Thursday, May 14, 2015

The realities of Third Level

Third Level introduces a few newly required skills to the Second Level repertoire. You may have heard of them:

1. Half Pass
2. Flying Change
3. Extended Gaits
4. Release of Reins at Canter
5. Renvers (note: this used to be part of Second Level until the 2015 test revamp)

So. Yeah.

For 3-1 (the only Third Level test I feel capable of semi-accomplishing right now), the only new movements are the half pass, flying change, and extended gaits. But let's not also forget the increased collection expected for Third. Now, let's break down how I feel about those…

Half Pass
Pig is baller at half pass. He's better at the canter than the trot, but is honestly capable in both. He picked these up super quickly and is a total champ. If these go poorly it's either a connection issue or total rider error. I need to keep my head in the game 100% and make sure Pig is listening to my outside half halts and leading with his shoulder. The bend and sideways is the easy part. As you see below, the issues come in when I brain fart something and stop supporting the outside.
And this is our bad direction... 
Flying Changes
Let's be honest, I ride a TB. He's always had changes, but they weren't "dressage" changes. I'm not 100% sure what kind of aid he was taught to do changes, as his were automatic by the time I got him. Two years ago I worked hard to train out the auto-changes. When I started asking for them again, he wasn't quite sure what my aids meant and would get very nervous when offering a change -- worried it was wrong, I assume. I tried to build up his confidence by heaping on the praise whenever he would make a change attempt, even if all he did was leap up in the air (and come down on the same lead) or change a stride or two late behind. I just wanted him to equate my cue with a change.

At this point he understands the cue, if I ride very clearly. However, he's a smart cookie and has started to assume I want auto changes again, and will begin to anticipate the change. His intelligence shows through in that he understands and readily accepts a counter canter cue to mean "no change here." Unfortunately, riding him straight into a change can make him pretty bargy and bolty (extremely scientific dressage terms there). I have to have lots of half halts and ride with an open and forward seat, without leaning at him to ensure he stays over his hocks instead of impersonating a dolphin.
Dearest Guinness. It's a "horse" show. Not a "dolphin" show.
The big things for me to remember when it comes to show time are: 1. The flying changes are a separate score, meaning I can totally flub them and be okay on my other movements. So I shouldn't panic if we totally blow them, as we probably will. 2. Don't school them too much. Pig will get too anticipatory. Plus, the early changes are usually the better ones. Do one or two so that he remembers I can ask for them, but that's all. I'm not going to fix any issues at the show. 2. Collect, collect, collect. And sit up. And half halt. And aid clearly. Keep a clear mind and this will come together. 3. Straighten with tact, and move the shoulder out of the way. Most of the time, the position of the shoulder dictates whether the change is clean.

Extended Gaits
This one is a total wash. We've only ever been mildly adequate at medium gaits, so the extended are going to be lucky to pull anything over a 5. I have to ride much more forward and in the front of the saddle than I feel capable of right now, and Pig needs to be a bit more flexible and balanced that he really feels. Right now, if we get them, I lose the connection. Bleh.
If we get anything half this good, I'll be pleased as hell.
Increased Collection
I'm actually feeling pretty good here. We worked on our canter collection hard over the last month, and it is in a really good position. The trot collection is much better, but probably still not to the level the judges want to see. If our connection is better than we had in April, I'm hoping we can pull off "adequate" collection.

I guess it's obvious I'm not expecting to go in and rock out 3-1. However, I wouldn't have signed up for it if I didn't think we had a chance to take a crack at it. I'll be thrilled with a score above 50%, and don't really expect a score toward my bronze at all. However with my move making this my last definite chance to ride 3rd this year, I had to leap at it.

I'll leave you with our awesome half pass right.
Now, don't panic...


26 comments:

  1. LOVE these gifs! You guys will be awesome at Third Level :)

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  2. I was explaining to my husband how you were moving up to Third this weekend, and all of the stuff that you'd have to do in the new test, and he just said, "Wow. That sounds really hard. I don't think I could do that."

    That said, you CAN perform all these movements, even though they aren't 100% polished yet! I think you can get at least a 5 on most of them, which is not embarrassing for your first try at Third!! Go get 'em. :) I'll be channeling your dressage skillz as I putter around my BN test this weekend!

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    1. We can do it. We can do it. We can ... ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh *cue psycho babble and laughter*

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  3. Ahh I want to know about it the SECOND it happens, I feel very impatient about this haha GOOD LUCK!!

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    1. I am also feeling VERY impatient about this whole thing. And slightly nauseous...

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  4. I just recently looked at the Second level tests wondering if I could move up to them by next year and couldn't get the screen closed fast enough for fear of passing out, so this looks beyond daunting to me and I give you HUGE props for having a go at it. Based on these gifs, like you said, you are in position to have a good shot at it, even if it doesn't go perfectly. Also release of reins at the canter? That's a thing I will be expected to do? Heaven help me.

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    1. Release of reins at the canter is our favorite thing! Pig is all "Finally! I'm allowed to show off my self carriage instead of 'following' the hand. Pfft. Easy." Of course, the moment I think something is easy, 5000 reasons I'm doing it wrong tend to show up. :)

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  5. I love your description of the changes. If I get Mikey straight I end up with the same bargy bolty horse too. We should really do a pas de deux. No worries about mediocre extended gaits, I don't have an extended and Mikey's medium is barely enough, if it's a good day, and it's all usually disconnected (A reason I'm sure for it being barely there). We usually get 5 or 6, depending if the judge is hating us or feeling sorry for us. I've gotten used to getting 0-4 on my changes, which becomes cringe worthy when you double the points, so I figured my 57-59% with botched changes means we're doing well! Good luck!!! I hope you get your scores!!

    BTW, I'm looking at going to WPDA in PA on Aug 15/16 as there's a home show that I really need to support the weekend of the Sept 12/13. I don't think it'd be too far for you if you're close to Morven... if you want to meet up and stable together!

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    1. We'll see. That might be a little too close to our move for me to be up and running yet. September is a little more feasible, but I totally understand supporting a home show!

      I love the feedback from others who have ridden the level. It think once you get to 3rd, too, thoroughbreds start to look a bit different from the warmbloods and the movements seem "different". You really have to ride them correctly to get full points, and that can be so difficult. Thanks for the confidence!

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  6. I'm a bit daunted by intro tests right now sooooooo

    You must be some sort of superhero.

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  7. i am so so so so SO excited for you! and these gifs are amazing. you always make it sound so very reasonable and attainable - i really hope the stars align for you and Pig :D

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    1. I do? Man, here I've been wonder why dressage is so weird!

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  8. You got it girl!! I am going to think wonderful, pumped up dressage songs all weekend for you. :D

    However, I will admit to being utterly terrified of First-1 soooo... yeah.

    (Okay and just because I'm super happy about it, Murray came with track changes that ARE dressage changes. He changes behind and in front at the same time. I NEVER get an auto/hunter change out of him, if it's anything half-assed it's just that he only changes up front. I never, ever, ever ask for a change though because I don't want to confuse him just yet! Simple changes ftw.)

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    1. Ah so jealous of Murray's changes! The auto changes were awesome when we played in the jumper ring, but are no fun right now...

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  9. Girlfriend you will score at least a 60. You and Pig look so much better than I did when I first did 3-1 and we managed a 60. So I have no doubt you will get that score for your Bronze! :) We are in barn J by the way! :)

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  10. This is the most fantastic true life gif post ever. I bow to your gif skillz.

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    1. Hey, if you aren't great at riding, at least be great at posting clips of your riding. Amirite?

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  11. Sometimes you just have to get out and DO IT. And you should -- I bet it will go better than you think and either way you'll learn a lot!!

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  12. you are an inspiration! I can't wait to hear!

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  13. Okay, 1) Sell tickets to the dolphin show ;) And 2) DUDE now your pic makes sense from this morning. ROCK ON. :D 56% you scored above what you anticipated. You are a baller!

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