Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fair Hill: dressage + stadium

The forecast for show day at Fair Hill was ominous - 100% chance of heavy rains and thunderstorms from 10am through 5pm. Organizers emailed us the night prior expressing optimism tho, claiming Fair Hill typically doesn't get storms as heavy as nearby areas. 

And they were right. We made it through our full day in just plain old rain. Sometimes a light mist, other times a steady rain. But nothing horrendous. 



meaning my new MCTA saddle cover was put immediately to use!
But our group of competitors had dwindled to just two of us for various reasons totally unrelated to the weather. And probably most of you are familiar with these happenings - horse is suddenly dead lame day before the show. 100% sound the day after. Typical, right? Our barn mates still came out to cheer us on tho, and brought along a whole army of young riders. Felt like a party!
never ending path (blurry bc we were on a mission, no stopping for photos!!)
The other rider M (from our xc lesson posted yesterday) and I arrived early enough to walk the xc course before our rides, while Isabel and Special chilled on the trailer. 
good for practicing water crossings on the way to xc tho!
M has been to Fair Hill a few times now, but this was my first visit. I had heard about the long walk to stadium / xc - but was still fairly taken by surprise. This walk was LONG omg. Very pretty, yes, but looonnnng. And I walked the path at least 4 times, maybe more. 
seriously... this was a freakin HIKE. now i understand perfectly why this property is great for endurance rides
Anyway the stadium course is just out of sight on the crest of this hill, so we walked that first before cross country. Thoughts on each to follow. Then it was a quick hike back to the trailer to get M and Special ready for their dressage. Our times worked out really nicely actually - we could watch all of each other's rides while still having time to prepare for our own. So right after her dressage, I came back to get Izzy ready for ours. 


warming up in the grass like nbd (note to self: LOOK UP!)
And I was a little surprised - Isabel was AMPED at the trailer, and had gotten pretty attached to Special. Which I guess makes sense bc they're pasture mates... but considering her typical aloofness toward Wick, it seemed unusual. She was dancing and pawing and calling out for Special... but I just kept my game face on and maintained the expectation that Isabel is a proven professional at shows. 
not the nicest - but a fairly typical way of going for us. moving in the right direction slowly but surely
All the same tho - I made sure to have everything totally ready to go before getting on bc I knew Isabel would be off like a SHOT the moment I swung my leg over. She knew *exactly* what was up, and that we were going to JUMP THE JUMPS!!! But mare - don't forget about dressage first!! Of course she hadn't tho, good mare!
ah but yessssss - we have moments of this too. i LOVE these moments, and they are happening more often these days
Our warm up in the grass went just fine. She was forward and working, and doing better with bending to the right than she has been for schooling. Only a few misfires with our leads. Mostly tho we just schooled transitions. Walk to trot. Trot to walk. Trot to canter. Canter to trot. Trot to halt. Kept it quick and easy then off to our test! 
our canter transitions are still scoring low, but the circles are gradually getting better
And she was so phenomenal! It wasn't our best test, but it also wasn't far off. 

There were a couple strange moments of bracing and tension that we don't normally see - but they were mostly in the never-ending sections of un-judged trot work. Except for one blip at K for our last walk-trot transition before the center line turn... which was a bummer bc we usually score well on those turns but the transition killed the score. 




Our canter transitions still score < 6 despite a lot of focused work on this. It's entirely possible that my work isn't making any difference bc I'm somehow doing something wrong that I don't know how to fix... but I'm also wondering if it's a chiro problem... We'll see. I AM heartened to see our canter circle scores improve. We got a 7 (!!!) on our second canter circle - yesssss!!! 


The free walk was scored a little generously since Isabel was popping up and diving down... but I'll take it. All in all I was very pleased with the test, which is below in video form with all the scores and comments added in for the viewer's convenience. Enjoy!



Then we had a little break for M to ride her stadium and cross country, and I got to see first hand just how slippery and torn up the footing was becoming (stadium was on grass). There were something like 6 splits for BN, and I was in the last one... meaning the footing only got worse and worse... 


Allison managed to find me among the crowd too and again I just can't fully express how cool it was to finally meet her in person!! Also - my parents arrived just in time for stadium and xc. This was a real treat and meant so much to me, esp as they are decidedly non-horsey and hadn't seen me ride in maybe 10 years. So I was excited for them to experience the atmosphere and adrenaline that defines eventing for me :) 



nice balance of left and right turns, and singles vs lines


The stadium course was a bit more to my tastes compared to Tranquility. Lots of bending approaches, a straight and bending line, and only a couple long runs between fences. 

The left lead tour from 4-8 had me a little worried - esp between 4-5 and 5-6, since Izzy typically lands right and those were tight, close-ish distances on iffy footing... Plus 5 and 6 were maxed out oxers... But really it was a good course and test for the level.

I kept our warm up pretty short (esp given the loonnnnng walk up to the field from the trailers, wherein Isabel MARCHED and out-walked every other horse there despite her pony legs). I meant to trot the X but we cantered it instead. Eh it was fine. Jumped the vertical a little tight but ok. Jumped the oxer BIG and decided we were good. The warm up footing was getting sloppy but Isabel was fine with it. 
But then she got into the ring where the footing was arguably worse and decided that she was a lot less fine with it. She was definitely sticky and behind my leg.
she's half focused on me, and half focused on Special who was calling for her
Our distance to fence 1 was a little backward but nothing too ugly. I did NOT like how distracted Izzy felt tho. We brought Special up with us, rather than leaving her at the trailer since it was her first ever event and we wanted her to have a positive experience, rather than melting down all alone on the trailer. This was fine and all, except that she kept trying to chat with Isabel during our ride!
pictured: me yelling at izzy to pay attention. izzy meanwhile is mid scream lol
And in fact Izzy actually called out to Special upon landing from fence 1 - the first time she's EVER whinnied under saddle at a show. I did not likey. You can hear me on the video going 'hey hey HEY' lol - pay attention mare!
Fence 2 came up a little snug too - with the horse still stuck behind my leg.... 
And you can see in the video I kinda helped her out a lot in getting over the fence. I pretty much stayed in this defensive stance - close to the saddle and occasionally even a little behind the motion - for most of stadium and all of cross country, given the footing. I historically lose my seat if the horse's front end goes down (whereas I'm usually ok when the back end goes down), so I wasn't taking any chances!
We then slipped our way around the corner, and Isabel perhaps realized that, um, YES she should probably pay attention lest she end up falling on her ass.
We got a nice distance to fence 3 - into a line that walked in a weird distance, maybe around 5 strides? I planned to do 6 tho, and was very happy with our balanced but forward jump in.
And in fact the 6 strides came up a smidge tight coming out of the line, but given the sloppy footing and the upcoming left bend to a big oxer, I was jussssst fine with that. 
My plan was to get 7 strides to the oxer - but our conservative jump over fence 4 combined with a wide-ish bend and more slippage through the line, we did 8. Again, I was fine with this. The conditions definitely did NOT call for the pace we had at Tranquility - and really my main goal was to maintain enough impulsion to get over the fences without running like a maniac.
Fence 6 was another big oxer off a left turn and had me worried on the walk. Isabel jumped it beautifully tho. Really really nicely - maybe even our nicest jump on course. I think the technicality of the 3-4-5 question had forced me to actually ride the horse up in front of my leg, and it paid off for 6.
Then we came back downhill to 7 and I perhaps got a little too gung ho again haha, esp given this fence was so much smaller in comparison.
We approached in a really nice canter - I just didn't really balance in time and we took a bit of a leaper. It was fine tho - no harm no foul. It would have been bad news if this had happened at 4 or 5 tho, bc we landed in a bit of a heap and had our work cut out for us to get to fence 8.
So naturally we cross cantered around the turn until Izzy slipped again and fixed her leads. She nailed 8 tho out of a very nice canter.
My phone sadly died after 8 (I think it was actually just cold in the unseasonable damp weather), but the right turn around to 9 followed the same pattern and was handled easily by the princess. 
So we were clear! Hurray!! It wasn't our best stadium round ever - esp the first few fences - but I'm actually quite satisfied with it. 



The footing was a serious factor tho. Isabel had gotten distinctly more comfortable in the slop throughout the stadium round, but we slipped a LOT. So it would be imperative to keep Isabel up and in front of my leg on cross country so we could stay on our feet and maintain enough power to make it over another full sized BN course. Bc yep, I got my wish and the cross country was absolutely level-appropriate. Details tomorrow!

37 comments:

  1. Damn girl! You guys have come so far in the last year, and I am so impressed! Iz really is a lovely horse, and you two put together a lovely picture. I'm not surprised the judges gave you such nice scores. :)

    The canter thing could be a couple of things. I struggled (still struggle) with hollow canter departs. I think working on walk-canter transitions might help you get the feeling of "lift" that you need from the transition, and help you really finesse your "ask". It looks like the transition is coming mostly from your legs, and not a lot from your seat, so it's surprising the mare face some and making her a bit resentful of being asked so "loudly". Does that feel about right?

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    1. I have this issue too! What helped me some was learning to 'reach back and grab the outside hind leg' with my outside seatbone - which is easier to feel at the walk, IMO. I'm also figuring out that I need a bit of a stronger contact in the up transitions so that the pony steps up INTO the bridle, with a small give after we've achieved our gait of choice. But we're still getting crappy scores for our canter departs at shows HAHA. You did great. :)

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    2. thanks Austen - we have been working SO HARD! i still have a lot of work to do, but Izzy has just been so willing for it all. re: the transition, that actually makes a lot of sense. i still really struggle even just keeping my seat in the saddle for the transition - let alone using it for any purpose. whereas i'm getting better (marginally) once we're actually cantering, which could explain why the circles are getting better but the transition isn't... i'll have to think about that some more.

      and Alli - i really like that visual of 'grabbing' the hind leg with my seat, i can see how that would help me keep my butt IN the saddle! the firmer contact is something we're working on (esp with the outside rein) but i'm not fully consistent with it yet.... it's such a puzzle haha

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  2. Solid efforts all the way around, very nice! The footing in stadium was NASTY that day... good conservative ride. :)

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    1. thanks! stadium was definitely the worst footing of the whole lot (which is good bc we were decidedly less conservative at certain points on xc haha) but i'm happy with how it went :)

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  3. First of all, I love how you put the dressage test comments in your video, because those cards look like gibberish to me. It makes so much more sense when I can see it on your video haha. You guys looked like total professionals in the sandbox!! And I thought that stadium round was super awesome- despite tough footing you managed to get her attention and build a fantastic rhythm going around! Very excited to read more about XC :)

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    1. haha glad you like the comments that way - i got the idea from Kathryn at Incidents of Guidance. i really like doing it bc i always find myself toggling back and forth between someone's video and their test sheet or description trying to see what they mean. so it's nice having it in one place! and re: stadium, isabel is rarely ever that distracted so i was happy to have her focus back in so quickly!

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  4. I love the comments in the video too. I wish I was tech savvy enough to do that. Good job in dressage and stadium. Your canter transitions will come. It will feel like you work on them forever and ever and then one day they will just be there. We had similar issues. I did used to goose him and that was most of the problem. Then building that uphill strength. They have to use their hind end to pick up the canter so when they like to go on the forehand they almost have to hop into it like that. Like I said it will come. . You are working in the right direction and you guys look good. I need to go back to the beginning to see where you guys started.

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    1. thanks - we're definitely working on it (and it does feel like forever lol) but i'm glad to hear that it'll happen eventually. getting that uphill feeling and push from the hind end is something that i still need to develop - both my feel for it, and our actual ability to do it. we'll get there tho!

      and re: the video comments, it's much easier than you might think. i use microsoft's 'movie maker' which is free and super easy to use! plus it can knit together different clips and do all sorts of fun stuff that i probably haven't even discovered yet lol

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  5. Love it!! I like it when you're riding a distracted horse and they do something (like slip) that makes them sit up and go "Oh yeah, shit, I'm doing work!!". It cracks me up.

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    1. haha i agree completely - hopefully izzy will remember that lesson next time!! she gets the same way on trail rides tho - so distracted by all the lush greenery around her (bc i spoil and enable her) that she's constantly tripping or stumbling around not looking where her feet are going...

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  6. Man I miss fair hill. But your dressage gets better and better!

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    1. thanks! you'll just have to come back up and visit this way sometime (it really doesn't snow year round!). in fact there may be a larger group at fair hill in september.... :)

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    2. oh - duh! yea you should probably go to those instead haha. and actually you'll probably have all the rest of us there with you in spirit too!

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    1. thanks! i'm happy with it. still work to do... but it's getting there!

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  8. Seriously wow on that stadium! You were such a proactive rider, dealing with the footing and the rain and the calling/distractedness and the slipping. And I thought it was a good, safe but forward pace. Great job! Also dressage is really coming along nicely =)

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    1. thank you!! we've been riding so much lately in tricky footing and/or rain that we're both starting to get a better feel for it. all the slipping behind bothers me... but that'll eventually go away when i can get her 'sitting' more.

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  9. You are so brave! That rain alone would have made me duck out, so I'm admiring everything you did here.
    I love the first comment "nice entry". Setting up for a good test. First impressions are everything!

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    1. thanks! 'brave' might be a little generous - we've certainly had our practice riding in the rain given the recent weather patterns haha! and yes i LOVE that first comment. my dressage trainer is very big on center line turns and strategy, and i love seeing it pay off in tests

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  10. Congratulations! You two are making such HUGE bounds forward in your education together!

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    1. thanks! we are certainly chipping away at it. every ride isn't necessarily better but the general trend is upward :)

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  11. You look great! You really have come far with her.

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    1. thanks! she certainly makes it fun!

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  12. That stadium course looked super fun! I would never be able to remember all the fences. LOL! And nice remarks from the dressage judge. "Nice pair!" Good job. :)

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    1. the course was great actually - and you might surprise yourself at how easy they are to remember. i tend to try to remember the 'shapes' transcribed by our path - so for this course it was a right loop to a left loop (almost like a figure 8), then a quick right turn to the final fence. plus, ya know - the numbered fences help a lot too :D

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  13. Look at you guys!! Great work girl!

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  14. Riding on grass is already terrifying to me, and you did it on slick, wet grass. I am in awe.

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    1. i was pretty worried too - but actually, much to my surprise, this footing ended up feeling 'safer' in some ways compared to the 'greasy' footing at Jenny Camp. when the ground is rock hard the horses really get no purchase on it, whereas when it's soft like this they can at least dig in with their toes a little to get a grip. ideally tho it would be somewhere in the middle haha

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  15. Soggy grass and calling mares can make for an interesting trip, but I feel like you totally worked it. You guys look solid, safe, and confident in your video. Way to go!

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    1. thanks - it did end up feeling pretty safe. isabel's early distraction definitely freaked me out a bit but she came back quickly, thank goodness!

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  16. Love the dressage video- what a great idea to put the movements and their respective scores on there!!

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    1. thanks - glad you like that! it really helps me better understand what a judge is seeing (and makes the videos a little less boring for non dressage ppl lol)

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  17. Congratulations you guys did awesome!!!

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