Wednesday, August 4, 2010

July Shows & Qualifications

The past couple weeks have been focused on competing.  Training, traveling, and riding.

After the GMHA June show, Piper stayed at the facilities for a week, enjoying a 4-H Camp week with his junior rider.  They participated in all sorts of activities from flat work to eventing, showing to trail riding, and hanging out.  Upon Piper's return home, we got hit with the heatwave to end all heatwaves.  When it came time to get back to dressage, Piper was heavy in the hand and not as light on his feet as one might like.

GMHA July Dressage Days

And so, the GMHA July show was much harder work than the June show.  We did not sweep, but we still put in a good showing.  Piper was Reserve Champion High Point of the Day at Training Level Open for one day and earned a few nice ribbons.

And, we completed our Qualification for the USDF Regionals at Training Level Open.  A mean feat, that, as open riders have to earn 68% in order to qualify.   68% scores do not come easily at any level.

But the big event for GMHA July was Piper's freestyle debut.  The music was not perfect.  The choreography wanted a bit more fiddling.  But we froze both, committed to practicing with what we had, and showed it on Saturday to a small but appreciative audience of about 40 or 50 people.

Nerves.  Riders can suffer from them.  So can horses.  And that's okay as long as the horse and rider take turns being nervous, with the calmer one providing support.  If both are worried at the same time, effective riding goes out the side door.

As our music started and we headed into the arena, I could feel we were not in sync with our trot music which has a very strong "clip clop clip clop" beat.   Instead of half halting and getting Piper's footfalls to match the beat, I just sat there in passenger mode.  Piper, meanwhile, was having serious second thoughts about approaching the judge at "C" at all.

And so the 4:45 minute ride progressed.  Piper continued to avoid "C", each time cutting a couple seconds off the ride and putting us ahead of the music.  Fortunately, his lack of impulsion (not a good thing, by the way) prevented us from getting too far ahead.  And the rider, overheating in a jacket which was not required in the humid 90 degree heat but was highly recommended, just hung in there, knowing it was not going to plan but not doing much about it.

We survived.  And that's about it.  We earned 62.5% from one judge and 65.625% from the other.  Final score:  64.063%.  Not horrible, but certainly not what we are capable of when the horse is not spooking and the woman in the saddle is actively in charge.

I vowed to actually RIDE my next freestyle the following week.  And did.

UNH Dressage on the Seacoast

At the UNH (University of New Hampshire) show, as soon as the music started, I helped Piper latch onto the beat.   Then, throughout the test, I rode the movements as best as possible technically, while listening for the music cues and making adjustments as necessary.   The final centerline, with zig-zag leg yields, went fairly well, and I beamed with satisfaction in my final halt.   The ride felt pretty good.

Both judges rewarded us with just over 69% and we won the freestyle class with a qualifying score of 69.271%.  We used the same music CD.  And the same floor pattern.  But this time, the rider RODE every step of the test as well as every phrase of the music.   And that makes a difference.


So, at this stage, Piper is qualified for Training Level Open and half qualified for First Level Freestyle and First Level Open.  We have two opportunities left to chase those qualifying scores.  Until then, we've got a bit of time to train, tweak the music, and work on our technical execution of the the choreography.

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