Monday, April 19, 2010

Counter Canter & Flying Changes

An interesting topic of discussion with dressage trainers can often be kicked off with the question:   Which should schooled on the horse first?   Counter canter or flying changes?

And the answer will often start with, "It depends."   :-)   Yes, there are various training approaches.....

Plan A:   For Piper, his training has generally followed the levels of dressage.   Using the dressage tests as guidelines, a rider can learn a good sound progression of lessons for the dressage horse.   Using that approach, working canter is followed by lengthened strides of canter, then counter canter, then collected and medium canters, and finally flying changes.

Plan B:   Another approach is to start playing with flying changes when the counter canter work begins.   This approach works best when the rider is truly skilled at both movements and can be very clear in differentiating the aids for the horse.

Plan C:   And yet another approach is to take what the horse offers and try to expand on it, educating the horse on the aids whenever he is being generous with the movement.

(No doubt, there are a few more plans available to clever dressage riders.)

With Piper, I have pretty much stuck with Plan A.   And that was my plan, until today.

Piper has started training and competing over jumps with his young hunter/jumper rider, Eliza.   And in working over full courses, he has just started to doing flying changes on his own to help keep himself balanced in the canter as they navigate the course.   Okay.   But today, while Eliza tried some counter canter work, he offered unbalanced changes instead.   Great and whoops!   Offering changes is okay, but we don't want him to get used to making incorrect changes!

Okay, so quick decision time!   Piper and I be contesting First Level Test 4 in four weeks time, a test that asks for two counter canter loops.   Meanwhile, Eliza would really love to get flying changes on demand for her hunter & jumper classes.   So, in her lesson this afternoon, instead of riding the soft loop along the long side holding the canter as it shifts in and out of counter canter, as they reached the quarterline between E and X, Eliza gave Piper the correct aids to do a flying change.   And VOILA! they performed a lovely perfectly correct flying change.

So, we moved from Plan A to Plan C.   Tomorrow, I will ride Piper and get to work on Plan B.   Confused?   Hopefully, Piper won't be.   :-)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Planning Piper's Show Calendar

Thanks to a surprisingly warm March and start to April, early spring flowers are everywhere.   However, typical of New England weather, it is actually snowing right now!   And so, it feels like a perfect day to sit down with the 2010 NEDA Omnibus, plan out the competition calendar, and get those first show entries in!

Piper's 2010 competition season has already started.   But not in dressage.   Instead, he has made his showjumping debut, competing with his young rider Eliza who is a member of the Kearsarge Regional High School Equestrian Team.   KRHS is one of several teams competing in the New Hampshire High School Equestrian Teams show series.

Meanwhile, sitting down with a calendar and the NEDA Omnibus, selection of Piper's USDF dressage competitions starts with a vision of the year's goals.   In other words.....

What do I want to achieve this year?

For Piper, the first goal will be to qualify for the 2010 USDF Region 8 Training Level.   The second goal is to pull off the same feat at First Level.   And, before the "Winter Break" in the 2010 - 2011 season, a debut at Second Level is the final goal.

However, this is Piper we are talking about.   Which REALLY means the goals look like this:
  • Successfully complete each ride which we begin
  • Avoid injuries which cause us to withdraw from any competitions
  • Trot right up to all judge booths, flower boxes, and loose trash bags without worry
:-)   Actually, I believe this will be Piper's best dressage year yet!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Preparing for One's First Dressage Show

Preparing to show in your first dressage competition can be a daunting task without a bit of guidance.   I was lucky in that I received lots of excellent tips and coaching from my dressage trainers over the years.   Trainers who had been there, done it, and got the tee-shirts.   :-)   And thanks to such good preparation, my first dressage show was exciting and fun, as has every one since then!

It's in that same spirit that my farm, Kearsarge Meadows, is offering three Dressage Show Preparation Clinics this Spring, aimed at helping riders who are sitting on the fence considering entering their first dressage competition, those who are really ready to compete but want a chance to do a dry run and ask lots of questions first, and those who simply want to pick up additional tips, tools, and a pre-season critique of their test.

Having been there, done it, and earned tons of ribbons, rosettes, and trophies along the way, I'm looking forward to helping riders prepare to enjoy the dressage show ring with a wonderful understanding of what to expect.   And this will allow them to enter at "A", ride up the centerline, halt, and salute to the judge with confidence and a smile.

Hello, Spring!   Let the shows begin!