Sunday, June 30, 2013

No stops who cares about time faults

I had two goals for this show

1.  No stops XC or stadium

2. Don't get eliminated

We had a steady and fairly normal dressage test, Annie warms up well but she's still not obedient enough in the dressage ring to not want to have her head up and look at things.  We've been working really hard on our trot canter transitions and she NAILED both of those, even her right lead.  We ended up tied for 4th which was fantastic.

I got to meet Cobjockey in person for the first time, she was on her way to dressage and I was on my way back from dressage and the conversation went like this "Hi, are you cobjockey? I'm weanieeventer!" I'm sure it sounded odd to outsiders.

LAZ arrived in time to warm us up for show jumping which was a good thing as I was slowly beginning to panic.  All Annie wanted to do was nap behind the bit and then canter off and I didn't feel comfortable at all.  LAZ told me to select the gait I wanted, insist on it, and ride her into the bit in it.  I think she made us jump the stupid oxer more then we ever have before all shows totalled up together!





Annie was pretty good show jumping, she did gawk at a few things so I brought her down to the trot when she was on the wrong lead but we cantered most of it just fine.  Fence 7 I had decided would be our bogey fence.  It was larger (to me), very bright, and at the side of the ring with the most activity.  I keep my eyes up, my leg on, and RODE MY PATH.  Annie really wanted to wiggle out of it but I didn't let her.  It also really helped having LAZ standing right next to the fence, nothing motivates you more then not stopping at a fence right in front of your trainer!

Here's a nice picture taken by LAZ.





We ended up double clear after stadium (I usually have time so yayyy!!!) and still tied for 4th.

I was mostly calm for XC warm up, even when LAZ had me canter down to the oxer and vertical.  Sigh.

We cracked right off out of the start box and jumped fence one boldly.....  then ground to a halt.  Trees, bushes, open spaces, and mud.  I whacked and whacked and kicked and eventually motivated Annie.  Then there was some mud in front of fence two, more whacking and I think we jumped fence 2 sideways. 

Then there was more mood, stone dust footing, and A GOLF CART lurking menacingly in the woods.


Eventually I got her feet moving again and we jumped fence 3, the bank.  This is us looking like we're out for a park horse class and not a HT.  This picture kindly taken by http://myhorsesloveeventing.blogspot.com/  who I got to meet in person.


We made it into the open field and we were on a roll.  I could be heard saying things like "That's none of your business over there, you do your job" and "See the fence Annie?  Jump that fence!"

Then we came to our bogey fence
It was large, weird looking, the footing was torn to heck in front of it, and it was covered in mud.  I kept my eyes up, my leg on, and my hands down and I'll be dammed if we didn't just canter right over it.  WOO!!  Totally badass.

Then we slammed to a halt on the road to the water.  The footing was different, there were cars, and people, and so many things to look at!  WHACK! WHACK!  Go Annie!  Move your feet Annie!  Come on Annie! 

After I got her moving we snorted all the way to the water, which I decided to take the option on.  With as many time faults as we had I didn't want to risk a stop at the water even though she'd never had a problem with water schooling and at our last HT (which she'd schooled through before) I figured better safe then sorry.  Next time.

After that we were on a roll and found our groove, over the last two fences.  We finished with an obscene amount of time penalties but since everyone else had stops it was good enough for 5th place.



So, what have we learned? 

I was very very happy with our placing.  Annie has only ever schooled at LAZ's place and she doesn't get out much besides that.  We need to get out different places to increase her confidence in scary new places.  I'm better at riding my plan and I kept thinking "over under or through" in my head.  I didn't back off to any of my fences and kept my hands down.  Dressage will come with more miles.  I'm really looking forward to the next time we can get out there and attack it!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

The canter pole, or 5 steps backward.

One of the good things that came from my HT a few weeks ago were all the compliments I got on my position, confidence (ha, little did they know!), and a few compliments on Annie's flying lead changes.

Wait a minute.

Annie? 


Apparently.  I had pretty much decided we would just be doing simple changes or "counter cantering" as she would never figure it out.  So now I have a new goal. 

I found this excellent video of a rider teaching her horse changes.  I like the use of the pole to help with the jump in the change, and the guide rails to keep the horse straight.

 
 
So I set up a pole in the middle of the ring and set about cantering over it. To the left we were reasonable.  To the right... well I'm glad nobody was there to see it.  The few times Annie actually steered well enough to actually make it somewhere near the 9 foot long pole we ski jumped over it.  So much for working on lead changes.  We just needed to work on cantering without falling over.

I've been working on contact in the transitions or the more basic version of "can you please put your nose somewhere not straight up in the air?"  Annie has a lovely immediate halt (SLAM!) from the walk or the trot, I drop my seat, still my back and she stops.  Ask her to stop on the bit and she has a hissy fit (look, rhyming!).  She grinds, pulls, and shuffles until she gets enough rein to stop with her nose up.  I half halt, drop my seat, close my hands on the reins without pulling, put my leg on.  Squat.  Negative squat.  Just pulling.  I started holding onto the bucking strap to keep her from pulling the reins loose, at least it would give her some space to work in. 

She one upped me by physically pulling me out of the saddle and over the cantle.   

Oh, this will not do.  Not only is it ugly but I don't want to make a hard mouth and I'm obviously not getting through to her. 

I've also noticed that she tries to slam to the stop whenever she hits the bit and I think that I'm teaching her to stop by my hand which is sort of what I want but not really.  I don't want to half halt or accidentally grab on the way to a fence and have her obediently stop.  Lord knows we have enough problems. 

So I reached into my spare tack trunk (one of three) and pulled out my German.  Martingale that is.  Although I wish I had a stuffy German dressage master in there for help.  I like the GM because it is a self correcting tool.  When the horse is where you want them the martingale dangles loose, but when the horse hits the end the pulley action is immediate and self correcting without any hand use from you.  I end up using it for 3 or 4 rides and then pack it away again.

So on Annie it goes. At the trot every time she hit it she would try to stop so I had to remember to keep my leg on.

I had a really hard time getting her to pick up her canter because the martingale gently insisted on keeping her head out of the sky.  Not cranked to her chest mind you.  I took 3 canter transitions to the left and then gritted my teeth and turned to the right. 

Let's just say that when she tripped over the pole and came up on her right lead I praised her and called it a night! 

I put it on again the next night and it didn't come into play except for a few times at the trot so I'm hoping that it will be a gentle and easy way to explain to her that what I want is not bad and is actually possible. 

I will ride in it again on Monday then ride in my jumping saddle Tuesday and just do some hand galloping, then leave it off Wednesday and see what we've got. 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CAF June HT

Sunday was the CAF HT.

Saturday night I figured out that grass = eating or galloping to Annie but DOES NOT equal dressaging so we warmed up Sunday morning in the indoor. 

I was pretty happy with most of the test, she picked up both her leads with her head down (YEAHHH) but got slow enough in the right lead despite all my leg on her that I popped her with the whip and made her buck so we got a 3 for that movement.

Despite that we came in 6th out of 11 which was pretty darn good for us.

Stadium warm up was crazy.  I HATE warming up with a bunch of people and I would rather jump two or three fences and get out of there before I screwed something up but that didn't happen.   For some reason I have a huge problem with airy oxers in warm ups, I would rather not jump the oxer at all unless I am feeling confident up to that point which I was not at all.  I have more of an issue with the warm up oxers and less of an issue with filled in oxers in the ring.  This is how big my oxer was.  Or at least appeared to be.  It may have been wider.



I had to pull up several times because people either cut me off or were screaming their fences from down the road and around the corner.  I don't understand how some people don't call their fences, some do, and others call from a mile away.  I'd already landed in a heap over the vertical and crossrail and I was totally frazzled having to canter everything. 

So by the time I actually cantered down to the oxer I didn't WANT TO DO IT.  I think if I was able to take my time and trot to it I would have been fine, enough time to think and enough time to put my leg on and urge Annie onward.  I feel like my cantering courses is just now coming together and I feel like I'm out of control cantering the long spot of a warm up fence.  So we stopped.  Twice. 
Someone told me to do it again but by this point I was pretty much done.  Then someone was screaming at me to move as we stopped right in front of another fence and they were apparently not going to circle so I screamed at them.  Then apologized, but still. 

Luckily someone took pity on me and lowered the rail which I then trotted and the circled back and trotted it with the rail up.  After that I was pretty unnerved and only jumped another fence because someone made me.

So in the ring I let Annie stop at an oxer gate.  It was next to the warm up and she kind of looked in that direction and I figured she was going to stop anyway so I might as well not be belting down toward it so I let her.  The rest of the course rode well until the final fence, which a bunch of other people had problems with.  It was new and had words on it and came out of a corner and everyone else was stopping so why shouldn't I?  So once again I cantered down to it out of the corner riding backwards expecting a stop but not being proactive enough and she stopped. Twice. 

Here's the gate we stopped at.  After she stopped I did a circle and jumped it while yelling at her to GET!!!



So now I was officially out of any ribbon and got the big E.

XC warm up I went back to my official strategy.  Stay calm, jump as few fences as possible, then go.  I jumped the log twice and the crossrail once. 

LAZ had put gravel in front of the first fence to cover up an unsafe patch of ground and this proved to be the most challenging element.  Annie spun around, backed up, and then finally crept sideways around the gravel to climb over the first fence from a standstill.  More gravel before fence 2 and more snoring then she finally realized what we were doing and she was all business.  She pulled me toward all the fences and even trotted through the water without even a bit of hesitation.




So I'm happy with XC and Dressage but upset about show jumping.  I don't know what to do about the warmup.  Should I continue to do things in warm up that bother me because real eventers don't just trot two fences ignore the oxer and go in?  Or do I stay in my comfort zone in warm up until I'm comfortable enough to do more?  I'm fine cantering my course now because I've been doing that so does that mean that I'm not allowed to trot anything in warm up?  All I know is if I get rattled in warm up it's over. 

All photos courtesy of LAZ who not only runs the entire show but takes pictures as well!  As usual the food and the weather were fantastic!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Filling the holes I dug

Last Sunday I had another lesson with LAZ, once again we were with friends with green horses (wait a minute, I'm not on the green horse anymore?) so as soon as everyone warmed up I went out to gallop some XC fences.

Well, not gallop but we sure did canter everything.  Even if I had to carefully monitor my breathing to make sure I was still doing it. 

We cantered our first warm up fence and then proceeded to canter over everything out on the XC course without trotting anything first.  ACK!!!

A big BIG step for me.  After we had jumped all the starter size fences  LAZ had us jumping some BN fences which I immediately stopped riding over causing Annie to go around. 

Annie's not a dirty horse, and I think she's pretty honest, but she doesn't do things like lock onto fences without input and guidance from me and if my heart's not into it she's ok with not putting out the effort.   I do this thing where I am nervous about the size of the fence and what will happen if we stop in front of it or get in bad and don't make it over and I rationalize that if that is what is going to happen I shouldn't be gung hoing it down to the base since things are worse when you are going faster so I stop riding and let the stop happen.  Yet when I RODE those fences Annie wasn't concerned.  She wasn't wiggly, she wasn't spooky, she didn't over jump them. 

Same issue when LAZ upped my stadium fences after we took a break for the other riders to go.  Those were some BIG fences (somewhere between 2' 6" and 2' 9") and I certainly didn't march confidently toward them.  They were much bigger then the XC fences and while I thought I was fine cantering toward the line I decided a stride away I wasn't really that into it.  I was just fine with my small fences and I totally wasn't serious about moving up a division.    I made that line HARD.  I had to ride over the first fence, and then march down the line over the second fence and once Annie realized I wasn't really that into it my task became harder and I had to convince myself it was possible and Annie that I really meant it.  In the end the height wasn't really an issue for Annie, the motivation from me was. 

This was a tough lesson, requiring me to really step up my game especially when I was pushed outside my comfort zone with the height of the fences.  When I was confident and rode to the base with my eye on the fence Annie didn't have a problem, but she's not going over if she doesn't feel confidence from me.  So it was not a confident building lesson before a show by being an easy lesson where we coasted over everything, but a "these are the holes in my riding and when I plug those holes I have no problems" kind of lesson.   A very important lesson to learn because I obviously still have issues with not riding to the base and giving Annie a positive ride. 

On another note those stadium fences were the biggest fences I think I have ever jumped.  Or that Annie has ever jumped.  So that is an accomplishment in itself. 

I'm looking forward to the CAF HT.  My goal is to make time in Stadium by cantering everything.  My goal XC is to canter as much of my course as possible and not have any run outs caused by not riding.  I'd like to make time but not at the cost of losing control over my fences.