Monday, July 7, 2008

First Three Phase

Today was a big day for The Brego and I. We headed over to New Hampshire to participate in our first real three phase schooling event. We had been to a schooling event last year, but we were decidedly non competitive, trotting the entire xc course.

Today we were actually going to compete, or at least complete the event. Things didn't go as well as hoped, but they certainly went fair enough with Brego and I winning a fifth place ribbon and earning reasonable scores.

In dressage we scored 42 penalty points which amounts to a 58%, our lowest score ever. The test was not really that bad, it was accurate and obedient, but Brego was definitely hot and completely over the whole dressage thing and so we both performed poorly. The more I tried to push him forward, the worse my position got, and the worse he did as well. The judge, to say the least, was unimpressed. In fact, she couldn't manage to find a single positive thing to say about us, either verbally after the test or on the score sheet. Other horses, in inverted frames, who broke from the canter during the test scored higher than us. Such is life in the dressage world, but it definitely set the tone for the rest of the day.

Cross country was the phase I was most concerned about, since Brego tends to be very looky and slow. By the time we were set to enter the start box, it was very hot and humid. I knew I would have trouble getting Brego going, so I wore my nubbin spurs. Boy, did he listen to those! We came out of the start box with his usual lethargy but after a few good kicks, he was off to the races and stayed in front of my leg the rest of the ride. He jumped everything very well, in stride and without hesitation. He was a complete machine on course. I was so proud of him.

Last fence on cross country

Stadium jumping was 15 minutes after cross country. I made the mistake of dismounting and loosening his girth to let him recover from cross country while my wonderful family sponged him off. Usually the loosening of the girth is his sign that his job is done. And that's pretty much how he acted during stadium: What, I have to work again?? He knocked down all three of his warm up jumps and the round itself was sticky and ugly. To add insult to injury, there was a rolltop on course, which we have not schooled since the ill-fated refusal at the hunter trials, so I over rode it and we got a rotten distance. The good news is that he jumped it fine, but then proceeded to knock down fence 6 off a bad turn. We made it through the rest of the course without too much trouble, but it was not a great round.

The distance to the rolltop was my fault, and the subsequent falling back was not fun

So we ended the show with 4 jumping faults in stadium for a total penalty of 46 points, which was good enough for 5th (out of 12, four horses were eliminated).

The good:
Brego got all his leads, both on cross country and in stadium. As the first show where we had to do all three phases in one day, it was a pretty big success. We did not get eliminated, and even though he was tired and fell asleep at the wheel during stadium, he jumped well. We were well prepared, neither one of us was overfaced. In fact, I thought cross country was a little ho hum, even though he rode very well. In fact, Brego was a little too relaxed at the show, and needed a LOT of work to get him going.

Which leads me to... The bad:
Man, Brego was very nonplussed about the whole thing and used the dressage test (and hence my inability to beat the crap out of him) to just drift farther behind my leg. I did pop him a couple of times during the test, but the damage was done. The judge was very unkind about our performance.

Watching the videos, my riding is pretty poor. My leg is vertical (mostly), but I am so toed out that sometimes my toes rotate past 90 degrees, if that's possible. I don't actually realize I am doing it over the jump, so I don't even know how I can bend that way. Also, my hands were pretty bad, lots of elbows out. And of course, driving Brego around makes my position all squatty and gross. It's a total bummer because I want to be proud of us, but I just expect more from us. Brego can definitely perform a better dressage test, he does it most days of the week at home. And all the work I have been doing on my position jumping was seemingly forgotten when I needed it most. It's pretty frustrating. I want to ride better so badly, and I take lessons and practice all the time. But somehow, I can never put it together when I need it.

Anyway, it's good to get the first show out of the way and I feel like neither one of us are a danger to ourselves on course. But I also realize I have a tremendous amount of work to do before the big show August 17th if I don't want to be wasting my efforts. A 42 in dressage is not great and at my level, everyone goes double clear so I can't get rails in stadium. Not that I am out to win, but I feel some level of pressure to perform well to prove Brego and I can be eventers. Sure there were Thoroughbreds flipping out and getting eliminated, but that's expected. Show up with a draft and you better have done your homework to be taken seriously. Or maybe that's just all my perception...


Anonymous said...

I am sorry it has been so hot and humid for your events/shows lately, I am hoping for cool weather at your next one!

And I am excited to see you guys keep climbing up the ladder of performance because I know you will just keep getting better and better!

~ Jax

McFawn said...

Sounds like you had a respectable outing. I think you're doing awesome. Don't sweat it about the dressage and the judge--lots of em don't have much nice to say.

I'd work on using a whip more often to back up your leg in your dressage work. DO NOT escalate your aids by wiggling your foot, digging in your heel or using spurs (I understand the need for them for CC but try to avoid them in dressage). Don't let the horse fool you into thinking he NEEDS all this encouragement to go forward! He doesn't! The more slow/sluggish the horse, the more you need to work on lightening the aids and transitions. Lots of perky trot walks halt walk.

When I first started dressage on my TB, I was a' whomping and jerking in the saddle to get him to go. Some good instruction and ALOT more careful use of the whip and now he's go go go from the get go. Sorry for getting all instructorish--I just have been there and know what its like (both a non-forward horse and being slammed by dressage judges!

Beckz said...

I agree with what Mcfawn said exactly, I was going to say the same thing. I think you are being quite tough on yourself eh, sounds like you have made phenomenal amounts of progress since last time you competed, when the cross country was no fun and you had no brakes?? Remember??

The thing with position is that it takes a long time to change your muscle memory. In the pictures I didn't see anything that jumped out at me. I didn't even look at your feet until you said something. You are an eventer, its balance and timing that matter more than have your toes forward. It will improve! Give it time.

Well done. I'm so proud, and Brego looks awesome in his pictures.

Daun said...

Thanks for all the encouragement, everyone! You are all right, I need to just chin and keep working. We are making good progress, it was just not our day to put it all together.

At home, we do school forward forward forward on light aids. The show atmosphere was distracting, and I did not school as long before the test because I wanted to save his strength. This is all part of learning how to play the game with all three phases in a single day. There were some good lessons learned.

Thanks again everyone. I truly value your opinions and have come to really respect your experience!

Wiola said...

Wow, and I thought I am very self-critical!
I'm not really familiar with the level you rode so not sure what standard to expect as far as dressage is concerned but I hate the fact the judge didn't tell you anything positive. After reading the text I expected to see some pushing and shoving but all I saw was a relaxed horse in natural outline being front heavy now and then, looking accurate and rhythmic most of the time. If he felt as lazy as you say then you did a great job as I have seen people overriding more on horses that do actually go.

The turning of the feet - SO many top show jumpers do this to various extents that it is almost part of the sport ;) You are more inclined to do this on a lazy horse that is slow over the jump.
I would work on your elbow-hand going forwards in first instance rather than back.

Well done for achieving the 5th place!! It means there were only 4 combinations better than you. From what I can see on your videos your improvement is massive. I am most impressed by the changes in your dressage position and Brego's way of carrying himself.
Keep up the good work, it is said we are always three steps ahead with our form at home in comparison to the one when out competing.

Daun said...

Thanks very much! Your input is invaluable and of course, you are correct about my elbows and toes.

I was participating in the entry-level in the US, Beginner Novice, which has jump heights of max 2'7" (79 cm). The dressage is similar to Training level USDF where it's simply walk/trot/canter on 20 m circles. Obedience and accuracy are paramount. Judges are NOT supposed to reward headsets, but of course, they always do.

The lady before me in dressage was completely dressed down by the judge verbally. I think she was just not happy with anyone's performance. In eventing, especially at this level, it should be a test of whether the horse is safe to go xc, not whether he will make a grand prix dressage horse.

Oh well, we are going to stay on target and just keep making progress. That's all we can do. I am just happy he has such a good mind, even if a touch lazy. I would rather be pushing to go then getting thrown over his head because of dirty stops or spooking!

Thanks again, everyone!!

Anonymous said...

But you know what? It's all for the experience. I enjoy reading and watching every post you make about Brego!

Emily said...

mcfawn said it well, and don't be so hard on yourself! You're doing a good job and your pony is obviously enjoying himself, especially going-going-going on xc! Good for you! One hint to make your hands look more quiet is to wear black gloves..... secret agent hands! They'll disappear, especially with your handsome dark horse. Too bad the judge didn't have anything nice to say; that's not helpful or encouraging, and that's what we want/need at schooling events! Have fun!

quietann said...

Oh, that was you? What a lovely horse you have! Even with the mishaps, I thought you looked quite nice. We watched your SJ round.

I had the same dressage judge as you did, but for Elementary. She was actually really nice to me, critical but encouraging. My boy was being a slug, and I could have fixed it with *one* tap of the whip near the start of the test, just to remind him that I was carrying it. D'oh.

This was my first horse trials ever, on an experienced but not always easy older horse. We went double-clear in the over-fences phases and placed 3rd in Elementary. And we had a total blast!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I have managed to find a couple pairs of boots that fit Klein :) I found the smb's that she's wearing in the latest jumping pics from Ebay. Just search for xl smb. They fit the fronts but not the backs. I also have a nice pair of xl splint boots from Davis and they fit front or back, and I have a pair of Davis Bell Boots in draft size.

PlaysWithPercherons said...

I am a former dressage rider, and have two elderly Percherons that we trail ride and drive, and I just purchased a 4 yo Percheron mare to be my riding/single driving horse. I'm excited to have a riding horse again, and I love drafts so much that I'll never go back to light horses!

Kudos to you for bringing Brego along so well. I thought your dressage test didn't look too bad. A lot of judges don't do well at schooling shows because they're used to higher caliber tests. Take it as constructive criticism.

One thing that helped me when I was showing dressage was to always find a couple good things, even if they were small, about my test. That helped me keep going for next time!

It also helped me a lot to take lessons once in a while with a respectable dressage trainer. Either on your horse or theirs. Sometimes it's nice to ride a different horse...makes you appreciate what yours can do so much more!

I agree with those that suggest working on lightening him up...remember that you want him to learn how to carry himself and work off of a whisper of an aid, rather than needing you to hold him up and thump him to go. You'll only achieve that by giving him the chance to be light. Offer the whisper aid, then a talking aid, then a shouting aid if necessary. Eventually he'll learn to listen to your whisper so that he doesn't have to hear you shout! then the trick is to release the aid as soon as he gives even the slightest try. If you don't release the aid, he'll just learn to ignore it and get heavier and heavier, which isn't something you want when you're already riding a "heavy" horse!
Good luck, and now that I"ve found you, I'm excited to keep up on your progress!

ps~I love that you call light horses "skinnies"! How fun!

Anonymous said...

This is try number two.. with all things considered, I think you guys did fantastic. The second time I took my show horse to a APHA show, he flipped out, reared, bucked, and kicked at EVERY horse and we were excused! (not to mention he'd never, EVER done that before, EVER!)
A good outing to me at a horse show is measured by how much my horse gives me. Did he go out and listen and try his hardest? Was the first class craptacular, but he got it together later? Did he put forth some honest efforts? And finally, did I stay on?
Remember, progress, not perfection! :D
There are some really nice moments of you guys, and although he hasn't quite put it all together yet, just get out there and show! He will with practice, when he understand that he has to do all three things well and on the same day. You'll learn just how much warm up he needs too, depending on what 'horse' you get when you show up (hot Brego, lazy Brego, stubborn Brego, etc.!). Remember that the warmup is more important then the actual test--don't do the same thing every show, but try to read him and see what he needs. The physical warmup isn't always that important, but the mental one is! He's got to be paying attention when he steps into the ring (what I call, 'On') or onto the course, it's just up to you to get him there consistently every time.
I know I used to be horrible at it, mainly because I'd get my horse ready... and then stand and wait for an hour and expect him to perform! lol
With your position, this is what I always do--go out every day, and before you get on, tell yourself what you need to fix (I too had horrible toes!). When you get on, think 'toes in, toes in, toes in.' When you continually keep telling yourself this, it becomes a habit to always check--and eventually... your toes will always be there! The same with jumping--we all know that Brego is a fabulous jumper, so when he pops over, just think, 'elbows in, elbows in, elbows in!' The more aware you are of where your body parts are at all times, the better time you will have of controlling them. :)
All in all, I think you guys looked awesome (and I can be a very critical person, lol!) and are on task for great things. Rome wasn't built in a day! ...And neither was The Brego!