Scribing at AECs – Judge Feedback at Novice

First of all, your first time Dressage scribing probably shouldn’t be a full day of championships… but I did all my homework and practiced a bit so that I would be ready to do my best for the 49 riders in my ring! (Serious apologies to anyone after the first 15 riders. I never knew my hand could actually go numb and stop obeying me like that!)

The day started VERY early with a 4:45AM wake-up call so that I could get to my check-in point at the Kentucky Horse Park by the appointed 6:30AM ride time. Luckily, it was an absolutely gorgeous morning. My judge was right on time, and she was wonderful to work with. She left A LOT  of comments (3 – 4 per box a lot of the time!), but it was clear she was doing it because she recognized how hard each competitor worked to get to AECs and wanted them to have some valuable insight.

The great part of all those comments is that I could see some theme reoccurring. Below are the five most common comments she had for competitors doing Novice B:

1. Circles Don’t Have Corners

I think a lot of our riders internalized their trainers warning them to make their circles bit and to stay in the corners… Unfortunately, when you have a circle, there are no corners. Riding deep into the corner when your circle starts at A or C is really obvious and ruins the geometry.

how I feel trying to ride a 20M circle

2. Stiff in Transitions

Up or down between any gaits. This comment came up a lot. It was pretty clear a lot of riders spent a lot of time doing the movements, but not necessarily the transitions between those movements. As a result, either the rider or the horse (or both) were weak through the transitions, causing stiffness.

3. Proper Frame

My judge took a minute to discuss the frame she was looking for at this level. Still stretched into the bridle, but horses starting to move a bit more uphill than you would expect from BN. We saw many horse’s either still on their forehand (including a few who forged), ducked behind the contact, or in a frame too tight/high for the level. Being too high/tight for the level didn’t necessarily mean less points, but it did typically mean that the horse’s gaits weren’t as open as they could be.

Curling behind the contact was by far the greater sin, as the judge really wanted to see that horses were seeking the contact.

img_1791
I would argue this is pretty close. If anything, I would want May’s withers a bit higher and her throat-latch a bit more open. 

4. Sitting off Center

My judge was very aware of when riders were positioned off of center, and she called them out on it. She wanted to see riders in the middle of their saddles so that they could be the most efficient.

how your horse feels when you lean off center

5. Stretchy, Rhythm, Power from Behind

In the free walk, she was consistently looking for three things: was the horse stretching? Was the rhythm consistent and correct (forward but not running)? And was the horse powering forward from behind?

Many riders had one or two. Rhythm was good and power form behind, but not enough stretch, or good stretch and good power from behind, but the rhythm was quick/rushed. Honestly, just reminding myself of these three things on Friday helped me get a much better free walk out of May. (Honestly, I wanted to find a picture of this one, but I couldn’t find one where the horse wasn’t ducking behind the contact)

except… more active?

Overall, it was a long day, but I really appreciated having such a great judge. She was fair across the board, and we spent a good amount of time talking about the give and take of balancing the accurate/obedient ride vs. the flashy ride at the lower levels.

Luckily, I was done scribing around 2:30PM, so I got some free time! I got to meet Jack and Britt after their great Dressage test! And then I got to walk the Novice/BN XC courses.

I will say, and I might get into this more in another post, I ended up submitting an event evaluation after the event. I think the volunteers and staff did a WONDERFUL job keeping our ring on time and moving. However, I think that the involvement of EEI skewed the whole event in favor of the upper level riders, which in my opinion, is like spitting in the face of the lower levels.

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Recent Rides & Fall Feelings

My schedule has been a bit insane lately, as life and work have both gotten in the way. Unfortunately, they have also gotten in the way of my riding. Luckily, I have been able to keep up with my recent lessons, so I have some stuff to talk about!

May and I ended up having two Dressage lessons back to back because my trainer was repainting all of her jumps and making some new ones. (Props to her and everyone that pitched in to get that done. They look AMAZING.) Luckily though, Mandy is basically an evil genius, so she managed to make both Dressage lessons significantly different from one another.

The first lesson was all about test riding. We warmed up quick then ran through a BN test (which one? who knows). I am pretty sure we did BN A… but backwards. Honestly, I usually practice my tests backwards because May is more than smart enough to learn a test and start anticipating EVERYTHING.

The first test was…. ok. Maybe a low 30s test? The trot work is in a good place, and the quality of the canter and canter transitions have improved. However, I am pretty sure a bug bit her on the nose during our walk work so…. the head flinging was a bit much. Annnnnd I was so happy with the canter transitions that I didn’t ride my circle, which lost me a few points on geometry.

So we did a ride-a-test format, where Mandy and I discussed what was good and what was not good, and then I went back in and did it again. And you know what? It was probably a mid to high 20s type of test. Just really good. Solidly accurate, good quality on the trot and canter, stretch in the free walk. So we basically just gave May pats and told her she was a good girl.

Then… I was traveling and she got a week off. Whomp Whomp.

However, I was back in time for my next lesson, which thanks to some wind/rain, was in the indoor.  As a result, we went back to working on the shoulder-in work. May is clearly getting a LOT stronger in these movements and a lot more confident in the idea of really weighting her hind end. Honestly, just not a ton to say here hahaha. The shoulder-in work is helping and improving, but it is definitely still a work in progress.

Looking forward, Kentucky has decided to show off a bit with the weather… giving us a taste of fall. So far, it looks like all you AEC people should have nice weather for this weekend!

not yet… but it feels like it!

On Thursday, I am Dressage scribing ALL DAY in Claiborne Ring 2. Really excited to spend a day listening to how judges score Dressage tests.

Unfortunately, that is the ONLY DAY I will get to AECs, since on Friday, I am flying out to Tucson for family stuff. I’ve never been out that far west, much less in the SouthWest, so I am excited for the trip.

Again, we get back on Monday, so Tuesday will be a lesson again, which is good. Because I need my lessons. Why do I need my lessons? Because I am aiming for the Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge in Mid-October.

Am I insane? Probably. This show is competitive, big, and engages in a bit of level creep on XC, and we haven’t gone BN since May of 2016.

You know what though, she is going great. We jumped some Novice stuff on the hunter pace. We jumped some Novice stuff at our schooling at the KHP in the DOWNPOUR. We’re schooling much more complicated SJ courses at home. And, let’s be honest, the starter level we did back in APRIL was not a challenge for either of us. Also, May has gone BN with my half leaser back in the Spring.

So… This morning I officially renewed my USEA membership.

My goals are literally to go and have fun. Watching videos from previous years (yes, I do this) just makes me feel serious envy. Cantering around KHP in mid October? Yes Please and Thank You.

What about you? Are you looking forward to the end of Summer and the Fall weather?

IEA Horse Trials – View from the SJ Ring

The Hoosier Horse Park is… in a lot of ways, the exactly opposite of the Kentucky Horse Park. Where the Kentucky Horse Park prides itself on museums, offices, and it’s general “horse amusement park” theme, the Hoosier Horse Park bring me back to when I was a kid. There’s a little less polish, but a whole lot of heart.

It’s that heart that is so clearly visible at IEA Horse Trials. I showed up to the facility at 7:30AM… Yes… remember that post that said the first ride was at 10AM? WELL, with threatening weather, the first ride got moved down to a little after 9AM. There was still some morning-of prep, so I showed up bright and early.

As usually, I parked about as far from SJ as physically possible. Part of me always forgets that I can park right next to the SJ booth… Oh well. A quick greeting to like… everyone, and I made my way to SJ. The place was alive with activity. No one had any idea if the weather would hold out, but everyone was still showing up with their A game. I crept through the trailer parking… doing a bit of window shopping as I did.

IEA has a long format for both Novice and Training, and in the more rustic setting, it feels like what eventing might have felt like a couple of decades ago. The jumps that I have seen from XC (practically none of them outside of pictures) favor a more natural style. Buuuut it also has some of the amenities we all know and love at this point: permanent stalls, sand arenas, and air conditioning in the SJ booth. 😉

Scribing show jumping all day (I mean ALL DAY 9AM – 6PM) is always an experience. I think the number 4 is permanently inscribed on my brain. SJ was really good though. We saw some great rounds, and some rounds that definitely fell short of rider’s expectations.

My favorite is always the commentary in the booth. Sure, between the four people in there, we typically know quite a few people in the ring (and/or their trainer, horse’s breeder, etc etc). However, every single rider had at least us four cheering for them. A sticky horse had us all quietly cheering and encouraging it forward with “Come on!” “Kick on!” and “You got it!” A rail near the end of a great round garnered a groan from all of us… and then we would frantically check scores to see if that person maybe just MAYBE had a rail in hand.

Any bad luck, from our first I/P riders all the way to our Jr Starters was met with sympathy. Great rounds were met with pure joy. It didn’t matter who that person was. We loved the hairy ponies of unknown breeding as much as the OTTBs and as much as the fancier warmblood types. We weren’t looking for flash. We appreciated the horse that looked like a fun, confidence building type.

Then, as the show rolled into the Jr. Starter division, it was after 5PM. XC had wrapped up. Dressage had wrapped up. We were the only ring still going. And where was everyone? Around the SJ arena. The bleachers were packed. People stood around all sides of the arena. And we all cheered on our Jr. Starters.

Everyone was tired, dirty, and ready for a drink, but we were more ready to support one another. On a day it should have rained, the sun shone on. At the end of the day, that’s why IEA is on my “Bucket list” of horse trials. For 3 days out of the year, it’s all about the horses, riders, and the sport.

If you want to read about the history of the Hoosier Horse Park and IEA, check out this US Eventing’s article.

For more about the IEA Horse Trials long format divisions, click here.