Thursday, August 20, 2009

Whidbey Island Summer Show

Going into the Whidbey Summer Show I was extremely motivated to show well with having the disappointment of the Devonwood Show in the back of my mind.

I was able to make some small adjustments in my riding and in my general health. Following the Devonwood Show I enlisted the help of a chiropractor, Dr Mitresh Parmar, who began some intense sessions with me not only to get my body back in alignment, but also to get my body functioning better. Specifically my adrenal glands were extremely fatigued.

The week of the show I noticed a remarkable difference in my energy levels, my stress levels, and most importantly my confidence. I felt calm and collected and I really started riding like that more and more.

With the horses, we were starting to see some mini breakthroughs occurring. Most specifically with Claudius. With Claudius, his major disobedience is having a slight head tilt to the left. Occasionally I would be able to get him straight but not consistently. Well, after spending the most of 2 weeks riding with my left hand higher than my right hand (all of the time and in all gaits) we started to get good results. Not only did he look straighter I could feel his back round up into my seat more than it ever had. With that, he lost a lot of the tension in the base of his neck and began to truly come through.

With Neo it was still a matter of getting him more fit/stronger and to be able to round his back even more. In practice we started showing loftier gaits and were really having true sit in the pirouette work.

Because of late ride times both Friday (4:20pm and 5:30pm) and Saturday (5:30pm and 6:30pm) I did a light schooling session in the mornings on both guys to loosen them up. Mostly it was at the walk and working them deep and through. Each day I rode Claudius first in the Prix St Georges.

The warm up on Friday with Claudius was going along fine and then when schooling a walk pirouette to the right he had a "minor" hissy fit and jumped and twisted in the air. This was unlike any disobedience he had ever given me because his back was fully engaged and he felt through. This proceeded a few more times in the warm up. In my mind I was thinking this could be bad because he is engaged enough to launch me good if he wanted to. I attributed this nonsense to the fact that Claudius was truly straight and engaged; and that after years of riding tense/stiff/crooked he had no idea what to do with his body and this was his expression of trying to figure it out. Writing this now, it's great that he was feeling like that (straight) but at the time while on him I wasn't exactly thinking "whoo hoo!".

Going around the ring prior to being rung in by the judge Claudius was tense. Claudius' M.O. for shows is to have a "goofy" first test and then settle into the show routine. Now with the added bonus of him leaping around I was wondering what was going to happen. we passed the judge's box for the first time, Claudius leapt hard to the left and then to the right, throwing me out of position. I immediately got my seat back and continued on. On the long side we did some rears and leaps; all of which we would be no big deal but with his back really round and engaged I was starting to get a little nervous. The second time by the judge's box he lowered himself and did a "juke" move like you would see an NFL running back do to avoid a defender. At this point, the bell has been rung and I'm thinking to myself, "Should I even try to enter the ring?". I picked up the canter and after one more hijinx we were able to settle in.

Once we entered the ring I knew I could put together a good test. Minus two small bobbles and one big explosion in the left lead canter depart, Claudius put together some of his best movements. The medium trot was the best we ever have had. Claudius' shoulders were up and engaged, he was powering strong from behind and he wasn't braced in the base of the neck.

I was very pleased that Claudius was able to come back to me and work, unlike his first test in May where he blew me off the entire ride. We ended up with a 59.2% and 5th place; which considering all the "diva moments" we had I was very pleased with. It was really gratifying having people come up to me afterwards saying that was by far the best they had ever seen Claudius go before.

Afer getting off Claudius, I had a few minutes before I needed to get on Neo and I took that time to get my nerves back under control.

On Friday, Neo put in a solid ride. I changed my tactic for riding him for this show: instead of trying to go for the biggest, most spectacular movements, I dialed it down and rode safe. I still was lacking (sadly) a score to qualifying for Regional Championships at PSG. I knew if I rode safe and clean we could get it. Well, that's what happened. I rode an error free test (minus the priouettes being a little big) and we scored a 61%, placing 2nd.

On Saturday's rides, Claudius was still a little hyped but did not pull any stunts in the show ring. I made a couple of mistakes (a miscount on the 3's) and had a couple of steps of trot into the final halt. Additionally, I didn't have him as straight as I would have like. We scored a 59.4% which was 2pts away from a qualifying score. Without the mistakes in the 3's we had the score.

Claudius was the first horse to go in the class and maintained the 1st place position till the last ride of the class; which was Neo.

In that warm up, Neo gave me a spectaular first 10 minutes where he was engaged and fluid. Then he started running out of gas. While the test was not bad, again a clean test, we lacked some of the pizazz that we could have shown. Regardless, in front of a tough judge, we score a 60.4% and won the class. Giving me both 1st and 2nd in the Saturday Prix St Georges.

Needless to say I had a very estatic owner in Rebecca as this was Neo's first win for her.

On Sunday, I elected to scratch Neo as we had fullfilled our goals for the weekend (qualifying score and a win) and I didn't want to stress him even further.

Claudius was a full go. Claudius gave me a good warm up. He was now relaxed and fluid. Knowing I had this, I played a conservative test and just wanted to go clean. This cost me a little bit as I left the haunches trailing just a little in all of the half passes. However, Claudius was relaxed and fluid the entire time. I was so proud of him. I did make a mistake in the 4's and the pirouettes were a little big, but I truely thought I had made the qualifying score. Big mistake on my part for assuming that. The judge gave us a 58% and what really hurt was she gave me a 5 for rider. I cannot for the life of me remember receiveing a 5 for rider.

Everyone was terribly surprised by the score but I guess that's the fun of being at someone else's mercy. I of course say that to be PC, but 4 days later I'm still fuming. Partly because this judge, judged us at Devonwood in July, where we went much worse and I received a 6 for rider from her.

So, I will be taking Neo to the Regional Championships to show the PSG for the USDF Region 6 Championships and for the Northwest Dressage Championship. Claudius is not qualified for the USDF but is for the NW Championships and therefore I will wait till next year to take Claudius to Championships. I know having another year with Claudius will make us more competitive and be one of the horses to beat in 2010.

We have 5 weeks from today till Championships. I am giving Neo a very easy week to recover and in the meantime I am mapping out his training to allow him to train optimally and get in the rest that he needs to be in tiptop shape come the end of September.

My groom Rachel Robison did a knock out job grooming for me. Not once during the entire weekend did I have to worry about the horses and for every class they were turned out to the 9's. Thanks!

Once again it was great to have the support: my friend Lara who came up from Boulder, Julie, Lynn, Mom, Julia, Xander, Norma, Nancy, Roxanne and Bonnie. Your support and cheerleading is always appreciated!

And a BIG thank you to Rebecca Chatfield and Cindy Bucceri for the opportunity to show their great horses.

Finally and big thanks to Wendy Meyers for the feedback she gave me in the weeks leading up to the show and in the warm ups for each test. Great, great advice on getting the horses ready!