Thursday, May 28, 2015

DSRC Autumn/Winter Dressage Series; Day 2 of 3.

There was a little bit of pressure on for this weekend, especially for test two.

I had stated in my May goals that I wanted to ride well into my corners in my dressage test, and score above 65%. With that in mind, and armed with my Equicoach tips, I saddled up and prepared for my first test.

I gave Oscar a small feed in the morning with a dose of magnesium in it as he was a little flighty around the hose the day before when I hosed his legs. Grass is also sparse at the moment so he got a small haynet with baleage and hay mixed in- just to line his stomach and keep him chirpy for the day. I think feeding before a show is something I might try more often, I can't imagine operating on an empty tum and my horse seemed better for having something in his.

It seemed to do the trick as he was lovely, much better than last month in terms of not spooking. However, he got a bit of a fright from a clydie warming up beside him which meant for a bit of tenseness in the second half of the test. A couple of late transitions resulting from a lack of preparation on my behalf meant that we finished sixth in this test (1B), with a 64.84% - 0.16% shy of the 65% goal! On the plus side, our centre lines were better this time around. He wavered slightly just after G, so we only managed a 7 - but I was pretty happy with the more forward energy this time around.

Usually I trot the whole way around the arena and right after the judge beeps the horn will maintain the rhythm and enter from a trot. This time around, the judge beeped around B, and I down transitioned to walk. I lined up my entry from the walk and asked for trot right before entering the arena. The down transition was a last little chance for me to settle Oscar, and although it broke the trot rhythm and lovely working trot, our walk-trot transition is good enough that I can get away with doing this and not compromise the forward trot that helps get a straighter line.

Second test, 1D, was even better than the first. This surprised me for two reasons, there was more pressure from me to do well to achieve my goal of 65%, and Oscar had wound himself up being tied to the float for an hour. I thought our first test would have broken 65%, and when it didn't I began to get a little concerned.

I needn't have worried. Oscar appears to be finally settling in the dressage arena, so much so that he behaved impeccably in our second test. There are a few kinks to iron out, circle shapes and sharper transitions, but overall he is feeling less overwhelmed or bewildered or whatever he was feeling!... and more confident to go forwards. He was doing so well that I forgot myself for a minute and rode another course error!! Gahh! I've done two course errors in my life, both at the last two competitions. Let's not make a habit of it!

When the judge beeped me, I was so frustrated with myself I wanted to ride the centre line, salute and leave. However, I regrouped, focused on where I went wrong and we set off again.

We were one of the first combinations to go in this class, and so instead of waiting around I packed up straight away, thanked the organisers and left. One of L's clients had agreed to pick up my test sheet for me and snap chat it through.

About an hour later, she snapped my test through and I was absolutely stoked to see that we had beaten 65% and gotten 71.79% in the second test - with my course error! Woohoo! I was not expecting that score at all, despite my horse feeling really good in his test. That put us in second place, and earned us a blue rosette which the organisers kindly posted to me.

Our best mark was in test 1D, where we got a 9 for the centre line. Throughout the day I practised what Jane had suggested, focusing on the three outcomes from the show that I had anticipated earlier (one outcome was that I wanted to perfect our centre line). This method obviously works and I'm excited to see if it changes my show jumping nerves!

Now i'm feeling better about our dressage, I can start to focus a lot more on our show jumping!
Thank god for winter series' when you're as rusty as me!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Recap: Lesson #3 w/ C

Last Friday I had my third lesson with C.

I love C's teaching style and can't wait to finish uni and be able to afford lessons on a weekly basis - just two and a half years to get through; eep.

This week we wanted to focus on canter work, but in light of my poor scores at the DSRC dressage show, we opted to work on transitions instead (with a little bit of canter work thrown in too - I wasn't getting out of it that easy).

In my first two lessons we did a LOT of transitions, but mostly within the gait. We've also done a lot of shoulder in and counter flexion within the gait too for strength building, so it was nice to work on something different.

Oscar has NEVER had butt definition before, C is working wonders with his strength!

To begin with Oscar was behind my leg, he was off grass for most of the week due to the not so great weather and the knock on effect was a horse not so full of himself. I once made the mistake of nagging oscar with my leg when he was tired in a lesson. C rarely gets strict with me but she quickly told me off and made me kick him hard on the girth and leave him alone. It's really difficult not to nag subconsciously. When you're riding a horse you're controlling a lot of what he is doing, and some of what you do comes without thinking - little kicks included. It's quite a different concept asking the horse something and then letting him get on with it. Should be the norm, but it isn't. I think we do it to humans too - micro managing or something? Got to work on that.

More than capable of doing the job when the pesky rider leaves him alone.

Transitions wise, we figured out two things.

1. I ask for transitions too late, so when I think we're a stride or two early, chances are that's on time.
C popped a rock on the arena fence as a 'transition marker'. At the rock we had to either go up or down a gait, mostly between the trot and canter, but we threw in some walk transitions too.

I love working on accuracy stuff because obviously it is clearer to you as the rider when you get it right. Sometimes working within the gait I just have to trust C when she says we've got it, then remember what it feels like.

2. Our transitions themselves need work. If C wasn't completely happy with a transition we had to do it again. And again.. and again if need be. Which is great because I like consistency. No point settling for average when you want 8's (and dream of 9's) on your test sheet.

To combat Oscar's tendency to come above the bit, C asked that I have him super deep before a transition. 

Not sure these boots iz my colour mom!

It's not a permanent thing, just riding ugly at home so we can look good in the dressage arena.
Riding quite deep is a sneaky little trick to stop the horse looking like he comes above the bit - and works a treat when riding a transition away from a judge. As you demand good transitions throughout your training - you can eventually stop riding so deeply beforehand.

The concept seemed to work as the test over the weekend had lovely comments from the judge on all of our transitions!

Also note that he is not on the forehand when I ask for more flexion. In fact he is stretching over his back to come up and over his wither. Excellent exercise for suppling too and building a strong top line.

I think my next lesson will be a jumping one next Wednesday, I'm having to really force myself not to book in again with C before the usual three weeks!


I'm having major trouble with my blogger comments. I can see two on my previous post and it won't let me view them on either mobile or desktop, via blogger dashboard or direct link. I see your comments sitting there and it drives me insane - hopefully I can figure out what's going on soon!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

TP Autumn/Winter Dressage Series; Day 1 of 5.

Before I dive into my recap of this weekend's dressage show; I had another lesson with C last week in preparation. We worked through the previous weekend's tests and addressed transitions - I feel a tonne better about them already. More about my lesson later though, for now I want to focus on this weekend!

In my previous post I had set myself a goal to practise different ways of warming up at a competition, with hopes that Oscar would be less tense in his tests. So this weekend I had planned to both play with the warm up, and beat last weekend's 'high score' of 63.08%

We repeated test 1A from last weekend, and did test 1B this weekend which is new to us.

I was a little more assertive in my warmup for test one instead of doing my usual conservative riding. I didn't really give Oscar much opportunity to look around. He was much better as a result, and despite spooking a few times, as noted in the judge's comment below...

.. he settled much quicker than usual. The transition work with C earlier in the week paid off for us, and we got good comments on all of our transitions. We did what we came out to do and beat last weekend's high score of 63.08%, marginally, and got a 63.65%. Not even a full point, but I'll take it.
The class was much bigger this time around, and we managed a 5th.

The spookiness is exhausting. I don't really know how to stop a horse spooking - I can't anticipate what he's scared of in the first place! The first spook in this test was at a flower pot about a third of the way through our test. We'd passed said flowerpot twice already, and the other eleven (there was one at each letter marker) with no drama and then out of nowhere he took an aversion to it. Bloody horse.

Second test was our lowest score from both weekends. 
It was held in the indoor arena, and there was no option to warm up in there. Horses had to be ridden individually over from the outdoor arenas to do their test alone. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this - I'd even argue this was the norm in countries like England - it is very unusual in New Zealand, and something Oscar has never been asked to do before.

Upon learning where the second test was held, I anticipated all the spooks and began riding like a tense clown myself.

Bloody rider.
Test two, needless to say, was abysmal. I got so distracted with the crappiness of our performance that I lost track of where we were in the test and earned a 2 point penalty for a course error. Ugh, first time ever. I rode over to the judge when she rang the error bell, and thought we'd been eliminated. Note to self: course errors do not equal elimination!

By some miracle, we got 55.77% which is still over the halfway mark. I had expected much worse, and the face below doesn't do justice to how much of a scaredy cat Oscar was being.

I think the saving grace was the second half of the test. I just thought 'screw this test, I don't even care anymore. We'll just become jumpers!', and the subsequent shift in my riding seemed to help Oscar relax marginally.

There were heaps of other horses that were twice as scared as Oscar - as I said, indoor arenas are pretty rare in New Zealand, and especially for a level 1 test - so I couldn't be too disappointed with our test. Next time will be better, right?!

Hopefully we can do some Wairarapa dressage too on top of the Dannevirke series and Tielcey Park. I really want to be happy with our level 1 performances before the eventing season kicks up again. Horse trials are expensive, and even more so when you're a student, so it will be nice to know that we can enter a competition without spooking our way through the dressage tests!

* I am fortunate enough to have a really kind and talented photographer friend whose photos I have used (with permission) in this post. If you're into equine event photography at all, give Taylah Brown Photography on Facebook a like!