Monday, April 29, 2013

Jim Wofford at the Midwest Horse Fair

Midwest Horse Fair. Not the first place you'd go looking for quality eventing instruction, but this year was certainly an exception! The great Jim Wofford was on hand, and I was fortunate enough to be one of his guinea pigs! We had one mounted demonstration, and one lecture each day, and Jim did an excellent job of balancing the needs of the riders looking for precious nuggets of knowledge, and the spectating western pleasure public, many of whom didn't know eventing was a sport, or even that "Oldenburg" was a breed!

On day one, we focused on position. "Sit right to jump right" was the theme, and luckily for us, we all had a pretty solid position, but Jim still took the time to explain the perfect placement of the foot, and why the leg is where it is, and what is a two-point, for the sake of the audience. The jumps were very straight forward, to the point where they almost weren't a part of the equation, but it gave the horses a chance to adjust to the tense atmosphere. In lecture later, he continued with the position theme, but now incorporated dressage and cross country position into the conversation as well. Major take away: you WILL ride without stirrups. I've been too chicken shit up til now to drop my stirrups with the green bean, but I guess she's trained enough??

Describing correct upper body angle
Image (c) ShortHorse Studios
Day two's ride was lengthening and shortening, and the gymnastics were a bit more interesting, one set at the 'correct' distance, one set two feet short, one set two feet long. Generally, the horses who excelled at the short distance struggled at the long distance, and vice verse.  One horse was able to bounce the shortened one stride, while another horse was able to chip in a third stride in the elongated three stride! Because Z had been bum-rushing the correct distance, Jim predicted she would struggle in the short, but she was more willing to listen to me on the new exercise and came in quietly, making it look easy. Then, he told me "not even to breathe too hard" in between the longer strides, just let her go a bit, and she made that look easy too! Really nice to have a horse who can adjust after the Sgiltinator's famous trick of always-adding-a-stride-even-at-4'-but-still-not-touching-a-rail!!
Image (c) ShortHorse Studios

The afternoon discussion focused on conditioning, and I decided after that talk it was time to update my conditioning regimen, since everyone seems to use shorter intervals than I do!! Jim's interval system ((3)4 minute trots + (3)3 minute canters) is the way I learned originally, but somewhere along the way I learned to do longer trot sets, 15 minutes for young horses, 20 minutes for up to training level, 30 minutes for prelim/intermediate, and 40 minutes for advanced (followed by short canter intervals). Maybe a holdover from the long format days?

The third day was a gymnastic to prepare the horse for jumping a course. It was a one stride, followed by a choice. Three stride bending line to the left, two stride bending line to the right, or four strides to an oxer straight in front. By switching up which way you turn, the idea is to teach the horse to wait for your instruction. Once that's been mastered, the three individual jumps + the one stride can then be used to create a little course.
Image (c) ShortHorse Studios

The last lecture was "Trends in the Sport." This talk was pretty depressing. It was primarily about two things: drugs and professionals. The drugs was mainly about the hunter ring, but I'm sure there are some guilty eventers as well, basically winning "by the needle" instead of through good horsemanship. The professionalism discussion had to do with the fact that (and yes, Jimmy was this blunt): "if you didn't decide when you were 18 to go be a professional rider, you're not going to go to the Olympics. If you're 35, college educated, working 9-5, with kids, its not going to happen."  Well, I'm 26, no kids, but would still really like to pass through the finish flags at Rolex some day.... so I guess I'll keep working!
The Gang

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Bay; or, winter to summer in one weekend!

Well, I am over the moon with Zahra after this weekend! Her ridability has come so far since her first show last July, and really grown leaps and bounds over the winter, despite being stuck in the indoor since November!

Photos (c) O'Shea Eventing
Dressage was just about all I could ask for. It was her personal best, absolutely. She was soft and relaxed in her trot work, her canter departs were a bit early, but soft, and if I'd only halted at the right letter, she'd have done 2 points better! There's still room to improve, absolutely. Once soft and relaxed are the norm, then we can push for brilliance, but one stride at a time!

Show Jumping was very good. I put her in a couple bad spots (most notably, the double, I gave her a terrible spot to jump in, forcing her to really reach for B), but she's so athletic, she saved it for an easy double clear. I know this is where I need my work!

Cross Country was so exhilarating!! Having not been out to school, I felt like it could have gone either way. Maybe she'd refuse to leave warm-up, maybe she'd run off with me? But neither was the case, although she did try to keep galloping up the hill past #4, so I did have to set her straight there! You'll see it in the HelmetCam! She was spot on to everything, and by the time we were at 10, I was completely giddy! She was as happy to be out as I was, and all I had to do was point her at the next set of flags, and she'd take care of the rest!

We're both feeling fully confident to make the move up to Training at Otter Creek in a few weeks, although I do hope the Wisconsin weather improves well before that!