Friday, March 11, 2016

3/6/2016 Schooling Show

Real geldings win pink!

Alright, so I wanted to think carefully about what I want to say about this past show. I had a million thoughts running through my head, and I wanted to put them in a pot and let them simmer for a while so I could come to a good, constructive conclusion. A few good rides after doesn't hurt either!

The sewing machine and I have become friends.
I sewed some darts into Penn's mesh sleezy because the nose stretched and was way too big for his face.

First off, I did not get the scores I wanted. They were not abysmal, but they are not up to our usual standards. They were the lowest and next to lowest scores I've gotten with him at Training level. Trainer took time out of her super busy Monday to call me after the scores were posted online and ask "What the hell happened?!" It wasn't a good day. This of course makes writing about the show harder.

I've come to the conclusion that it's all my fault: of course it is, I'm the one riding the horse, and my feel is off. I've said that numerous times before. I had some 'eyes on the ground' watch me in the week before the show (not trainer eyes, but eyes that have seen a lot of dressage and have been helpful before), and I don't want to blame those eyes either. But if they saw what my video showed and said it was fine, I'm hella pissed off!

Penn continues to get more spooky the more places we go. Maybe it has something to do with winter, maybe it has something to do with a lack of outside riding, who knows. Maybe it was the judge's heater. He's never had a huge aversion to C (as in, I can't mask it or stop spooks from happening), until the last two shows when the judge had a heater running (complete with red hot coils). He jumps off the rail, won't go into the corners near C, and counterbends and no amount of inside leg will solve it. He is on a mission to go to the inside and get the hell away from the judge. He's looky otherwise, but nothing I can't manage, so I'm going to blame the heater and wait for it to get warm and go away.

Fiction and Penn

Next, I've gotten derailed somehow from my last lesson. I will not believe that DT had me ride him as disconnected as I rode him on Sunday. I know my feel is off- my feel for the right amount of throughness. I tend to ride deeper than I should, and DT helped me bring up his poll and get him out of that deep mess so he could use his shoulders. Everything above that deep point feels disconnected to me, so I rely on others for now to check me, and I try to memorize the feeling. My first test was a spooking awful mess. I thought my second test was great, it had a similar feel to what I had in the last week and what my eyes on the ground said was 'enough connection and throughness'. In the third test Penn struggled a little and got tired, so his poll dropped on more than one occasion and I couldn't kick it back up. The scores were very low for us (59.348, 62.885, 63.864), but the more he dropped his poll, the better the score. I was "WTF man!" until I watched the videos. They were abysmal. He needed to drop his poll so he could stretch to the bit.

He had little to no impulsion. He was not connected at all. His nose was poking out, which is fine, except it's not poking out in a good way. His head and neck are very triangular, not a nice curved shape. His body shape reminded me of a teepee instead of something round. His movement was less mechanical, which is good, except it reminded me of a western pleasure horse. As in, it was very flat and he was even dragging his hind toes in trot. Nothing like the nice trot I had in my quick canter video post. Maybe it's because I'm sitting the trot. I've made a huge effort to sit on him less, so I've been posting at home. I need the security of sitting trot in public right now because he's a bit looky. I really need video of him at home so I can constantly double check myself- I really want the SoloShot3 even more now!

Someone is finally wearing all of the trailering things! Sped head, show halter, cooler, shipping boots.

The judge pointed out the couple things I've been having an issue with and I'm not sure how to fix without screwing up the rest of him (every time I try to fix it, his gaits become very irregular). He's getting more and more counterbent to the left and I'm losing his outside hind all the time when tracking left. I'm losing it on diagonals and straight lines now, not just circles. The issues are obviously connected, but I need a lesson to help me out. I needed a lesson before going to this show, if only to set me straight on the ideas we worked on last time.

Penn on the left, Fiction on the right. Nomming and sniffing noses in the trailer on the way home.

I hemmed and hawed about sharing my test videos, and I just don't want to. They're awful and I'm embarrassed to have missed the mark so badly. I'll share the test papers though because I think they're fairly spot on. I also haven't had a chance to download them and I want to post this eventually!

T1 - 59.348%, 5th out of 16

T2 - 62.885%, 5th out of 7

T3 - 63.864%, 5th out of 8

Lots of notes about "tight back" and bend issues. There is one note I really disagree with- T1, movement 5- "trot between B & M". Her comment was "a little late". Umm, it's between the letters... and I sure as hell didn't canter into the corner because I have to actively pursue that around C. I watched the videos, I trotted between the letters like I'm supposed to. This was the first one, so there wasn't another transition location to compare to (since ideally you make the transitions between letters in approximately the same place both directions). Penn had an uncharacteristic loss of stretch in T3's stretchy trot. The centerlines weren't our normal good ones- I had a lot of trouble keeping him straight, and he tried to back up after the halts instead of trotting off.

Trainer comes home 3/16, and will start teaching again 3/21, so I'm hoping I can see her Good Friday or the day before Easter. DT will be out around 3/19 (which is difficult for me because I work at the barn Sat AM and I need to be home by 1pm that day), and I'd like to see her again to get her take on where I'm at with the work she wanted (I'm debating asking if I can haul to her on Sunday for a lesson). I also signed up for a clinic on 3/21 with Stephen Birchall. I'll be getting a lot of lessons before this series finale!

I'm still in the lead for the T1, T2, T3 championships, but I don't want to win just because I've been to all the shows (they sum the scores from every show and whoever has the most points wins). I'm keeping my own Top 3 average score of the classes, and I want to be in the top there too. If you calculate via "top 3 average" instead of "total running score", I'm in 3rd in T1, 2nd in T2, and 1st in T3. T1 has always been our weakest test (and the biggest class at each show), so I'm not heartbroken over that. There's quite a few people who have ridden it 3 times and even with 2 goof tests, I'm still in 3rd according to the "top 3 average".

Riding Tuesday night.

I've had some good rides since the show (though who knows, maybe I'm on crack and they were terrible), and I'm feeling better about where he's going.

  • Tuesday night I kicked him up and through with my inside leg quite a bit and rode with a bit more pace than I normally would have. He leaned on the bridle a little, but his poll was still the highest point. Being so insistent on carrying a deeper feel (in sitting trot too) and more pace, most of my counterbend issues went away. I rode T1 before quitting and was happy with how it went.
  • Wednesday night I rode outside as it got dark, letting him be a lot lower in the poll than he should (it was more of a stretch and relax ride for him). I rode the trot a lot bigger than usual and he really lifted his back and swung and became nice and lofty. I did a horse switch with a new girl at the barn- she rides the AA hunters and had never sat on a dressage horse, so we swapped. Mostly just a have fun ride.
  • Thursday was good. We touched on the canter one loop from 1-3, which he did wonderfully to the right, and had a very tough time with to the left. I did some simple changes like in 1-3 as well, and the one from left to right works mostly well (I have to get him to hold himself up in the trot steps and not hurry so much), but the one from right to left does not work well- I can't seem to get the change of bend across to him. That follows the counterbend issues from the show and the difficulty riding a canter one loop to X on the left lead. 

We'll get it all working again soon... I hope.


  1. Man, that just sucks. I LIVE for eyes on the ground, because like you, I can't feel well enough to know when it's good and when it's better... or when I think it's good and it's not. I'm so glad your trainer comes back soon - you're such a good rider and Penn is such a good boy that I bet you'll have it worked out in no time! Hugs!

    1. I wish we had mirrors!!! That would be a big help too. I mentioned to BO that I need to have someone video him once a week so I can double check my own work. She said that they used to do video days so people could get video of themselves, then turn around and hook it up to the TV in the lounge and watch. She said that was something we could start doing!

  2. It will be interesting to hear about your lessons. It sucks that the wheels came off for the show but I'm sure this is just one of those blips that happens and you guys will bounce right back.

    1. Yea, I know the wheels have to fall off the bus in public at some point, so we can look at it like, "Alright, we had our bad rides, time for some good ones!" I'm excited for all of these lessons, hopefully they mesh well with each other.

  3. Penn looked a bit tense at the show...and short/flat. But last night he looked pretty darn good. Much more relaxed. I'll try to get video of you when we ride together next :)

    1. Yea, he just has some underlying tension at shows. I've never had him be that short and flat though. Heaters and clippers and busy warm ups don't help! I am super happy that the three of us got to ride together last night- I think doing that on a more regular basis will help with the warm up issues and him trying to lash out at other horses. He felt so good last night! We can switch off on videoing if you want!

    2. Something else I thought about: in warm up, perhaps I should ride him a bit deep and low to start, making sure to hit walk/trot/canter quickly- it's his happy place. Maybe that would help rid him of tension so when I lift his poll he'll settle better. I'll try it next time!

  4. It's always disappointing to not ride our best. I hope that the lessons and rides between this show and the next help you out!

  5. sorry the show didn't exactly go to plan... it's honestly kinda the story of my life that what i feel doesn't necessarily reflect what it looks like from the ground (yet another reason why i'm a lesson junkie) so i definitely relate. i always try to tell myself that progress in one corner can sometimes mean regression in another while my horse sorts all the pieces out... perhaps that's what's happening with Penn? good luck!

  6. That's so frustrating! What a bummer. Glad you have some lessons lined up though! And that he was much better afterward :) he's such a cool horse!

    I dunno what I'd do if my regular trainer left for the winter. It's such a huge shocker to be suddenly out of regular lessons, and I think especially with a complicated, impressionable young horse. Hopefully the return of your trainer means good things! And just more exposure, it sounds like he internalizes a lot and the heater was the straw that broke the camel's back.

    1. It's not the first time she's gone, I think this was her 4th season down south? Though the other seasons she spent south I was either fixing an injury or hacking through the woods. I think this is one of the first times I actively trained without her. I'm so glad she's coming back! DT had good ideas that I think were spot on, but Trainer knows us really well and will help me implement them a bit better.

  7. I ride without eyes on the ground most of the time, and it's so easy to get duped into thinking the wrong this is actually right. So, while it sucked to learn at a show, maybe this was a good thing?

    I'm wondering if maybe you did what I do and took a good thing too far? Like, I get told to try riding my horse deeper, and I forget to let him up. And I get told to ride him more up and I forget he needs to be lower to get his balance and loosen his back. It takes me FOREVER to remember to balance the two and get a feel for when he needs what kind of ride. That's gotta be so much harder on a horse that's kind of different from what you're used to when you push for more.

    Anyway. Honestly, most of those scores are still pretty damn solidly in the "good" area. So, whatever you are doing is clearly not breaking him. ;)

    1. Hahahahahhaha!

      You nailed me right on the head- I absolutely take a good thing too far. I forget about the rest of the stuff we learned and go "this is how we travel now!!!" or "if some is good, more must be better!" Trainer joked with me a couple years ago when she sent me off to ride with a BNT and Judge she used to work with- she sent me off to learn, I overdid it on my own after my lesson and got all befuddled, and then she glued the bits and pieces back together so we improved and made steps forward. I never got the "put the pieces back together" bit before this show. I knew it in the back of my head, but let it go instead of making an effort to get another lesson from DT.

      Yes, I know the scores are still good (even if they were the lowest we've gotten), but I still think the video was atrocious! In T3, I got the same score as last time, but I much prefer the video from 1/31 instead of 3/6. It's an interesting comparison.