Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2/5/2017 Schooling Show

So if you're friends with me on Facebook, you got to see this kind of awkward picture of apparent success from the show.

Apply blue ribbons to cute face, take picture.

That picture was mainly for the Facebook frenemies haha. It did not deserve to be posted, because 1st out of 2 and 1st out of 1 are really not accomplishments. Especially on scores of 53.293% (2-3, first out of 2) and 53.182% (3-1, just us). It will pain me to hang those ribbons on Penn's wall. The one can get hung, we beat someone for it, the other... meh.

Anyway, not important. What is important is that I am so super pleased with Penn. I know, dafuq?

Could it be because he's one sharp looking guy?

Sunday was great. I got to roll out of bed at 8am, go to the barn and wipe down my horse with a damp sponge and braid him, load and go around 12:30... Got to the show around 3:30, hand walked him during the ring change break, and then killed time. My goal was to get on 20 min before my ride (5:38 PM), and I kept to that. I didn't want to wear Penn down, but I wanted enough time to attempt to settle him. I found I probably needed 25 min or so- I ended up wanting to do a lot more walking than I allowed for time-wise.

Penn got a massage Saturday. He enjoyed it for a while, and then basically had his fill of being fussed over.

He was a bit up in the warm up, but I was able to channel it into a very impressive trot (that of course ended up toned down in the show ring). He immediately told me about how displeased he was with my riding in the first canter of warm up and promptly bucked when I tried to hold onto his face and ask for a medium canter. At the end of warm up, I was really really happy- he came to work, was holding himself up, and I only had to work at keeping his butt in line with his shoulders and his mind focused on me. He got some lovely complements from several people in the ring (one was an event trainer who is getting into dressage after her main horse had to be reduced to flatwork only- she asked a bunch of questions about him and how he was basically what she was looking for in her next baby horse project).

On to 2-3.

The halt was meh, he stepped right. All of his trot work is just stuck to the ground (apply more forward), and I need to find better medium trots stat! SI right barely had any bend (something I'm finding hard to manage because he's short backed and a true 3 track barely gives him any bend). I thought his travers had good bend, but looking at the video makes me realize it's basically leg yield- needs bend! SI left shows you just how drunk he is in the SI, especially to the left. It wavers. The whole lateral section tracking left I fought his hind end (I fought it in warm up too- it wants to throw itself around), and how he wants to tilt his head when tracking left too. The halt rein back got a 6, but with the note of 'walked into the halt, rein back OK'. I imagine it would have been an extra half point if I could have gone trot-halt. The turns on the haunches... the first one stuck (very unlike him, they're usually way too big) and the second one just didn't have anything to it. Then he tried to canter off on the right lead, haha. The free walk was a shining moment, yay! His medium canters really felt like they were moving to me... and apparently they aren't, at all. I'm sure that's because I'm a little nervous about him bucking through them, and then he loses straightness too, so I only let them out so far. The left to right simple change- 4 steps of trot is actually really good for him for that change, so while it's still bad, it was better. His second 3 loop serpentine got away from me, and go figure, it's the right lead one that I KNOW he has difficulty completing the counter canter loop, yet I did nothing to fix it.

Since I have video, this post with have perfectly timed screenshots.
It looks like he might actually have some reach.

Basically the judge said "tight back" and "needs bend", over and over. Needs more engagement and self carriage. I'm pretty sure one of her comments in the collective section was "Needs to develop the basics of connection through back in order to maintain balance and engagement." I think that was it, she used a lot of short hand. I have to remember that while he is SO MUCH BETTER than he was 2 months ago, it isn't enough yet. And remember how I said his forward/back balance was just weak, and I thought it was a strength issue? I think that's what she's really pinpointing with that comment. She doesn't know he looks so much better and has so much more self carriage than he had before. She's there to judge a moment, and in that moment, he's still too weak.

I really like these- especially the one on the right!

Two things Megan pointed out to me (thank you Megan for going over this test with me!): he has the elevation needed for the level, but he's lacking the actual sit. His hindquarters wobble around instead of sitting, most notably causing the downward transitions to fail (canter walk ends up canter...trot... walk). She made some awesome recommendations on things to try to get more sit, and while I know they will cause a tantrum, it's got to happen because I want to get better and I'm excited to try it! Then she pointed out the whole thing could be better by simply making better transitions between the movements. I knew it was riding sloppy... and I can absolutely work on that. I didn't put in the time like I normally do to plan the transitions. Also, can we talk about how long those diagonals are? I can't wait to get back out in the outdoor and have longer diagonals to work with!

Not going to bother making scans of the test. Just imagine a bunch of 5's and 5.5's, with a 6 every now and then with the occasional 4 and a single 7 (free walk). Lots of comments of "needs bend" and "tight back". Collective marks ranged between 5 and 6 (rider position and gaits scored the 6s). Final score: 53.293%, first out of two. Scoring shorted me a point on my test (they dropped a .5 on a doubled collective), but it's not like it matters! The score is still so low.

Pretty sure the free walk was the only thing we did right in this test.
I'm so excited that the "low" moment in the canter steps isn't as on the forehand/leaning as it used to be!

I only had one test between 2-3 and 3-1, and I closed out the show as the last ride. I did some SI-10m half circle-half passes in warm up and opted to completely skip schooling a flying change before the 3-1 test. I was afraid I would jazz him up and I wouldn't be able to work with him. Spoiler: I should have done the change like I planned.

On to 3-1.

I tried to keep him straighter on this centerline, but immediately felt how tired he was getting. I'm happy with the mostly square halts he's giving me these days! I HATE the half pass in this test. It must be USEF's idea of a sick joke: L-H and L-M is a long forward distance (36m) to only move sideways 10m. I liked it better in the previous test version when it was L-S and L-R. Penn reaches beautifully sideways in a steeper half pass... and I have a much better idea of where his haunches are and they don't lead nearly as often when I make it steeper. The half pass left got a 6 (wow, she must have been impressed!). I lost control of the haunches when I started the half pass right. I kind of gave up in the medium trot, oops.

Can't wait to get a good pic of this, to match the one of Mikey in my banner.

The halt rein back were also good and a 6 (it's sad that that's good). I completely bungled the extended walk (thankfully missing from this video because husband had battery issues). I practiced it at home and I've never been overly clear on how much stretch there should be, but I aim to get the same big step the free walk gets. I pushed him past his balance point in the extended walk like 3 times on a 3/4 diagonal, making him take a step of trot... I'll have to ask GP Trainer to help me with that when I see her in two weeks. These two turn on the haunches were better, and the second one in this test was the best scoring one of the 4 we did on Sunday.

It looks like there's a breeze. Nope, just irritated tail swishes.

This is about the point where everything GP Trainer drilled into me about sitting up in the canter just fell out of my head. Once again a lacking medium canter, into a shut down canter 10m circle, into a flying change fail. He gave me the, "I'm already cantering, what else do you want?!" Guess not doing one in warm up before this test bit me in the ass. After not getting much extended canter, I had a little "coming to Jesus" moment with myself in my head: told myself to sit up, sit down, follow the horse with your hands, and LET HIM GO FORWARD. Of course the body change made Penn want to break to trot. I tried for more oomph into the change. It still failed, but I asked a second time and he swapped the front for a stride before swapping back. It took a while to get the lead sorted, so I botched the transition to trot and kind of didn't care much about the extended trot diagonal, but somehow scraped together a 7 for the last centerline.

I still haven't learned not to throw myself around. At least I can sit up though, even if this was a wee baby buck.

So I over-schooled the counter canter in the last few weeks, and not touching the flying changes since mid December was probably a bad idea. Penn's more honest than that, and I need to be better to make sure he's clear on things. Also, ditching the plan for doing a flying change in warm up was a bad idea.

Pretty trot post-canter, for like the two steps he was balanced.

Again, not going to bother making scans of the test. More 5's, 5.5's, with a 6 every now and then with the occasional 4 (flying changes) and a single 7 (final halt- all I can think is she was excited I was done). Lots more comments of "needs bend" and "tight back". Collective marks ranged between 5 and 6 again. Final score: 53.182%, first out of one, wahoo. The scoring people somehow gave me an extra 11 points, and reported my score as 56.1%. I always add up my tests on my own after I get the paper back (doing this caught an error at a recognized show so I ended up in first place!) and I found where they doubled a 5.5 where they shouldn't have, but I cannot for the life of me figure out where they got the other extra 5.5. I even added up the numbers on the tape and couldn't replicate it. Again it doesn't matter, but I was originally kind of excited to get a 56 after such a poor 2-3 score.

Nailing the final halt, pretending we nailed the test. Ha.

So this was a successful outing in that: Penn was well behaved, I kept my head mostly in the game, we got through the tests, we knocked off the dust, and Penn was relatively the same horse at the show as at home. What was not successful were the scores since basically every movement had some kind of bobble that knocked every score down to 4-5.5 range. I'm still really happy that we were able to take the progress we've made and not backslide too much in a test, so I think these are fairly accurate representations of the work we've been doing. Despite the scores being low, I think he's on the right track, it's just we're not fit for public consumption yet (as GP told me we wouldn't be when I saw her last... damn, she was right again). Some more sit and muscle strength, more practice linking the movements, and practicing the flying changes should help these scores go up for the next show in a month.

Penn is off Monday and Tuesday this week, and my tall boots went to the shoemaker Monday. Both zippers unzipped themselves in both of my tests at this show, which was totally awesome for riding these tests. Then the one split under my spur and I couldn't get the boot off... so no more putting off the trip to the shoemaker. He'll fix the teeth under my spurs and he's putting a new pull thing on the zipper that apparently locks the zipper in place unless you pull the tab down (so pulling the leather won't cause it to unzip like it does now). I'll get them back on Friday, so Penn will have some easy rides Wednesday and Thursday this week. I'll tackle Megan's suggestions this weekend!

I'm still pretty nervous about not being ready for these levels come the beginning of May, which is the first recognized show on the calendar!


  1. Sounds like a successful schooling show with solid takeaways that will help you plan for the next show. Congrats on the blues!

    1. I really tried to find some solid takeaways from this show- it hurts a great deal to have such low scores after such a successful First Level season. Kind of put the "we'll never be ready for this level" thoughts back in my head. I can see such improvement in him though, even if the scores don't reflect it. These tests would not have been possible without the progress he's made in the last few months. I suppose this is why people don't show while the horse is learning and getting out of this awkward phase.

  2. It hurts to see it in writing even if you know it's accurate. I got a similar score on an intro A test and a 4 on gaits....
    But you know what needs to be done and how to get there. I chose to ignore the score and focus on what worked and didn't work and how to improve things for the future. Don't let this get stuck in your head. Because you and Penn are very capable of doing these levels it may just take a little time to get all the ducks in a row.

    1. It does suck to see it in writing, but she could have been meaner... cause I've had that too. She didn't have anything positive to say, but she at least was constructive with her comments instead of one judge I know who basically wrote "you suck" in more than two words on my test. This judge was spot on, if a little critical for this being a schooling show. Either way, we got feedback and I'll make use of it!

  3. Lol @ frenemies ;) You'll most definitely be ready for May! Now you know exactly what needs to be worked on and you have video to study.

    1. Lol, you know how that goes! I'm hoping so. I plan on going to see GP Trainer 3 times before May, and she'll be at the May show too. I love having videos to study- they have been the best. I'm able to watch myself and read the comments and compare. It's been really helpful!

  4. Hey I have a ton of low 50s scores at third level! No shame in it. Takes guts to get in the ring and see where you are! You guys are such a cool pair. Love watching the progress!

    1. Thanks! I have a ton of scores in the 50's at Third already, Penn doesn't need any on his record too! I guess there is something to be said about getting out there and doing it, we're trying! Plus this is excellent practice for when the scores really matter. I always do better after getting to run through the tests a bunch- I rode 1-3 weekly last summer for practice making the movements flow.

  5. I would be thrilled with those scores at those levels at the first show of the year. I'm also really enjoying watching your progress and seeing how you just go after your goals is so helpful for me.

    1. I'm glad it's helpful! It's easy to just go after my goals, kind of like a "I will make this happen!" type thing.

  6. Lol I'm not sure I agree with your early assertion in this post. I'd say that getting those scores, and the coinciding 1st out of 2 and 1 ARE accomplishments (from the person who is ridiculously proud of her 17hh horse jumping 2'). Congratulations !! Seemed like the show did what you wanted it to do re: testing the waters at the new levels!!

    1. The show definitely did what it needed to- test the waters and find the holes! When I compare these results against my goals for the year, this isn't good enough, so that's where I kind of go "meh, it was ok."

  7. So cool that you got out there and did it! You know what to work on and Pen was rideable. :-) Here comes May!