Tuesday, October 31, 2017

mean ol' dressage: Charlie edition

At the close of each season, I often like to reflect on where we've been and what we've done. You may have noticed that there has been a bit of a "recap / summary" theme to a lot of posts lately.

There's a couple different ways to slice and dice, to measure progress and plot Charlie's growth and development as an event horse.

handsome dressage horse
Today, I want to look at dressage. Charlie's final show of the year was by far his strongest. Over the course of the year he showed nothing if not steady improvement. Sometimes incremental, other times by leaps and bounds.

Overall, tho, what did the entire picture look like?

Test Ridden # Tests Average Score (Penalties)
USDF Intro B 3 64.8% (35.2%)
USDF Intro C 2 59.9% (40.1%)
USEF BN A 4 58.6% (41.4%)
USEF BN B 3 61.2% (38.8%)


looking the part is half the battle

Well? I reviewed the scores from the 12 judged tests* we rode in the past year. Directives from all the tests were categorized by gait and combined where possible, tho naturally some movements are scored meaningfully differently in different tests. Like, for instance, where the walk-trot transition score is combined with the score for turning down center line in USEF BN B.

I did my best tho to organize movements in a way that makes sense and can provide insight on Charlie's strengths and weaknesses in the dressage court, and how and where we've seen improvement over time.

*This excludes the first tests from Charlie's first ever shows: the Nov 2016 and March 2017 schooling dressage shows, where we rode the same test twice in a row. I only included the second test from each outing since the first tests were.... often more about just existing in a dressage court. 


Also worth noting: The trend lines below are not exactly in chronological order, as we switched back and forth a little bit between tests. It's close tho.



Findings:

Overall:

We enter well and set a good first impression, then fall apart a little bit. And life was decidedly better in USDF tests where our center line entrance was scored separately from that tricksy turn at C, instead of combined as they are in USEF tests.....

Usually by the end of the test, we're a little frazzled and just trying to survive in once piece. Strong collective marks suggest judges think we could do better tho.

Trot Work:

The left circle average is artificially suppressed from that one time we got a 4 (#stillbitter) but generally our circle scores are stronger than transitions.

The walk-trot transition is particularly an area for improved focus. That's a difficult move for us since it typically follows a free walk and shines a bright light on Charlie's resistance to me picking up the reins. This same aspect is then reflected in our submission score in the collectives.

Diagonal changes of rein are a strong spot and provide a nice boost to otherwise indifferent scores.

Walk Work:

Best score here naturally is one that doesn't get scored separately in eventing tests -- the medium walk. In eventing tests that score is often combined with the free walk score.

Charlie's got a great walk but we haven't been able to show it off to much advantage in these tests. I'm thinking it's still due in part to tension that arises when I go to pick my reins up after a free walk.

The free walk score itself is fine as a 6, but considering it's often the coefficient score in many eventing tests, it would behoove me to bring this score up. The horse has a good free walk -- we just need to brighten it up more. More march, more over step. Looser over the back.

Canter Work:

This is another area where Charlie's natural abilities haven't really been shown to their full potential. The horse has a great canter. But he's big and the small court called for in low level eventing is... small.

The scores stabilized and improved over the course of the season as the horse became stronger and more able to carry himself around 20m. Downward transitions merit more attention tho (the upward transition score was marred by some instances where we picked up the incorrect lead).

Collectives:

Charlie's gaits have always scored well (much to my surprise!) and most judges give me a reasonable rider score (tho, not all).

My impression from the collectives is that judges often think we haven't shown our true potential or ability in the dressage ring - that they think Charlie's got more to give.

In an ideal world, I'd like to see our average scores get closer to Charlie's gaits scores. Suggesting that the horse is executing each movement to the fullest measure of his own ability.

future elegant horse, right?

The big #1 finding from all this? Well? Charlie is pretty freakin' average as a dressage horse. He's not gonna wow the world. He's basically a solid 6, 6.5 on a good day.

But there are 7s lurking below the surface if I can tease them out. And, likewise, the 5s (and, ahem, 4s) are hiding in there too. We'll earn our best scores and continue to see improvement overall if I can focus on riding Charlie accurately and correctly through each movement and gait.

Over the course of this winter, I'd like to keep on plugging away at the work we've been doing. And looking forward to next year, I'd like to see more test scores that mirror Charlie's gait score. Meaning, if he gets a 6.5 on gaits, I'd like about a 65% on the whole test.

To that end, more movements from each test will have to reflect his best possible way of going, without interference by resistance to the bridle or tension over his back. We can dream, right?


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Important Note: To all 2017 Two Point Challenge participants -- Final times are due by midnight tonight!! Do not forget to leave a comment letting me know your longest time! Winners will be announced before the end of the week!


44 comments:

  1. Charlie has a lot of body to control and this dressage stuff is fairly new for the race horse. I a sure you can get 7 & 8s. But going for those also means risking the 4s. That’s the part I struggle with.

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    1. oh we've gotten 7s and 8s already (who else remembers that NINE charlie got at loch moy that one time??) but this is how averages work, right? like not your score at your best or worst, but your typical, run of the mill "this is what i can reasonably expect" score.

      the part about going for the higher score and ending up with something lower tho reminds me of the Janet Foy clinic i audited (which i'm not sure you were following then but i think you might really enjoy the post so it's linked below). obvi at higher levels than training level, janet talked about picking your battles -- not to try to push a score from 6-7 that will only turn into a 5-4 for your efforts, but instead focusing on the scores you know you can meaningfully improve. it was really fascinating (tho, again, it's more about more advanced movements like lengthenings or lateral work vs.... trotting a circle lol)

      http://fraidycateventing.blogspot.com/2016/04/notes-from-janet-foy-through-levels.html

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  2. I'm sure the 65%-70% scores will come soon! He's a lovely chap, just need to carry on going to competitions next year once he's feeling better. Can't wait to see this same recap next year, I'm sure there will be massive difference!

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    1. i'm definitely eager to keep on pushin on and seeing where we go!! it's tough in eventing tho bc the tests themselves don't really meaningfully change until eventing training/prelim (where we start to see more first level movements creep in) -- but the standard of judging changes. so let's say hypothetically that charlie moves up to novice next year. we'll still be running through the same collection of moves, but the scoring will tougher bc they will expect to see greater and greater degrees of training in the horse. so the numbers might not actually look meaningfully different on paper -- but the picture as a whole will hopefully be much improved!

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  3. This is a great recap. Those trending lines are pretty neat to see. It will be really interesting to see where he ends up next year and compareas I am sure you’ll be seeing some massive improvements.

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    1. i <3 sparklines haha. and i'm excited to get back to work and keep dialing down into working on the low hanging fruit (like that turn at C after entering -- what if we could keep up the judge's good first impression of us by just .... being better balanced through that turn? maybe the judge wouldn't be so quick to drop their scores as we progress through the test!). so this kind of analysis is a useful road map of sorts

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  4. oh my god you are such a nerd i have such a weird nerd boner right now

    you should chart your happiness too. you were through the roof at fair hill.

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    1. lol this is how i justify hoarding things like every single dressage test ever -- gotta collect that data for.... something, right?? lol and yea, charting happiness.... that would be fun. would probably run into those whole issues of countable vs uncountable infinities tho ;)

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  5. My longest time this week is 21:49. I was going to try to redo tonight but the kids insist on trick or treating :(

    Anndddd uhhh? Those stats? You are waaaay too mathologically inclined! But I'm sure the 7's will come out next season!

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    1. haha thanks! the 7s are already here - but that's the whole point, they're outliers and are just as often 5s, thus balancing out to a 6. and a 6 ain't something to sniff at either! it's cool to see tho how certain things (like his gaits!) really do stand out as strong spots vs anomalies.

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  6. This is a really cool analysis! I guess I'm a data dork.

    Looking forward to 2018 with you guys

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    1. lol data dorks unite!!!! you're in good company here ;)

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  7. That graph though, how cool! I'd suspect you have more 7's lurking in ol Charlie than you may think you do. Keep up the fabulous work!

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    1. thanks - yea he's got the sevens (i had to go through actual hundreds of written scores from the entire past year in order to create the summary above). the trick isn't just getting them here and there, it's moving the needle on his overall averages. and for that to happen, i believe it's a function of getting his movement scores more in line with his gaits scores by reducing tension and resistance to the contact. here's hoping!!!! :D

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  8. I bet we have only seen the tip of the iceburg with Charlie and his dressage skills. His gradual progression over the summer was so cool to see.

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    1. thanks, i'm hopeful too! he's always been a horse who *needs* to understand a thing, and to know how to get the answer right, before he really truly applies himself. he started really figuring it out by the end of this year tho so i'm hopeful for what lies ahead!

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  9. I think you guys will have a good upward trend this coming year! I think with all the time you've had to set aside this year with shoes and things with legs it shows just how much you guys will improve with even more steady work! And he does look so handsome in dressage :D.

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    1. the upward trend actually isn't my goal, bc that's pretty difficult to achieve with how eventing tests are structured through the levels. meaning: the beginner novice and novice tests, and training test A are all basically the same combination of gaits and movements -- just with slightly different locations in the arena (and with some trickier turns thrown in). so.... it's the same set of movements even going up levels, but the standard of judging changes from one level to the next. a trot circle that earns a 7 at BN might only get a 6 at N, even tho it's the same trot on the same circle.

      therefore, instead of aiming generally for an "upward trend", i'm setting my sights on bringing movement scores closer to charlie's gaits scores. it's a tangible, well defined goal that effectively measures overall execution of a test (or, uh, lack there of haha). we'll see how it goes!

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  10. I love spreadsheets. Maybe spreadsheets make dressage suck less?

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    1. awww haha definitely - dressage is uniquely positioned to appeal to data lovers just by nature of the scoring system and systematic approach to each level and its own subset of tests ;)

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  11. I can't wait to see how you guys come out in the spring! You're so judicious with your practice. I feel like he'll score really well once he's more confirmed in the contact:)

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    1. thanks yea - getting that contact more confirmed will be a big difference maker, i think. it's especially the movements that come in rapid fire succession (like free walk - medium walk - trot, for instance) that are most susceptible to issues with the horse not really accepting the contact. we'll figure it out slowly but surely tho!

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  12. Love it <3 You found the mean in your dressage :D

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    1. yasssssss, and the median and mode too!!! :D

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    2. holy moly lady, that is some TIME. i'm blown away by how many MASSIVE times there have been this year!

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  13. The statistics title quip and data within this entry soothe my soul. You are the master. You have patience in spades to comb thru all things to put this together - and I fucking love it lol

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    1. aww haha you're too generous. i really freakin love this stuff lol. and what i lack in finesse in the saddle i can make up for in studying the fuck out of our performance to glean new insights on how to keep on getting better. like -- just from doing the above, it's pretty easy to see 2-3 movements that could make a meaningful difference in overall score if i can clean them up by even half a point. not bad!

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  14. Dressage scoring frustrates me. Part of me would like to do more dressage training and some small shows but the scoring is ultimately so subjective. I also have issues sometimes with disassociating scores with criticism to my horse/me as a rider. So I may never actually show. But dressage itself is important and the stepping stone to literally everything else so I still plan on working on it.

    My time last night was 8:00. It was a struggle to hold the last 12ish seconds but I set a goal and wanted to get to it. I'm going to try to get one more push in tonight but 8 isn't too bad if I can't get more.

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    1. congrats on a solid time and good luck pushing for more tonight!!

      regarding dressage scores being so subjective.... honestly i'd encourage you to give it a go at a couple shows before actually deciding you dislike the scoring or find it flawed. i totally understand being reluctant to lay yourself open to the criticism of others -- but most judges (esp at schooling shows!) are legitimately trying to be constructive and most point out the good with the bad.

      all judging is at its most fundamental based on an individual's perception, and therefore subject to that individual's opinions. but i've found that most judges are pretty consistent in their application. few schooling show judges that i've ridden for would award the same exact score to me and charlie for the same exact test -- which can cause some issues with the type of analysis demonstrated above where i'm comparing scores from many different judges.

      BUT. and this is really important here: the vast majority of judges will put riders in more or less the same order from best to worst. one judge might be more generous and another more stingy in the actual numeric scores - but they can basically all tell good from bad. so i've gone from a 35 under one judge to a 28 under another judge for tests that both put me in 4th place. so, ultimately, they were more or less equivalent efforts despite the divergence in score. this is also why it's so important to not compare scores under one judge at an event to scores from another.

      so.... long and possibly unnecessarily details response later..... i would really encourage you not to combine your own feelings about disassociating scores from criticism with a belief that the scoring system is itself subjective beyond repair.

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  15. A.) This was a crazy educational post! and B.) I ADORE that first photo of Charlie in the barn. The colors and contrast are just - NICE!

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    1. thanks, that's one of my all-time favorites of him too ;)

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  16. I really want to do some dressage shows without the jumping part... only because our scores continuously went downhill the further we went through our season... I'm sure it's the both of us saying, "Where's the coop!"

    I love your findings. Very very interesting and makes it easier to pinpoint what to work on. Being super handsome isn't one of those though. On a scale of 1-10... He's like a 13.5 ๐Ÿ˜

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    1. you should definitely do some stand alone dressage shows!! or even tack on an extra test at a normal horse trial (they're not very expensive!). we definitely see improvement from the occasional dressage show and it's useful to have the opportunity to run through a couple tests back to back -- sorta like how at jumper shows it's helpful to get to just go in and do a couple courses instead of the one-and-done at the typical event.

      and yea, i definitely agree that there should be a category for "handsome" on dressage tests too!!! ;)

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  17. I am super impressed by your organization on this project!!

    <3 Kelly @ HunkyHano

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    1. ha the urge to analyze data runs deep over here ;)

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  18. Final time 8:12!

    Also that stats roundup is hella impressive and so freaking cool to see. Bravo!

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    1. ha thanks, i'm honestly pretty excited about it and unpacking what it means in our schooling moving forward

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  19. I love analytics like this ๐Ÿ˜‚ and it makes the progress more CONCRETE instead of just a feeling! My final time is 19:40!

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    1. yes i definitely prefer the concrete data - knowledge is power, right?? for me, personally, it's also really helpful to have solidly grounded expectations too

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  20. I'm so impressed by your charts!

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  21. I can't lie, these awesome charts and numbers make me ALMOST want to switch to dressage. Almost.

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