we didn't deserve a 60, but we certainly were better than 54. I'm a good rider with good feel, I know when I'm wrong (I may not always know why, ie errant seat bones not doing what I'm telling them), and this test didn't feel that wrong.

Extended trot... I'm actually super pleased even though it could be better. For us, this is better!

Shoulder in. 3 tracks really isn't a lot of angle!

I totally deserved the 56% I got on 3rd 3, where I botched both changes and one of the canter half passes (so how did I end up scoring BETTER than my good feeling test? I have no idea). I was still happy with Mikey. The half pass wasn't his fault, I broke it in the warm up fiddling with his changes instead of leaving them alone. We have a hole on the left side, I get overactive with my right seatbone, think I've corrected it, and Mikey lets me know I haven't by shooting to the left when we're tracking right. Well I got him overexcited in warm up and that was the first thing to snap.

Half pass. I love it.

Most of my comments were about finding better collection (my trainer took that to mean sit and engagement, more below) and better bend. Something achievable between now and the next show. His medium and extended trots were much much better, so I was happy (we got 6's).

Mikey had 3 days off after the show to chill and be a horse, and on Thursday that week my trainer and I talked about the show and hock injections for him. She said when she'd lead him to and from the fields, he wasn't stepping right behind and it should have gotten better by Thursday. She mentioned the comments about collection were probably more because he doesn't engage as much as he could, and the injections should help the overall tightness he carries in his hind end that translates to his back too. We had planned on injections and Adequan next year as a replacement for his supplements, but she said it's time to scrap that plan and do it now. Like the first day the vet is available to do it. And that was Monday the 28th. The Adequan is still on hold though.

To say the least, July was very, very expensive and I'm glad to see it gone!