Finishing my 3-1 test was a huge relief. I knew it wasn't brilliant, but it wasn't terrible either. I am constantly telling my trainer that my greatest fear isn't embarrassing myself - I do that all the time. No, my greatest fear is embarrassing her.
Part 1 here.
Finishing my 3-1 test was a huge relief. I knew it wasn't brilliant, but it wasn't terrible either. I am constantly telling my trainer that my greatest fear isn't embarrassing myself - I do that all the time. No, my greatest fear is embarrassing her.
It's stupid really. As a teacher, I never worry about my students embarrassing me. As long as they try, I'll never be angry or disappointed. I tell them every day that as long as they're trying, they'll ultimately accomplish whatever it is that they've set out to do. Usually it's long division or simplifying fractions. I feel like the flying changes are a lot like both of those math skills.
If I am not worried about my own students embarrassing me, why should I worry that I'll embarrass my own teacher? I shouldn't of course, but that's what happens when you have the utmost respect for someone and don't want her teaching methodology to be misrepresented. Finishing 3-1 without the judge kicking me out for being an idiot helped me realize that while we still have a long way to go, Third Level is the right place for us.
So when we did our second test on Saturday, Third Level Test 2, I was much more relaxed. I focused more on the geometry and worked harder to get an inside bend, especially in the corners. Most of the test was pretty satisfactory. We started off with a 7.0 for our centerline but a 5.0 for our shoulder-in left. From there, we earned a steady string of 6.0s with a lone 4.0 for getting "stuck" in the half turn on the haunches left. We earned a 7.0 for the medium walk. Our half pass right earned a 5.5 for not being on centerline, but from there we earned another string of 6.0s except for one.
Our flying change from left to right earned a 6.0 with the comment, "kicked leg, then clean". Our change from right to left looked better to me but only earned a 4.0 with the comment "late with HL." I can't see it very well in the video, but that 4.0 really cost us a lot of points.
For Saturday's Third Level Test 2, we earned a 58.816%. We missed a 60% by 4.5 points (out of 380!). Yet again we were this close.
The second and third tests of a two-day show weekend are usually our best. For the first test, I am typically nervous, and for the last test, Speedy is usually tired, and I am sort of over it. For our second try at 3-2, Sunday's last ride, I simply wasn't prepared. I had spent so much mental energy riding 3-1 over and over in my head that I let 3-2 kind of hang out in my peripherals. I knew it was coming, but I was hoping that it would just sort of happen in a best case scenario sort of way. That is not a good strategy by the way.
While I was determined to ride the hell out of Sunday's 3-2 test, good intentions were not quite enough to get a 60%. The trot work went nearly as well as the day before, except the renvers left. That thing lacked any hint of angle and garnered us a 4.0. No, it wasn't the trot work. It was the half pass to flying change that did us in.
I'd like to blame it on somebody, but it was my fault. I didn't run through the test just before entering at A like I usually do, so as my reader called out each movement, I was mentally lost and wishing she'd read it faster so I could prepare sooner. The whole canter section was a disaster starting with the walk to canter at F. We got a wrong lead and just never could get things organized again.
Speedy kept dropping the canter which meant I kept asking him to pick up a counter canter while half passing while also preparing for a flying change of lead. All I can say is don't try this at home, kids. It doesn't work. The same thing happened the other way. After the medium canter, I just couldn't get him sitting enough to make the 10-meter circle at C which meant he lost the canter, and there we were trying to replicate the same disastrous counter canter/half pass/flying change combo. I am lucky we even got the 3.0s and 4.0s that we did.
When you bomb 5 different movements - walk to canter, half pass times 2, and the flying change of lead times 2, ain't no way you're pulling a 60% out of that mess. But you know what? It's okay, we finished with a 6.0 for a clear release of reins, a 6.5 for our extended canter, and a 7.0 for our final centerline. In total, we earned a dismal 54.474%.
Knowing that the mistakes were mine and not Speedy's means it's an easy fix for next time. I am proud of the fact that I completely biffed a string of movements only to shrug it off and finish strong. On one test the judge even commented, "changes still developing." I love the positive spin she put on that. Yep, they are developing which means they'll only get better with time.
We're doing a CDS-rated show on Sunday. You can bet I've been working on the geometry and those 10-meter circles. I'll show you how tomorrow!
When starting a new level, I don't generally hunt down my score from the first test before riding the second one. The score doesn't matter at that point because I am already riding to the best of my ability. Reading that I suck isn't going to help any, so I'd rather get all the news, good or bad, at once.
After finishing my first ride, I knew it was pretty well done. I didn't have much time between tests though, so I didn't bother to check the score. It was what it was. Never did I imagine that I had earned a full 5% higher than I was hoping for. I am serious. I was hoping to score as high as a 57%. Breaking 60% was my pie in the sky goal. We obliterated that goal with our 63%.
There were two rides between our two tests, so I didn't even bother going back to the warm up. There was nothing I needed to fix, and I was worried about wearing Speedy out.
As we trotted up center line for the second time, I knew we were in a bit of trouble. He was a lot less enthusiastic the second time around. By the time we got to the canter work, I was working really hard to keep him cantering. He was pretty sure he'd had enough. He's such a rock star though that as we turned down center line for the final time, I felt him push off and give me all he had. He went from a string of 6s at the end to a 6.5 for his last score.
I have to say, those half turns on the haunches were legit. I haven't see video of us doing those since last summer when we first learned how to ride them. I can see that movement being one of our strong suits, and since they have a double coefficient, all the better!
We definitely have a lot of room for improvement (ahem, simple change at B), but the test looked a lot better than I ever imagined it would. We earned a 61.282% for our effort. While not as high as the first test, the score still exceeded my expectations. We only had two 7s, but again, no 4s and only one 5. I'd say our Second Level debut was a success!
Speedy's Arabian Horse Association registered name is G Ima Starr FA. He has lived up to his name time after time. I really don't think there is anything this horse can't do. I love him to pieces!
You read about our warm up yesterday. Here's what happened the next day.
With all of my eggs riding in Speedy G's basket, I gave him a modified bath (legs and belly only), braided (they looked AMAZING, but I forgot to take photos!), and headed over to the Gardiner Ranch.
Oh, but before that, while I was cleaning my everyday boots because my nicer boots are really hard to zip up, I had a zipper blow out. Crap. I threw them in the trailer anyway hoping they would make it through the day. They didn't. I zipped them up and down a couple of times to assess the damage, and they seemed okay until I walked a few steps in them. Fortunately, with the help of a friend (thank you, KM!), we were able to get the other pair zipped up.
Even feeling super confident in my partner's ability to carry the day (I Got This!), I was still feeling anxious. I did my best to shrug it off though and made it a point to visit with friends and check out what the Golden Empire Arabian Horse Society (GEAHS) had put together for the day.
Not only was there a free barbecue lunch, but the club had a silent auction and buckets filled with goodies for awards. At the lunch break, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables rode a Freestyle to entertain the crowd. I didn't get to watch it as I was doing my warm up, but I heard the music and applause.
When she was finished, Chemaine zipped over to give me a few last tips before my test. She reminded me to get Speedy moving without throwing away the contact. Check and check.
Here's our Second Level Debut, Test 1.
We earned a 63.485%, good enough for first place. It was hard though. No big surprise, but my sitting trot definitely still needs work. Last May, when I rode with Hilda Gurney, I couldn't sit at all, so I am pretty happy that I was able to sit as much as I did.
When I watched the video on Monday morning, I was shocked at how easy Speedy made it look. He looks like he's been doing this his whole life. What the heck? He is an amazing partner.
I don't know how well these scores will hold up with the next judge, but there is no way I am going to complain about eight 7s my first time out the gate and no 4s. Was it just beginners luck?
We have a lot to improve on for sure, but I am so relieved to have that monkey off my back. Now that we've actually shown at Second Level, I don't care how long it takes us to get it right. Just knowing that we're in the right neighborhood takes a lot of pressure away.
Test 2 up next ...
If we fizzled on Test 2, I am not even sure a match was struck for Test3. I haven't had a score this low in quite some time (61.029%). But like I said yesterday, this ride didn't feel any different from the tests I've ridden all summer. The judge simply marked it how he saw it.
The real bummer is that I had a videographer all lined up, but when I found out that she takes lovely still shots, I ditched my iphone and let her use her lovely camera. I just assumed that the ride would look pretty similar to every other test I've ridden this year, so why record it?
As I looked through some of her pictures, I could definitely see that my position was wonky (The Lean), but Speedy looked pretty nice. Now I wish that I would have had her take video so that I could check the video against the scores.
These scores are not what I've seen in a while. Six scores in the 5 range? I didn't feel it, but that doesn't mean it wasn't so.
Not that it explains everything, but it was hot. I've already said that keeping Speedy in front of my leg on hot days is a new goal. Good thing we have like a million more hot days coming because I have lots of time to work on it!
I guess the one thing that we did do right was our halts. We earned a 7.5, 7.0, 7.0 (scored with a right and left turn between the two 10-meter trot circles), 6.0, and a whopper of an 8.0! I don't know which one is pictured up above, but we had some problems earlier this year with fidgety halts, so I am happy that we at least improved in that area.
In the end, I met at least some of my goals for the year. We placed well at RAAC (Reserve Champion), we earned 13 scores of 60% or higher for my CDS Plaque (no scores below 60%), we earned AA high score at two shows, and we were quite competitive within my CDS chapter. I don't know who won AA high point for the season, but I know I was close.
Overall, I had fun this season, and I am looking forward to slogging it out at Second Level!
Sometimes I win, but usually I don't. I am okay with that. Yes, I like to win, but it's more important to me that I do well and have a good time. (Says every loser - just kidding!) The reality is that there is always going to be someone with a better horse or someone who is simply a better rider. Usually the latter. It's hard to beat Speedy's awesomeness.
My plan was to finish First Level with some sparkle and a little woot woot. Instead, we finished First Level with a bit of a dud. Rather than the mid-60 score I was shooting for, like I earned at RAAC, we earned an unremarkable 62.969% on Test 2. Not worth crying over, but it's certainly not a score to bring down the house either.
When I looked up this judge's average First Level scores on Dressage Detective, I saw that they were at 63.468%. The average that he gave at this show, combining all tests at the level, was 63.820%. Based on my score alone, I rode within half of a percent of what he typically gives a First Level Test. I'll leave the interpretation to you.
I felt like the test started a bit wonky (he gave me a 7.5?????), but after that, I actually liked the test and felt that I rode it as a thinking rider as opposed to reacting after the fact. While the judge didn't mention curling, I am sure there was some, he nailed me on my recent tendency to hunch my shoulders. "Sit tall, avoid tipping." I don't know where that is coming from, but it needs to stop. Right now.
Although in all honesty, I think I do know where it's coming from. All season it has been blistering hot for every show. Speedy has had NO ENERGY, so I found myself squeezing and kicking the heck out of him which is what is causing The Lean. This is something I need to address in our next lesson.
As I looked over my score sheet, I just felt like the judging was ... different from what I've seen all season. My scores have been pretty consistent all year. Where I've had 6s, I've been able to improve to 6.5s and even 7.0s. All of the judges that I've ridden for have called me on the same issues and scored me pretty consistently. This judge didn't. His comments were of a whole different variety.
I am not saying that's a bad thing, but I am keeping the scores in perspective. They are simply this judge's impression on a single day.
I haven't seen 5.0s like that in a while, but I am sure I'll be seeing plenty more of them as we move on to Second Level.
While there are a few disappointing numbers in there, the judge also rewarded what he liked. That smattering of 7.0s is much appreciated.
His final comment, "Horse should be more engaged and balanced in his work" strikes me as more of a Second Level comment, but since that's where I am headed, it's probably accurate.
One last thought before I go. Do you remember that one of my goals was to (maybe) win my CDS Chapter's AA season high point? I am pretty sure I missed the mark, but not by much! According to my (sketchy) calculations, I finished in a very close third place. I think the top scores will end up being 66.93%, 66.40%, 65.26% (that's me), and 64.59%. But who knows, I could be way, way off in my calculations. I am just happy to be somewhere in the ball park.
More "First Level Fizzle" tomorrow!
As per my plan, I took it easy on Sunday. I fed early like I always do and took Speedy out for his mandatory lunge/walk. He simply won't eat breakfast unless I do. But after he was tucked back into his stall, I climbed back into bed and read until 7:00 (I was RV camping, so I had that luxury). I eventually coaxed myself out of bed and made a leisurely breakfast.
Unlike the previous two days, I also kept my sunglasses on, wore a wide brimmed hat, and stayed in the shade. Since my ride time wasn't until 2:26, I had the whole day to wait through. In fact, I was the last rider of the day.
I am not sure if you noticed Speedy's braids, but I kicked some butt on those babies. They were so neatly done that they held through the night and were still good enough to use on Sunday afternoon. I was pretty proud of them. After the last time I did this particular braid, I knew I finally had it down pat.
My strategy for Sunday's ride was pretty clear: stay out of the heat during the day, do a short 15 minute warm up, and don't give up before I'd even started. I slept in, hung out in the shade all day, and forced myself to wait to saddle until even friends thought I was pushing it.
I felt kind of bad about the last part of my strategy, but I was seriously intimidated by my competition, no matter how friendly they were. The one thing I forced myself to do was to NOT watch any of their rides. I was just as worried about them making a critical error as I was about seeing them put in a brilliant ride. I didn't want to place well due to someone else's mistakes, but I also didn't want to lose my confidence by watching a winning ride.
By the time the ring steward gave me the go ahead, the heat had returned, but I felt better equipped to deal with it. I marched Speedy into the ring and gave it our all. He was still behind my leg and he still curled, but we put in a pretty solid effort.
When I finally had time to sit down and study my test, I was relieved to see that we had nothing lower than a 6.0, and there were only four of them. We also earned eleven 7.0s, which was what I had been working towards all summer! Our final score for the test was a solid 66.029%.
If you read my post from the other day, you know my finishes at RAAC have been either first or eighth. While we didn't win, I was very relieved to not be in eighth place. I was more than happy to receive that red neck ribbon!
First place always receives a lovely cooler (I already have two of them), but second gets a leather halter. I know it's silly, but I am so in love with the thing!
Here's the video of the ride followed by the score sheets.
We have one more show in a few weeks to finish out the 2017 season. So far, I am more than satisfied with where I am towards accomplishing this year's goals. Win or lose at Tehachapi, I'm calling the season a success!
While my super powers were fully restored, they don't combat everything, especially the heat. Like a lot of other places around the world, California is having an unusually hot summer, even for us. While the mornings in Paso Robles were pleasantly cool, by afternoon, the temperature was almost unbearable.
Because of the heat, at least one rider scratched. I considered it, but I knew Saturday's second test was our last opportunity to really prepare for Sunday's actual RAAC class. We trotted in when the judge blew her whistle.
My goal for this show was to earn as many 7.0s as I could. There are a smattering of them for sure on this test, but there are also more 5.5s than I am happy with. As low as the scores look, I know most of it was because of the heat.
As we exited the ring, my mouth was so dry that I couldn't conjure up enough saliva to even swallow. Unlike the morning test, this ride was a best effort. I pushed Speedy as hard I could. Getting him in front of my leg, even when it's hot, is a new goal of mine.
Even with the slew of 5.5s, we still managed a middle of the road 64.412%. My goal for this season was to finish First Level with scores in the mid-60s. I felt like this score was within that range.
Some of the movements I really wanted to fix were the leg yields (6.5 and 7.0) and the 10-meter trot circles (7.0 and 7.0). I also wanted to improve the change of lead through trot (5.5). We managed to improve in at least two areas.
Here is the video and the score sheet.
As we exited the ring, I felt good about the ride, but I knew we could do even better. I had switched out the less-than-perky and now slipping pad for the larger, but sturdier Union Hill, so that problem was solved. I couldn't do anything about the heat, but I knew I'd have more horse with a shorter warm up.
As I lay in bed that night, I contemplated my strategy for Sunday which included sleeping in and staying out of the heat. I also planned to eat and drink more often, and I decided not to assume my competition was going to win.
The "Big Test" tomorrow ...
One of my strengths when I show is the ability to shake it off, whatever it is, and get on to the next movement. My super power failed me on Saturday though. I am not sure what my kryptonite was, but it was lurking somewhere near ring 1.
Everything about the show was going so well. The grounds were fantastic, including the stabling and parking, and my barn mates were all about good fun and friendly competition. Not like a few years ago when one of the competitors said that her friend was showing in my class and was going to win. Turns out she didn't, but I did!
Anyway, things were going well until I made a slight miscalculation in how long I needed to warm up. Apparently, showing is now old hat to Speedy and 15 minutes is all he needs. I gave us 30. After the first 12, I knew I had gone in too soon, so we walked and walked and walked. Just before my ride time, I decided to wake Speedy up with a big gallop.
Two things happened. First, he got really annoyed at me, and second, my trusty show pad, that one that wasn't looking as perky as before, nearly slid off his back. He gave a few bucks before I saw what had happened. In horror, I jumped off and reorganized the pad. From that moment, my confidence was shot.
As we trotted down center line, all I could think about was my stupid pad slipping off during the test. I kept glancing down to see if it was still there! Once I forced myself to forget about it, the next worry took over.
Speedy was behind my leg, note the curling above, but I knew that if I really goosed him forward, he'd flip me the hoof. That would be okay for one movement, but when he feels like I am working against him and not for him, he quits trying. Instead of sending him forward with a big cowgirl kick, I just nursed him through the test.
And really, it wasn't a bad test. My goal was 6.5s and 7.0s. We got more 6.0s than I would have liked, but considering how behind my leg he was, it wasn't terrible. That 4.0 though, I have no recollection of not being in canter. It's right in front of the judge though, so if she says we weren't cantering, we weren't, but that score came as a shock to me.
As with the comments we've had all summer long, the judge's further remarks were spot on. "Capable pair. Needs balance in transitions up and down. At times, horse over round and low in outline today." I love how generous she was in using "at times" and "today" as though yesterday we weren't and tomorrow we wouldn't be!
As we exited the ring, I knew it wasn't even close to a best effort, and I acknowledged that I had given the test away. I let the bigness of the show and the quality of my competition intimidate me.
I shook it off almost before we made it to the ring steward. Yes, I had let my confidence slip for a moment, but I recognized it for what it was. I was already planning my comeback for Test 3 which was to come later that afternoon. There was no sense in beating myself up about it, and suddenly, I felt my super power return!
Many of Sunday's riders didn't even bother with riding Test 2, so it was a very small class. For the adult amateurs, Saturday's classes were all warm ups for the actual RAAC classes held on Sunday. The scores from Saturday's tests still counted for USDF, but I knew that I still had time to get my little team squared away for Sunday's "big one."
When John and I compared our tests, we laughed at the point difference. Just 2.5 points separated our tests which would prove to be a theme for the weekend!
More to come ...
Chemaine wasn't able to coach me on Sunday because she had a schooling show to attend with a different group of students. I am totally fine going to a show myself and wasn't fazed by her absence. Don't get me wrong - it's way more fun when she's there, but I've been hauling my horses to competitions for several decades on my own, so it's no big deal to fly solo.
As it was, she coached both me and another student on Friday and Saturday, so I was more than grateful for her time. She had other places to be. As a side note, that other student rode her very first Prix St. Georges test to earn a 63%. We were all really proud of her!
Chemaine's advice was to warm up with lots of half halts and then push Speedy for MORE! I am not always sure what we need MORE of, but I asked for it in the warm up.
He was ridiculously heavy on the left rein, so I did about 10,000 half halts followed by GO. I did every kind of transition within each gait that I could think of. My whole focus was to get a JUMP forward when I asked for it. When I asked for a half halt, I kept asking until he got soft, and then I sent him forward again with the expectation that he JUMP!
In all honesty, that warm up was a total crap shoot. Speedy and I probably looked like a pair of dorks zooming around the warm up only to halt a few strides later. GO!!!! STOP!!!! GO!!!! Fortunately it was a huge warm up ring and the show was small, so I had the space pretty much to myself. There was the Spanish guy galloping around, but he seemed to know what he was doing and proved quite adept at staying out of my way.
As we were warming up, all I could think about was just wanting to get the whole thing over with. I was tired and super ready to pack it up and head home. When First Level Test 2 was over, I left the ring shaking my head wondering what in the holy hell had just happened. It felt terrible. Speedy was so heavy in my hands that I was forced to jerk on him for every transition. I have no photographic or video evidence of this, which is why it's hard to believe the score we earned.
How is it that we scored better on Sunday than we had on Saturday? The judge gave us a 66.093%. For an Adult Amateur, that's a pretty solid score and one that I'll never turn my nose at. The only thing that I can say is those half halts must have done something, and that feeling of being nearly out of control is one that I should probably start trying to repeat.
My First Level Test 3 ride was just a few minutes after what I was considering "The Disaster" of test 2. There wasn't time to check the scores between the two rides, so I didn't know that the judge had actually "liked" our attempt at test 2. If I had been wanting to get test 2 over and done with, the desire to fast forward past test 3 was almost enough to make me want to scratch.
I am too cheap to throw in the towel though, so unless the TD or judge force me to quit, I am riding no matter how bad I think it's going to go. When I halted and saluted at X for the final time of the weekend, I thanked the judge like I always do, and then told her how happy I was to be done with THAT.
I patted Speedy's neck like I do after every ride, but I shook my head in frustration. How disappointing to work so hard for so little reward. That's what was going through my head as we passed by A. Up in the barn, several people complimented my rides, which I found slightly embarrassing. I was certain both scores were in the 57% range.
I finally stiffened my backbone and trudged over to the show office. I ran my finger down the list of rides squinting through half closed eyes. When I got to the first score from test 2, I did a double take. A what?!?! I shook my head in disbelief. But there it was for all the world to see - a 66.093%. I slid my finger down a bit further and saw the score for test 3. Not only was it slightly higher than Saturday's score at 62.794%, I had actually outscored another rider for a fourth blue ribbon.
Over the course of the weekend, Speedy and I somehow managed to bring home four very satisfactory scores. I am always grateful to break 60%, and the truth is most of my scores are above 60. Anything lower feels like a miss. As time goes on though, I have come to recognize that we are capable of high 60s and low 70s, so just eking out a 60% is not exactly a win anymore.
The judge said it best on my final test:
Nice horse with ability to perform much better. You must get him more forward and correctly into the contact so he accepts the bit and energy travels through the back. Only then will half halts work, and he will start to carry instead of fall on his forehand. - Sue Kolstad, Judge at C
No judge has ever written a better summation of my test. She absolutely nailed it. Chemaine has her work cut out for her to be sure. I think all three of us are up to the challenge though.
I still have some soapbox stuff I want to share, so there's a bit more coming about the show. In the meantime, what's your cut off score for an acceptable ride?
I've been a fan of Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Doolittle since I first saw My Fair Lady as a kid. I love everything about the movie - Eliza's dresses, the music (oh, the music!), and that great horse racing scene where you don't see the horses but you hear them thundering past. Eliza very coarsely hollers out that infamous line, "Come on, Dover! Move your bloomin' arse!"
While I was watching our First Level Test 3 video from Saturday, I found myself urging Speedy on. Come on dude, move your bloomin' arse! As we rode, it felt like Speedy was zooming through the test. Boy, was I wrong. It looks like he's stuck in molasses. No wonder we earned our lowest score of the weekend on that test.
It's quite a steady ride, but there is nothing special happening. There is no energy, no impulsion ... nothing but quiet and submission (most of the time). That's great if you want scores in the low 60s, which is what I got - 62.500%. Chemaine reminded me that to get scores in the high 60s or 70s, I need to channel the nearly out of control so that it looks controlled. That's when we'll score higher.
I liked how this ride felt, but it seems that I need to develop a different type of feel for what is a good ride. I know they call it positive tension. Izzy has it all the time even though it wavers between out of control and ooh baby. It might be that Speedy just doesn't really have the personality, or work ethic, for that kind of energy. I am going to have to learn to get Speedy ramped up at least a little more and then channel that new energy.
I don't think this was a bad or disappointing ride; we actually outscored the second rider in the class. Right now, breaking 60% at First Level is my goal, but by spring, I want to be consistently scoring in the mid to high 60s, especially if I want to move to 2nd Level by late summer.
I know that our move through the levels (Intro and Training) looked just like this. We slowly built from high 50s to high 60s with a few bobbles here and there. And it has been quite characteristic for us to start scoring well at Test 2 before Test 3, which is exactly what we did this weekend.
I don't have media from Sunday, but I'll share our rides from day two tomorrow as my scores didn't turn out the way I expected. I think there's a lesson in there for me somewhere.