Friday, September 4, 2015

Things Learned: Lessons from Loch Moy

Look at those bright pony eyes!
Loch Moy was a huge learning experience for me. Not that I haven't learned from my other show experiences, but I feel I took a lot more tangible lessons away this time.

1. Stay at the walk as much as possible in the warm up. At home I'll often walk for up to 30 minutes starting a ride. I alternate directions, ride spiraling circles, and do lateral work all at the walk. My goal is to solidify my rein connection, before asking Pig to engage too much. Once he's comfortable and relaxed in the contact, I start to shorten my reins (again, at the walk) and ask for more engagement and suppleness. Finally, we will move into rising trot and ask for the same thing. Then canter. Then sitting trot. Then we are good to go.
"Walking is the key to my brain."
At shows, I'll often rush the walk work in the hopes that the trot will get Pig more in front of my leg. I need to be more patient and rely on the warm up that works at home. All the walking and careful management of connection translates to a more relaxed ride. Even if I am short on time, it is more beneficial to me to get a relaxed connection than to get Pig in front of my leg. With a relaxed connection, I can at least turn in an accurate test.

2. Circle the show ring at a collected walk. This brilliant tool is one I accidentally picked up this weekend, and will be keeping around. Riding such a hot horse, it can be very hard to dance the line of "brilliant" and "too hot to handle." Walking in a nice active connection helps me stay balanced between the two. The fact that it also helps conserve some of Pig's energy helps a lot, too! Walking keeps him engaged and thinking without wearing or stressing him out.
Just like Laura Graves.... ;)
3. After riding, leave Pig alone in his stall to decompress and sleep. I've known Pig gets grumpy at shows if he's constantly messed with. At this show, I made a conscious effort to leave him alone to decompress after his classes. He is very routine oriented, and enjoys getting a face rub after being untacked, a quick bath, and being left alone in his stall to nap for over an hour. Saturday we went to lunch and hung out with people instead of checking on the horse. He rewarded us by taking a hard nap and being a cheerful and curious buddy for the rest of the day. Note to self: the horse needs his naptime.
Yes. He piled up all the hay he refused to eat into a big fluffy bed and slept on it. He's basically a dog.
4. Two classes on the second day is too much. I've always done two classes a day at a two day show, and it has never occurred to me to do less. Pig is very fit, and physically the tests have never worn him out. However, I underestimated how much mental strain he was under when performing so long. Working obediently in collection for such a long time really wears him out, and I need to be more aware. From now on, we show twice on the first day and only once on the second. Feeling like I'm pushing an exhausted horse is really no fun!
"I am happy to hear you learned something... for once"
What do you think? Are there similar lessons you've learned from showing, even if you've been doing it for a long time?

24 comments:

  1. I went through a phase of entering schooling dressage shows specifically to tune my warmup. At home, we walk and walk and walk too, but that wasn't doing anything for us at shows. I finally figured it out after my first test of the day: I pulled Tristan back off the trailer, tested my aids, and then hand galloped his ass alllllll around the perimeter of the large warmup field. I got after him and pissed him off a little bit. That woke him up and gave him a little bit of a spark, and our second test was dramatically more forward than our first test. Too much paying attention to rhythm and suppleness and so on was giving us flat, if workmanlike, tests that were riding like molasses.

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    1. Ahaha! Omg! I would have NO horse in my reins if I did that! I see it work for lots of cooler blooded horses, though!

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  2. great takeaways. i'm pretty much still trying to figure out our dressage warm up. my first teacher encouraged me to get on very early, even if it meant just walking for an extra 10-15 minutes. but the thing is, i don't think my mare needs that. she is pretty good about getting straight to work, but then sometimes gets fussy after a long break. at our last show i biffed our timing and didn't get on until 15min before the test. and it ended up being perfect. maybe as we get into more and more complicated movements it'll be different, but for now, with the plain old w-t-c tests, i just need to test the buttons and we're good.

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    1. I think lots of horses need less warm up than we think they do, especially if they are confirmed at the level.

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  3. I still haven't figured out my warm-up. At home I do lots of walk work to start, to get him really in my reins like you said, but at shows too much walking to start gives the Tucker-brain too much time to look around and find things to be worried about. Haven't quite sorted out what gets him in both reins and in front of my leg without letting him get worried or tired.

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    1. Ooh. Tough one. How does he do with transitions? They amp Pig up, but work well for others.

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  4. I eventually learned that I need a LOT more time to warm up Gina at shows than I do at home. Trailering and standing around in a stall makes her more stiff than usual, so I need nearly half an hour of walking as opposed to her normal 15-20 minutes. It feels kind of dumb to get on an hour before my test, but those tests are usually way better than those with a shorter warmup.

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    1. Yep. Warm the stiffness out. That's basically my M.O. A good hand walk before my ride helps a lot, and I've had a lot of luck with standing wraps.

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  5. Your description of Pig needing his me time cracks me up. My old red man was that way too. It seems silly, but it's very important to them.

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    1. Sometimes I wonder if he likes me... ;)

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  6. I've learned I get worse the more classes I do in a day, so it's best to keep it short and simple.

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  7. All of my experience is with Mikey- he enjoyed a significant amount of walk time unless he was being a spooky bastard, so I had to know who I was sitting on. He also needed to canter around the outside of the dressage arena. I canter around until I'm a few strides from my turn at A, use the turn to transition to trot, and down we go. Canter was the key to a good trot. He also needed nap time, and I found I had to dump the second class on day 2 too. Something I found helped was feeding him alfalfa in the morning and between classes on show days- he'd already be tired so it would jazz him back up to normal.

    Now we'll have to do some learning on how Penn goes... I think he's going to be the "I need 20 min of warm up, no more, no less" type. But I don't know him all that well yet.

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    1. Pig takes a lot of canter to fully unlock his back so I can sit on it, but cantering around the ring is usually a recipe for a set of chestnut ears in my lap!

      Penn is such a laid back guy. I bet his routine will be different.

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  8. It definitely takes some time to figure out exactly what warm up is the best. Rico always warmed up super short. The best of everything was the first time he did that and by the second and third time he was like "seriously, we're doing THIS again? Ugh fine" and he'd half ass it. To get his full ass on board, we did a very minimal warm up. Sometimes the first time we did any lateral work was in the court.

    Still haven't figured it out with TC, that will take a while! Also ugh 4 tests in 2 days, I do not look forward to returning to the land of multiple tests in a weekend.

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    1. I think if Pig wasn't so stiff in his body, he would take a much shorter warm up. So now I feel I gave to balance his boredom with unlocking his tight body.

      I look forward to the day when one test a day is a-okay!

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  9. I love that Pig gets a face rub and a nap- very luxurious!

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  10. My horse was basically the equine version of Tom Cruise: he thought very highly of himself ;)! He would get very offended if I entered him in a easy class, and would pout dramatically during and after. Halter class? Forget it! He wouldn't talk to me for a couple of days, hahah!
    He really didn't like the show environment. He couldn't relax, his lower lip stayed pressed against his mouth, and he would tap tap tap his front hooves if his stable buddies left for their classes.
    I just stuck to teaching him tricks and taking him for long trail rides. He was much happier with that arrangement :)

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    1. Aw poor guy! Some of them just don't do well. I always feel lucky when I take Pig to a new location. He is such a gentleman and worldly traveler (once he exits the trailer...)

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  11. Yeah, a long walk warmup is key for us too, especially since Paddy isn't used to being in a stall and comes out stiff. Unlike you I often don't have a lot of horse so we have to make every step count... and most of them are walk steps! It's also super hard for ME to get motivated for that last ride of a two-day show, especially since we're usually one of the last classes to go. Ergh.

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  12. I learn SO MUCH about riding, myself and my horse at every. single. horse show. It's one of the reasons I love showing so much!

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