Practicing for the show.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, September 29, 2016 09:49 PM
I am getting ready to show my mare, Regala, at First Level. When the show is approaching it is a good strategy to start practicing the tests. And practicing them from start to finish even if mistakes happen. At the show you cannot tell a judge: "Let me do couple circles here to get my horse on the aids." :)
However, you do not want to practice tests every day. A good schedule is once or twice a week. For example, if you are doing all three tests from a Level start a month before your first show or a show. Each week you will be able to ride a test and work on issues and then still have a week for developing overall strategies considering your horses strong and weak areas. Even if you are not doing all the tests at the show it will be beneficial to practice them at home. It gives variety and riding more difficult tests helps building confidence for simpler ones.
What you want to do every time you ride is to work on pieces from the tests and combinations of movements from the same test or even from different ones. This helps to learn the tests well and also makes you focus on where problematic areas are. For example, in First level there is a combination of transitions in every test - free walk - medium walk - working trot - working canter. These transitions are almost identical in every test and they are quite rapid, giving a rider only a distance between two letters until next transition happens. Practicing these transitions without tying it to locations in the tests and only keeping a rule of distance between two letters is a great way to make your horse sharper and on the aids.
When working on counter-canter try riding shallow loop in walk and trot like you would in canter. This means not changing the flexion. You will be surprised how not simple that is and will discover your horses tendencies that are similar for canter shallow loop too. A good exercise that prepares a rider for counter-canter aids is turn on the forehand with the flexion into the turn. For example, if a right leg asks a horse to turn haunches left, the horse also flexed and slightly bent left. In other words, it is a half-pass on the spot - very useful and uncommon in North America exercise.
First Level requires lengthenings in trot and canter. Add them to your every ride. You can do it as a test movements combination, or you can simply do a long side of trot lengthening after finishing canter warm up before you give your horse a break Or, lengthen your canter on the long side while working on the circles at A and C. Be creative but stay within the Level requirements, especially, close to the show date to keep your horse well versed in them and not overtaxed with standards above the level you are showing.
You may come across areas that require special attention. For example, Regala often becomes strong in canter when riding diagonals, particularly on the right lead. In test 3, there is a change of lead through trot at X from right lead to left lead. If she is not listening to my half-halts it is very difficult to make a balanced change of lead. Instead just practicing the change of lead on a diagonal here are the exercises I use to improve this movement:
  • Counter-canter on the right lead going large, transition to trot, transition to left lead canter. The new canter may happen within 2-3 strides of trot or I may trot longer to rebalance her and pick up left lead later
  • On a diagonal in right lead canter, slight leg-yield to the right. It straightens her, prevents falling on outside shoulder and improves transition to trot. I ask for transition to trot at different points on a diagonal: at X, second quarter line, near the wall
  • If Regala falls on outside shoulder during trot transition (outside according to canter) immediate circle left if canter was on the right lead, or circle right if canter was on the left lead, then new canter depart. Instead of a circle transitions to walk or halt from trot are also good options
  • Starting diagonal in trot picking up canter at X. The better the trot the nicer transition to canter. The challenge of that transition is no walls and being on a straight line.
With any problem, pick it apart, be creative with solutions, observe what works for your horse and build it together piece by piece
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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