Saturday, April 23, 2011

CA Recap

I've been back home almost three weeks now. I am starting to feel like I've got everything under control now after being gone for 2 months.

Overall, I was extremely pleased how the trip went. The only part of the training down there that didn't go well was the weather. I missed about 10-12 days of riding at various times in February and March because of the insane amount of rain. One week, we got 5+ inches over a couple day period!

As I wrote in a previous blog I laid out a list of goals to meet. Happily I achieved all of the goals, except for one:

  • Increase Neo's strength and engagement
By far, the biggest improvement was the increase Neo's overall strength. The amount of muscle that Neo put on in the two months was absolutely incredible. His neck saw the largest increase in muscle and Neo now has a solid neck.

With th increase in strength, Neo's engagement of his hindquarters is at his best yet. He is holding himself in a higher degree of self carriage. Because of that, I have had to adjust my riding of him. I'm now basically having to sit and follow Neo's movement, rather than drive him. This is tough for both of us as we are making this adjustment. With it, he is now showing a loftier gait with more float.

  • Continue to polish up the piaffe and passage so that the rhythm becomes more consistent and we have greater elevation
Near the end of February, we brought Neo back out for a short session of piaffe/passage in the afternoons (with a normal lesson in the mornings). Neo really started to show some good float in the passage and we were showing improvement in the transitions in and out of the piaffe. We did this two or three days each week.
  • Continue working on the 1's so that we can get 15 in a row consistently
This was the only goal I was unable to achieve. Each time I had Neo in the right spot in the tempis (4's to 2's) and were ready to tackle the 1's, we had a set back either because the rains came and we had to stop riding for a couple of days; or we were in the week of a show and didn't want to ride the 1's and thus possibly mess up the 2's in the show.

David rode 15 1's on Neo a couple of times with no issues so it's just a matter of me getting them.
  • Work on perfecting the small tour tests so that we have strong showings at The Dressage Affaire and The Festival of the Horse shows
Overall, I was extremely happy with how we rode in the shows. It was my first time in the CDI ring and the experience I got from riding in those classes helped me immensely in how to prepare for any show. In each class, we had either some small bobbles or a mistake or two and those hurt us badly. We presented a picture that belonged in the CDI ring and with cleaning up the bobbles we are right in the thick of it. We'll never contend for a top spot in one of those classes, but we can compete for a top 10-15 spot.
  • Have fun and enjoy the time in California
Without a doubt I had a great time. It was good to see and work with my old friend Amanda Olson and to make a new friend in Sarah Lockman. I'll miss seeing those two everyday.
David Wilson did a phenomenal job with us. By far one of the best instructors I have ever worked with. Not only did I become a more effective rider but his insistence of riding with a quieter feel made a huge difference in my overall riding.
Everyone involved with W Farms welcomed me with open arms and I began to feel at home almost instantly.

I look forward to my next trip down to CA!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Festival Of The Horse CDI 3*

Over the first weekend of April Neo and I competed in our final CDI.

Overall I am happy with how the show went. We showed a horse that showed more collection and engagement compared to the Dressage Affaire 3 weeks prior.

Our Prix St Georges ride had some bobbles in it and I did not ride as good as of a connection as I could. Because of that, Neo opened his mouth up in a few of the movements which obviously hurt us score wise.

Going into the I1 ride, I spent a fair amount of time visualizing riding Neo more uphill and with his back way up. I got that from the get go in the warm up. I also spent a lot of time focusing riding in slow motion so that when I was on the horse my aids wouldn't be rushed or hurried. That too made a huge difference.

In the show ring, I hit a mental block in the trot rhythm where I couldn't find my seat to ride in conjunction with Neo's rhythm. So instead of showing off his best gait, we had some moments of irregularity. I was able to recover in the canter and probably for the first time with Neo our overall canter work was better than our trot work.

In the I1, two of the judges scored us in the 62% range, while the third judge scored us in the 57% range. That low score hurt us badly as it now not only dropped us 3 or 4 spots in the overall rankings, but we missed qualifying for the freestyle by .6%.

Neo's owner, Rebecca Chatfield, and one of my clients, Norma Stein, made the trip down to see the show. Rebecca had not seen Neo in person since we were in CA and she was excited and happy on how Neo looked and rode.

A big thanks to David Wilson for the superb coaching, Sarah Lockman for braiding and general help, and all my friends at W Farms for the support at the show.

I'll post a blog in a few days on my overall CA experience.