Thursday, July 27, 2017

Collective Marks: Transitions and Navigation

Collective Marks: Transitions and Navigation

Crisp, accurate transitions between gaits. Effective course lines, correct leads and bend for the course lines.

In March, during one of the Tarrin Warren clinics, Tarrin asked the riders if they could estimate the number of transitions a typical Ease of Handling course required of the horse and rider. Her answer may surprise some riders: a typical Ease of Handling course could require forty to sixty transitions in a five minute ride.

Forty to Sixty transitions in a five minute ride, depending on the competition level.
Think about that . . . . how many of us do that many transitions in an hour long lesson?

By comparison, the Intro dressage test has nine transitions.

In the Introductory dressage test, the transitions are trot to halt, halt to trot, trot to walk, walk to trot, trot to halt, halt to reinback, reinback to walk, walk to trot and trot to halt. By comparison, at HCWE’s July show, the Intro EOH had at least twenty transitions, depending on how the obstacles were ridden. That’s twice as many as the dressage requires.
The more complicated the EOH course, the more transitions.

The EOH course for the PVF show in June, at Novice B, had more than sixty transitions in a seven minute ride. Those transitions are what make up the transition part of the score in collective marks.

We can see transitions are something Working Equitation riders need to be very good at and should practice every ride. Transitions are an integral part of basic dressage, whether western or English, and every working equitation rider should make sure they are a part of every ride. An upward transition should look fluid and easy, while maintaining both rhythm and balance. In a downward transition, the horse should shift both weight and energy to his hindquarters so that s/he is able to lift the front end, otherwise the horse will lose rhythm and appear awkward as they transition downward. The cool thing about transitions is they can happen anywhere: in the arena, in the back pasture, or when riding on trail. Instilling and maintaining good, solid transitions, and practicing them a lot, will improve performance around the obstacles.

Our WE trainers, and the WE clinicians brought in to teach, do not recommend riding the obstacles every day. Instead, riders should focus on basic dressage movements, ground poles, gymnastics, and other exercises that improve the mechanics the obstacles require. Instead of riding around a pole or barrel, a rider should focus on the exercises that will help the horse turn without dropping a shoulder, help them move off their haunches or keep them from diving into the circle. Good mechanics will strengthen and improve the horse’s performance, without riding the obstacles.

Riding between the obstacles and the route a rider chooses is what is scored in the navigation part of the collective marks.

So, how does one ride a good course?

First, the rider needs to evaluate the approach to the obstacle. The approach is always going to be straight. That needs to be a given. For example, when the rider approaches the Drum obstacle, the horse needs to enter the obstacle straight between the two front drums. Then, when they are between the first two drums, they begin their circle around the right one. But that approach has to be straight if the rider has any hope of achieving good geometry around the first drum. That first circle sets the expectation of the judge for the following three-quarter circle around the top drum, and the full circle around the left drum.

Second, the rider needs to evaluate the departure from the obstacle. Which direction should the rider take to approach the second obstacle straight? What is the proper lead for departure? What is the proper lead for approaching the second obstacle? Does the rider need to change lead/bend at some point in their trajectory? If so, where does that transition/change of bend need to occur to make the most sense in their approach?

Third, instead of practicing the obstacles, riders need to practice and ride courses. Tarrin suggests WE enthusiasts should practice riding courses two to four times a month to develop this ability. The obstacles shouldn’t be ridden every day, and should never be drilled, but riding a course once a week is good practice. A rider must develop the ability to see the correct approach to an obstacle and put their horse in the correct position to set themselves up to succeed.

Do not ride the same course every week. Make sure you have the minimum number of obstacles for your level. Even if you are lucky enough to have obstacles set up all of the time, riders need to move things around and shake things up. No EOH course will ever be the same: that is one of the joys of this discipline. Keep it fresh.

The Course Designer for any Working Equitation show will take this into account when designing the course. There should be multiple paths to approach multiple obstacles, thus challenging the rider to both understand the questions being asked, but also understand their horse and riding ability when walking their route. It would be considered poor course design for the obstacles to be laid out one after another, with simple lines between, and no real questions for the riders to answer.

At the Plane View Farm show, in June, there was some question about the placement of the gate. Riders wanted the option of being able to finish the gate and go forward around the side of the obstacle closest to the wall. That route was blocked because the obstacle was set too close to allow safe passage around the back side of the obstacle. That placement was intentional. The question being asked required a rider to think through their transitions and bending lines between the gate and the garrocha pole without interfering with other obstacles.

The judge will have a good idea prior to the posting of the course map, both the best approach to each obstacle and the possible alternate routes each rider might take. The judge will have walked the course prior to the show to look at possible changes of bend, correct leads, and the most effective course lines. The most direct route, if ridden well, should score higher than the more indirect route, if ridden well. A more indirect route may showcase the horse’s transitions and bend better than a shorter route, however. This is particularly true if there are is more than one transition in the route between obstacles.

The rider must know their horse, recognize their ability and put together a course that benefits their skill level.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Spotlight: Mary Sadler

High Country Working Equitation loves to Spotlight one of our members every newsletter. Since this blog has replaced our newsletter, we will try to share a Spotlight every month.

This month our Spotlight highlight Mary Sadler. She has been a member of HCWE for the past two years. She competed last year and is competing this year. It has been amazing to watch her relationship with her horse grow and develop over that time period. At HCWE's schooling show this last weekend she was Reserve Champion in the Intro Amateur division!! She has persisted!!

Mary and Heart dressed like hippies at HCWE's Halloween show in 2016
(Mary's Words)
I moved from Georgia to Colorado approximately seven years ago. I had always lived in the southeast so moving to Colorado was exciting and unfamiliar territory. My daughter and her husband had relocated from Atlanta to Boulder, which peaked my interest in heading west. My husband, Jeff, and I bought a bungalow on the hill in Boulder, initially. I settled in more easily than I expected. We still travel back and forth to Georgia quite a bit and still do. We are now living in a house on Lake Hartwell that Jeff built and we both have family that live in the area. My son lives in Lander, Wyoming and works for NOLS. I have a feeling we are all here to stay for a very long while.

As I was adjusting to being so far away from friends, family and a new rhythm, I wanted to find community. I had taken papermaking at Penland Arts and Craft school the summer before I left Georgia. The Students Arts League in Denver had an art journaling class that was not full. This class met in various places in Denver, such as the Botanical Gardens, and it allowed me to discover many cool places to explore and be artsy. I love paper and I collect all sorts of objects that I use in my dabbling of mixed media.

Mary and Heart

It was always my dream to have a horse. I still remember the first time I looked into the eye of a friend's horse when I was only about 5 or 6. There was a connection that seeped into my heart and has been there ever since. My experiences with riding were limited. If I was somewhere and horseback riding was offered I would sign up. I took lessons in Georgia which really were just trail rides. In Alaska, I rode in Denali National Park, which was also a trail ride. I decided to find an instructor in Boulder and that led me to the boarding facility at Greentree.

At Greentree, I rode weekly and enjoyed learning to do the basics with horses. Along the way, I started talking about buying my own horse. A farrier by the name of Joseph Newcomb was selling his horse, Heart. he had owned him for five years during which time they had worked on a cattle ranch. Joseph's girlfriend had been working with Heart, doing more jumping and English riding. I decided to buy him, especially since his name was Heart, I had moved from Hartwell, Georgia, and he had a heart brand on his left hip.

Mary and Heart working cattle

Isn't that how everyone chooses their horse?

My lifelong dream finally came true at 55 years of age. I literally knew nothing, but I didn't know I knew nothing. He walked off when I tried to mount, he reared when he was being walked, bribes didn't work and yes, I thought he would like me if I gave him treats.

One day I was watching some people in the arena doing ground work with their horses and they looked like they were having fun. I decided I needed a different trainer and a new strategy. These folks were in the Parelli method of natural horsemanship. Kime Conkright became my new instructor and my learning began.

It was hard to feel so inadequate and feel like I should not be a horse owner. Along the way, there were so many people who encouraged me and celebrated my successes, no matter how small. My confidence grew and my community expanded. Especially after meeting Lyndsey Fitch, I began to trust myself and my horse in a whole new way.

When I purchased Heart, my focus was on trail riding. I continue to do that and we've gone camping at Jack's Gulch with Vicki Kneckt and the Natural Trail Riders group.

One day I was talking to Kim Speek and she told me about Working Equitation. She had met Chris Stanko at a Parelli Rally at Teri Sprague's. It had never crossed my mind to compete but I was curious about it. For me, working on the skills to improve my performance and understanding what is needed to reach my goals has been challenging and rewarding. I remember my first clinic with Tarrin Warren and I had no clue about dressage letters. I felt like a fish out of water. What I found is that the people who are a part of High Country Working Equitation were supportive of each other, cheered each other on, and are generally happy to be doing this. One day I hope to canter a really good 20 meter circle, have lead changes down, jump that bale of hay and do the speed round.

This is my third summer having my beautiful sorrel quarter horse at my home. It's hard to believe it's been six years since I looked out into the pasture at Greentree and realized that he was going to be mine. He's taught me so much about trust and patience. I was forced to become a better leader, which helped me grow in my human relationships as well. Heart and Ms. Fizz seem very content living on the farm with me, my husband Jeff and our two dogs. I feel very grateful that I didn't give up on my dream of having a horse. It is as wonderful as I imagined!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

July Schooling Show Course Maps

 Course Maps for July Schooling Show

L1 - Introductory

L2/3 - Novice A & B

Please note that L3 - Novice B has a weave reinback on the Switch a Cup
 L4/5 - Intermediate A & B

Note: Sidepass is in L shape; weave on reinback in Switch a Cup

Speed Round is the same for all levels

Note: Sidepass poles in line with turn on the haunches between

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Updated Order of Go

Hi all. Please see updated Order of Go.
There was a scratch in Intro and an adjustment to L4 and L5.


Monday, July 10, 2017

August Show


16191 COUNTY ROAD 17

August B-Rated Show

Cattle Phase Exhibition
Lyndsey Fitch and her students will demonstrate the Team Cattle Phase after the dressage show on Friday.
Plan to stay and watch how it is done!!!