Having had a very hectic month I am a little late with this report which in fact I am writing after the third event we have just came back from (Rockingham Castle International Horse Trials). It went better than the Aston event I shared my observation with you below and the report on it is coming your way very soon 🙂 In the meantime, let’s look at Aston Le Walls.
The second event of the season for Emma took us to the beautiful grounds of Aston Le Walls. It’s a truly wonderful set up with clearly many new venue ideas and improvements in the pipeline. We did the unaffiliated event which followed the affiliated ones earlier in the week. Shabby had a company this time as his stable friend and a fellow ex-racehorse – Merehead – travelled with him to make his first ever appearance in the eventing world 😉 You might know Merehead from the video I posted not that long ago – Ex-racehorse to Event Horse in progress: 3 months flatwork training. WARM UP & DRESSAGE
The dressage warm up proved overwhelmingly exciting for Merehead who lost his concentration on Emma and focused on trying to release his energy. We deliberated for a moment how to warm him up and decided to allow him to canter early on which we sometimes do at home when he is distracted. This worked to some extent but definitely was not enough for a relaxed dressage test 😉 He stayed within the arena boards (his canter can be massive and we had our doubts!) and certainly impressed the judges with his powerful self but that’s about that. He was entered into this event as an experience and to see if he enjoys it rather than to be competitive in any way so we were very pleased with him either way.
Shabby warmed up very well. It’s taking a long time for him to abandon his acute alertness and replace it with some form of a quiet observation but we’ve been letting him discover a more relaxed way of going at home and he is learning well. Working in a quiet indoor school at home, everything is that much easier than in the open field with many other horses and a pressure he evidently feels. Physically, he is more than capable for the demands of the XC but his carrying power needed for self-carriage in dressage and show jumping brings him down.
Mentally, he has a long way to go too. In the lessons, we focus mostly on building his confidence in the physical capability as well as in the actions of the rider so he can built upon those in a stressful situation. He is a very athletic little horse, nimble and quick with a huge heart. I feel really invested in him and really want him to do well. The more he goes out, the better he copes so hopefully we will have him happier and calmer towards the end of the season.
There is also a fair amount of weakness in his work on the left rein; it will be interesting to observe what effect the strengthening and improved symmetry will have on his overall performance.
Two months ago Merehead jumped sideways at a mere sight of a pole on the ground. Doing his chiropractic exercises which involved walking over a series of poles and stopping in the middle of them was a challenge. Aston was his first ever course in an event atmosphere so that considering he was fabulous 🙂 He warmed up in a fashion in a very busy and hectic surroundings and then jumped everything, fillers and odd colours, with a jolly amount of freshly discovered bravado. Emma credits her cross country trainer – Mark – and his confidence building exercises for Merehead’s jumping attitude. It was a very green round but he went beyond all expectations with one jump down (his canter has very minimal adjustability at the moment).
Whilst in the dressage the anxiety and tension translates into lost marks and high scores, in show jumping phase, Shabby is paying a hefty stress price. It’s a concern to me because I like to see him working in a content way. Focused but not to the point of obsession. And Shabby is both stressed and obsessed when it comes to coloured poles. On a positive note, it was a calmer round than Hambleden even though the warm up conditions were everything Shabby could do without being exposed to.
This phase is where I go and grab some food and relax 😉 I love dressage and jumping training but don’t have that much interest in the XC as far as coaching goes. However, I do enjoy watching Emma galloping the boys around 😉 I do observe her approaches, landings and position over the jumps to make sure I can continue improving her riding in our lessons but other than that it’s like going to a cinema and tucking into popcorn! Both boys were fantastic, Merehead flew around looking like he was setting off on a 4* course and Shabby skipped the jumps as per usual. Now, if you are still with me, grab your popcorn and have a look at the action on videos 🙂
POST EVENT REFLECTIONS & Training focus between Aston Le Walls and Rockingham (one week)
There were many positives to this event. Shabby warmed up much better than at Hambleden and his work almost matched his work at home on many occasions. So did Emma’s. The dressage score was high (48.5) which was probably one of the worst he had ever gotten but at the same time, all the comments were very fair and there was nothing mentioned that we don’t work on back home. It’s only his second event and I am sure he will settle the more he runs. The tension costs but if we can get him to work in the arena as he does in the warm up he is more than capable of 6s-7s on his sheet. There is no pressure on him to be what he can’t be but I do want him to find a more comfortable and relaxed way of going and to enjoy cooperating with Emma within the white boards 🙂 Show jumping I have a mixed feeling about. There are several things I want to address in training but I will share more of those in my Rockingham report. He was more “with the rider” this time but still very stressed. XC – I loved watching him in his natural element, he has the confidence there that he lacks in dressage and show-jumping so the mission is to give him that in all phases. Merehead was fabulous. Emma says I help her remain calm when all hell breaks lose with Shabby but I am learning a good lesson myself too. My competition times always meant huge amount of work at home and only showing the horses once they were level above the show level. Watching Merehead counting clouds, hollow and braced doing his dressage test is not something I cherish but probably for the first time in my riding and teaching life I am learning to relax about it, see the events as an experience and a true learning grounds not just as an exam of competency…(I do hope he gets his act together for the next event though :-P) The plan for Merehead is to continue his lessons, do a few local dressage shows now and some xc schooling outings.
Only Shabby is scheduled to go to Rockingham where he will run in BE100 section H. His work plan remains similar but we are increasing demands on bending through his body as well as asking for exercises requiring more self-carriage (shoulder-in, counter canter). We are also keeping a stricter routine of warming up and cooling down for good 10 minutes in a stretchy, long and low trot which Shabby does like when he relaxes. For Emma, I want her to become much more tuned in to any loses of balance in the horse so there is more sitting trot for her, more transition work as well as simple pole work to train her eye for distance and canter rhythm. Until next time! Wiola