Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Another schooling show: It could have been worse

Our local GMO is continuing to hold safe, socially-distanced schooling shows, so Leo and I did another one last weekend and rode 2-1 twice. It was a new venue, and based on our lack of warmup at the last show, I planned to leave PLENTY of time for him to get comfortable.

I also needed time to do something with this mop.

And it's a good thing I did. He was totally chill for tacking and grooming at the trailer, and was good for our 10 minute walk in-hand to look at some things. The arena was pretty scary - mirrors at one end, big judge's booth at the other, pallets and hay bales stacked on the uphill side, and it was away from everyone else. He took exception to a giant smoker outside the arena but was otherwise reasonable. A little up, as one might expect of a young horse on a cool morning in a strange place, but nothing bad.

Can we talk about how scary this arena was for a moment?

I hopped on and started walking on the grass outside the teeny warmup space. I had planned to do a lot of walking on a long rein, then gradually pick him up, like we do at home. About two minutes in, he did this very odd squeal-and-strike move which he has never done before. I laughed it off and we kept walking, although my husband said, "Well that was weird" as we walked past him. Shortly after, Leo squealed, hopped and twisted, then kicked out. He has NEVER done anything like that in the two years I've had him, so I took the hint and (heart pounding) got off. 

At least our Pumpkin Spice Haffie outfit worked out!

Luckily there was a round pen on site, so we went over, I stripped off his bridle, then stepped back and told him to "go play." He took off bucking and squealing, which he continued to do both directions for about ten minutes. I haven't had to lunge this horse in probably 18 months, so this was completely out of character for him. In hindsight, I'm SO glad he was polite enough to let me know he needed some time to play instead of just dumping me (because he absolutely could have dumped me), and I'm glad I heeded his warning. Note to self: pack lunge equipment from now on, because he may need a little time on the line at shows.

By the time he was done playing, he was blowing and steaming, and we only had about ten minutes before our ride. I re-bridled him and hopped back on to a much more relaxed-feeling pony. It turned out the rider before us had scratched, so we did our warmup in the actual dressage arena. I crammed in as many transitions as I could, and getting him to focus on me. When the bell finally rang, I felt at least prepared if not completely ready.

Supposed to be shoulder in. Is definitely not shoulder in. Significant amounts of side-eye though.

Annnd we actually put in a focused, mostly mistake-free test? He was not at all collected - between running in the round pen and our lack of warmup, he just wasn't really on my seat the way he is at home, and was heavier in my hand than usual. But he did all the things where he was supposed to more or less how he was supposed to, and did not look at a single thing for the entire ride. Considering how we started the day, I will absolutely take it!

I kept trying to rebalance this medium trot but nope. You can see how much he's on the forehand given his RH is almost off the ground but his weight is still supported by his LF. 

There are so, so many things that need work, and I can't reproduce what we have at home off-site yet. We still don't have the warmup we need to produce quality work, and I have enough problems with my own balance and straightness that I can't help him enough when things go south.

Like this 10 m canter circle which is definitely larger than 10 m.

Probably because of how crooked I get at times. Lawdy.

Still, the test scored a 64.5%, which felt generous. We pulled some 7s for the canter work and walk work, but he just needs more collection and our mediums in all gaits need more ground cover. I feel like this is something that will get better as he gets stronger - I see glimpses of it at home, but sustained power and balance just don't exist yet. And it's not as if he's got ground-covering gaits to begin with!

We did the test a second time, but only had two rides between tests so I kept it to walk work and a few canter transitions.  Honestly, I should have just scratched the second one, as he too tired to put in a better effort. We made our way around, but blew all three canter departs (ugh, like the previous show) and he was even more strung out for this test. We finished with a 60.7%, but it felt like it should have been in the 58% range. Oh well, lesson learned, and that's really what these schooling shows are all about.

There aren't any more schooling shows this year, but there is a rated show at the same venue in early December with local judges. I'm tempted to go so Leo can experience an overnight show, but we'll see where we are in another few weeks. I'd actually need to like... find my show coat, which hasn't seen the light of day since November 2018, when Taran and I went third level for the first and only time. Sniff... fond memories. 

Video of the first test


Monday, October 5, 2020

A schooling show with Leo

While I know a lot of folks are frustrated at having to put their showing on hold for at least part of this year, I've actually enjoyed having no pressure to do anything other than have fun with ponies. This has made my riding kind of sporadic, but it's also given me the time to really pick apart things and slowly build up our skills. I've spent a lot of time working on my biomechanical issues - which, let's be real, those will be forever a work in progress. While I haven't been at all rushed, Leo's training has come along quickly, which I find kind of surprising given my lack of focus. 

Unfortunately, the lack of focus and show goals has left us with some odd holes in his training. He does a brilliant walk pirouette, but our trot leg yield is sketchy at best. His walk/canter is really coming along (I set him up correctly obvs) but the canter/walk is more like a sliding stop because we've never quite gotten over that "big whoa" that was installed during his first 60 days with a cowboy. 

Anywho, our local GMO has started holding schooling shows again, and I had a bit of an itch to do something, so I signed us up. Due to aforementioned training holes, the question was... which tests? 1-3 was doable (with questionable leg yields), but it has SO MUCH CANTERING in it. Leo isn't in the best of shape, plus he's a hairy yak and I knew it would be in the 90s during the show, so getting through 1-3 seemed like a big ask. We did a fairly respectable rendition of 2-1 the weekend before the show, and it's a much shorter test, so I opted to go with that.

The show was run well as usual (our GMO is AWESOME!), and people mostly followed the mask and distancing mandates. We kept our masks on and showed out of the trailer, so we had no contact with anyone other than waving to a few friends. I gotta say, it was so nice to see folks, even if from a distance. I'm a huge introvert by nature, but apparently after 6 months of mostly staying home, even I am desperate for humans!

Sadly, I didn't give us nearly enough time for warmup before our first ride. Leo's been such a solid guy at home, I keep forgetting he's 6 and doesn't have much travel experience, so the 20 minutes I'd allotted for warmup was just not enough. As a result, we went into the first test with him not at all over his back due to tension, so we really struggled. He tried so hard to do all the things, but just couldn't given his level of tension. I've never had a test with so many mistakes (cantered in the medium trot, bolted in the 10 m canter circle, missed 2/3 leads in the w/c departs), but we corrected each one and moved on. 

I have no idea what caused this bolt, but we got it back together within two strides and finished the 10 meter circle blob.

When your mum does a craptastic job of setting up for the canter depart and you somehow miraculously rearrange your legs to get the correct lead.

Our second medium trot was our best one yet! He needs to be more up in front, but he was really allowing his shoulder to come forward, and he stayed super balanced under me. 

Having got the first test out of the way, we had a few rides to reorganize. I worked on more relaxation and lateral work for uphill balance, then sharpened up our transitions a bit. Unfortunately it was quite warm so we were both running out of steam for the second ride, and it showed in the judge's consistent  comments of "needs better uphill balance".  We were both much more relaxed though, and the test was mistake-free. Of course we need better mediums all around, but he's a pro at coming back to collected canter, so that scored well. He also got an 8.0 on his free walk, which I will 100% take.

Reasonably balanced in the counter-canter. Photo used with purchase.

We were pretty tired by the time we got to the final medium trot (and you can see that my face matches my shirt lol), but we did it! Photo used with purchase.

The judge was extremely generous in our first test, in some cases giving us 5s where a 3 or even a 2 probably would have been more appropriate lol. I feel like it should have scored around 57-58%, but it scored a 62%. Our second test was much more consistent but not as uphill, and scored a 65%, which I still felt was quite high. Still, I will happily take those scores and work on areas where I know we can do better.

Overall, it was a really good learning experience for both of us, and a nice low-key way to get back into the show ring. There's another show in October at a different venue, so I hope to go to that as well to get Leo more experience, and to get myself back into the rhythm of competing.  He's a good kid, we just need miles!