Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Stephen Birchall Clinic Part 2: The Return of the Double Bridle

When we last left off, I was belatedly describing a clinic with Stephen Birchall. I'd like to take a moment to return us to that moment, several weeks ago. Maybe not the part where I almost got launched out of a window, though...
One more time, because it's hilarious...
Anyway. At the end of my lesson with Stephen, I decided I wanted to spring for an additional half lesson the next day. I had some parts of 3rd level I wanted another eye on. I also wanted to ride in the double, my first time doing so in front of an instructor. I've been toying with the idea of showing in it regularly, so I figured it would be a good idea to have a professional eye on its use.
In lieu of having real media from this ride, I'll be substituting a hodgepodge of random photos of Pig in a double and other miscellany. You're welcome.
Additionally, I rarely school in the double. I worry about backing Pig out of the bridle. I can make a stronger correction or have a heavier connection in the snaffle. That can make some things harder, but also make working through a rough training day much less likely to result in a bloody nose for me. I'd say 95% of our dressage schooling is done in the snaffle.
Another large portion is done sans saddle... because I am super lazy.
When we walked in the ring, Stephen immediately remarked on the double. "Ah! Wearing his big-boy bridle today, eh?"
Basically.
I replied that I was toying with showing in it, as it seems to help me keep Pig's brain in his head. I explained I use it mostly to get him to lower/lengthen his neck, which helps me to keep him from being in a false high frame and getting stuck there. Stephen totally agreed, and said he wanted to see us warm up and do a little canter work.

He immediately nailed me on needing to keep my heels down further, with my legs longer and my calf on more. Then he reminded me that my hands need to stay quieter. While my horse takes some finicky hand work, I need to ensure I'm not noisy when I have no need to be. That just overloads Pig's oversensitive brain. Stephen also yelled at me at least 100,000,000 times to keep my snaffle rein shorter. Ugh. Snaffle reins. Amirite?
"Bletch. Snaffles." -- Pig
Stephen then had us leap right into working on changes. We ended up doing several changes in a row, half passing to the centerline and changing from there; as well as changing across x on the diagonal, like in 3-3. Pig was a star for all of this work.
Pig's reaction to being asked for a change.
While he was obviously still a little nervous from the day before, he changed clean and on my aids every time. After the 4th change, though, he did begin to bring more tension into the movement. I'm not sure if this is strength issue (mental and physical strength), or just an excitement thing. Stephen suggested continuing my plan to do zero or one change in a show warmup, but encouraged me to add more changes to my warm up routine to get Pig more used to be asked for multiples in a single ride.
Pig's feeling on multiple changes.
Finally, we ran through all the trot work from the Third Level tests. All the bending work from the day before helped me get a bigger control on Pig's body in the lateral work. Stephen thought the half passes were very good. He also thought our bend in the renver was sufficient. He reminded me not to let us come too far off the wall in our change of bend.
"Bend change? Gross." --Pig
At the end of our quick (but full and productive!) lesson, Stephen and I chatted about what it will take to show this horse at 3rd.
"Who me? I'm fabulous. I don't know why you're worried!" --Pig
Stephen agreed with my general assessment that breaking 60% is an ultimate goal for this horse. He's old. His work isn't necessarily correct, just because of his age, mental and physical issues. Stephen helped me to figure out some ways to present Pig at his best, which includes showing in the double, thinking about tests even more strategically than I have been thinking of them, and making sure I only show under judges shown to be generous to horses of his hot-potato type.
So hot.
For our warm up, Stephen said I should focus on a lot more throughness and bend, but not to over prepare my changes. He mentioned changes seem to come best when I just ride the preceding movements and change of bend to the best of my ability, while letting the change just happen on my aid. Over preparing the change seems to make it worse. In this case, less is more.
Less is more, except when it comes to bits.
After our lesson, we headed out into the rainy field with the pups to gallop out the tight muscles from two days of change-heavy lessons. I think it helped everyone keep their brains installed.
That's one big happy animal family!

26 comments:

  1. That feedback is right on point. I would not have thought about some judges being kinder to hot horses but that is so true. Fingers crossed for the bronze!

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    1. Oh yeah. Those judges are out there for sure. Judges have a tough job, you know? It's hard to judge a big fluffy warmblood right next to a thin upright TB next to a quarter pony. The shapes can be so different, even when they are correct. There's a lot of training the eye, and some of them just have a better eye for certain types.

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    2. There are definitely judges that are more generous than others.

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  2. I am literally LOL'ing at those George Washington memes, SO FUNNY!!

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  3. I am definitely a fan of judges who are kinder to hot horses! Especially since they tend to recognize just how hard we have to work to make them presentable haha.

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    1. Ah, me too. I can't fault a judge for giving me lower scores than a fluid moving warmblood freak of nature, but it still sucks. Even friendlier judges won't score me over a better moving horse in the gaits, but they can often see through some of the hot obedience issues to the benefit of the rider/movement scores.

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  4. Bahaha I love Pig's reactions! Great commentary from Stephen that I'm excited to see you put to use in the show ring!

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    1. Maybe I should write it all up my arm so I remember...

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  5. Poor Pig. Much abuse. So torture. Dressage ick. Gallop yes.

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  6. Judges that can base scores on what is actually being done in the ring and not on fancy movement are a priceless commodity. Sounds like such a great clinic!

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  7. I love those history memes! Definitely judge hunt, you can use something like dressagedetective.com to find the more generous judges across the board. Fingers crossed all goes well this year for you guys!

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    1. Love that site so much! My favorite judges are actually at the show next weekend, but I am not scheduled to ride under them. Sadness! Luckily, the other two seem to be pretty generous, too.

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  8. First off the memes slay me everytime. Gah I learn so much about Dressage from just reading yours and Megan's blogs; judges and all that.

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    1. I always though hunters would be so much more objective if they'd let you see your score sheets... I think helps keep judges honest.

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  9. Nothing like those last minute clinic adds! ;-) Glad you got some good input and I look forward to watching you apply it.

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  10. Sounds like a really helpful clinic! How are you liking the Neue Schule bit on Pig? I am really curious to hear about it from a real person, not just a person in Welly World!

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    1. Lol. Those fake Florida people! ;) I actually LOVE it. I was really worried about finding a double setup for Pig, since he's so finicky about bits. This one is the Neue Schule Thoroughbred, and it's been beautiful since the first day. It's a super narrow plain mullen mouth (which you can see really well above! Ha!), which is exactly what I needed for his tiny TB mouth. He takes pressure on it super well and his mouth is soft and wet in it. Plus, it's beautifully made. The shanks are narrow and fine, which suits his more delicate muzzle. Honestly, I was impressed by how easy it was to get him going in it because he hated every other weymouth I tried! I would totally try a NS snaffle on him, based on how well the weymouth works for us, but the price is way too much!

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  11. Seriously judges can be frustrating but it was a good idea to school in your double!

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  12. he looks so sophisticated in his double! Glad you got some good feedback on it with Stephen. And you are so right about the "less is more" with those sensitive red-heads!

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  13. These posts make me itch for lessons where oh where is my money tree?! #sads

    But you guys are awesome, I am so glad day 2 went so much better and that the whole family got to go for some gallops!

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  14. You win BIG with the paintings memes all the time. They crack me up. That first one is used SO well, too. Sounds like you got great feedback to help in your quest! Good boy Pig for sticking with you through the marathon weekend.

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