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Tales of Taco the Wonder Horse and his ammy rider on their way to a Training Three Day

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quick Notes on the Dressage Show

Taco and I went to a recognized dressage show last weekend. We entered the Opportunity classes, which do not require USEF and USDF membership or nonmember fees! They are a great deal for eventers. However, they were not heavily subscribed because, I am guessing, people do not yet know about them. We were the only entry in one class and one of two in another. We won both tests. ;)

Blue ribbon for first AND last place in First Level, Test Three!

I rode First 3 first, in the Miller Coliseum at Middle TN State University.  The atmosphere was a bit electric in there and our test was a bit tense.  People applauding for the rider in the other arena did not help.  It scored a 60.5, which was generous.

Our next test was First 1, in the covered arena, and was much better.  Taco felt lovely and fluffy and forward.  However, the judge said that she thought Taco looked uneven on his left hind.  So our score was not great- 61.3.

I had Dr. Tony check Taco out early this week and he found nothing except for a mild reaction to flexing Taco's hock joints, which was not new.  I am already giving Legend before competitions (except for dressage shows!), and we are also trying Cosequin ASU.  So I am hopeful we can keep the guy comfortable.

Lastly, we had a long time to wait between tests at the show, so we had to entertain ourselves somehow.  This is what Taco had a good time doing:

Thanks Elizabeth for coming and cheering for us!  And thank you Carol for videoing everything.  It is good for me to be able to see the tests.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

My friend Megan has a photo of her dogs lying flat-out in front of a fan at the barn.  That's about how I feel.  I went to Rhode Island on vacation and I had thought that getting a week away from the Tennessee heat would make it easier to come back, but it's worse!  It's very difficult to motivate.  There has been little rain and things are starting to get brown.

Fortunately, having goals supplies motivation in these kinds of situations.  I have worked out my conditioning schedule for the T3D in October, since it is about 11 weeks out, and now I need to execute it.  Nobody pointed out to me that doing a fall three-day means conditioning in August!

Taco is fairly easy to get fit to begin with, and he has a nice baseline.  He recovered in the blink of an eye, it seemed, after our XC run at Penny Oaks.  Admittedly, we were treated to mid-80s and low humidity that weekend.   His resting temperature is barely 99 degrees (normal for a horse is 99-101), his normal heart rate is 36-40, and he recovers quickly after exercise.

Today was yet another hot day, and I decided to try a conditioning ride with the idea that I would pay close attention to how he was doing.  It was the first week on the schedule and it was a pretty light workout: 3 sets of five-minute trots and a couple of two-minute canters at 350 meters per minute.  He does more than that in many of our dressage schools.  To make a long story short, he seemed to find this quite easy, although I myself really felt the heat!  Ten minutes after pulling up from the second of our two short canters, his temperature and heart rate were only slightly elevated, and after his shower they were normal again.

As the workouts get longer, the weather will get cooler, or at least I hope so.  Here is our plan.  If you, dear readers, have some feedback about it, please tell me!  It contains elements of several conditioning schedules, two of which have appeared in EVENTING USA magazine (by Nancy Koch and Gina Miles).

T3D Conditioning Schedule- Taco

1. Week of 8/8            3x5@220; 2x2@350

2. Week of 8/15            3x5@220; 2x2@400

3. Week of 8/22            3x5@220; 2x3@400

4. Week of 8/29            3x5@220; 3x3@400

5. Week of 9/5            AECs; 1x5:30@470

6. Week of 9/12            3x5@220; 3x4@400

7. Week of 9/19            3x5@220; 1x6@400; 2x1@500

8. Week of 9/26            3x5@220; 1x6@420; 2x2@500

9. Week of 10/3            1x10@220; 1x2@520; 1x20@160; 10 min rest; 1x6@450

10 Week of  10/10            Taper—hack and normal dressage/jump schools

Week of 10/17 Midsouth T3D

Each week:
Day 1            Dressage plus walk
            Day 2            Jump plus walk
            Day 3            Hacking out/Hill work OR rest and add hills to 2nd dressage school
            Day 4            Dressage plus walk
            Day 5            Jump plus walk
            Day 6            Conditioning/Canter
            Day 7            Rest

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Penny Oaks: We're Qualified!

Taco and I made the trip back to Indiana for the Penny Oaks Horse Trials last weekend.  To relieve the suspense, we wound up 5th... and by successfully completing our fourth Training HT together, Team Taco is now qualified for a Training Three Day Event!

At home, we had a couple of lessons with Amy where she was very adamant that I insist on enough energy from Taco.  He is such a lovely horse that he can give much less than he is capable of and still be able to do everything I ask of him.  Amy wanted me to draw out more of his capabilities, which makes our dressage more brilliant and our jumping more consistent.  I was really pleased with the results of this at home so I was excited to try it in competition.

 Taco at the Hoosier Horse Park, ready for action!

Penny Oaks was a dress rehearsal for the American Eventing Championships, to be held Sept 9-12 at Chattahoochee Hills near Atlanta.  We had not been to a HT since March, so we needed to check that all systems were go.  We started out with what I felt was one of our most energetic tests yet, on a par with our good ones from last fall.  I even got real lengthenings!  I tipped forward a little bit and his poll got a tad low in places.  But it was a vast improvement from Full Gallop HT, where I rushed him without half-halting enough and got him running on his forehand.  I was a little disappointed, therefore, when it scored a 38.3.  However, scores were high across the board, so no matter.

I was expecting a slightly softer cross country course, since this event has been that in the past.  It wasn't, really (surprising a couple of my friends who moved up there!), but the great thing about walking it was that I felt that we were quite capable of everything out there.  Overall the course was challenging, but there was no one spot that really made me nervous.  And I like the corridors through the trees at the HHP-- it makes galloping fun and interesting.  I was a little late for warmup because I had heard that the show was running late and then the schedule got caught up.  But this was actually fine, because it made my warmup very economical.  Amy did her job of reminding me to keep up the energy very well.  And we were off!  Taco was absolutely fantastic, and I feel that I supported him and helped him do his job.  I was up on the clock about 10 seconds after the first half of the course, and I let off the gas pedal somewhat on the second half.  We wound up about 4 seconds slow with 1.6 time penalties.  Oops!  Oh, well, it was a super run and I could not have been happier with my horse. 

In showjumping, I again needed plenty of prodding in warmup to ride forward enough, as the course was a very forward-riding one.  When I did, I could really feel the difference!  Taco had come out of his stall in the morning looking very fit, and he was ready for more action.  We trotted in and I concentrated on keeping energy through the corners and my leg on up to the base of the fences.  I did tend to let my body collapse forward in the turns a little bit, and in the pictures I can see that the short crest release that I prefer is not giving him enough freedom, so I need to graduate to an automatic release.  Other than that I was pleased with my performance, and more than thrilled with Taco's.  Double clear, and one of our better rounds!  Taco strutted out of the arena, knowing that he had been a real star.

So, as I said we were 5th (out of 20) but, more importantly, we are qualified for our big goal!  AND we had a confidence-building run.  I rode fairly well in all three phases, and Taco was simply amazing.  Bring on the AECs!