Saturday, April 3, 2010

Festival of the Horse CDI3*

I'm currently in sunny Southern California at the Festival of the Horse dressage show in Burbank. The weather started out ominous earlier in the week, with rainshowers and thunderstorms in the forecast. Luckily the nastiness by-passed Burbank altogether and we had absolutely picturesque Southern California spring weather…60 degrees, sunshine, light breeze. Perfect!

I had a very busy first morning, I drew a 9:09am ride time for PSG with Monkey which put me into very close quarters with my 9:44am ride on Majek. The young horse HR then had a Training level test at 11:03am. Luckily HR’s owner, Ruth Anne, was very helpful and kept things buzzing along as we swapped tack, horses, coats, etc. Because the times were so tight, I would only be afforded a 10-15 minute warm-up on Majek. So I lunged him early in the AM, before I got on Monkey, just to get him out and loosened up.

My strategy paid off. Monkey had a very good showing at PSG in the CDI, easily scoring 65% and placing 5th out of 17 horses. I was thrilled! Our only major mistake was putting in a few ones in the middle of our 4 time changes, otherwise the test was nicely organized and fluid. After vaulting from one horse to the next, Majek earned a respectable 64% in Third level test 1 from O judge Linda Zang. The test lacked a little verve and suppleness, but not a bad result for such a short warm-up! It was a test of warm-up efficiency and nerves.

Finally, the young horse HR won his Training level test 3 class with a 66%. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the score, the test went super well and he was very solid. Our only major problems were the first halt and the stretchy circle. Unfortunately, after a solid run of 7s and an 8 in our test, the judge gave us a 5 on the stretchy circle, and then was very hard on our collectives…7,7,6,6. That kept the score down (especially now that the rider score has a coefficient of 3). But since this was his first show, I was very happy that he has been as settled and relaxed as he has.

After the busy morning we were able to watch most of the CDI Grand Prix. It was really interesting to see some of our current top combinations. I have to say Jan Ebeling is looking absolutely on form with the two mares Rafalca and Sandrina. Sandrina especially was the picture of lightness, ease, and elasticity, particularly evinced by her effortless transitions. Jan went 1-2 with the two mares. In third place was the spectacular Jazz son U2 ridden by Olympic rider Guenter Seidel. U2 is phenomenally talented in scope and elasticity and expertly ridden by Guenter. The extended trot and trot half passes, as well as the canter pirouettes were highlights. The piaffe is still a bit weak and unclear in the rhythm, and some tension crept into the ride, particularly in the canter work, with the horse becoming a bit too tight in the neck and not jumping through enough behind. There were several other good combinations and it was interesting to see many Canadian combinations down here in SoCal trying to qualify for this year’s WEG.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Today was a much better day for me, as far as how the horses went. Monkey warmed up much more supple and uphill than he has in the previous days, so I tried to add a bit more expression in the trot after I schooled some of the canter work. My test was much cleaner today, especially in the canter work, and we earned a 65% in the I-1. I was very happy with my score from Stephen Clarke, who gave me over 67% (2% higher than yesterday). Unfortunately the other two judges didn’t see the test quite the same, scoring me 63 and 64. Just goes to show you how differently judges can see the same test, depending on what they want to emphasize. I ended up 5th again, which I was very happy with.

HR went quite well, I ended up misjudging my warm-up time and got a relatively short warm-up for Training 4. I had planned on schooling some of the stretchy circle and trying to get better stretching today (that was my big issue yesterday). I did ride him a bit lower and rounder, after watching the video from yesterday I decided he was a bit too high in the neck and pushing his lower neck out. I squeaked every ounce out of my limited warm-up time, despite having the gate person on my case to get in the arena. The test was very smooth and everything worked quite well. I wouldn’t say it was significantly better than yesterday, but it did feel a bit better balanced and more “over the back”. Imagine my surprise when the score came back…78.4%! He earned a 9 on the right lead canter circle and a 10 on the diagonal change rein working trot, plus straight 8s on the collectives! Very cool. Once again, the judging played a big role here as I didn’t feel the test was that much better than yesterday, but this judge saw him (us) quite differently. He easily won that class, and may have the high score for the show so far.

Majek warmed up much better today, better power in the trot and significantly looser and more supple. In my warm-up, the canter started ok, a bit downhill, but after some more trot work to get him better engaged it was much better. The test itself felt much better in those regards, more supple, elastic, powerful, etc. Canter is still a bit weak, he wants to be too downhill and stiff in his body, and I have a hard time fixing it. Unfortunately this judge was very hard on him and he only scored 61% in Third level test 3. She wanted more “honest throughness” and connection. I was pretty disappointed with the score, although in general I agreed with the comments. Some judges really like him, and some really pick up on the stiffness (even when he’s relatively supple).

In general the riding down here is pretty darn good. I’ve seen some very nice juniors and young riders and most of the professionals are very good. There is quite a bit of deep riding, some good, some not-so-good. I watched some of the warm-up, several of the GP horses were schooling today. One could always criticize some aspects of their riding, their priorities, but in general, I think they were sympathetic and making pretty good decisions. The warm-ups are always interesting, because they are often trying to deal with problems they know will crop up the next day in their test. That affects their priorities.

Today is the final day of the show, we'll see how it goes!

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