Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lesson with Kim: Planning for the Season Ahead

First of all, thank you so much for all the wonderful comments on my last post! I'm sorry I've been quiet for a while since last writing; it's turned out to be quite a lot to process, and I've just been trying to let the reality of everything soak in. I'm still SO UNBELIEVABLY EXCITED!!

(Ringo and I in the epic sunrise we had a few days ago)

On the more bittersweet side, however, my acceptance to Oxford does mean that, come September, my time as a rider will come to a close (for now, at least). We've begun the process of starting to find new homes for Ringo, Ky, and Kiki, and while I'm very sad to have to be separated from my horses, I know that it's the right decision for this time in my life.

(Ringo and Audge loving on each other)

In my lesson with Kim, today, we started to pin down some real goals for the season now that we have the knowledge that it will be my last for a while. Together we came up with two viable goal options: either to qualify for the NEDA fall festival and championships at 4th level, or to try to debut at Prix St Georges at a smaller fall show and aim for as many scores for my USDF Silver Medal as possible.

Obviously, both paths have pros and cons: I've never qualified for a USDF championships before, and it would be fun and gratifying to compete at the NEDA festival, which is one of the biggest and most prestigious dressage shows on the east coast. However, with that prestige also comes the caveat that I would be putting a lot of emotional investment in probably one championship ride, against the best (and fanciest) horses and riders in the greater New England area (and while Ringo is a wonderful dressage partner, a massively fancy worldbeater ├╝ber-warmblood he is not). On the other hand, if I was going for a PSG debut, I could aim for a number of classes at a number of smaller, lower-pressure fall shows, giving me a higher chance of some good test experiences. Plus, I want to wear my shadbelly again!! The downside is obviously that PSG is the harder goal from a technical standpoint, and there are some big hurdles still in our way before we're ready for it (heck, there are a lot of days where I still feel green around the gills thinking about 4th level!).

In the end, Kim and I decided that, for now anyway (obviously with horses, to write a goal in stone is essentially to beg the universe to strike you down in a fiery bolt of karmic justice), the aim should be PSG. I'm very happy with this goal... but was quickly brought back to earth when we got down to work in the lesson itself. There's a lot of hard work between here and cantering down the centerline with that shadbelly on!

(The pretty sunrise sprucing up the otherwise currently dreary, muddy pastures)

Today I was quite pleased with the cadence and quality of Ringo's trot, which I feel like has really come a long way over the winter. Thanks to Kim, I've got a whole new understanding of what the upper level trot should feel like (a LOT slower and more connected than I'd thought!!). The next big hurdle is keeping the suppleness in the lateral work, where our tendency is to both get stiff and tense. Today Kim really had me focus on half-halting and then consciously releasing: my instinct when I put on an aid and feel Ringo get tense is to keep applying the aid until he relaxes... but instead, he just get tenser and tenser! So instead, I need to think of applying an aid and then being really generous in my release to encourage him to stay loose. When I did it in the half-pass today, the change was huge.

After trotting, we moved on to working on the canter pirouettes, which still loom large as the biggest hurdle facing us and moving up. Coming into this winter, Ringo barely had an acceptable 3rd level collected canter, let alone a collected canter of the quality to start making pirouettes out of. After about a million canter-walk-canter transitions (give or take a few) over the past 6 months we've come a long way, but we're still a little behind the curve compared to the levels we're aiming at.

Today we worked on a new pirouette exercise that was essentially a big diamond: going from A to B to C to E and back to A in canter, making regular shallow turns at E and B and working pirouettes at A and C. The first direction we worked on, we did great! Like, way above expectations! It was awesome to feel the work I've been putting in is paying off, where even a month ago we couldn't produce anything approaching something that could be considered a pirouette.

But then, to the right... the wheels sort of came off. I got a little tired, Ringo got a little tired, and the exercise was hard enough that we simply could not do it when we weren't firing on all cylinders. It was a big reminder of how difficult this hurdle is. To even contemplate showing, we need to be able to perform well even on significantly less than full energy and concentration (because let's face it; I'm no professional, and chances are low that we'll be at our absolute best in the ring!). And, this isn't even the full movement! We were probably just over a quarter pirouette, instead of the half pirouette that we'll eventually need. There's a LOT left to do.

But still, I'm really pleased. Ringo felt great, and I had a blast working on these new skills. I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful partner and friend :)

(Meanwhile, Kiki is getting geared up for Morven this weekend - looking good, Piggy!)

(Ky says 'don't forget about meeeeee!' Despite his absence from the blog of late, the little dude is doing great and I'm feeling like we're on the verge of a breakthrough)


Kelly said...

Would you be selling or leasing?

Katherine Erickson said...

Kelly, I'm hoping to sell Kiki, off-site lease Ky, and on-site lease Ringo. If you know of anyone looking, let me know! We're not planning on asking a ton of money for Kiki and are just hoping to find a good forever home for her.

Kelly said...

Hey Kat, give me your email:) Don't have things on file anymore, think I have a few thoughts.


Niamh said...

You can just send Ky to me:) I could think of nothing more fun than riding him around the PA countryside XC. Thankyouverymuch:)

L.Williams said...

That last pic of Ky is sooooo cute! I totally understand from my last 2 seasons of "goal" planning that the more concrete they are almost the more disappointment you feel do to rescheduling. Being flexible is the best option with horses.

Katherine Erickson said...

K.m.erickso@gmail.com :)

anastasiacurwood said...

Congratulations on your Oxford acceptance! And thank you for sharing your thoughtful process for choosing goals.

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