Thursday, April 14, 2016

JK Presents: Tango is growing up

We had a bunch of horses at the JK show this past weekend, and it was awesome. My students rode wonderfully. I'm super happy.

I'm going to telescope in on my experience at this show with my Thoroughbred who has finally decided to install a brain.

First of all, he did not want to get in the trailer at 5:30am. So. That was disappointing. We had a bit of an accident a few weeks ago wherein the chest bar broke while he was trailering and ever since then he's been a bit of a skeptic about the trailer. Oh well, he's such a good boy that he got over himself eventually, just put me a bit behind my planned schedule. 

We arrived at the show grounds, abandoned Diva and Tango to their hay in the trailer for a while and went off to begin our day - feed the other horses, acquire all the students numbers, stare at the courses, lunge a Bertasaurus Rex before the arrival of his rider, talk students through the courses, warm Kat up for a student, bark orders in the warm up, eyeball fancy horses longingly, realize what time it is, wonder how long I'll have to wait to get into the ring, attempt to soothe a crying student (who later went on to two 2nds in dressage and FOUR CLEAR ROUNDS so let's just give her mad props for pulling through), and then finally my TB arrived tacked up with the girl who was riding him in dressage. 

Tango was being a little fruity because she was holding her reins too short, so I took him from her and just walked around on a super long rein while coaching and wandering about the show grounds for nearly 45 minutes before realizing that I was 10 minutes out from being in the ring.  Crap. 

The arenas up top at Woodside were soupy and the footing was a little sketchy, so after I watched one of my girls jump around down below I borrowed that warmup with better footing to canter. We cantered two laps around and Tango was wired. He did not want to focus on me. There were too many other people doing random things like wiggling around and jumping and talking. It was a lot of the TB. 

We definitely went into the ring without ever jumping anything in the warm up. (Oops.) The hunter course was the BEST SET UP EVER. Quarterline, six stride diagonal, five stride outside, single oxer on the diagonal, six stride outside. And the ring was huge with great corners. So I thought about all the things Trainer N has been talking to us about and decided that my primary goal was to give him a boring round. We trotted the first fence and he didn't even look at it.

This is actually the last jump of the day.

I brought him back to the trot on the straight line and rode all the way to the rail, all the way through my corner (okay, small victories for the eventer over here, alright?!), and trotted in to the diagonal. My intention had been to bring him back to the trot in the line, but he was so quiet. And the canter was balanced. So I let him canter through, I kept my eye up, I jumped the middle of the fence (I maintain the importance of small victories, people), and we rode ALL THE WAY INTO THE CORNER.

Anyone else noticing a theme?

And I sat up, exhaled, and gently closed my fingers. I'll be damned, the thoroughbred came back to me. As in, I could have walked right then and there. We cantered across the short side and into our line, where I was so ecstatic about how quietly we jumped the first fence that I forgot to ride the line and we sort of galloped down the line. 

But the arena was so large, and my corners so good that I remembered to ride at some point and brought him back to the trot, allowing him to canter a few strides from the single oxer.

We cantered down our last line, foot perfect, and he came down to the walk when I sat up and exhaled and said woah.

Tango looks hella awkward here but what I would like to highlight is the fact that his rider remembered to sit up and ride.
The resulting jump from that approach. Good on me for not catching him in the face like I like to do.

It was a schooling round in every sense of the word, but my heart was seriously bursting with pride. Holy crap. I didn't panic. My thoroughbred didn't panic. A horse that I literally couldn't trot over a pole without him rearing not 18 months ago just jumped around a 2'3" hunter course in a quiet fashion. And lots of people could have gotten him here way faster, but if we're being clear here, we have not spent that much time working on Tango's jumping.

Next we zipped around the .70m jumper ring, which was a super fun course. I should have photographed it. Lines 1 & 2 were funky bending lines with a bunch of different tracks to ride, line 3 was a four stride, with a single on the end, then jumps 8 and 9 were a sort of rollback. The track from fence three to four (so coming out of one bending line around to the second bending line) I found very difficult to ride, so I came through very underpowered and Tango floated to a refusal. (drat).

I then proceeded to override the fence and Tango panicked and overjumped enough to mess with my position and punch me in the chest with his withers. Whoops!

Then the second time we rode the course, we somehow lost a shoe while coming over fence 4, and the shoe hit the standard. Hard. KA-TING! I thought we'd crashed, even though the effort felt good, so I turn around to look at it (never do that) and see the shoe on the ground. How did you even do that, dude?

Recognize my mare over there? Also yes I am still in the ring and I am coaching another rider.

Our final round was in the 2'6" hunter ring (same course as earlier) and we cantered the whole thing. It was balanced. It was quiet. 

I am in love with this photo because of how soft you can see Tango's expression is.
I'm really pleased with this outing. The photos show that I'm consistently piloting him to better distances (aka not burying him every damn time we jump) and that my focus on my release is paying off. It's not perfect, but it's at least more consistent now, allowing Tango to know what to expect a bit better.

I was supposed to show Kat on Sunday, but the show got rained out. :( All photos (c) EllieRiz

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