Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fair Hill: Intro Stadium & Dressage

This weekend's event at Fair Hill will probably be our last horse trial for a little while, possibly until the fall season starts in September. So this was a perfect opportunity to fully assess where Charlie is in his training, and work on laying out a schooling plan for the next month or two.

gettin dressed for jompies at the trailer!!
One nice finding was that there were no surprises at this event. No major glaring issues that we don't already know about. Furthermore, this day confirmed that Charlie continues to 'understand' the rhythm of show day.

but before we jump, we gotta do the dressage first!! also i kinda love this shot the Fair Hill photographer captured of Charlie watching Alli, Michele, and Janelle do their tests haha. calm down, Charlie!!
He came off the trailer his normal quiet self and was happy to hand walk over to the dressage area while our group members Allison, Michele and Janelle all rode their tests. We did have to practice a few ground work exercises bc Charlie was slightly too oblivious about my own personal space (ie, running me over a bit).

this is starting to become a more 'normal' trot for us
In his defense, tho, I've been negligent in our practice but have been noticing at home that we really need to refocus on that work again. And obviously any weakness in training is amplified in a show environment too. So that's something to add to the 'What Needs Work' list this summer!

sometimes it looks like this tho lol
Which... is hardly something to complain about in the grand scheme of things. Because he's still a quiet horse. And even tho the running and jumping is his favorite part, he's still able to warm up for his dressage test more or less like the same horse I have at home. Well... actually a little better haha bc he's not barn sour off property lol. But you know what I mean.

but sometimes - every now and then - we find a reeeally pleasant moment in between.
It really was stupidly humid out tho. Like.... really bad, since an incoming storm front was just pushing alllllllll the heat and humidity right on top of us. Our dressage time was right at noon too. So I opted to keep warm-up short and sweet. 

it's a little harder to replicate inside the show ring tho. this is trotting left
Got on with about 25 minutes to spare. Walked for just under 10... then went through another ~10ish minutes of our standard work. Then stood in the shade for a few. Then a few more minutes of walking and trotting on contact before being called into the ring.

and cantering left. we got the comment "labored" again for this, fml lol
And he was kinda just ok in the test. Beginner Novice Test A is legitimately hard for us bc Charlie wants to be clever and wants to know the answers and wants to do all the things.... so he gets a little anticipatory and our brakes suddenly get even duller than usual.

free walk showed less stretch down, but also less diving so... ya know. we're working on it.
So almost all of our downward transitions were late - esp the trot to walk at C. Whoops. We were also a little late going into our canters. The first bc he tried to pick up the wrong lead (which luckily I caught in time to get away with a 6 for "unclear" instead of a 4 for "wrong lead"), and the second bc... idk, actually. I was just slow to ask, I guess?

really great moments of trot right
His trot work was kinda good in places, and had less of that feeling of "omg we're going to jump out of the ring instead of turning that corner!" In other words, bend sorta kinda happened in places. Kinda.

canter right was more or less ok too
And actually for our second trot circle, Charlie really tried to come more through into the bridle. It scored worse than the first circle bc his bobbing in and out of the bridle shows a picture of less consistent contact than when he's just steadily above the bit. But I'm ok with that. I'll happily sacrifice half a point for something that tells me Charlie is trying.

this is almost respectable for us!
We really struggled with the final little tour of 'canter circle at C; trot by B; then turn up center line at A.' That all comes up really fast for Charlie, esp when I haven't really managed to put a half halt on the horse yet. In this case we sorrrrrrta got our transition to trot at B, but then trantered in places into the corner and only by the grace of god managed to not fall down on that 10m half circle turn up the center line.

boom. that's a halt. good boy!
It felt a little like a disaster, but was actually one of our better scoring movements (6.5) - and our final halt took top marks for the test with a 7.


I left the dressage court feeling pleased with some of the moments, but also fairly convinced it would be a last place score. Personally, I refuse to feel defeated or demoralized or unhappy with Charlie's current abilities in the dressage phase. Because despite our combined greenness, there is tangible progress happening. It's just happening slowly. And I'm ok with that.

I also know that our success at this current level of training can vary widely by judge - as a few moments in this test were scored WAY more generously than other judges have scored us (case in point, we got nothing below a 6 - something that's only happened once before, I think). Again tho, that's cool. But flat work is definitely very high on our "What Needs Work" list this summer!

jompies jompies jompies!!!!!
Moving on to stadium, I have far fewer pictures (sorry!) and none that aren't stills from my helmet cam video. That's ok tho, right?? lol...

Anyway. Allison and Michele both jumped around 20 min before me and Charlie - but I opted to walk up with them to the jump area anyway. It's a VERY long walk (around a mile, I think) and Charlie would appreciate the company. Plus, once you're up there, there's an awful lot going on and Charlie would benefit from having the extra time to simply exist amid the atmosphere.

cute fences too!!
He stood mostly quiet for that time, right up until he suddenly was not quiet any more. Funny how that always works lol. Idk if his quarter just ran out, or if he got a little upset when Dino finished stadium and moved on to xc or what. But he very suddenly needed to start moving around and warming up.

And it was ok-ish. Like last time at Fair Hill, he was a bit upset and flustered by the atmosphere. But he was more or less obedient. And jumped the warm up jumps ok-ish, tho he knocked both the last vertical and the oxer down. Something I'm personally ok with going into the ring.


For the course itself.... I felt weirdly detached. Idk why. The course was a little strange and we hadn't been able to walk it. There were three lines - tho all set quite long, almost to the point of being 'unrelated' distances. We saw everything from 6-9 strides done in most of them too. So..... the course was definitely NOT riding consistently.

Alli told me to definitely commit to a distance coming out of the final line, but other than that I kinda just figured we'd wing it.

And Charlie did more or less ok with that. The jumping was not very good. I didn't do a good job of establishing a good canter and we were mostly flat and strung out, chopping in an extra stride to almost every single fence. I'm not sure I've ever truly felt Charlie 'behind my leg' for jumping, but this might be the closest. Plus he was landing very strong too.

pets for a good boy. he's still not sure what this is all about, but he's trying!!
He was good tho. Didn't look at anything, stayed straight to the fences, took care of all our lead changes, and didn't touch a single fence even when we got stupid deep. Good boy!

I take full responsibility for the low-quality canter... He kinda had that "fragile" feeling that horses sometimes get where you kinda just want to take your leg off and not touch the horse.... but that's exactly the wrong response. I needed to sit down more, put my legs on, and show him the shape I needed him to be in. And he probably would have done it.

But c'est la vie. It was a clear round and, while not necessarily something to inspire pride (as opposed to, say, our stadium at Tranquility last week), I can live with it. And I felt like, for better or worse, I knew what I had going into cross country.

And that feeling was only bolstered by seeing Alli come back from her course with a big ol' grin on her face ;) Stay tuned for cross country details soon!

24 comments:

  1. It sounds like a nice solid experience for Team Charlie and that's good. I watched the dressage video- his steady rhythm is really coming along. Once he figures out the bending and using his back he's going to be awesome.

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    1. thanks! i might be biased but i see a lot of changes in his trot over the past few months. the whole picture isn't put together yet, but he's feeling so much more balanced front to back. still so much work to do on lateral balance, which will ultimately help us with bend.... but it's happening!

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  2. So proud of you and Charlie! I love his little ears in the helmet cam video; he really tries so hard to figure this stuff out and it's awesome! Such nice moments happening in your dressage warm up, too - Michelle and I were so excited to see him start stretching into the contact! It's really cool to see you guys put the pieces together from show to show.

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    1. aw thanks girl - he IS such a little trier! he wants to be good, he wants to get the answers correct. he's just not totally sure what the actual game is all about yet. soon enough tho!! thanks for catching so many great moments in your pictures too :D

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  3. Small steps and positive experiences when out and about will get you two far. Good job!

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  4. Finding those awesome moments in the pictures just confirm that progress is being made! Nice work!

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    1. definitely! this guy still has a long road ahead of him but he'll figure it out slowly but surely!

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  5. Ooohhh and he looks so fancy in those nice trot moments <3

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    1. thanks i was SO PLEASED to see those pictures Allison took!!!

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  6. yay Charlie! He is so great and so are you! :) And hey no rails in stadium was HUGE (cough cough 8 faults me) UGH....You really have great things ahead for you guys!

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    1. thanks! i'm honestly still not sure how we escaped with no rails but i think the key is to knock a whole bunch down in warm up first (something we did at the last show too, where we also went clear in stadium). go figure!

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  7. He's definitely figuring out the flat work though. He'll get there! Looks like another successful outing!

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    1. thanks! one step at a time. i'm so excited tho to finally have a visual representation of what the 'good feeling' he's giving me looks like right now. it looks actually a little bit better than i had hoped! still much to work on, but it's happening!

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  8. Blegh humidity, can make everything feel kinda meh meh from horse, to mood

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    1. eh, we're pretty used to it! ain't no weather that can make me anything other than happy about show day! just gotta adjust as necessary

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  9. I really agree with you: watching that dressage video of Charlie, I can really tell that he's improving. That moment of super nice contact in the right circle was lovely! And yep - all it takes is a try :) I personally think he's looking more confident in the dressage. Even though some of his nicer movements were outside the sandbox, I think he's really starting to understand that "we do the flat thing and it's not horrible" LOL But seriously, he's looking sooooo good! You're doing such a marvelous job with him! Even in some of those pictures you could see the sun reflecting off of his new, good-looking back muscles :D

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    1. thanks yea i'm quite pleased with him. he's filled out very nicely too, it always amazes me how much more easily TBs can pack on the muscle compared to some other breeds (like, ahem, my last arab).

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  10. Yay for pony finding progress in dressage tests! Your stills are really changing from your first few shows!

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    1. thanks - i'm really pleased to both see and feel his progress. it's such a slog getting started sometimes, but finally we might be starting to get somewhere!

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  11. Damn that's a good halt. It's weird you weren't able to walk the stadium. Was there just not enough time?

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    1. ha thanks i was pleased with that halt too - even if it's more bc he was like "oh i guess we're at X now, huh" vs him actually listening. and re: the walk, the course was being ridden when we were up there to walk courses. can't walk while they are riding it!

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