Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The UCD Derby, 2013 reprise

I've hit it hard this year training Tax for eventing.  My trainers all seem to think he's got a lot of potential so I'm trying not to waste it.  My goal is to complete and hopefully place in at least one Elementary level event this year with a goal of heading for Beginner Novice by the end of next season.  The different between Elementary and Beginner Novice seems huge at this point.

We found a dressage trainer that I think it brillant.  She's incredible at a couple of things. 

First, she's very dedicated to the learning process herself and just finished the 1st and 2nd level FEI trainer certification classes.  She gives hand outs complete with visuals when she's running her clinics and I find that very helpful.  She does lunge line clinics at times and that allows me to focus on feeling what my own body is doing and really develop a sense of feel I haven't had previously. 

She put together group dressage lessons as an experiment thinking it wouldn't work but so far its been amazing.  I'm such a visual learner that I learn just as much from watching the other riders as when I attempt something myself.  Plus at $25 for an hour and a half to two hours they are very affordable. 

I was having trouble getting Tax to be supple and connected at first.  She hopped on him to show him what she wanted and then had me get on to try.  We were working on bending to get him to soften on the inside rein.  She even physically came over to show me how it felt with the reins from the ground in a move I can't justify with an explaination in writing but it worked.  I felt what she wanted and it just clicked.  We've been able to maintain a much more connected suppleness ever since and I have to say that when that horse really gets down into a working trot it feels amazing. 

Tax has a long back, and uphill build and a very powerful hind engine that can sometimes overpower his shoulder so he wants to move up and down instead of forward.  I've done lots of work on pushing him out into a nice stretchy trot.  We even had a beautiful moment in one of our group lessons where she let him show it off for everyone for just a minute.  Then she asked if she can have him!  She says that the quality of his gaits is really very nice and if I can get him moving forward in our tests the way he is in lessons we should be scoring in the 70s on our trot.  The bad news...god its hard to get that horse to walk like he means it.  Our free walk needs so much work.

I also found a mother and daughter team of eventing trainers that I love.  The daughter is great for building confidence and she got us started jumping again in a good way.  Lots of grid work which we need.  There is something I find so calming about her I always go and do what she says with no fear because I figure she wouldn't ask if she didn't believe I could do it.

My first lesson with her mom was the scarest day of my life.  We were jumping beginner novice size stadium courses for the first time and she was just like, get in there and get it done.  Even though we got off to a bad start and my hands were literally shaking through the entire thing we ended on a very positive note.  She is the most challenging trainer I've ever had but still so kind and supportive.  I also had a huge break through when she came over and moved my leg position.  I'm such a hands on learner.  I needed to focus on keeping my knees bent and all of a sudden I felt the change.  I could stay in my seat but still stay with my horse over the fence.

The good thing about all of these wonderful trainers pushing me so hard is that its paying off.  Tax and I had gone to a derby (dressage and cross country scores are combined with no stadium) at UC Davis last year that didn't go so well.  We competed in Hopeful which is a walk/trot test and 18 inch fences with trotting allowed.  In dressage he spooked and bolted during our free walk across the diagonal.  In the jumping he spooked at a ditch that we weren't even going over.  I was so nervous I'd been standing in my stirrups and tumbled off over his shoulder.  It was a rough day and my confidence took a beating.

I decided to go and compete again in the Hopeful division only even though we're already schooling for begginer novice to see if I could get some of my confidence back.  Unfortunately, I had a really early dressage ride time and didn't get enough of a warm up in.  He was tense and a bit spooky.  We were in 6th place after dressage.  Cross country went amazingly well and we redeemed ourselves for last year.  Turns out jumping all that big scary stuff paid off.  Final result was a 3rd place in the Hopeful division!! 

We also got a 5th place in a second individual Beginner Novice dressage test that I added to make up for how bad the first one was.  It was cool because even though I didn't get a high score he was listening and the test was accurate.  We even had to canter.  We just need to get him to loosen up and move forward.  Also, need to work on his transitions a bit.

So much feed back to go back to trainers with...I love it!