Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fall Fair Hill: Dressage

Let's jump right into the dressage phase from Fair Hill, shall we? I don't always have an awful lot to write about this phase, and have never had much media to inspire pride and excitement either haha. Because let's be real: Charlie is nobody's idea of the ultimate dressage horse.

about to enter at A: braced topline but otherwise moving quite nicely for him! picture would be improved by a more correct rider but c'est la vie!
He's as long as a bus, kinda a stiff and shuffle-y mover, and on top of it all is slightly too big and awkward for the 20x40m sized dressage courts called for in the lower levels of eventing.

gosh i wish i had higher quality media bc this shot pleases me
But we've been chipping away at our flat work for a while now. And for a while now I've been swearing up and down that he's been showing real progress in his work. The only media I've had for the last two months have been screen shots from videos of us jumping -- but there have still been glimmers of positive changes in his balance and carriage to be found there.

again, not perfect but you can see the softness he's developing
Finally tho, I have a video chock-full of minutes on end of Charlie giving everything he's currently got - making it easy to find moment after moment demonstrating where he is in his flat work.

a good example of the judge's note about rider sitting too forward, and trainer C's note about my leg being too far back
None of it is perfect yet (nor likely will it ever be LOL): while riding I had the distinct sense that we were a little flat and wanted more energy. But he was so steady in his paces and rhythm that it didn't seem worth it to push that particular envelope at this moment.

pony is trying so hard tho <3
Mostly tho I spent every second of the ride enjoying the fact that Charlie was trying so hard. He was the steadiest he's ever been. Made reasonably sized circles. Showed off all our hard work on being able to reestablish good balance quickly after a transition (even if many of the transitions themselves, esp downward, still need a lot of work).

see we can actually bend left a little bit! just not... consistently haha
He let me push him a little here and there (like across the trot diagonals) to try to present the best possible picture to the judge. Executed his best canter circles to date in a test (dude, it is HARD for him to find enough balance for a 20m circle immediately after transitioning into canter), and was more or less prompt for every transition.

wooo canter transition sass!
What more could I ask?? To say I was thrilled with him would be an understatement. After our final halt and saluting the judge, I mayyyyy or may not have gotten a little teary eyed :')

ah but look how he cleans up!
I just knew that this would be our best test to date - regardless of score. It was everything I had hoped that Charlie would be able to do for this event, and made me so excited for Charlie's potential to continue developing as we both get better.

this pic reminds me strongly of isabel haha - with the slightly curled neck and little tail flick
Judge's strongest commentary on the horse mostly surrounded his bracing over his topline and lack of suppleness. Both points are absolutely spot on - tho those who've been following along for a while will recognize that the horse is light years ahead of where he started in both aspects.

goooood boy charlie!
The judge also had quite a bit to say about my riding - particularly my too-wide hands and too-forward position. Which, not coincidentally, were both aspects that dressage trainer C went after in our recent lesson. The too-far-back leg thing I think is a combination of my own bad habits and also the fact that I'm showing the effects of not enough saddle time in recent weeks.

right at this moment i started feeling a little misty eyed haha
The wide-hands thing is a function of A) Charlie being so green (tho not as green as he was so I need to update my riding style!); and B) my reins being too long. Even tho I was very firm with myself about holding on to a specific set of notches on my reins for this test, it's still hard to not let my reins slip during a ride. #workinprogress lol

some fairly pointed feedback here. but all right on target. score put us in 2nd after dressage.
Additionally, the judge saw a very distinct difference in Charlie's lateral suppleness from Right to Left. Specifically: we don't gots it going left. This is all 100% a rider crookedness problem. It's been an ongoing issue with me for so so long (I've been writing about it for literal years bleh) but Charlie is finally trained enough to fully reflect my entire riding style, for better or worse.

Ultimately tho I was absolutely thrilled with Charlie's performance with this test. And even more tickled when the judge rewarded us with such nice scores. Charlie isn't always very consistent yet, so I kinda don't expect our scores to always reflect his actual progress. Bc in eventing dressage it always seems like one little bobble is enough to kill the score for a full movement.

That's ok tho - it's gratifying enough to get this one nice score and know that the horse does in fact have it in him. And even better that the judge's remarks were basically all of a piece with what I already know, and what my trainers have already been trying to zero in on. Hopefully we'll be able to keep moving in the right direction!



Usually in recapping a recent event, I combine dressage and stadium into one post -- mostly bc the jumping seems more interesting to more people. So I feel like I need to include it in order to get ppl to read the dressage stuff too lol. But I'm splitting dressage into it's own post this time -- partly because it was Charlie's best phase at this event.

But also because we can actually use this horse trial as a 'measuring stick' to see where exactly Charlie is in his training after one year with me. A reasonable comparison would be his first ever dressage show with me, recapped here.

up next comes the jumping!! complete with more photos from Megan K!!
I'm honestly pretty pleased with the horse's development over the past year, and feel like this test was truly representative of the best Charlie currently has to offer right now. The same can't quite exactly be said for our jumping efforts at Fair Hill - they weren't his best. But it was at least indicative of his current level of training. More to come on that soon!

46 comments:

  1. Dressage always needs its own post. Just sayin. :D
    I can see such a change in the way that he's carrying himself and he's starting to lift his back and step under. He may surprise you with how far he could come in dressage work.

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    1. Ha I hope he does surprise me! The biggest change in how he feels is that he isn't really ever pulling on me any more, let alone pulling me down straight to earth like we might at any moment plummet to our deaths haha. And like you say - that's all a function of carrying himself more from behind. Still a ways to go in that regard but it is happening!!

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  2. omg he was phenomonal in dressage! I was running up to the hill to catch Charlie's test (Damn fair hill and the dressage rings being all spread out) from Jess's test and was panicking cause i COULD NOT FIND Charlie. (I didnt know she had gone in) But i was like damn that is one fine looking bay in the ring already. Umm it was Charlie. And I squeeeed like a little girl when I realized it!! YAY He looked amazing. Great job! I havent seen him go in person since July so 2 months later i can see the work you have put in and can't wait to continue to watch you two grow as a team!! YAY Charlie! (He is so damn huge LOL)

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    1. Ha thanks! You should look for the colorful coats!! LOL seriously tho glad to see you and glad to hear you saw so much positive change in Charlie since his last show! He almost doesn't actually look too big for that ring now - almost!

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  3. Go Charlie!!! It is such a great feeling when they bring it at the right time. Your hard work is showing through and I wouldn't count him out just yet in the dressage phase. He is coming along so well

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    1. Ha definitely! I hope to never count this horse out and really hope that he can be competitive in dressage. He's probably not ever going to be "fancy" in his trot, but he can be elegant and correct. The nice canter and walk ought to really help us out once we eventually get them more consistently balanced (esp the canter in such a small ring lol). It's very exciting!

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  4. So excited for you both that this was such an excellent test for you guys! It's always nice when the test you lay down is indictive of where you are in training ☺ and so fun to compare your progress over a year! Hooray!

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    1. Aw thanks! I agree completely that the ideal test is one that honesty reflects the horse and riders current level of training. Well ok I guess it would be *more* ideal if Charlie somehow morphed into Valegro in the ring but you know what I mean ;)

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  5. He looks fabulous! So many positive changes and the good moments are getting really good and more consistent! You've done a lot of correct basics with him and it shows. It's lovely to see :) And, just a little FYI, Duke and I didn't really click on the flat and make big progress until after his injury, so 3 years in? Dressage progress can be slow but it's always so worth it <3

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    1. thanks girl!! i'm so excited about how he's doing and even more happy that he's managed to retain so much training even with so much time off! and agreed completely that it's definitely worth the invested time and energy! i hope charlie can one day show off his stuff like Duke does!!

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  6. He is really starting to come into his own! Progress sometimes moves at slow dinosaur paces (haha) but he is really starting to show some real changes. Do you have recent conformation pics? I am curious how his muscles are developing and changing his overall appearance since you got him. Congrats on a 33.5!!

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    1. ha definitely - i'm 100% ok with a slow pace, bc it's just so gratifying to see the progress when it does finally happen! and no, i don't have any recent confo pics tho i really want to get some. the thing is, he actually doesn't look particularly great right now. he lost basically his entire topline with all the time off we had recently, tho of course there are still major changes from when he was immediately off the track. hopefully i'll be able to nab some shots soon tho!

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  7. wow he really looks great there. nice and relaxed and actually in front of your leg! and im jealous of your canter transitions :P

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    1. ha that was maybe the only part of the day where he was in front of my leg lol! but thanks - i'm super proud of him! and those canter transitions..... oy vey. some serious blood sweat and tears went into developing those. you can get a hint of what that work looks like from the one little teensy moment of sass he had for picking up the left lead lol....

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  8. WOW!!! That test was fabulous! No wonder you were teary eyed. He just keeps improving. Congrats Emma!

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    1. thanks :D he keeps getting better every day and it makes me so happy!

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  9. Really lovely, very solid test! You and Charlie look super! So well done :)

    <3 Kelly @ HunkyHanoverian

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  10. Long way from Dino Dressage! Great test!

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    1. ha oh have no fear - the dinosaur is still lurking in there, and reared its ugly head during warm up too. we'll be tip toeing around that dinosaur for a while yet, i think!

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  11. You had ME getting all teary-eyed at the end of that test! So, so, SO lovely and such a well-deserved result off all the hard work you've put in over the past year. Sir Charles is making a fine show horse indeed!

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    1. aw thanks :D he's really getting the hang of this whole 'horse show' thing too! it's so exciting! thanks for being there - it's always so fun hanging out with you at shows and i'm so glad i got to see you guys jump too!

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  12. Give him another year and I think he's going to be one elegant AF dressage horse. And if you ever want to do tradesies on having a too far back leg for too far forward hit me up.

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    1. omg i seriously hope so!!! i keep calling him my #FEH (future elegant horse) for reasons!!!!

      and yea, re: the leg position thing, it's funny bc i always used to park my legs out in front when i started with charlie bc he felt so downhill and stumbled all the time i thought i might imminently drill down into the earth's crust to my death at any moment. so now i'm kinda swinging too far in the opposite direction i guess? who knows. dersage is hard yo

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  13. After hearing your recounting of this ride Sunday I couldn't wait to watch it. Emma, he looks freaking incredible. Of course he isn't perfect, as you note, but omg - so much amazing change from the first tests months ago. Totally different horse in so many regards. He simply looks amazing. Relaxed, even, with so so many great moments strung together! I'm so psyched for you! =) Your hard work is so evident in every aspect of this horse <3

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    1. aw thanks!!! it's kinda crazy watching some of those old tests now lol. like yea it's the same horse but he's really made so many positive changes! i'm so glad too bc there were times when it was hard to really visualize what he could become lol. so far so good tho!

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  14. Oh, Emma he looks fantastic! You can absolutely see the improvement he's made compared to some of the last tests. Yay progress! And no, he wasn't perfect all the time, but his transitions were more fluid, he looked more balanced, and his trot was so rhythmic. I'm so glad your score reflected that!

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    1. thanks! everything just feels worlds better these days and i'm so pleased with how his trot is progressing!

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  15. I like seeing and reading about your dressage progress!
    There is definitely improvement.

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    1. it's so exciting that it's really truly finally happening! i was half wondering whether i was fooling myself in feeling like we were getting somewhere lol

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  16. He looks fantastic, and there is very clearly so much awesome progress that has happened. I love watching you chip away at all the pieces that it takes to make Charlie (harder better faster) stronger.

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    1. thanks -- i'm hoping that it'll be a little bit like a snowball effect too, that as he gets stronger (harder better faster lol) he'll have more and more fun with dressage too!

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  17. His dressage reminds me of Cuna--not natural, not easy, but willing to give it a try. That makes all the difference, really. :-)

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    1. agreed 100%! for me, the most important aspect in my equine partner hands down is an ability to go forth and do the thing. doesn't have to be amazingly athletic or talented or whatever. just has to do the thing.

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  18. He looks so cool and quiet in the arena!! Well done to both of you.

    And oh my god, that arena looks SO SMALL with him in it!! He covers that ground like nothing.

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    1. ha right? even our free walks feel like they go by in a flash the way this horse's stride eats up the small court!!!

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  19. YES!!!! What fabulous progress in a year! Charlie may never be the "dressage horse" you envision in your mind, but damn girl you have improved his way of going SO MUCH! Don't underestimate what classical dressage can do for a horse. Wait until you look back in another year!!! Keep plugging along and he will surprise you! ;-)

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    1. i sure hope so! he goes so so so differently from my last horse, a 14.3 arab who was so gifted and fancy - the dressage came so easily to her! it's taken a big adjustment for me to figure out how to get the same kind of results from this big lumbering oaf lol, but charlie's been such a good sport about it! we'll make him elegant yet!

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  20. If only I could keep my leg back instead of chair seating all the time. Charlie has definitely improved. He looked a lot more relaxed in the test too.

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    1. ha yea i mean, there are pros and cons to every type of positional habit i suppose. the tipped forward body position tho is definitely not something i'd consider enviable tho! and yea charlie was super relaxed all day long - it was nice!

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  21. I totally know that feeling of tears of joy. Congrats on laying down a wicked test! Such a great feeling.

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    1. thanks :D it's been a LONG TIME since i had this feeling, and even toward the end with isabel the good feeling from dressage was completely outweighed by our issues with stadium so i maybe didn't appreciate it as much as i should have!

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  22. Idk....I think chuckles may surprise you with his dressage ability in a few years. You can do a lot with correct gaits and a willing horse, which you totally have! And I totally get the misty eyes. You've busted your butt and deserve all the success!

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