Tuesday, May 30, 2017

MDHT #3: dressage + stadium

This is the final show recap of May 2017. Officially my busiest month of competitions since June 2015. Phew! If you've managed to stick it out and keep track this whole month - virtual cookies to you. You deserve it lol.

We can keep it fairly high level today too - since, as you might imagine, there haven't exactly been seismic shifts in how Charlie goes in the last four weeks.

legitimately the only screen cap i'm using from dressage. bc they all look the same but this moment is particularly sweet <3
Tho that's actually not 100% true. There has been a pretty big change in my riding in the past week. Mostly having to do with the insights gleaned from auditing David O'Connor last week. Particularly that bit about the four main rider responsibilities, with direction coming in at #1, and speed second.

Generally speaking, I've spent an awful lot of time fussing with Charlie about speed and connection, and have also been battling issues with gate sourness and bulging. Not to mention the fact that we've been dinged for too-small circles and issues with accuracy and geometry in literally every single test we've ever ridden.

such a sweet face <3. all non-nasty photos here courtesy of Austen or GRC Photo
Since auditing that clinic tho, I've been focusing in on direction above all else - down to the actual precision of each foot fall. And naturally this is a bit of a process, I've got a lot to think about in modifying my ride to be consistent. But the change in the horse is undeniable.

It turns out, when I'm focused purely on directing each and every step, I must ride from my whole body and not just my hands. I must actually ride the horse from back to front. Craaazy. It means that suddenly I'm not pulling (as much). Suddenly the horse is not bulging, nor is he even rushing or anticipating.

such a good pone
The change has actually allowed Charlie to come forward into the bridle more - to seek out his own connection and experiment with his own balance. To me, it feels like an entirely new frontier. And I like it!

It might not be super obvious in watching the test, but it was rewarded by the judge for sure. Charlie earned a whole string of 7s, plus quite a few 6.5s. And not a single comment on issues with too-small circles. But he did get a comment of "nicely on aids" for his canter transitions. Yesss.


Even with an error for going off course (what can I say, Intro C is not a super familiar test for me!), Charlie earned a nice score of 36.8% to be positioned in 4th after dressage (compared to our 37.6% last week that put us in 10th).

we match the jump!
The same change in my riding that made such a big difference in dressage also holds for stadium too. And I had gotten some practice using the whole "ride ever footstep" idea during our jump lesson the day prior to the show (post coming soon!).

i kinda love his dopey ears
The biggest change with Charlie is that when I start focusing on 'direction' and riding my line above all else, little details like his pace suddenly start taking care of themselves. I don't have to wrestle with him rushing or anticipating bc he's just staying focused listening to me about where he's going.

tho i love his super pricked excited ears too!
It's honestly kinda nice! That's not to say that we don't still have mistakes or whatever - not all of our distances were perfect. In warm up we got a little close here or there (but surprisingly didn't knock anything down). And then in our actual course we had a fairly large 'oh shit' moment at jump 4 when I expected Charlie to go for the gap, and he was like, "But wait, I thought we go to the base now?"

and i love that he can look cute over small fences sometimes too haha
Mostly tho it was a very smooth, professional course. Steady even strides to every fence. No rushing, no change in rhythm. One simple change (immediately before our oopsie at jump 4), then auto changes from there out. And a nice steady four strides down the only related distance on course.

in case it's not obvious, all the jumps at loch moy are painted to match the maryland flag
This was legitimately maybe our best jumping effort to date. And I'm so proud of the horse. Botched jump 4 and all - bc I'm honestly totally ok with a simple mistake, especially seeing how well we both recovered and just carried on.

pony was easy through the only line on course <3
Obviously, as always, there are issues to correct in my ride. But right now things feel pretty good. Again, thinking back to the DOC clinic - the biggest outcome he wanted to see what a reproducible ride. And it feels like Charlie and I are almost there. Like we've got things mostly figured out such that I can get in there and somewhat reliably (almost) do my job, and the horse will respond in kind.


We still have mistakes, and probably always will - bc let's face it, I'm an amateur and he's a green horse trained exclusively by my amateur self lol. But. So far, so good. And at this level, the mistakes aren't really enough to upset either of us.

Per usual, I'll have disproportionately more pictures for the cross country recap tomorrow - but rest assured, the real test of this event was the dressage and stadium course. Both of which felt like they showed a really solid representation of where Charlie is in his training.

yay happy friends after the rides are done!
It also very much felt like this busy busy month of competing has had the desired effect on the horse: He's got the system figured out. He knows what we're doing at a show. He understands the phases and different warm ups. He gets the small sand box and he understands when it's time to jump. And he's all about unwinding at the trailer after it's all said and done.

Charlie's basically officially an intro-level eventing professional. And I like it!! Intro / training level dressage and jump courses set at 2'3 pose very few issues for the horse beyond just needing to refine refine refine. Ya know, that constant thing with horses where it always boils down to "more" and "better" lol.

Anyway. More to come tomorrow about cross country - mostly just fun pictures and videos lol. Bc after walking away from that stadium round, it felt like we'd already gotten through the hard parts haha. Do you ever feel that way at an event? Where one or another phase stands out as the biggest challenge of the day?

35 comments:

  1. So, BN in the near future? ;-)

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    1. Ha maybe once we actually start schooling that height in lessons ;)

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  2. He makes 2'3" jumps look tiny!!! And I love your expression through the stadium round. Concentrated but still looking so happy. What a great month May has been for you two.

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    1. Thanks it really has been a crazy great month. Lots of changes in us both from start to finish!

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  3. Gah, he is just so cute!! You guys both look so confident in stadium and congrats on the dressage score improving too!!

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    1. Thanks I'm really excited about being able to do the horse a little more justice in the dressage court

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  4. GIRL that stadium round was LOVELY!! So, so lovely! I AM SO PROUD!!!

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    1. Thanks I'm just so pleased with the horse!!

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  5. Great job!! you guys are pros now!!

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    1. ha thanks, he feels like a pro - just ask him! lol ;)

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  6. Aw, he is the sweetest boy <3 His pace in stadium looked fantastic!

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    1. thanks - he's learned so much about consistency lately. and naturally it helps that i'm really starting to get a much better feel for staying with him and recognizing where his pace 'sweet spot' is. the horse has a WAY bigger stride than anything i've ever ridden before lol

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  7. YAY!! Love how you can just take your time with him and watch the changes happen. :-)

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    1. definitely - he's a thinking and learning horse, if i can just be patient and *consistent* he will figure out the rest. it's actually kinda nice!

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  8. Such a good boy! Things are really coming together :)

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    1. thanks, he's figuring it all out!

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  9. Bring on the too many xc pictures!

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  10. That sounds like such a good month! And he looked so good in both the dressage and sj!

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    1. thanks, the month worked out better than i could have hoped, i think. he's really come such a long way!

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  11. Um hello quiet, chill lead changes. Such a boss.

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    1. oh man, i have *never* ridden a horse with consistent auto changes before. izzy would occasionally pop out a change here or there, but i never really felt coordinated to ask for them. and for whatever reason, the ottbs of my past haven't had great changes (lets be real, they all ended up as schoolies for reasons haha). so i'm *so excited* at the prospect of a horse who will just kinda do it for me! lol.... #itsthelittlethings

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  12. YAY! I'm so happy for you and Charlie! I totally understand. Those little moments of improvements I think are why all of us ride. I know it is for me! He does look absolutely ADORABLE over fences. Can't wait to read all about XC tomorrow!

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    1. thanks! i basically live for those little moments. esp bc you can't really have the "big" moments without them!

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  13. I love the dressage test- so relaxed and rhythmical. I love it. You two are so happy together

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    1. thanks, he's developing into a really wonderful partner!

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  14. Wow! Congrats on a great wrap up to May! XC is proving to be our hardest phase with my Arab. Did you ever have XC bravery issues with Isabelle?

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    1. Izzy definitely had to learn her way around the xc course. our first ever schooling she had a couple refusals, and had to be ponied into the water. then our first couple BNs each had refusals on xc. water continued to be an issue for basically always, but over time she started to understand xc more and more and grew quite brave.

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  15. WTG Emma and Charlie! HE is getting so super professional at your events, because your system with him was so awesome at setting him up for success. GREAT JOB!

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