Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rating Report

Here's my full report from last weekend's rating. Pictures, ahoy! I had a good time, though it was stressful and a lot of hard work. I think I'm good on the rating game for awhile, now. On the plus side, with only one horse to focus on (!!) everything gets easier.

The day started off with a formal inspection, where you come tacked up with the appropriate wraps on your horse's legs (at C-2, you have to do a stable wrap and a shipping wrap). This is always the most stressful part of the day for me. Getting and keeping a white horse clean is difficult, plus you're worrying about any little speck of dust that may have settled on your tack since the night before, and - in my case - your horse is dancing around, her legs are slippery because they're so clean, and your wraps just will. not. go. right.

I had to redo both my wraps after lunch. The horse and I were much more calm, and after one retry on the stable and two on the shipping I passed. Obviously something to practice for the next rating! I need to keep my shipping wrap tighter down by the heels. Also, the examiner suggested I add quite a bit more padding to my shipping wrap as it wasn't thick enough.

After formals came flatwork, which was my next most stressful section. McKinna settled a little once we got moving, but she was still fairly tense. It's a delicate juggling game in ratings, because Pony Club wants you to demonstrate that you can have a perfect basic balanced position, i.e., straight vertical line from shoulder to hip, straight line elbow to bit, etc...but in order to get McKinna to soften and stretch down, I often need to ride with my hands wide and low. I compromised by doing what I needed to do in my 15-minute self-guided warmup, but did my best to bring them closer together and where they're technically supposed to be for the rest of my ride.

The flatwork went pretty well, and I was happy with McKinna and my position. The examiners liked my position, noted that I rode tactfully on a tense horse (a consistent message!), and told me I need to remember to keep my hands a little closer together (also a consistent message). I need to work for a longer, freer stride with a stronger inside leg to outside rein connection. This makes sense, as McKinna was pretty light in my hands. They also really liked my hand gallop to canter transition, and said I should practice smoother transitions from posting to sitting trot when riding without stirrups as she tends to hollow out when I do that.

Then we had my favorite part, the oral examinations. I studied well and knew my stuff, so it was pretty low-stress for me. In the comments, they did suggest that I add more nutrition information to my conditioning chart in my record book. I left it pretty simple since McKinna is an easy keeper and her grain doesn't change much when she's getting fit for Novice, but I think they want to see an awareness of the increases in energy requirements that come with conditioning.

After lunch and rebandaging came the fun part, jumping and XC! McKinna was foot-perfect through the grid and it felt nice, though I did feel myself propping onto my toes a bit over the 3' oxer. This is definitely something to work on with Devin in lessons.

 So easy that she just overjumps instead of bothering to pick her legs up.

The course they assigned us was pretty difficult: open with an offset line, around to a short diagonal four-stride, around a short corner to a very tight bending with an almost 90 degree angle, then all the way around to a longish one-stride. It was tough to ride and our first round just didn't have the rhythm we needed, so we got in awkwardly to a lot of the fences. I discussed the issues with the examiners and re-rode the course, making sure to maintain a more powerful canter and counting to myself to keep a steady rhythm.

Round 1: McKinna is displeased with my poor riding on the tight bending line.

Round 2: McKinna appreciates that her rider figured out how to steer.

Examiner's comments: good position, hands a bit too wide again, and also that my knee/ankles looked stiff in the beginning (same thing I noticed when stiffening over the oxer) so I should make sure to address that in my own warmup.

Then out to XC, which we haven't done since July (and before that hadn't done for a year). I know, bad me. I just didn't have time to get out and school. Lucky for me, my horse is awesome, and she was excellent about the whole thing. First, we cantered in a "group:"


Then, we did our course:

 Over the little fence in the woods. As an aside, I'm seriously leaning in this picture. Bad me.

We did only five fences but they were on a long, gallopy track, and McKinna was great. She got a little anxious while galloping, and on one uphill every time I tried to soften my reins and cruise she surged forward and was breathing heavily. Thankfully it was a long hill, so I had time to stroke her neck and talk to her and get her calmed down before we made the turn to our last two fences. She settled, we finished off the course, and she came right back to a calm walk. She jumped all the fences just fine. Hesitated a bit at one question that went from light into dark and had a natural fence in a clump of trees, but she went and I don't blame her for being a bit hesitant. After we finished she was barely blowing and had only sweated a little bit.

Cooling out after the course

After that we wrapped up with some longeing (she was a bit nervous so less push-button than usual, but no big deal), trailer loading, and TPR checking. When longeing I need to be careful to keep the whip pointed straight at her hocks instead of letting it trail out behind.

Then we were done and got to head home!

I learned some useful things about my riding, and now I know that before I attempt my next rating I need to be able to establish a soft, relaxed, connected ride with McKinna with my hands closer together. I also really need to figure out my form over fences. We've made some progress, but I tend to get too stiff even when all my body parts are in the right place, and this knee-pinching leading to the toe-propping or whatever it is has got to go. So, lots of work to do, but I'm not in a rush and this summer we should be getting plenty of good instruction.

I will put some videos up soon, too.

Mom got in a couple nice rides on McKinna this weekend while I was out of town. Poor pony doesn't know what she's in for, being the only horse again ;-)


tangerine said...

Wow, sounds like quite the experience! I wish I could join pony club, but I'm already 21 and it feels like so much work to do for less than 4 years...

McKinna looks great! very very clean :D

Can't wait for the video

Leah Fry said...

You guys look great!

Is that a padded vest you are wearing?

Stelladorro said...

You guys look wonderful! I love reading the comments you get about your riding, I feel like I do a lot of the same things (although I jump much lower fences!)

I've only got 4 weeks of freshman year left and I cannot wait to get home to ride my own horses. They're in for it too, they had a lazy nine months of me being several states away, now we're going to try to get in an event or two by the end of the summer. Horsie boot camp - here we come!

Sydney said...

You both look really good.

manymisadventures said...

Tangerine, PC is great but it is definitely a lot of work.

Leah: yes, it is a body protector, also called an XC vest, and they're often BETA-certified (though not all models are). The foam helps absorb shock to protect your spine and organs if you fall. They're required for XC in eventing but allowed for all three phases if you wish.

Stella, summer is always the best time to be with horses. Good luck reconditioning them! Don't go too fast in your excitement ;) What events are you hoping to get to?

Thanks, Sydney :)

Rachel said...


FD said...

Just a very brief thought, but from those those pictures, it looks like your weight is on the inside of your leg, which turns the toes out, pinches the knee in and causes lower leg instability because pressing the heel down actually makes the lower leg draw back, not drop down.

manymisadventures said...

FD, I think you're right. I am pinching instead of sinking down into a supple knee and ankle.

We're working a lot on position in my lessons, so hopefully we can address all this and smooth things out.

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