Debut at 4th level
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, May 28, 2016 06:33 PM
Santo and I had our first show this season. This show was special because Cara Whitham was one of the judges. She is Canadian only "O" level judge (Olympic) and FEI 5*. In my opinion it is extremely important to be judged by someone of that caliber. Her experience is vast and she judges best of the best. She judges very consistently and when you get a good mark from her you know it is really worth it.
I decided to do 3d level and try our luck at 4th level test 1. This is a very nice test. I like it's flow and learning it is easy. I especially like the trot work: the combination of half-pass to circle to shoulder-in on a center line rides really well. And is no less difficult than a PSG combination except circle size which 10 m in 4th level and 8 m in PSG. The medium trot with a few collecting steps in the middle is actually quite a difficult movement. A horse needs great elasticity to be able to do it well. Santo lost his engagement in collected steps. Overall, Cara Whitham wrote we are not ready for 4th level and our score was 60.8% We need more of everything - throughness, elasticity, engagement, suppleness, obedience. You will see in the video that it was hard for Santo to remain properly collected in canter. He is not strong enough yet to really hold himself together effortlessly. He is naturally a very loose horse, he never has tight muscles and can bend himself into a pretzel for a cookie :) This quality is wonderful but it does create problems when certain posture is required for some period of time. It is like a difference between ballroom dance and a hip-hop dance. Santo would rather be a hip-hop dancer :) His natural canter is loose, big and on the forehand. Teaching him to properly lift into each canter stride has been an ongoing struggle for us. Collected canter has to be manufactured from scratch. This show was a great catalyst in my understanding what is required of an upper level horse.
The other area that needs more work is walk. Santo never had a great walk and he is rather lazy and inattentive at shows. On the other hand I noticed this time that I myself tightened up and did not ride the walk well. This doesn't help our cause. I caught myself tightening my lower back and not "walking" with him. Plus we need to work more on marching forward in our walk including walk pirouettes. I was working on them at home a lot and thought we are doing much better. And left pirouette was decent but in right one he got tangled up in his own legs :) Now I do lots of short walk pieces in between pretending like I am riding my test and asking him for the best walk we can get. Two areas to watch for me are my tightness and him ignoring my aids. And especially me ignoring the fact that he is ignoring my aids. As a coach I can tell you this is the most common mistake riders do :)
OK, picture is worth a thousand words. Click on the link below to see my test. The worst scores were 5s for walk work. The best scores were 7s for trot circle left 10 m, canter depart and rider's position.
The other area that is still work in progress is to create most effective warm-up. This has been a science project for me because it is very easy to overdo it with Santo and then he doesn't want to play anymore. My second tests of the day are always better then first and my second warm-up is only 15 min. My first warm-ups are 30 min but I feel often that he is ready a bit earlier and having that much time also makes me feel that I can work on things. Bad idea at the show!!! Focusing on basics and getting him ready to perform is one ting, start working on something that is going to be in the test is a schooling session not warm-up for the show test. At least it doesn't work for Santo and with tests getting more difficult wasting his energy and focus on practicing things is very wrong. In my next show in July I will keep my first warm-up to 20 min excluding the first walk - lots of transitions to get him focused and on the aids, loosen him up with a bit of lateral work in trot and make sure he is sharp in canter.
In my previous shows I was worried to come early to the deck and stand waiting for my test. This time I did it because I finished my warm up earlier and didn't want to spend his energy. I had to stand almost for the whole test of the previous rider. And I just let him stand. Then picking him up I felt what I was scared of. He was disconnected from me, fell asleep and wasn't listening. However, it didn't take long to pick him up again with few canter-walk transitions around the ring. We did flying change each direction, counter-canter and a bit of trot and bell rung for us. He felt ready to do the job. I am not going to worry any more that he will fall asleep waiting for his turn. I will see it as conserving his energy and letting him rest. I will not do it on purpose but if I feel I finished my warm up early or the show is running a bit late I will not make him walk back and forth being afraid to let him stand.
For myself, I have to remember to ride my horse during the tests instead of riding the tests. I get too focused on riding the test and that makes my natural rhythm faster and muscles tighter. This affects Santo a lot. After watching my test and reading Cara's comments about my trot I realized I sped him up. Next day I received many 7s and 7.5s for my trot work from both judges because I relaxed and made myself slow on purpose. I actually thought a few times may be I was too slow :) Not at all!
Overall, I had a great time. Shows are such a great way to learn more. After, I always feel like I got tons of ideas, drive, inspiration and a healthy kick in the butt to do a better job LOL
Happy riding...
Comment by Wendy on Saturday, June 11, 2016 07:43 PM
Well Done! Santo has come a long way. I really thought you did well
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 08:55 PM
Thank you, Wendy :)
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