Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Texas Rose Fall Classic I

For those of you not into detailed recaps of Training level dressage tests (which are almost as exciting to watch as paint drying or grass growing), here's the cliff notes version of what happened on Day 1:

  • Training 2 - Paddy forgot he's no longer a green horse in warmup, so we had no bend and no brakes in the test, and I forgot to ride because I'm always super nervous for the first test of the weekend. I wore my new brown Pikeur coat and almost expired because while it looks amazing, it breathes about as well as a wetsuit and it was 94 degrees. I managed to forget my test AGAIN (well actually I did the walk MXH and not MEH), so we had to do that part over and took the -2 error. Final score was a 64.4 (2nd/5) despite the judge commenting that EVERY circle was off-center and/or not round. Fail.
  • Training 3 - I ditched my coat (yay white everything! So easy to keep clean!). got my act together, and rode the warmup and the test. The test felt pretty solid and workmanlike, even though I rode with too much hand and he got curled after some movements. The canter wasn't as good as he's been at home, but he didn't get too quick or unbalanced so that was a big win. Oh, and I made my circles round, dammit. We scored a 65.0 for 6th/11.
The nitty-gritty details:

If I want to do well in my first test, I have simply GOT to get to the show the night before and get a ride in. That was the original plan, but because of the additional 2 hours it took to drive, we got in much later than expected and there are no lights in any of the outdoor arenas, so riding was out. Unfortunately, Paddy's not an experienced enough horse to be able to go out into a crazy warmup the morning of the show and focus. Plus, he's not fit enough (and the footing was deeper than he's used to, so he got tired more quickly) to put in a long warmup, especially when he's putting in two rides per day. As a result, we didn't have enough time in the first warmup, so I wasn't able to really get him off my seat and especially off my right leg. Because he was so forward and distracted, I was hesitant to put my leg on and really demand that he work, which is what I should have done. Our test lacked focus and bend, and his haunches kept escaping me to the right. At one point it was so bad I remember thinking that we would have gotten good scores for the 2nd level test, where haunches in was a required movement. Oops! Oh, and I forgot my test. Again. Dammit. 

Most of the judge's comments involved making better circles, him being a bit quick, and me needing to prepare him better. That's pretty obvious when you watch the ride:

Training 2

For Training 3, I was determined to make the most of the warmup, actually RIDE this time, and get my circles the right shape. Oh, and not forget my test.  I was really pretty pleased with this test. The canter could be better, and I could have asked for more throughness in the trot, but overall, it was very steady and workmanlike. The judge's comments were mostly about quick tempo, showing more reach from behind, and more bend in turns. Paddy did start to suck back BTV more in this test, which is super hard for me to counteract. I made a mental note to kick him more up into the bridle the next day, because it gets worse the more tired he gets.

Training 3


We stuck him on a hill for this picture so he'd look bigger. I'm not sure it worked. Also, WTF is up with my saddle pad?

Fuzzypony and I stuck around to watch the para riders (SUPER amazing, btw), and then we headed out for dinner. Would you believe we actually got decent sushi in Tyler, Texas? We called it an early night, since the unexpected heat had taken a lot out of both of us and the Haffie.

19 comments:

  1. Love reading about your adventures with Paddy! Paddy looks super cute! Your seat always looks really nice and correct. However, when watching the videos, it looks ineffective, e.g., your lower legs seem braced and coming off the horse, and it doesn't seem like you are engaging your core much to influence Paddy. I wonder if it would help to shorten your stirrups by a hole or two (especially in the posting trot, the stirrups seem too long). In my opinion, the canter actually looks better than the trot because it has more impulsion and covers more ground. In the trot, Paddy is often not tracking up and he looks like he is hanging on you. I think your seat could come in a bit more here (lower leg to encourage him to engage more behind, core to indicate that you don't want faster, but rather, bigger steps). I think it's interesting to see the difference between your two tests though because I agree that you "rode" much more in the second one.

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  2. Wow, NN, you've managed to sum up basically everything I'm struggling with in one comment! Where to start... yes, bracing my leg on the stirrup is a huge problem. I actually ride much better without stirrups (and I ride a lot without stirrups) because there's nothing to brace against. Bracing stiffens my knee, ankle, hip, and of course it makes my seat ineffective since it pushes me out of the saddle. Right now I'm trying to envision bending my knee whenever I want to half-halt with my core so that I don't brace against my stirrup. It's a painfully slow work in progress, and old habits die so, so hard.

    Regarding Paddy hanging on me, yes, and I hang on him. It goes hand-in-hand with that ineffective core you see. It starts off at the beginning of our ride... I ask for halt with my seat (sometimes for 10-20 steps), he ignores me, I use a little hand. The more he ignores my seat, the more hand I use, the more I start bracing, the more he leans on me, the more I brace and pull. It's a horrible cycle and it frustrates me so much that I fall for it every time. So it's not that I'm not engaging my core (although I agree with you that there are moments in the video where I totally disengage it, brace on my stirrups, and haul on his face - so classy! so helpful! sigh...), it's that I'm engaged as much as my muscles allow but he's ignoring me and it's ineffective. The more tired he gets, the more he likes it when I carry him around (Day 2 videos make that super obvious). If my trainer is there, she sprinkles magic dust on me and I'm much more able to get him off my seat and stay out of his face, but I'm not yet able to recreate that same amount of responsiveness on my own. I really do wish I were a better rider - work in progress, but challenging when the progress seems glacially slow.

    There are moments - more so recently - when he feels really balanced and really responsive off my seat, where I feel like I am able to ask for more engagement at the trot There was a little of that in the second test, but nowhere near as much as we are able to do at home. Again, frustratingly slow progress, and more frustrating not to be able to replicate the good work we do at home with my trainer when we're on our own.

    Thanks so much for your comment, NN. I don't suppose you teach lessons in the area? ;)

    Oh and PS. I'll try shortening my stirrups. Thanks for the tip!

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    1. Well, it's great that you have a good trainer who can help you on the way to making a lot of these essential things muscle memory :) Have you tried just throwing the reins at Paddy when he tries to lean? I have found it sometimes helps to fight the leaning because they expect that you provide something for them to lean on, and if you don't they get off balance, so leaning quickly becomes less fun. But it doesn't work with every horse...

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    2. Yes, my trainer is great - if only the student were up to the task, lol! It's a good thing she has limitless patience. :)

      RE throwing the reins away, yes, I do try to let go, and sometimes I even remember to do so. The few times I've really tossed both reins at him, he falls on his face and just runs. He gets so over his shoulder it's like he can't get himself back from it. If I try to pick him back up, he puts his nose on his chest and keeps going (see stretchy trot circles for reference). At this point, it's VERY hard for me to get him back together once he's lost his balance, unless I do a full downward transition. But as he gets stronger and I get more coordinated, hopefully we won't get to the place where we're so far gone that we can't recover!

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  3. Bahahaha on the saddle pad. I hate when I don't notice something like that when I'm on the ground, then I look at the pictures with a big "WTF was I thinking" face.

    I used to arrive at the recognized shows (USEA and USDF) the same day I would compete because it was cheaper than paying for an extra hotel room and extra stabling. I too learned that I needed to come the day before, have a school, and tuck Mikey in for the night. Everyone just feels better.

    I agree with NN's comments that your position is wonderful and your core ineffective. I can see why you go with hand to back up your half halt, but in your tests every downward transition came from the hand first. Try doing a ton of walk/trot/walk/trot/walk/trot transitions, never staying in either gait for more than a few steps. It won't give him time to speed off in trot if you're already thinking about walking again, and you'll be getting him to tune in to your leg (which will stay on due to the transitions). Every few strides, even when he's heavy in your hand, give away your inside rein or soften both reins for a step, just to break the cycle of getting more and more heavy. Instead of imaging bending your knee to half halt, think lower your knee, stretching your thigh down, and then slowing/stopping your back's motion. That visual always seemed to help me get into my saddle where my seat could be effective. I paired that visual with pushing my shoulders back (not actually leaning back) like I was trying to recline in a tough recliner. That helped me engage my core and stop my back when I needed to go from extended canter to collected canter on a dime on a TB who loved him some extended canter.

    BTW, Paddy is adorable. Sorry add more tips, you can always just tell me to shove off :)

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    1. Codex, no, thanks for the tips! Definitely appreciate them.

      I actually DO a TON of w/t/w/t/w etc transitions. Probably for 10 minutes, first thing, every ride. Like 3-5 steps of trot, back to walk. So. Many. Transitions. The problem is that in a show situation, he blows me off right from the beginning. I can ask and ask and ask and ask and he just walks around staring at things and ignoring me. So I go to my hand, and then the downward spiral starts.

      RE thinking of lowering my knee, that's actually what got me into bracing in the first place. If I think about pushing my knee down and back and stretching the front of my thigh out, I end up pushing down against the stirrup. If I think about bending my knee (i.e. pulling my lower leg up toward my butt to bend my knee, as opposed to pulling my thigh up to bend my knee), it prevents me from bracing. The problem is that bracing is such an ingrained habit that it's hard for me to think about bending the knee while I'm also trying to use my core and not my hand and blah blah blah. So many body parts to keep track of!

      I like your visual of your shoulders pushing back, that's really helpful! I noticed that I've begun leaning in an effort to be more effective without somehow moving my hands back... yeah like that's actually working! I'm trying that as I sit here typing... good visual! Thanks!

      And yeah, saddle pad. You'd think I'd know how to put on a saddle pad by now...

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  4. That saddle pad is definitely a problem. Also what everyone else said.

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    1. It's like I don't know how to tack a horse or something.

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  5. Maybe the saddle pad is hungry & trying to eat him? ;) ;)

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  6. paddy is freakin adorable - congrats on figuring out some fixes from one test to the next too!

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    1. This is why I like to read my tests between classes if possible, and also watch videos if possible. Some judges focus on certain things - this guy was all about the circles. Fix that, instant more points.

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  7. I dunno, all I could focus on was how much better his canter looks than the last tests you shared!

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    1. It's definitely getting better, but somehow I need to get the canter we have at home at shows. Need more magic dust or something.

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  8. Woo, Paddy looks SEXY! And I have a little coat envy - borrowed a friend's Pikeur coat once; even though I spent an entire horse trial in terror that I was going to ruin $700 jacket, it was beautiful, fit like it was made for me (it must have been a "not hot yet" time of year if I was wearing it) -- reminded me why I should not even try on nice things!!!

    And don't feel bad -- that short diagonal thing always weirds me out, even when coaching Erica & Solo, I'm like, "wait, you turned too sharp...oh duh, never mind, it's that silly short thingy, don't listen to me!" :P

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    1. You can get last year's Pikeurs on sale from a bunch of the Euro stores... even with shipping that one was super cheap. No way do I have $700 to spend on a jacket lol!

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