Tuesday, April 25, 2017

MDHT #2: Dressage + Stadium

Ok guys. Let's get right down to business. This is a marathon post, mostly due to pictures, but also bc I've naturally got quite a bit to say about Charlie's first full 3-phase event at Loch Moy.

Brita's and my times were basically right on top of each other, and as soon as Brita finished dressage, I hustled off to walk my course and then get ready for my own dressage.

It didn't leave a lot of time, and I ended up with too little warm up - about 20 minutes. On a good day, that's plenty sufficient time for Charlie. But on this day? Homeboy was tense. We were in the upper ring (the GIANT one with the most horses and right next to a stadium arena and the xc start box) and the difference in the horse's focus and attention was palpable.

i especially appreciate this picture bc of the Brita & Bella cameo. they've got our back!
He was mostly good, and mostly staying with me. Fussy about the left lead, and we had basically no brakes... Asking him for more lateral suppleness was a major issue.

And despite the horse being quite schooled to arena traffic, the combination of seeing so many horses running and jumping in the distance, and being constantly nearly bumped into by ppl who had staked out their own private 20m circles in the middle of the giant arena took a toll on him. Understandably so, big guy. I feel ya.

After realizing we were kinda in a bad place, I tried to do a few trot-walk-halt transitions but.... eh. There's not a lot of "training" you can do in the last 5 minutes before your test, ya know? So in we went.

Emma: "Hello Judge. This is my horse. He is a very impressive horse."
Charlie: *face plants*
Judge: Looks like a 7 to me!
The ring had been sitting empty bc it was running early, so when I went to the judge's stand and gave my number, she immediately rang the bell. Probably I should have asked for a second lap around the court before entering at A.... but oh well. In we went and Charlie immediately stumbled then totally biffed his halt. Great.

please to note we are two full strides past X
This pretty much set the tone for our test. And also, incidentally, for my interpretation of this judge's scoring. That score is the first thing I looked at when I got my test. And... it was a 7?? REALLY?

Anyway. Charlie was sticky and tense, and danced a little in the halt. I tried to be very tactful in asking him to trot out, and he kinda jigged a bit in the corner (got a 4 for that....), but then found his legs and trotted on for our little circle.

trot right. "6 - lacking bend." fair 'nuff
Then it was time for his first canter in a test! I was marginally concerned with Charlie executing an unplanned exit at A.... but he was a good boy and picked up his canter with no sass.

first time cantering in a dressage test!! good boy!!
Our steering was questionable but whatever. He did the canter thing, and then also did the trot thing when I asked! GOOD BOY.

 <3 him
He trotted across the diagonal well enough, tho it was maybe a little hairy. He maybe wondered if we would immediately canter again (since we practice simple changes across the diagonal often). Plus for whatever reason, heading toward C brought out his strongest, most unpredictable trot and I was more than a little afraid we'd accidentally jump out of the arena.....

trot left. "4 - tight neck & poll, lacking bend, circle not round."
ummmm... i feel like that 4 ("Insufficient") is a little harsh, judge.  #justsayin
He didn't jump out tho. And actually seemed to get a little better as we went. His trot started getting a little slower and more shuffling, but I was also able to let go more and push the reins forward more. To me, this felt like a better option than asking him for more trot. Bc I wanted him to relax more, settle in more. And he mostly did.

Tho we got a 4 on that next trot circle which like... I don't understand. In pure dressage, a "4" means "insufficient." The directives for this movement were: E: Circle 20m. And directive ideas are: Roundness and size of circle, clear trot rhythm and bend. The judge dinged us on size of circle and bend, which like, sure are critical pieces of this puzzle. But were we insufficient? Esp after nearly falling down and missing the mark on X big time netted us a 7???? Idk.

cantering left in a dressage test!! good boy got both leads and 6s on all of his canter transitions!
Anyway, next up was the left lead depart, maybe the part of this test I was most worried about - Charlie has been sticky about that lead since day 1, and misfired quite a few times in warm up. In the test tho? Nailed it. Good boy.

free walk also got a 4 (the third of four 4s on this test, if you're counting), which was fair. he was tense, choppy and rooting.
The transition to trot at A, then medium walk between B and F, and then free walking across the short diagonal from B to H all felt like it came up pretty fast. But Charlie did it. Got us another 4 on the free walk, of which I'm more understanding. Tense horses don't really walk super freely, it turns out.

wand a 6 to finish off the test. good boy charlie.
Then a final little trotting tour of the arena from C to A, which garnered us our fourth 4 for "no bend," tho the directives for this movement were "willing and balanced transition, clear trot rhythm." Idk. Then up the center line in an ugly-but-accurate turn, and a final solid halt effort by Charlie, who kindly waited to dance until after I had saluted. Good boy, you did the thing!

I'm a little sour about the fact that everything in this test was either a 4 or a 6 except for that damn earthbound-as-fuck-literally-bc-we-actually-almost-fell-down first halt, which got a 7.


Oh, tho Charlie scored a 7 on his gaits too, which was nice. But like, my best guess is that the judge was looking for a very specific picture for this test, specifically with regard to acceptance of the bit and bend. And we just simply didn't fit the picture. Oh well. Final score of 44.5%.

Tension is tough. And this test was a good reminder for me that, altho Charlie is a very good horse, and has been very "easy" to work with - he's still very green. And "easy" is a relative term. Because.. well.. it's one thing to be easy to ride when the horse is at his best. When he's not at his best tho? He's actually not easy to ride.

he jumps tho <3
I kept that thought at the forefront of my mind as we got back to the trailer to prepare for the jumping phases. We had very little time (so little that I actually opted not to bother changing my boots and breeches, tho these whites aren't my fave for jumping...), tho Charlie got to chill without tack for a little bit while I got everything organized.

We then got over to warm up with about 30min until go time. With being so fresh out of dressage, Charlie didn't necessarily need that much time to physically warm up. Rather, he needed that time for exposure and calm in the face of chaos. So we headed up to the arena to watch a couple rounds go first, and for me to get an idea of how the jumps rode. Only one related distance, which everyone was getting in 5.

i love his face
That established, we headed back down to start riding, wherein I tried to keep instilling the idea of flat work - quiet, relaxed, asking for softness and bend. I figured out in a recent jump lesson (post coming eventually) that the reason Charlie feels so not-great when he gets strong is bc all our flat work flies out the window. So. Ya know. He has to learn to be soft through his body even when we're going fast and jumping all the things lol.

Warm up was honestly kinda stressful bc it was in a small-ish corner of an otherwise-large arena, and we warmed up at the same time as the junior divisions. Which meant there were loud coaches swarming everywhere. LOTS of yelling going on. Lots of ponies everywhere.

a little blah over the first two, but blah is not a dirty word
We mostly dodged them and kept our own jumping simple. Trot the cross rail (x2). Trot the vertical. Tranter the vertical, then wait for them to put it back up after we clobbered it, to canter again. Canter the oxer.

Charlie was a little sticky but was listening. Good 'nuff. Not much more to do there, so we headed back up to wait our turn - along with Brita, who had just finished her rides and made it over in time to watch ours.

looking for our turn to jump 3
Once in the ring, Charlie was a star. We trotted a long loop around the full ring, tripping in front of the photographer (natch, thus the shit-eating smirk on my face in those pics haha), then trotted in over fence 1. Cantered on along to fence 2 mostly ok. Then cantered on along to fence 3 and TOTALLY ATE IT OMG. Brita says Charlie trotted the thing with his hind legs, one on either side, and I completely believe her.

Somehow, tho, he didn't touch the jump at all. I applied excessive verbal praise for his agility there lol, and then we organized a bit better for the end jump at 4. Then off to the only line on course - the one that had been going in 5.

jumping into the line. my expression says, "yup we're gonna leave a stride out, aren't we."
Haha. Hahahaha. Five strides. That's a good joke, Emma.

pictured: leaving a stride out as if we could have left out two....
I knew basically the moment we reached the in jump that we weren't gonna fit 5 in there. Charlie LAUNCHED through the line in 4, and you can actually hear me cackling a bit in the turn after the line as I desperately tried to wheel the horse into some semblance of order for jump 7....

charlie's face says: 'OH IT IS ON NOW'
Which, naturally, we also FLEW over. It's like I kinda just gave up on the idea of order and balance by this point. Like, we've already established that the horse is kinda green, and kinda super inconsistent....

Might as well just roll with it. I'll train him later. For now? We gotta jump these jumps the only way we know how haha.

WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
Which, incidentally, included much leaping. Charlie did NOT want to touch these jumps, and his experience over fence 3 apparently inspired him to reach higher heights than ever before lol.

pictured: how a 17h horse gets air time over a 2'3 jump lol
What a good boy haha. Such a star. Admittedly I was a little embarrassed by the round, like I kinda just let it go to disorganized shit. But whatever. The horse did his thing, and as far as he knows, there isn't necessarily a better way to go about it yet. So I'm not gonna sit here and split hairs with him!

video here. moments of note include: totally biffing fence 3, FLYING down the line, laughing about it, then basically just surviving over the final two....

The reality is tho.... I shouldn't consider this an "embarrassing" round for him. Like, yea he's green and I basically stay in the back seat for everything. And parts of the course were a little wild and woolly. But damn if that wasn't an honest, forward horse who basically understands what he's about out there.

Charlie's nowhere near "schooled" yet. And he goes absolutely NOTHING like the horse I jumped for the past four years. But we're figuring it out. And I feel pretty good riding him, and feel even better at our prospects for further gelling as a team.

That feeling was only reinforced after cross country, where Charlie was surprisingly much more reliant on me than he had been in stadium. Stay tuned for details next!

50 comments:

  1. Charlie was definitely tight and tense in the dressage test and it made it difficult for things like 'bend' and 'stretch'. But you stayed with him and didn't get bent out of shape about it so it's all good. I am confused about the 'no bend' on the straight bits but hey- judges.

    I love his expression of over the fences. You guys are clearly having fun.

    I actually don't worry about the movements so much in my warm up as I do about relaxation. I figure that we're w-t-c and that's pretty simple so with Irish I used to spend a long time just getting him to relax and breathe at the walk before we ever went to trot. In some warm ups we never cantered but for him that was his easy gait so it was always there when I needed it.

    I will try to figure out what Carmen needs in her warm up- I suspect it will be more contact and 'hey I'm right here and we're going to live' :D

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    1. yea i'm right there with ya in not focusing on "movements" per se in warm up - especially since, at this level, the "movements" are basically transitions and figures. so..... we're actually practicing those anyway haha. and walking always plays a big role in all my warm ups too - actually for every ride charlie needs to walk about 10+ minutes before we get started. but.... that only left about 10 more minutes to actually get him moving and truly warmed up, and at this point in his training he needs to practice his transitions and "settle" into the work a bit, he's not confirmed enough to just snap right to it. so the full 20 minutes i gave us was not sufficient. oh well, now i know!

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  2. So good. So honest. So full of ENERGY! And there are more and more glimmers of how amazing he's going to be over time that are strung together for longer now. I love how visible his progression is! Congratulations on your first full 3 phase together <3

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    1. thanks - i love the progression too!! that's the nice thing about him being such a good thinking horse - you can really see him figure stuff out in real time. i just gotta remember to give him that time to do so!

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  3. Sometimes you just have to keep going. The tension will lessen with more experience. Charlie looks great in stadium though!

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    1. yea i mean, it's his second big show, ya know? and his first time doing dressage right next to a running cross country course. it's totally understandable that a green horse might struggle with that environment a little bit.

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  4. I know organization and all that is important but man that looks like one seriously happy horse who is out there enjoying every minute of jumping. And you laughed about it instead of getting tense or scared. I would call that a big win. Congrats!

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    1. lol for real - there's absolutely nothing scary about jumping this horse. i have my own baggage re: jumping, but this horse is just plain old fun. while i would love to create nice, organized, schooling jump rounds.... sometimes we just gotta take what we're given!

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  5. He happily jumps the jumps! Everything else can be improved upon. A year from now you guys will be AMAZING...not that you aren't now, but you know what I mean :)

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    1. thanks!!! i'm SO EXCITED to see how he continues to develop!! bc he's really learning so fast!! all i'm really focused on is keeping him progressing in the right directions and giving him opportunities to succeed. i think he felt like he was a good boy after these rounds too, and that's what matters

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  6. Hahaha! I know that feeling of coming out of a jumping round kinda wishing nobody saw that 'cause green is not always pretty. But you did great and Charlie looks so happy about jumping! I love the helmet cam ride. Man can that boy cover ground. :)

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    1. OMG can he cover ground.... just.... wow. that's like the number 1 biggest thing that i have to get used to. i did an ok job in that course actually, esp by jump 4 i was like, "emma the horse is f*ing going - try to keep up!!".... hopefully my eye will sync up with his eventually!

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  7. Look at Charles doing the thing!!! I just love how this horse tries his little heart out and gets SO EXCITED when he figures out the game. He is going to be an amazing partner as he continues to develop!

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    1. thank you! i'm so excited for the future with him! there's a lot to work on, but dammit if the "work" isn't pretty f*ing fun!

      it's funny bc his race trainer told me that she's never really seen him give his full effort to anything. and he's actually an anomaly among ottbs bc his work ethic is..... meh. but the ace up my sleeve is the hope that he's just going to LOVE this job! fingers crossed!

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  8. Good boy! I love how he tries the best knowing how to do the thing he does and he just goes for it. I also have a trippy thoroughbred so I know how that goes - whoops. Great job you both!

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    1. yea i love that about him too - and it's what makes it so easy to reward his effort even if the outcome isn't super correct yet. thanks!

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  9. Intro dressage scoring can be so random... Like the same test scored by two different judges could be a 50 or a 70 (or a 30 or whatever for eventing). But I'm always happy as long as we walk where we're supposed to walk, trot where we're supposed to trot, and do some semblance of straight lines and circles haha. And yay for Charlie cantering and not leaving the arena!!

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    1. agreed completely! the individual movement scoring has me scratching my head, but the final score seems about right. so, ya know, it's cool. plus, like you say - charlie doesn't really know about the scores themselves. all he really knows is that he did the thing basically when i asked him too. maybe he didn't do the things as *nicely* as he is capable of doing, but that'll come in time and with experience. so as far as he knows, he was a good boy!

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  10. Hehehe, "WEEEEEEE MOM THIS IS FUN!!!!!" <-- Charlie in SJ

    The individual scoring has me scratching my head too- the 4 on that one circle that I thought he finally relaxed a hair in (it must have been lopsided in a way the camera can't see?), but a 7 and "quiet" on the first halt that he never settled and stood? Must have been very straight though! I also don't understand writing "needs bend" on the straight lines. Something GP Trainer shared with me (I don't remember the exact wording): "When judges say 'needs bend' on lower level tests, they are usually trying to come up with some reason for not giving you a 7-10 because in reality, you're not Valegro and they have to give you a reason you're not him. So the reason at lower levels becomes bend." Charlie obviously was missing bend on the round shapes, but that'll come with time and relaxation, but I think it might apply more to the diagonal bend.

    Judges be tripping y'all! But seriously, relaxation in dressage will come (Mikey was tense for years, and Penn was tense for a long time until he went enough places and built enough strength). What I love is Charlie's clear love for jumping!

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    1. haha ok your thoughts on this make me feel a little better - glad i'm not crazy! and agreed that the circle we got a 4 on showed actually maybe some of charlie's best steps in the whole test (that pic captioned "<3 him" is from that circle so.... yea lol). i mean the circle wasn't as round as possible but it wasn't as badly shaped as the canter circles, which got 6s. honestly my impression of the judge's comments on "needs bend" on the straight sections was that she actually was saying he should be on the bit. which like... ok sure eventually, but i was under the impression that was not a requirement for this level.

      honestly i would have preferred 5s on everything instead of a hodgepodge of 4s or 6s with unclear logic....

      but it's cool tho. i'm still proud of the horse. and agree completely loving charlie's enthusiasm for the jumping!!!

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    2. I agree, a lot of the places where she said "needs bend" she probably meant "above the bit". I know there are things they can't/shouldn't write, but I don't think above the bit is one of them.

      Hey, at least she never wrote "too much going wrong" haha! The only time I've seen that on a test (one of my event trainer's FEI tests), the horse had a complete meltdown over a flying change I think. We had a good laugh about it!

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    3. omg now i wish i had that on my eventing bingo cards....

      "too much going on" sounds about right!! lol!

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  11. Oh Charlie is going to be a beast when he isn't so green. Positive show experiences are so much more valuable than ribbon right now. Congrats on him being so good with things, looks like he is really enjoying his new job!

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    1. totally agreed. i would rather have an outing like the above with no ribbons than an outing with a sour or unhappy horse (we'll work on the tension haha, but i suspect it's a function of him just not understanding very well yet), or very backed off or challenging jumping but somehow still snagging a ribbon. it'll come together soon enough!

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  12. Such a good honest boy! The dressage scoring sounds a bit inconsistent... and wacky. Excited to read about xc :)

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    1. thanks, xc is coming soooooooon!!!!

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  13. oh man this is so great. what a solid, happy outing. hes soooo cute over those jumps. lol @ "I'll train him later"

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    1. i mean..... that's basically what it comes down to, right? lol.... kinda like that moment when we're HERE ya know? those jumps gotta get jumped, that test has gotta get ridden! nvm that the horse is like "choo chooooo mother fuckers, i'm rollin on into this station!!"

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  14. That picture over the green oxer, though!! OMG!!

    Sometimes it's not worth the headache to figure out the subjectiveness of dressage scoring. One time P and I rode back to back BN B then Novice B and scored the exact same on both, even though it was quite clear from what I felt and what the videos looked liked, that Novice B was much, much better. But oh well.

    Charlie will figure out with more shows that there's nothing really THAT exciting about dressage, and I bet he'll be an old pro soon enough. Now tell us about XC, woman!

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    1. haha yea, i honestly think he would have been fine with 10-20 more minutes of warm up. and i don't mean wet saddle blanket treatment either - just cool calm relaxed, soaking up the atmosphere, looking around, and figuring out that it's fine. bc once he gets going, he can actually do a very nice task of focusing (just look at him jump! he's locked on like a laser!). he'll get there!

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    1. lol, Brita says, "Yup that's an Emma Face!"

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  16. But he's turning in to such a cute jumper! Cute makes up for a lot.

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    1. omg right???? tho his cutest jumps are also the ones i have the hardest time sitting lol. when we get to the jump all organized and orderly he just lopes over haha.... oh well. we'll even out eventually!

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  17. Awesome jumping round. Even green, he seems reliable. I love that feeling when your horse goes, I got this, even when the jump plan flubs. Relaxation and waiting and such, that will come with more schooling. Jumping in hard situations (no matter who caused the situation) is something that they seem to have innately.

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  18. Congrats on a successful outing with a green horse who seems to be learning and enjoying his job!

    One note for the score of 7 that baffled you, I know from scribing that sometimes a judge won't see a movement for whatever reason and when that happens they generally give you the benefit of the doubt that it was good and assign a 7. It's not ideal obviously and they try hard to see your whole test, but the first halt is the one that sometimes gets missed if they are finishing the comments on the last test etc. Maybe that's what happened here.

    I could also see that the 4s are maybe pointing to the fact that his head is in the air. They can't say that he needs to be on the bit because that's not the requirement of the level, but they are maybe suggesting that if you asked for more bend and lateral suppleness, it might help unlock the longitudinal suppleness too (which is totally true of my horse). I've gotten quite a few of those "bend" comments on my past walk/trot level tests for that reason.

    Regardless of the scoring, Charlie looks willing to try and learn and that's the main thing!

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    1. yea i mean.... i think each of your comments could be fair or valid at times. i've certainly seen instances of all of that! but i'm not quite accepting of those as excuses in these circumstances.

      in the case of possible judge inattentiveness, the court was empty when i got there, and she rang the bell immediately upon me presenting my number. quite prompt, when i actually might have expected more time. i was also looking directly at her during my halt (and smiling, as is my habit lol). so inattentiveness can't be an excuse for why she gave that movement a 7.

      regarding giving out 4s bc the horse's head is in the air... my guess is that you're not far from the truth there. however i still believe that it's incorrect judging. just bc she didn't like the picture doesn't mean she can score a movement as "insufficient" when all the requirements are otherwise met. especially when there's very little difference in the horse from movements that scored a 4 to movements that scored a 6. those scores have meanings. 6 = Satisfactory. 5 = Marginal. 4 = Insufficient.

      the final score itself seems fair (it was, indeed, a poor test), but i might have been more satisfied had the judge arrived there with all 5s, instead of this bizarre mishmash of 4s and 6s.

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  19. Well even if the course got a little hairy at the end there, the pictures sure are damn cute! It's hard to have that kind of impulsion and "push" over the fences from a smaller canter when you're a big horse. haha. It's so exciting to see that that kind of brilliance over the fences is in there though.

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    1. i know right???? if only i could learn to ride it hahah.... seriously tho, yea he doesn't know how to compress yet but he's actually really figuring out the "push off from behind" thing (which is maybe the main reason i struggle to stay with him lol). he's honestly lovely to work with and is a thinking horse - he has god instincts too. so i think we'll get it sorted. but maybe in the meantime i have to be a little more ready to just let go, sit back and enjoy the ride!

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  20. The WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!! picture is bloody amazing, I love it! He's such a lovely horse, I love following your progress :)

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    1. aw thanks!! we might not do everything exactly text book but we're having a blast!

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  21. Charlie is the best at the jumping. Just ask him.

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  22. GO Charlie!!!!! Green horses always keep life a little interesting :)

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  23. I have long been of the opinion that dressage judges are slightly drunk, even when sober. Sometimes there is no explaining their scoring system. And if she biffed the first score a little, she shouldn't make up for it in the rest of the test by penalizing you on the rest of your scores. Math works that way, but feedback doesn't. (I also personally feel that for a score below a 5, the judge should be required to give more substantive comments. Not to deter them from handing out those scores, but so we can UNDERSTAND what the f went on.)

    But that stadium round!! I think forward and doing all the things is pretty fucking super for 7? months post track. :D

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  24. Great game face. For both of you. He looks like he's ON IT and you look like you're having so much fun. Super weird judging for the dressage, but the judging at the lower levels just seems to be erratic.

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  25. I love how LOCKED he gets onto those jumps!! Woohooooo

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  26. He's having such a good time over the jumps!!

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  27. Maybe '4' really means: you're not an Olympian so I can't score you higher than this until you show some clout? On the plus side, you clearly have quiet halts under control ;)
    Eh, my trainers say you'll find judges you don't like, that don't like you, and you'll avoid shows they judge at. But I'm not exactly sure what was going on with your scores for this particular ride. They are definitely head scratching.
    Either way, you stayed in the sandbox! Charlie got a good experience. That's all you can ask :)

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  28. Yay Charlie! He is so cute over the jumps. No idea what happened with the scoring on that dressage test.

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