Creating XC questions in the ring
Just a little slideshow to show how I create cross-country questions in the ring. I like to present technical challenges in an environment where there are not many variables to begin with (ie footing, terrain, etc) and in a way that I can break them down to a size where a horse can literally walk up and pop over them so they don't lose confidence or develop bad habits. I'll add photos on occasion so check back from time to time. Feel free to comment if you have any specific questions on the set up of the different lines.
A great way to continue legging up a horse coming back from winter break while continuing to improve the technical skills is to use cavaletti exercises. Once my horses are comfortable with the basic version of this exercise as I described in March I like to add small jumps in to work on what I refer to as "flatwork over fences". The exercise in this photo is fairly straightforward and works a lot on maintaining a balanced medium canter while coming through short approaches and changes of direction. Something we can never practice enough!
One of the biggest challenges in eventing is simply time... we essentially train a horse in 3 disciplines and wonder why it's difficult to make progress. My way to combat this challenge is to make the most of my training rides by incorporating multiple elements. It keeps things interesting for the horse and sharpens the rider without having to subject the horse to any excess pounding. Whether it's working on my dressage out on hilly terrain or frequently incorporating cavaletti into my daily work I am able to address many issues that I face in the jumping phases while continuing to develop the physical and mental aspects needed in the dressage ring. The photo above is a view of my ring with a variety of exercises set up, one in particular that I will describe as I have used it for horses at all levels of training and fitness.
Training: Narrowing your focus
As usual after an event I come home with a few key areas that I want to focus on for each horse. After Pine Top my major take away for Quincy was that I needed to jump into water to be sure he wasn't put off after our dunking. So I'll have to wait until the ground has dried out enough from our most recent snowfall to do that... For Delta the focus is going to be on narrowing her focus. She is very genuine to the jumps but doesn't really focus on "looking for" what is next on cross-country...particularly the narrow jumps. And when she does jump the narrow fences she doesn't hold herself completely straight and square which I know could end up leading to a silly glance off when she's tired at the end of a long, demanding course. I'm going to start working now to try and prevent such future mishaps and to prepare her for her move up to the 3* level later in the year when she will have less time to assess the technical questions. Here is one of my new favorite exercises...
Check back here for the diagrams and descriptions of the additional jumping exercises that I utilized while being stuck in a small indoor...
After arriving back in Virginia we ended up buried in snow with frigid temperatures and no relief in site. While I was feeling good about the foundation that I was able to build while in Florida I did not want to let all of that work simply slip away. I was fortunate to find a local indoor arena with a clear enough driveway to get my trailer into so that allowed me to get a good flatwork school in but then what to do about my jumping... My plan after Pine Top was to work on keeping my focus sharper in show jumping as I found that I was landing and cruising for too long after the jumps then doing too much adjusting in the approach to the next fence.
Again I am not quite organized with the photo taking of the exercises but I've made a simple addition to Delta's previous canter cavaletti exercise. She has mastered the one-stride rails on a curve so the next challenge is to incorporate an actual jump.
Canter cavaletti on a curve with a Jump
Let the training begin...
This year I'm trying a new plan to start the season. I decided to compete at the Poplar Place Horse Trials in January as a way to get a good sense of where each horses' performance stands so early in the year. That way I can make the most of the 2 1/2 weeks I have planned in Ocala which will be dedicated to training and conditioning. The goal is to put a good base on the horses so that I can travel back to Virginia via the Pine Top Horse Trials and work from home for the majority of the winter/spring season. This training time will be especially important to get to know my newest partner, "Shame on the Moon" (aka Delta), as she has only been in the barn since the beginning of December.
First up for her is a get-to-know-you lesson with DOC. While the majority of the feedback during our show jumping lesson was positive there was one very clear area that needed my attention. It came as no surprise