Week three and four training with Hubertus Schmidt.
Show prep and first horse show competing at Grand Prix in Germany!
Started week Three schooling in snaffle on Monday. Did lots of loosening work and transitions to get him soft and listening to half halt and on my seat. Working in the snaffle after a day off is a lot of work as Wrigley is generally stronger and less through after a day off but I feel it helps me to really get his body loose, even though it can take more time and at times be more work physically for me.
On Tuesday we schooled in the double and had a great ride. The changes were really super today, the two tempiis round and forward and covering the entire diagonal. One tempiis were well prepared and straight. Hubertus feels I should keep the ones for a solid 7 now and then as he gets more consistent start to build them and ask for more forward changes as the days go on. Even within the line of changes, best to think about getting them started and solid then building so I don’t over ride and make the first flying change jump too much up and not forward and through. Revisited the trot work and again schooled the trot working to get him more over the ground and less cadenced. Hubertus emphasized again that when he gets too much cadence and up and down in his trot it makes it harder for him to cross over and be fluent in the half passes. We finished with the extended trot and Hubertus wanted me to allow him to go more in front so he could swing more through his body.
Wednesday we warmed up indoors then went outside so that we could work on parts of the Grand Prix test in the full size arena. Started with half passes and then schooled the canter zig zag. Hubertus pleased with the forwardness and amount of sideways we got with each counter change. I need to do the first change out of the first half pass earlier so I don’t run out of room by the end. Otherwise quite good. We then schooled the pirouettes. He encouraged me to school them big first each way so that I can make adjustments to them. When you make them small from the beginning there’s no chance to make constructive corrections. Then once satisfied with quality of canter and bend in schooling size, ask for them the size I need for competition.
Trot work more swinging from the start today. We start on circle first, then to shoulder in then to half pass. I need to be sure I keep his quarters and keep the swing all the way to the end of half pass- wherever I chose to end it, maintain the position to that point. In the left half pass in trot practice finishing and maintaining the bend and position left up to and sometimes through the corner to remind Wrigley to stay with me. Then straighten and ride up and forward to the halt and keep his nose in front of the vertical.
Schooled the extended trot on diagonal for first time today. He again wants me to let him out more and to keep extension all the way to the end letter. We then schooled passage and again he reiterated how important it is that I ride forward in the turns in passage so he stays in front of me, then take that forward feeling into the piaffe. He must feel like he wants to move forward in piaffe, not that he stops in place on his own, no matter how good the piaffe is. Finished with trot extension on diagonal then collected trot up center line to passage and then piaffe at X. I need to keep him thinking not just forward but also a little left so that he stays regular. We had really good work today and Hubertus said the piaffe and passage were both for an 8 today!
I am away for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so the plan is for Hubertus to ride and school Wrigley. I am glad he is having the opportunity to have a few rides on him so he can feel what’s happening and we can discuss it. I think it’s often surprising for trainers to sit on a horse and feel what the rider feels. I’ve also heard say that the better the rider the more they can hide what’s happening!
On Monday I get the chance to discuss in detail the rides Hubertus had with Wrigley. It’s very interesting feedback and I think it helped Hubertus feel how Wrigley is changing and now once he’s through to the left, the work to the right in the trot has actually become a bit more challenging. He’s letting go now better on the left rein on the inside and accepts the right half halt outside, but then when you track to the right and the left rein is now on the outside, he’s trying to push through it and becomes heavy and bearing down when you ask him to balance.
He also commented on how when he schooled the half passes he got a great feeling in the reins and in Wrigley’s body for the first half of the diagonal, but then half way through the half pass Wrigley totally changed and stiffened left. Hubertus had to come back to the walk a few times and school the half pass in walk, to get Wrigley to wait with him and not take over. Once he had a good feeling in the half passes he then went to canter for a bit, then back to trot and then back to test how he is in the trot half pass again. Wrigley started blocking him again in the half pass so he repeated coming back to the walk, suppling him, then going on again, being certain he stayed soft.
When we schooled Monday we took extra time to get Wrigley really soft left in the warm up. By continuing to use the snaffle rein on the left and my inside leg I focus on bending him and then softening as soon as he releases.
When we schooled the half passes today we really focused on the use of the half halt and release being the important part of it. Use the aid quickly in one stride, then release and if necessary to repeat it then do another one a stride or two or three later. Key is that he gets the chance to carry with the reins soft. If there’s no release or the half lasts too long it won’t balance him, and allow him to swing. It just balls him up.
The next three days we focused on different parts of the test, but each day we still schooled the trot and trot half passes as it’s the place where he needs the most work. We began putting small pieces of the test together in the outside arena, stringing maybe two or three movements in a row together to see how things flowed.
Friday is the day we drive to the show. It’s nearly a five hour drive so we leave in the morning so allow the horses to settle and have lunch and time to walk and graze in the afternoon. The show ground are located in a town called Zierow, right on the Baltic coast, in what used to be East Germany. The stalls are in a tent and the competition arena is an indoor with high walls and the spectators and judges sitting above the horses. I am very happy we are going to get the chance to have a full schooling session indoors as it is a bit scary with people so close and right above the horses. There is a competition going on the day we arrive so we need to wait until 7 PM to school indoors. Hubertus drove up separately and waited for us to help us prepare for the test. I was so grateful to have the help schooling that night! Hubertus just emphasized that we take as much time as needed to walk and relax Wrigley in the indoor and then to take time in the warm up doing lots of trot and canter transitions so that Wrigley gets soft and releases his back. I know from past experiences that after trailering for a long distance and being at a new facility, that Wrigley can feel totally different than he does at home. His back stiffens, his trot gets flat and the canter feels hurried. I know that he needs sometimes 15 minutes of trot to canter transitions with a break in the middle to begin to really let go in his body.
Hubertus wanted me to make the plan for what I wanted to do in the schooling today. I chose to do a little collected canter work with half passes but no zig zag. I also just wanted to school the pirouette canter on the center line without the pirouettes just to check on his straightness and to keep him honest and to be sure he’s not thinking about turning on his own. Walk break, then the trot work. Trot was good today, more up and nice hand. Started again on the circle each way to check for bend and swing, then the shoulder in and then the half passes. We finished with the canter up the centerline to the halt then trot to extended trot. Today Wrigley wants to really take over and Hubertus could see why I had been concerned about letting him go too much in the extensions in the days leading up to the show. We changed tactics today and schooled short diagonals to keep him balanced and then short sets of passage to extended trot then back to passage to get him listening and staying with me. When we do the full diagonal in extended trot it’s key that Wrigley takes the half halt at the end before the corner so that I can ride forward on the short side, then half halt again before right corner and then start the steep half pass. Hubertus reminds me again that the left rein makes him wait, the right snaffle keeps flexion and bending and that I need to keep the quarters right up to the end point before B. Just as I approach the track I change flexion, and ride forward to the left half pass, keeping Wrigley’s shoulders to the right with left leg and using the right rein half halts. If he tries to take over I use the curb on the right in a half halt to make him wait. The left snaffle rein keeps him supple and loose on the left so he’s soft and can swing and stay forward in the trot.
From the double half passes we schooled the halt and rein back at C. Be sure to keep him up to the halt- nose in front! Take time and wait before starting rein back. Trot out to extended trot to passage turn to the left. I need to keep a bit of left flexion after the transition back to passage and think about a hint of haunches-in to keep Wrigley from getting hollow to the right. Ride passage forward through the turn and keep right rein close to his neck, and keep forward in piaffe! Very good work today and Wrigley felt relaxed and not anxious about the environment by the end of the schooling.
Show day! A bit of a learning curve showing here. At this show they did not post actual ride times! They give a start time for your class and then if you ask the secretary they can tell you the letter that was chosen that day to determine order of go- based on the horses name. So, for our class it was M, so all the horses with first name M, then N and so on would be in front of Wrigley. We calculated I would be seventh to go. However, you don’t know how much time they are allowing for each horse, so you can imagine it’s really a bit hard to plan. We thought we had planned right, but they were still 15 minutes behind what we estimated to be our time.
The footing was a bit heavy in the outdoor warm up so we did lots of walking and walk breaks so we don’t tire Wrigley. He felt great today and could have gone in with a 20 minute warm up! As it was we had to do lots of walking to take up the time but I was quite pleased with how the warm up was totally in keeping with all the warm ups we did in preparation for the show. When you have a warm up system that works and you stick with it, it takes so much pressure off in the show warm up! No surprises and no feeling of having to hurry because you have a plan and you know how long things take.
My test was very solid and I got some great scores. My trot work and my half passes, in particular, were much improved and really flowed. The extended trots were not as big as they had been in schooling but I was a little bit conservative in how much I asked in the first two. His piaffe got all 8’s and the passage several 7.5’s. The two tempiis were also an 8. There were a couple times in the test where Wrigley tried to pull down and got a bit short in the neck. Hubertus said I need to stay on the snaffle rein and use my back and legs to push him up to the bridle when he does that. Be sure in the entry that I keep him up and forward in the canter right to the halt and don’t collect the canter too much before X.
We finished in fourth place in the Grand Prix in a class of fifteen professionals. There were some really super horses in the class and some top professionals including Pia Laus-Schneider and Marion Wiebusch. The scores were close in the top four group with just one score of 70 % and the next three riders all within 2 percentage points. I felt the scoring was very fair and that these judges really rewarded the good things with good scores and were tough where there were mistakes. From what I saw they weren’t afraid to use the full range of scores.
Saturday we compete in the Grand Prix Special. We finish fourth again but with a high 68 and the scores are even closer! We had a couple of mistakes in the tempiis today, usually they are our highlight. We hadn’t practiced this test at all and the changes come off the opposite diagonals so we had a couple communication errors. But the highlight for me was the 8 we got on the left trot half pass! I think it’s only the second time he’s gotten an 8 on the left half pass in his career (once I think at Prix St George), and for sure the first one in the Grand Prix Special. I am really pleased with the weekend and I feel like I got so much from the experience. It was invaluable having Hubertus there for the warm up and to watch and go over my test when I came out. It was so helpful for him to see what happens in the arena during competition that doesn’t happen much in schooling. We can now make some small changes to the training plan and prepare for the next outing.