Friday, May 12, 2017

Superstar to Shitcanoe: The Story of CDCTA Dressage at Morven (Part 1)

We came. It poured. We conquered. There were puddles. We lost our ever-loving minds. The end.
Photo by Liz Stout
This show has to have been one of the weirdest experiences I've had with this horse. I've literally never experienced him be so solid, then so bipolar with no warning. Let me explain in the clearest way possible, via gif...

Saturday's 10 meter circle left in collected trot:
A recognizable and respectable, if a bit stiff and flat, circle.
Sunday's 10 meter circle left in collected trot:
I don't know what the fuck that is, but it's clearly not a circle. Hell, it's not even a recognizable gait.
That's right! Saddle up, friends because this is going to be a hell of a rollercoaster recap (complete with obscene amounts of media). Actually, it's going to be a couple of rollercoaster recaps, because I have too many gifs for one post. Today you're going to get the Superstar part.
Put that side eye away, Pig. It's gonna be fine.
Photo by Liz Stout
Friday Jan picked us up and we headed into the show grounds at Morven Park. That sentence makes the whole thing sound easy, but really it was a little bit more complicated than that. First of all because my horse is now and always has been a total stress monster about hauling.
Exhibit A. Horse doing his cray-cray thing.
Secondly because my horse apparently forgot the minuscule amount of trailering expertise he'd built up last year. Meaning... in the whole time I followed the trailer (driven very gently by Jan's husband), I watched my idiot horse flail around like a drunk toddler with a severe inner ear infection.
Actual representation of my horse in the trailer.
I kept having to reassure Jan that he was okay. No worries, guys! Just my majestic dressage horse, unable to balance himself around wide sweeping turns. It's gonna be fiiiiiine. I'm totally gonna ride him later. (oh god.)

Finally arriving at the show grounds, I did decide to hop on and ride around at the walk. I figured it was better for Pig to get as much movement as possible before being shut in for the night. Plus, extra work on suppleness is always a good thing.
"I am a gooooood boy. I definitely did not fall down in the trailer 7 or 8 times on the way here. Nope, nope, nope."
-- Pig, probably
I wish I had video of our ride, not for myself but for the idiocy happening around us. I witnessed a lot of dumb baby horse antics and a lot of dumb rider mistakes (two separate riders getting too close to the arena boards, having their horses kick the boards, then having to quiet the rodeo the noise of kicking the boards created). Pig was an angel, for the most part.

As Lyra explained on Monday, Saturday was extremely rainy. I honestly was not worried about this in the slightest. Pig has always done exceedingly well showing in rain, even heavy driving rain. With a ride time for my single 4-1 class at 1:30 in the afternoon, there was no problem getting suited up and on the horse an hour before to start my warm up.
"I'm gonna walk. Forever."
Photo by Liz Stout
I knew going into this test that I only had a limited amount of time where Pig would hold things together at 4th level quality. I also knew that he would be very stiff and tight over his topline coming out of his stall. That meant I planned to get on 50 minutes before my ride, and spend the first 30 walking in and out of contact. The last 20 minutes I would pick up the trot or canter, test a few buttons, and put it away again. My emphasis was on getting Guinness supple laterally to help him unlock the base of his neck and back, letting collection come easier. This meant showing him in the snaffle, so I could better manipulate him in the contact.
"We bend, bend, bend to the left." -- Me
"I'll kill, kill, kill youuuuu." -- Pig, almost certainly
Photo by Liz Stout
I think the strategy worked out. By the time I went in the ring, I had Pig's complete attention and he was very on my aids. I lost his attention a little bit in the atmosphere of the ring, but overall he stayed with me. I have to credit the bonnet for part of his focus. It really helps cut down on distractions from wind and rain. I'm very glad I used it.

In the canter left, I had struggled to keep Pig's right from catching and causing a jerky step behind. A few times in warm up this caused a break, and I was pretty worried about it cropping up in the test. The first canter work in 4-1 is the left lead, and I didn't want to leave a bad impression on the judge of Pig's soundness. I started the test on the left lead, and Pig caught the leg going into the ring. I sat on his right hind hard, begging him to hold it together for the next 5 and a half minutes. Somehow he managed it, and we didn't have another big slip in the whole test.
I'm honestly very happy with how straight this centerline turned out.
The big puddles in the ring definitely caused some issues in the half halts coming into our halt, but overall I was pretty happy with the centerline (6.0). The judge called us out for not being square, which is totally fair. He stepped out with his front left in a big way. Up next, the medium trot in 4-1 asks you to come back to a collected trot in the middle, and at best I knew this was going to be bad. It ended up being pretty inverted, but maybe not as terrible as it could have been (4.0).
I never want to see that medium trot repeated in perpetuity on this blog ever, so instead have this mediocre half pass.
Our first half pass started well, but in an effort to increase bend I accidentally rode the haunches too far over (6.0). Then the 10 meter circle caught us by surprise (6.5). Thankfully I was rescued by the shoulder in, which was surprisingly steady (7.0).
Yeah, baby. It's almost like I've practiced these. (Lol. Haven't really trotted the horse in weeks.)
The extended trot was better than the medium (5.0), but was still inverted. Honestly, I just didn't have him in the bridle enough to get any sort of lift from his back or push from his hind end. Thank god we had another half pass (7.0) and circle (7.0) combo to save us, even if the shoulder in wasn't as good (6.5).
Look at that thing of beauty. LOOK AT IT! (God I love this horse.)
Our walk work was okay. I had been schooling walk pirouettes extensively, and they did score better than I thought they would (6.5/7.0 respectively). The real highlight of the walk was the extended walk (7.0), where Pig actually relaxed his back some and started to develop some swing. Color me impressed.
Almost like his warm up had been entirely walking on the rein for 40 minutes.
As I mentioned, I'd been worried about the left lead canter. I knew the depart would be tough. He often get's leapy in his first canter depart, especially to the left. I might have been so worried about it that I asked a touch late, but I'm so proud of his prompt and engaged reply!
7.0!
The medium canter felt under-powered and the transition was flat and muddled (6.0). We salvaged that by pulling our shit together and turning up the centerline into a beautiful half pass left (7.0).
Seriously. Can we just go sideways to the left all day long?
The flying change had emphasis on the "flying" part, but the counter canter was good. Plus, the change was on my aids (still a 4.0, though). We took that crappy score and transitioned right into an extended canter that felt very against the hand (5.0). The transition was a literal nightmare (4.0), and continued right to where I needed to make the turn up centerline and set up my half pass right (6.0).
Can we give this whole moment a round of goddamn applause? I am still not sure how I pulled a coherent half pass out of that mess of a transition. Jesus.
Somehow my last counter canter to single flying change scored a 7.0 and comment "nicely done". The change was late behind, but it was quiet and less "airs above ground esque", so maybe the judge just really liked our counter canter a lot.
Whatever. I'll take the 7 and run with it.
Up next I biffed the 20 meter circle showing very collected canter over X. Mainly because I was so concerned with getting a reasonable connection back that I forgot to sit the hell up and ride for collection. Instead we got this pathetic excuse of "very collected" (5.0).
More like "weirdly very slow". Ugh. We can do better.
Finally at the end of the test was the make or break movement of 4-1: the line of three changes on the diagonal. I'll be honest. The last time I schooled these was March, so imagine my intense surprise when I rode this line:
Holy. Fucking. Shit. That almost looks like it belongs at this level. We got a 5.0. Which is at least 1 point better than I thought we'd ever get on this movement.
The final centerline was a bit wonky, and Pig stepped out again in the halt (6.5). I couldn't even care. I was so happy with him in this test.
All the pats for the best horse. Also, holy shit his neck is massive.
Photo by Liz Stout
I left the ring knowing that test was literally the best thing we could have put together at this point in time. It felt so representative of our training right now. We can do individual things better, but overall he was very rideable and his training is very there.

Still, I was very sure the score would be in the mid to upper 50s. Imagine my surprise when I checked back later to find we'd scored a magical 60.133%! That's a score toward my silver medal.
Click for the gory details (updated to the right test, whoops!)
Thankfully I had packed the perfect shirt for just such an occasion.
Yeah. It says "Go Pig or Go Home". I have no shame.
I packed the perfect shirt for Sunday's shenanigans as well, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see it.

26 comments:

  1. I love the shirt! Well done you and well done Pig <3 So pleased for you!!

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  2. Congrats! Also that is the best shirt ever.

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  3. Wahoo! I really like that last line of changes, even if the second one is late. He's such a super horse!

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    1. Shhh. Most of his changes were late. The fact that one was super clean and the other was pretty clean was kind of a miracle. Related. Omg. I need to ride better.

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  4. I LOVE the shirt!! Congratulations :D

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  5. That shirt is amazeballs. Congrats on going out there and absolutely killing it. Wtg Austen and Pig!!!

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  6. AHHH I LOVE THIS. You guys pulled out such an incredible test, especially considering all the non-prep you had in the weeks before. It could have been a total shit show, but you killed it!!

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    1. Apparently I need to not ride my horse more. Haha.

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  7. Lol. Shitcanoe. I haven't heard that before but I love it. Glad your boy pulled through for ya!

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  8. Congratulations! That shirt is amazing!

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  9. Aw man everyone should do test wraps ups like you. I actually love the gifs.

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    1. I find them super helpful for showing exactly what I meant.

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  10. Congratulations!! Such a fantastic outing (so far) and that shirt is perfection!

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  11. Wahooo!!!! Congrads on the score, and congrads on getting out there and DOING it! Y'all are my inspiration!

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    1. Aw shucks. All we did was go out there and embarrass the hell out of ourselves. Lol.

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  12. Srsly, that neck! And huge congrats on the score toward your silver. You're totally gonna get there <3

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  13. I feel like this is exactly how Henry would be if Henry were like 100x better at dressage. Same struggles, same triumphs.

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    1. It's funny how the struggles stay the same as you go up the levels. They just get more complicated and intense. Why do we do this again? ;)

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  14. dude im so proud of you. also im really impressed by your lateral work. you look great in all these you weren't sitting all crooked with your body parts in eight places. i dunno as a dabbler in dressage i'm just really impressed and proud. red tbs are hard.

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    1. Aw thanks! I'll be honest, I was kind of amazed how put together I look in the photos. I felt a little like a mess. But not as bad as I did on Sunday...

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  15. That shirt is awesome, good job keeping it together under less than ideal environment and pressure and ufos

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    1. ufos? Unfortunate Fucking Overwhelming Shower? Yes. Certainly that.

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  16. Aw I just love this :D sorry I missed the test but Pig told me all your secrets later that evening anyway lol.

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  17. Congratulations! So happy for you and I LOVE that shirt!!

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  18. So proud *sniff* SO PROUD.

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