Thursday, November 20, 2008

Summary of Morven

We had a fantastic time at Morven! I have so much to write that it's literally taking forever, but I hope to have a more detailed account of the whole event up ASAP. However, as a summary: We really did have an absolute blast. All of the technical stuff went well, the jogs were scary at first, but nevertheless fun, I was much too nervous for dressage and went off course, and was so tense that I forgot how to ride. Roads and tracks, steeplechase and cross country were absolutely amazing. We had a stop at the half keyhole on course, but the rest of the course went very well and I was elated at the end of the day. We pulled two rails in stadium, but ended up in 10th place! I wish that there were more long format events. We truly did have the best time of our eventing careers and no horse trial can come close to comparing to the long format.

Will hopefully get the entry with all of the details up soon!

We are working on getting videos up from Morven and so far only have one. This is of the first combination on course. I could have ridden much better after the drop, and Octavian was wonderful to take us to the chevrons!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Five Points & Recent Happenings

We have recently returned from the Carolina Horse Park. We had somemwhat of a rough weekend, but not one that was without learning experiences. Once again, I thought that our dressage was not as good as it could have been, Octavian felt a bit tense in the neck in the canter and not as soft and supple as he has been recently. I was thrilled to find that my dressage score was a 37 once again. We were 10th out of 21 after dressage in another open division.
I was really excited about the cross country course. It was another big, yet forward course with some challenging combinations. I had some concerns about the mushroom and corner on course (there's a theme here, corners and skinnies are our difficult fences). The course ended up riding very well. We were clear over both the mushroom and the corner, but unfortunately had a stop at the bank at 13ab. We were to jump up a bank, and then there was a bounce to a log on top. There was an option, however I felt that the bank was similiar to the one at Difficult Run, which was also a bounce bank, and therefore did not feel like we needed to take the option. I was wrong! I was really wanting to go clear, especially since this is our last cross country run before Morven, but Octavian was perfect over everything else so I can complain too teribbly much.
Sunday morning Octavian looked good and his legs were cool and tight. We warmed up well for stadium on Sunday, but when we were in the ring everything fell apart. Octavian was backing off to every fence and was not feeling like himself. We had a stop at the second fence in the in and out. I retired after our stop. Octavian is usually very enthusiastic and his antics were not characteristic of him.
The vet will be coming out on the 23rd to correct his passport (it was rejected...we triple checked but still made a few mistakes) and will be checking him over then to make sure that everything is all right. This week Octavian feels back to himself and does not seem to sore or stiff. If the report is clean from the vet, we will be heading out to Plain Dealing to have a lesson with Monday the Sunday before Morven, and then will be off to Morven the following Thursday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Difficult Run & Loudoun

Octavian and I have had a busy couple of months. We headed off to Difficult Run at the end of last month. We had what felt like our best dressage test yet, but scored a 44.1. The judge's comments were very constructive, and although I feel like the score was harsh, in the long run it's a good thing because we were able to learn more from being scored harshly. Saturday afternoon I was able to walk the stadium and cross country course with Molly. Although I had seen the course before, it was nice to hear again how I should ride each fence. Although the staff and organizers of DRPC did a wonderful job working on the footing, it was still very hard due to the lack of rain. I was a little worried and had already decided that I would not be riding for time the next day.

We had a double clear stadium round on Sunday. Octavian still felt midly excited, but he did a good job of keeping his attention on me. The cross country course was once again a lot of fun. The course at Difficult Run is very forward and gallopy. Octavian started out being a bit sticky, but torward the end of the course we had found our rhthym. We ended up with 5th place finish out of a division of 18. I was very pleased as it was also an open division. I was relieved that we had followed Molly's advice and gone around a course that we had been around before to get back into the swing of things.

The next wekeend at Loudoun was very exciting. We were stabled at Morven Park, and it was nice to see the facility before October. On Saturday, we had dressage and stadium at the Oatlands. Our dressage test was not quite as good as our test at Difficult Run, but it was much improved from tests that we had done earlier in the season. Our shoulder-ins were not very good, and we had one hiccup doing one of our lengthenings, but overall it was not a bad test. I was only able to walk half of the stadium course that morning, but the course looked like fun. We did not have a bad round. I felt like I made a few mistakes that Octavian had to deal with and saved us in a few places. He was a little sticky after the first fence. He got rolling going down the hill to fence 2, and then we had a difficult uphill turn to the next fence. I did not see the distance correctly and we rubbed the rail, which fell when we were about 3 strides away. It turned out that our dressage test was better than I thought, we ended up with a 37 and were tied for 6th. Our rail in stadium dropped us down a few places.

We had cross country on Sunday. The course seemed big, but looked like it would be nice and gallopy. There were several combinations on the course. There was a chevron at the third fence, and a corner at the 9th. These two fences were my biggest worries. The chevron rode well, but unfortunately I rode a bad line to the corner and we had a runout. The rest of the course, however, rode beautifully and I was really happy with Octavian.

Monday, August 18, 2008

So far, so good...

We had a successful outing at the BREA schooling combined test last weekend. I felt more relaxed in the dressage arena, however Octavian suffered from his nerves a bit. We did prelim test 'a' first, we didn't have a horrible test, but it wasn't great either. He started to lean on my leg and hand throughout, which seems to be something he only does in the ring. He seemed surprised to be going back in the dressage ring for a second time for prelim test 'b', but we had a much better test. He seemed a lot more relaxed. Our shoulder-ins were not that good, we lost impulsion, but thankfully we had no major disobediences. Our canter work in the second test was loads better than the first. We don't like the 10m canter circles.

Octavian felt extremely excited for stadium. He was very forward, not running or rushing, but not quite as responsive as I would have liked. We went clear, but I had hoped for a quieter round. I wish I would have ridden a bit better to achieve that goal. We had the opportunity to go back in the ring for a second time as a schooling round, and we pulled a rail, but overall the second course was better.

We ended up getting a 40 on our prelim test 'a', and a 38 on prelim test 'b'. I wasn't that happy with those scores, which I suppose is an improvement in itself, because at one point I would have been thrilled! However, I know that we are capable of much more and we will continue to work torward that goal.

Yesterday we headed to Plain Dealing for a lesson with Molly. We started out in the stadium ring. We began by going over a verticle, turning right and around to another verticle. Here I had to work on turning well, keeping my eye on the fence, etc. We had to do this a few times before I was riding well. We then added an oxer on a bending line about 5 strides away. The first time, we got a long spot. The second time was much better and we managed to add in the extra stride. After that, we worked on a skinny to a verticle, I had to concentrate very hard on getting the turn right to the skinny, not too early and not too late. The first time we got in a bit close and then took a long spot at the verticle, but the second time went well. Our next thing was another skinny, straight, and then making a left turn to a faux corner. Our approach to the corner went well, but we had a runout. Looking back, I think I was riding a little to averagely to it. Not exactly weak, but not as strong as I needed to. The second time I gave him a better ride to it and it went fine. We jumped it from the other direction with no problems. After that, we headed out to the cross country course.

Octavian and I were both really excited to see cross country fences again! It's been a long time since we've been on course, the last time was early June at Rubicon. We warmed up over a few easy fences, and then did a log on an angle to a skinny. Skinnys and corners are the hardest things for us, and I always get a little nervous whenever I'm riding them, almost as if I'm afraid to have a runout. I managed to not freeze up from my skinny nerves, and the combination rode great! Next we worked on putting a corner in combination with a bank. We went over the corner, then a bending line (3-4 strides) and up the bank, and then down two steps, and then reversed the exercise. Once again, he was really good! We then headed over to yet another corner, and did a corner, 3 strides to a skinny. I was a little worried about how this was going to ride, or rather, if I could give him a good enough ride, but he was perfect! Except, he refuses to brush through brush, making the skinny much bigger than it needed to be.

Next, we worked on steeplechasing. I was really excited about this. Molly said that she would let me know if I was going too fast or too slow, and to just keep my legs in front of me and my shoulders back and to not worry about the distances. I have to admit, that galloping torward our first steeplechase fence, I was a little nervous! It felt weird to be galloping that fast at a fence. Octavian caught on really quickly. We practiced the steeplechase fences twice, and the second time Octavian and I were both having a blast!

After steeplechasing, we worked through a coffin once, and I had to make sure that I brought him back after our steeplechasing fun. He was pretty good through the coffin, he peeked at the ditch briefly, but never really lost impulsion. We ended the lesson on the water, we worked on drops, through the water (3 strides) to a small log, and then a vertical, one stride, drop, and then finally a drop and 4-5 strides to a skinny that was on a bending line.

I came away from the lesson absolutely thrilled. I think that Octavian and I are both really look forward to Difficult Run!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Still working hard

There have been no breaks for us. As usual, both Octavian and I have been working very hard on our dressage! Gabriele has been a wonderful trainer to be a working student for, and I am dissapointed when I think that Octavian will be coming home in a few weeks. It will be nice to have him close again, but I will miss being a working student!

Our recent quest has been becoming light on the forehand, more up in front, and using the hind end more. This feels awkward to me, because I've had "down and round" drilled into me for most of my life, but now I am having to think "up and round", so at times, I feel like I am comitting a crime! It's a learning process, and I'm starting to get used to new things, however, Octavian feels very nice when he's in this new frame, despite the fact that my abs start hurting after about 5 minutes of sitting trot...his trot feels completely different! Our lateral work has improved leaps and bounds. A lot of the problems we were having were stemming from attitude going into the movements. I would try too hard, tense up, and as always that would transfer to Octavian. I've had to learn to "let things flow" and relax a lot more during lateral movements! This has especially been positive for our shoulder-ins. Nearly everytime we go into shoulder-in, I start smiling because it feels so good to be doing a correct shoulder-in!

The canter is better, but we're not quite as up in front as we need to be. Regardless, Octavian is trying very hard to do everything I ask of him, and I'm sure the canter will get there soon with a lot of hard work on both of our parts. The good thing is, he is much more supple at the canter and I no longer feel as if I'm riding a train...about to wreck! He's stopped running which is such a big improvement. Gabriele has us doing a lot of thinking leg-yielding in the canter, which as I'm finding out, is drastically improving our canter.

We've had a lot of chances to get out and condition in the humidity and heat these last few weeks. I'm pleased with Octavian's fitness progress. Soon we will be bumping up our trot and canter sets, which gives me butterflies because I know I'm doing it for the CCI*!

Not a lot of jumping has been done recently. We've done some gymnastics, and I continue to work on not panicking and taking long spots, or freezing up and causing us to chip in. That being said, Octavian feels the best he ever has over fences. I feel like we are working together (no debating approaching the fence) vs. our old issue of being on two different pages.

This weekend we our off to a local schooling combined test where we will do a combined test division, an additional dressage test, and an additional "jumper round", which I will probably ride quietly as not to fire up and send the wrong message to Octavian. We are finally quieting down in the stadium ring, and as much as I'd like to be competitive, I don't want to bring up old issues! I'm extremely excited to get out again though, and hopefully we will both remain relaxed during the dressage tests. to mentally ride our tests!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MDHT at Loch Moy

We had a dissapointing weekend. The new rings and courses looked great, the facility was defenitely improved from last fall. I took Octavian out to school on the flat Saturday evening. He was distracted, and found the sprinklers in the stadium far more interesting then his leg-yields and bending work. I can't say I blamed him, there was a lot to look at.

I walked my cross country course with Molly Saturday afternoon. I was really excited about riding in the next day, I had some concerns about 4ab, a combination involving a skinny toothbrush type jump at 'b', and had to pay special attention to the corner at 15. We walked the intermediate corner to make my preliminary corner look easy, that was a good strategy because I felt a lot less worried afterwards! Sunday morning my fears about the toothbrush skinny at 4b were lessened, we had a skinny on the stadium course, which I was hoping would be a nice warm up for the first skinny (4b) on cross country.

Octavian felt wonderful warming up for dressage, much better than he ever had. I felt that our hard work over the past months had really left us in a good place heading into the dressage arena. As soon as we started trotting on the outside of the arena, we both became tense and couldn't get it together again. I thought our test needed a lot of improvement, I was riding badly and he wasn't moving off of my leg, and we had a lot of nasty moments. I was rather dissapointed coming out of the ring because I knew that we were both capable of better.

I was really happy with him after warming up for stadium, we were communicating well and I felt like we were going to have a good round. He was soft, yet forward and responsive. The stadium rings at Loch Moy are near the dressage arenas and warm up areas. I entered the ring, heard the whistle, cantered my circle, and headed over the first fence only to hear more whistles. I was disoriented and couldn't figure out where the whistles were coming from, but heard "stop", so I did. The judge came over and informed me that I jumped the first fence before her whistle and was therefore eleminated. I was immediately confused because I had her a whistle. We talked to the TD, who said that she could see where the confusion had occured, and that it was unfortunate, but I was still going to have to be eleminated, especially because the jump crew was still in the ring (I didn't see the jump crew, they were to the right when I was headed torward the left, but lesson learned). Everyone around the ring heard the whistle that must have come from the dressage ring below stadium. I wish I had poorer hearing. Since I had not completed stadium, I was not allowed to go cross country either. It was the end of the day for us. Our dressage score was a 41, and looking on the bright side, two months ago a 41 would have been a good test for us, where now I considered it bad, so there has to be some improvement.

I'm still very dissapointed, but should get over within the week. The most important thing is to move forward.

This week I will be picking up and giving Octavian his second vaccination needed for Morven CCI* in the fall, and I just sent in the FEI and USEF life recording registrations. We are well on our way to getting an FEI passport.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Off to Loch Moy

I've been really enjoying my working student position, and dressage has no longer become a "chore", fortunately, because I learn more and more about it everyday! Riding one of the more experienced horses has been very benefecial to me, although I don't always realize it until I go to give an aid or ask for something and I know how it's supposed to feel. Infact, I taught an OTTB I work with weekly her first step of leg-yielding this week. I was very excited!

Yesterday we worked on riding through my test. I don't want to jinx myself for this weekend, but Octavian and I have both improved. To my shock, after going doing our shoulder-ins, Gabriele said they were "very nice"! Counter-canter was "Good, he's got the tuff stuff down" (Good boy, Octavian!). Our major hiccup in the test always comes after the trot transition at M after the free walk. Octavian really dislikes getting back on the bit so quickly, so that is something we will just have to continue working on, but I may get a 4 on that transition this weekend but we will try our best. My main goal in the dressage ring is to remember not to panic. As Gabriele puts it, he is really listening to my half halts now, but despite that, I have a habit of being "grrr" and riding with too much hand because I sometimes expect him not to listen to my half-halts (more old habits!). So, I am going to try really hard to not panic and communicate with Octavian well...the correct way. As for jumping, it's been coming along pretty well, no complaints. We school lots of corners in the stadium ring.

Looks as if we may finally be ready to hit the road, we're off to The Maryland Horse Trials at Loch Moy. I'm extremely excited, it's been too long since Rubicon! Hopefully we have a good weekend, and I hope that when I arrive at the barn this morning, my horse doesn't look like a paint but rather the nice WHITE fleabitten gray I left yesterday!