Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Schooling Show 1/31

Poor horse always looks like he's behind bars at these shows!

Since this is coming so late after the show, I've had a decent amount of time to think about it and do a bit of rearranging of my thoughts and have a couple rides that I found enlightening.

The weather was PERFECT for traveling. No snow, no rain, just sun! And almost 50 degrees!

Warm up was atrocious. The host barn boards something like 50 horses I think... and I think all of their owners decided to ride on Sunday, because I couldn't get a thing done in the warm up ring. I shared it with 6-10 other riders (maybe a 70m by 40m space?), and very few of them were actually riding in the show. Many were passing way too close to us (Penn doesn't like other horses near him when he's being ridden), so every time I got Penn's neck thinking long again, a horse would come by and he'd shorten his whole frame and pin his ears and try to lash out with his teeth. I got cut off a number of times, and one girl was passing so close that I took my whip in my inside hand and stuck it straight out to the inside to encourage her to give us more space (it didn't work).

Basically, my warm up was an unproductive disaster. I couldn't do anything from the plan I made earlier in the week. I was warming up during the lunch break, and they drag the warm up and show arena at that time... so I got to start by working in the show arena for a little while while they dragged the warm up. That worked out because Penn wanted nothing to do with the lounge or flower boxes or anything, so I got to school him near it.

Then we went to the warm up and had a horrible spooky angry tense warm up.

Then we went back to the show ring to just stretchy walk around the "warm up" area in there. A little trot, but I was mostly thinking about the upcoming disaster.

It never happened. I took my courtesy lap around the ring, showed him the judge off both eyes, and went back to prep to enter at A. Penn suddenly became all business and rose wonderfully to the occasion. I still had to make bend and spooky corrections to him, but he found his thinking cap.

Here's all the tests, and I wrote down my comments as I watched and from what I remembered.

Training 1 Sheet - 64.348% - 5th place (out of 16)

I liked the forward in the trot and canter to the left- he could still use more but it's on it's way. The second trot and canter (to the right) was lacking. The right has always been the quieter direction, so I have a feeling that as I've been getting him to tone it all down and not rushing, the right eventually got stale and too quiet. I don't remember if I was battling him in the second trot to stay focused or what, but I'm going to say yes because I tend to slow it down when he wants to get speedy or distracted, and he was doing quite a bit of head fidgeting. At 2:40ish, that head nonsense was him trying to scream and me telling him to shut the f-up. The right canter was a mess. He's been coughing lately, and now he does it so much that he taken to pulling his head around and I'm not sure if he truly needs to cough or has found I go go easier on him when he does (if I insist we work through it he coughs or sneezes a couple times and then stops altogether). He gave the judge a big old flinch in the right canter at the end. But look at that square halt to end it!

Screen shot for the win.

Anyway, on to test 2:

Training 2 Sheet - 66.731% - 2nd place (out of 7)

I thought his entering centerline was awesome when I rode down it. It FELT awesome- I let him go more forward and he just filled up. I can see his poll was much too low though. Oh well. Once again, sticky off the halt, but not as bad as test 1. I need to clue him in faster as to which direction we're tracking. The first diagonal I tried to push for a bit more step for an extra point (since every test from 1st & up you do some kind of lengthening across the diagonals), but it backfired on me in that he buried his head down and then we got that nagging thing going because I was holding him up. I remember this left lead canter being spooky to start and difficult to keep balanced and keep going, hence how he falls out of it right after the circle. I did my homework from the last show and practiced bringing him back from the stretchy trot properly- yay! I think it worked well. However, I should have started sitting the trot a step or two sooner so I didn't collapse into the walk, which didn't help him at all. More horrible contact with the bridle in the medium walk. Somehow he still got a 7? Definitely my fault- he quiets in the stretch because I've relaxed my hand and wrist and I'm trying to follow him and encourage him down. The next trot circle and long wall... hmm. I donno, he needs more uphill and less curl, but I'm not sure a half halt and a ton of leg would have fixed it. Maybe that means I need a more effective half halt. I'm unwilling to give him somewhere to go with my hand, and that could be because any half halt I do there is ineffective. The second trot diagonal worked out better for me and I got my extra point (a 7) for the bit more effort. I like the canter, I still want more though. I never got him back that well from the canter, so in turning him I made him curl into his chest in my effort to keep the tempo. I paid for it in a not square halt.

And onto the last test:

Training 3 Sheet - 63.864% - 2nd (out of 8)
I put a lot of thought into how I enter the ring. I don't hurry because the judge has rung the bell- 45 seconds is a long time. I plan and if something falls apart on the way in, I circle back and try again. It irks me to watch people lose points for poor entrances because it is easy points. I watched one rider circle to left at A, the judge rang the bell, and she pulled the horse into a 90 degree right hand turn to go down centerline. I've watched people come in on extreme diagonals and then straighten out at A. I've also watched people stand (halted) at A, the judge rings the bell, and they kick the horse into action and kick into the ring. Come on now people, plan better! Get your correct gait going correctly beforehand, use all the space available to you in front of the ring so you can enter as straight as you can! Now if the plan falls apart, that happens. I know how many times it's fallen apart on me!

Anyway. I didn't like how the first trot loop felt (I swear, as much as I practice it in an over-wide arena at home I will never get it right in public!), and I was still fighting with Penn when it came time to canter. I am pleased that we managed to canter straight out of the corner though. That's a first. What to do after the canter circle haunted us again and I fought to keep the canter, leading to us falling into trot, well before X. Walk was good as always, next trot loop left something to be desired. I had to go back and watch the video twice at the right lead canter transition- the judge said it needed to be clearer. I'm thinking, he didn't shuffle, what the heck? Well he did spook or get discombobulated or whatever, so at the 3rd stride he took a funny step. I need to get my butt down in the saddle and support Penn in the canter. Shoulders tipping, wth! I think I was trying to encourage more canter. I don't remember. Once again, we zoomed past C because he naturally wants to break there (but into a heap) and I want it to be good and so I push him past it and then oops, now the movement is late and I make him break in a heap in an effort to make the movement happen.

So I think the previous week's work of dealing with a spooky bastard came out in these tests. I'm trying to let him stretch his neck (yay!) but I'm doing it with a completely locked elbow and wrist (because I'm expecting to have to catch and suppress the spooky). Along those lines, his head bobbing in the walk is making me batty, and it was pointed out to me this past weekend that I'm not following the motion of the walk with my hands/arms/elbow. As soon as I followed, he quieted.

My sitting trot suffered because I was trying to let him go more forward (bigger trot) and I was just stiff as a board because I was expecting spooking. The poll low/curling thing... I'd rather have that than spooking, but I know it was coming from my desire to let him stretch and trying to keep a tempo, so I never added leg back on to keep his poll lifted. The canter needs more forward and jump, just as the judge said. Just as Trainer said back at the beginning of January.

It irks me that the judge circled "rider subtlety". Penn requires such a quiet, sensitive ride that I pride myself on being quiet unless I'm shutting down some nonsense. I agree (and am working on), finding better contact in trot and I'm trying to find better bend. It seems Penn is vetoing bend right now, and so I ride a bit more aggressively, and so we don't get that relaxed feeling. Anyway, I guess I couldn't be subtle enough for that judge on that day. Ah well.

Yes, my ring geometry was not good enough. Once again, I stand by the fact that this arena is around 25m wide instead of 20m, and I just don't have practice riding accurate shapes that large... simply because I don't find them useful! Blah blah, I know I need to sit down with a 25x40m scaled down arena and figure out where my end points on these circles are. They just ride so big.

**warning, math content!**
I actually just broke out an online tool that does my circle math for me because I'm too lazy to multiply the diameter times pi:

       20m (65.62') diameter = circumference of 62.832m (206.151').

This ring is 80' wide, so:

       80' (24.384m) diameter = circumference of 251.327' (76.6m) circle.

Hmm, let's assume Penn takes 12' canter strides. That amounts to an extra 3.76 strides for this bigger circle, which doesn't sound like a lot. A 20m circle at 12' canter strides should take 17.18 strides to travel, which means I should be taking approximately 21 strides to canter my circles (if you want to get specific, it should be 20.94 strides). Let's go back to the video! *pause for watching* I took 26 strides in the both circles of T3. T2 has a 26 and 29 stride count (I knew one of those was too large as I rode it). Next time I'll ride them a bit smaller and count my steps. Not much smaller, because I don't think Penn actually canters on a 12' stride. How very interesting!

That is one of the reasons I love dressage- if you sat there with a calculator and a list, you could work out how many steps it should take you to do things (if your horse takes standard steps). Then apply that to the geometry drawn on a piece of paper, and it's all spelled out for you with the letters!

Anyway, I am still pretty happy with Penn for rising to the occasion and putting in some nice tests. I will try not to do him a disservice next time so they can be better! I want some more blue ribbons!


  1. Man, I just love how he MOVES! I could watch him all day. Sounds like he was a real pro for the actual tests, and hey, who cares about warmup anyway?

    1. He was such a pro - I don't think it will take too long for him to go to work in the warm up either. He was on task last time out, so I suppose since he's a green bean, he's allowed to be off task at some shows ;)

  2. Math mind melt. So interesting when it's broken down like that!

    1. I think I'm going to break down one of the training level tests and 1-3. I don't think I could keep all the counts in my head as I rode it though.

  3. I love your math break down!!! Why have I never thought to do that?

    Love the recap/analysis. I haven't watched the videos yet, because work...

    1. I'm all over math things like that!

    2. I used math to set up a circle of jumps and no one could figure out why it was so easy to ride...It is amazing what happens when your "circle" is actually a circle. The clinician said she never had a circle set up that she didn't have to adjust before. GO Math!!

  4. my trainer has told me before how many steps should go into each quadrant of a circle at 20m, 15m and 10m and i can never remember, but i think it's 4, 3 and 2 respectively. even if i don't hit the exact numbers tho it's definitely useful for me to count out each quadrant to make sure i'm at least being symmetrical!

    1. Definitely! I imagine that count differs if you're supposed to be collected vs working. I'll keep those counts in mind!