Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Things Come Together: Loch Moy 1

After Pig popped his splint on Wednesday, I crossed everything in hopes he would come sound by Saturday. Friday I slapped ice under Pig's shipping boot and we hauled over to the show grounds (10 minutes from my barn! I can't comprehend this convenience!). Once there, I hopped on to school.
Look! Mountains!
After not having ridden for a few days, I was surprised Guinness felt pretty good. I wouldn't have called him 100% sound on Friday, but he was filled with go. I didn't want to stress him any, so I kept our ride very short and mostly to the walk. I did some rising trot and canter (about 10 minutes total) in the rings and the warm up area just to loosen up Pig's back and make sure he was tuned up enough. Then we quit and watched my new horse show friends school their fractious younger horses, and enjoy the view.

That evening, I re-iced Pig's leg and gave him his last USEF allowed dose of bute. Then I headed home dreaming of good things for Saturday.
Is there anything worse than trying to wrap a wet ice pack to your horse's sensitive leg with an inadequate amount of vet wrap?
Both my classes (2-1 and 2-2, in that order) on were scheduled for mid morning. I knew I probably wouldn't have enough time between the two classes to give Pig a good rest. The plan was to ice his leg thoroughly the morning of, and right up until my ride time. While his leg wasn't really hot or swollen, the bony splint bump was still pretty sensitive to the touch.

With Pig braided, wrapped with an ice pack, and completely ready to tack up, I dressed and headed out to support my show friend and see how the competition rings were rolling along.
While watching my friend, I may have fallen in love with this gorgeous and hot Grand Prix Trakehner stallion (Elfenperfekt, by Peron). You can't blame me!
The low key and friendly atmosphere at Loch Moy (everyone, literally everyone, wished other riders good luck and a good ride all weekend!) set me at ease for the day. Even if Pig showed himself lame and I had to pull, I felt that coming had been a good choice. Getting out into the show world in a new place just felt right.

Luckily I didn't have to test that feeling, as once I got Pig into the ring he felt great. The entire (long!) walk to the show rings was on dry and hard ground. But Pig attacked it with a big stride and swinging back. I listened closely to his footfalls, and was happy to hear him slamming down his left front just as hard as his right with every stride.

Still, I didn't want to push anything. Knowing I had a long ride ahead of me with two close together classes, I planned to walk the majority of my warm up. I did a lot of suppling work in the walk: with changes of bend and alternating turns on the forehand to get Pig's back and hind end stretched out, and turns on the haunches to encourage sitting and shortening. I kept Pig in a much lower neck frame, insisting he stay in the contact and think about what I was asking, rather than look around and make his own decisions. Finally, we did a little rising trot, focusing on changes of direction and taking half halts without dropping out of the contact. After another stint of walking and suppling, I asked for the canter and we schooled one simple change and a tiny bit of counter canter in both directions. I just wanted to ensure we were thinking counter canter, not flying changes.

Feeling confident, I headed to the show ring at the walk, again thinking of maintaining Pig's soundness and mental calmness. I laughed to myself as I walked around that I was channeling my inner Laura Graves, as she is known for walking her Verdades around the edges of the competition rings-- in contrast to many other top competitors who trot around testing buttons and jazzing their horses up.

When the judge blew the whistle, I did a couple of sitting trot circles to feel that Pig was still sound and with me, and in we went...

We ended up with a 60.909% and 2nd place out of 4. I was very happy with the test and my horse. It was very conservative (on purpose), but I was impressed with how quiet Pig was in the contact and in the movements. I didn't have to push hard for anything. That said, if I had insisted he stay a little more forward I think he would have been more consistently in my hand and less waggy in the head. His sensitive mouth leads him to wiggle his head around with my every movement, especially if I don't have him collected enough.

We had a slight issue in the first canter depart, which I attribute to losing my focus for a moment. I wasn't quite prepared to ask for the right lead when we got to the letter, but sprang on the transition anyway. My fault entirely, and Guinness certainly made his displeasure known.
(Click to make bigger, but I can't promise that makes it easier to read...)
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After this test, I jumped off Pig, loosened his girth, and we relaxed next to the rings while I looked over my next test. With 20 minutes until my go time, I hopped back on and did another walk-heavy warm up. Because 2-2 asks for much more counter canter, I did school that a bit more. Still, I wasn't pushing too hard. When Guinness broke in the counter canter in the warm up, I didn't push the issue. He didn't try to throw a change, so I figured we could manage to finesse things in the ring instead of school them to death. He felt a little better in the contact, and a little more forward heading into this test.

Again, I headed in at the walk. I really liked how the walk tactic had worked out for us before. I picked up the trot and circled a bit at the far end of the ring before the judge blew the whistle, hoping to get Pig a little more forward and in a relaxed collection.

Unfortunately somewhere between entering the ring and the first real movement, I had a memory malfunction and forgot the first medium trot. You'll see us go straight into the shoulder-in instead. The judge blew the whistle and I immediately knew where I went wrong. I guess I thought I was doing 3-1. While a little upset with myself, I giggled and yelled back to the judge, "Oops! My fault! I guess I just really wanted to get ahead of myself!" She laughed, we lost two points on our already unspectacular medium, and life went on. Oops!

(Sorry, my phone ran out of memory in the middle of this video and I don't have the whole test!)

I was even more happy with this test than the first. Guinness felt pretty darn good here. The only real issue we had was in the first turn on the haunches, where I stopped riding his shoulders and he escaped out the back. I pulled it together for the second one (which has been the more difficult recently), and we managed a 7 on that one. I am pretty proud of my save there, as those movements are coefficients.

While Pig wasn't forward enough to really get the scores he's capable of, just like in the first test, we rode an accurate test I am proud of. I feel the scoring was very fair. I am also pretty sure the 7 awarded to Guinness on Submission in the collectives is a first for us at this level. I can't explain how proud I am of that.

We scored a 60.385% and placed 3rd out of 5.
(Click to make bigger, though scribe's writing is still very difficult to read)
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Being critical of my Saturday rides, my half halts didn't want to come all the way through. I could have used a little bit more work at the trot and canter getting Pig's butt to tuck more and get him to collect just a bit more. He tended to drop his back in our downwards quite a bit, instead of staying round and taking more weight behind.

However, I see glimpses of the more relaxed and strengthened horse I've been working on developing. In the last centerline of 2-1 Pig looks strong, and in our simple changes he stays quiet and with me. The medium trots also show a horse willing to push a bit without hollowing his neck and back entirely. With Guinness, quiet and round has been such a serious challenge. I am happy to see it in the ring, even if the tests aren't stunners!
If your test can't be stunning, at least kill them with consistency. Right?
When I watch both of these videos today, I can see how stiff Pig looks. I'm not sure I'd call him lame (and I know what I'm looking for), but he definitely looks labored at times. I can't say for sure if it is due to not being forward enough or the splint, but I am inclined to think it's from not being forward enough. I know that under saddle he felt pretty okay most of the time and willing to move forward and do the movements. I'm glad I didn't push him to be more forward, though I think our scores would have been better. He felt happy, and I am proud I worked with him at a pace where he was comfortable.
A happy and tired Guinness observing his favorite horse show tradition, the hours-long afternoon nap. Gotta get that beauty sleep in!

17 comments:

  1. Awesome job! I'm glad you were able to get out and experience the new area and show atmosphere there! AND RIBBONS RIBBONSSSSSSSS

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    1. Srsly. These are such freakishly fantastic ribbons!

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  2. OUTSTANDING. Great job. Once again, I love your write up and I love your attitude about bobbles during your tests. Congrats, you two!

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    1. Thanks! We're always going to have bobbles, but it's nice to see some improvement.

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  3. ooooh those ribbons are amazing!! nice job riding Pig the way he needed to be ridden at that point, and getting such nice tests out of him. sure, pushing for more might always potentially reap more benefits, but there's also a very real risk involved. seems like you found a nice balance for him on this particular day! fingers crossed he keeps developing that strength and willingness to flaunt it in the show ring!!

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  4. Nice job! I like your walk tactic- especially making Pig work at the walk! For some reason, this never occurs to me as an option at shows. (This is why I love your blog! So educational.)

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    1. The idea to walk so much might have been divine intervention. Maybe I should think about going back to church... ;)

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  5. Beautiful ribbons! I'm glad he stayed sound & consistent and y'all had good tests.

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  6. SO HAPPY! I'm so glad he stayed sound, phew! He has to keep things interesting one way or another...

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    1. Always. It wouldn't be a show if everything didn't go disastrously wrong right before. Right?

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  7. So glad he was sound! I LOVE the quiet Guinness. Yes, he needs more forward and I think that will take care of that stiff look, but he's so quiet and relaxed and willing that it's completely forgivable. Any of our horses that have a tendency to get super tense go through a "quiet" phase in the dressage ring so they get used to relaxing. But solid tests for sure, congrats!

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    1. I love the quiet Guinness, too! I know he's capable of being more forward and quiet, I'm just not confident enough to ask him to be so in the ring yet. Especially not when I have questions about his soundness!

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  8. Very nice tests! We also do a lot of walk warm-up... for some horses it just seems to work better. Glad all your hard work has been paying off!

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  9. I'm SO glad you were able to show after all, and man, those ribbons are FANCY !

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