Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Last Minute Learning

In a perfect world, I think horse showing should involve demonstrating the movements and skills in front of a judge that you've already polished at home. There might be some work involved in getting your horse to perform their best in a new environment, but the basic blocks should ideally all be there already. That's never how showing works for me and Kachina though. We always seem to be figuring things out right until we go into the ring.

No new media, so just going to pepper this post with progression shots of our
canter from over the last year
This one is from June 2016

In the case of the Chinook show, there were three pretty major things that I learned only the week before the show!

February 2017
(Canter was good this day, but not at reproducible stage yet)

1. Good Canter Transitions
We've been working on these forever, but it was only a week before the show that I was able to put together the feel from my HJ lessons and simulator lesson to ask for canter with only my leg and get a round balanced transition on demand. I talked about it in The Best Ride and it was a super major breakthrough

February 2017

February 2017 - Air time

2. Determining the Correct Lead
I've been riding for twenty years, so it sounds ridiculous to say I couldn't tell when my horse was on the correct lead. The reality is though that I couldn't. I can tell what lead most horses are on, but something about Kachina's canter stumps me. I think it's a combination of the fact that she's got a pretty even canter (not big uphill or downhill movements), that she can be equally balanced/unbalanced on the correct lead vs wrong lead, that she has big air time, that her outside foreleg reaches quite far forward, and that she sometimes switches in and out of a lateral canter or a canter that has legs going in some other strange not-canter sequence. Whatever the reason, Kachina sometimes picks up the wrong lead and I couldn't reliably notice and correct it soon enough. This really killed me in a few shows last year. I did a bunch of online reading and found one article that suggested feeling for which of my legs was hanging farther forward (on the left lead, your hips will be twisted such that your left leg is further forward). I've never heard of this technique before but I tried it out two days before the show and it worked like a dream. I've been using it ever since and now I'm much more confident about which lead we are on. We ended up getting 100% of our correct leads at the show and I loved not second guessing myself in the show ring.

March 2017 - Even (especially?) at liberty Kachina subscribes to the concept that
leads are optional constructs that don't need to be followed

April 2017

April 2017

3. Staying on the Rail
Kachina will sometimes be interested in something outside the arena and will counter-bend and fall in. This is generally exacerbated at shows where there is more to look at, and we're riding more straight lines than we do at home. In my last ride before the show, there were some spooky branches hitting off the arena wall and we had the same kind of issue, so I took the opportunity to practice solving it. In the past, my technique has been to really focus on re-establishing inside bend and then using inside leg to push her out. This frequently requires me to circle to get the message through which is obviously not ideal in a test. I started experimenting with other options, playing around with both my position and hers. It turns out that I can effectively keep Kachina out on the rail by just slightly stepping on my outside stirrup. In fact, I can leg yield Kachina all the way from the 1/4 line to the rail by changing nothing else and just stepping on my outside stirrup. I was shocked at how immediately responsive Kachina was to this small change. I think that in the past I've inadvertently slightly weighted my inside stirrup while trying to get inside bend and that's why I've struggled to get her to push out. It was an eye-opening discovery for sure and one that I have been using in all sorts of situations ever since. Having a sensitive horse can be both a blessing and a curse.

April 2017

I'm still proud of how well we did at the show, but it was partly just by fluke that we were able to figure out these things at the right time and make use of them when it counted.

June 2017

In theory I like the idea of schooling one level above where you are showing, but I also think showing is valuable experience and there's not always a level below Training Level so for now we are showing at the top of what we are capable of.

June 2017

Are you always confirmed at a level before you show, or does anyone else fly by the seat of their breeches and figure it out last minute?

9 comments:

  1. I'm definitely a fly by the seat of my breeches kind of person with dressage. I'm more cautious with jumping- I want to feel totally confident my horse will go over the jumps!

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  2. yea i mean, i think it's all relative, right? i think it depends on what you want out of the experience. there isn't a lot of issue with bouncing around the lower levels imo - it's not like we're likely to run into something that the horse simply isn't able to perform, right? it just might not always be very pretty haha. but if the goal is to win or get good scores? then yea, it's about sticking to levels where the training is confirmed.

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    1. That's true. It also depends on the horse. With a previous spooky mare of mine, we'd always be worse in a show environment so in order to even kind of do the thing at a show we had to be more confirmed at home. Kachina is pretty much the same wherever I ride so we can manage to do new things away from home more easily.

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  3. Fly by the seat! I had a really great dressage lesson at the beginning of June but the clinician mentioned if I did a test right now my weakest points would be transitions. X_X

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    1. I've found practicing test patterns at home really useful. Transitions and movements come up a lot faster in a test than they do in my normal work (I'm totally guilty of just working at trot for a solid 15 min without doing any transitions =P)

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  4. I am always showing ahead of my ability. If I waited to be good at something, I'd never go to a show. Nilla still doesn't canter as well as Levi and I've had her 3 years longer and she's had professional training. I don't want to wait.

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    1. I totally feel you about the canter struggle! I'm impressed with how often you get out to show with all your equines. Even if it doesn't always result in winning rides, it's important for developing solid citizens!

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  5. It always a bit of a crap shoot. I think shows can help consolidate skills and you both did really well.

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