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!