Bruce Lamb's Eventing Blog - May 2012

May 27, 2012: Well, another event, and a bit more progress -- although we aren't "there" yet. Today, the dressage went fairly well. My score was 67.5% which translated to less than 50 penalty points. My marks were all 6's and 7's (see score sheet), and this is the best dressage test we've had in competition yet. So I was pleased with that element. At the end of dressage, I was sitting 7th out of 15 in our division. Here is the video (including the warm up -- so scoot ahead to about 3 minutes into the video to see the actual test):

In Stadium jumping, I got him into the combination 5A and 5B a bit "flat" and he knocked a rail. More training with Holly required so that I get it right every time. But, others fared worse than me, so by the time Stadium was done, I'd moved up to 6th place in the standings. (No video for this one)

Now, onto Cross Country. I'd walked the course yesterday and there wasn't anything particularly scarey. One challenge could have been the Corner fence, and there was a ditch/coffin as well. Plus there was a couple of fences at weird angles if you jumped them according to how the grass path was cut. And there was a coop near the entrance to the water obstacle, which could become an issue.

We started off quite well and we were settling into a nice pace. Then, at fence 8 -- the fruit stand -- he saw something he didn't like. I think he actually saw poops from one of the previous horses. Grrrrrr. He ran out, but on second attempt we made it through. The corner fence was no problem and he sailed over the ditch/coffin. We took out a lot of the angle on jumps 12 and 13 by travelling over the uncut grass, and that worked out well. But at the coop close to the water, he had a real issue. We got over it on second attempt. We'll have to work on that some more with our water obstacle, Rapport's Water Park. Here is the Contour GPS helmetCam video:

So, like last year, its taking him a few events to get into the groove. I was clearly spoiled with Rapport who, despite being a slug for pace, would generally make it over the fences. But with more Eventing miles on Gamble (and many more on Tori's truck), I'm confident Gamble will get there!

Next event is in a week in Ottawa!

May 25, 2012: One year ago yesterday, we brought Gamble back from Ohio. He's come a long way. His dressage is now quite good, and he's comfortable with the height of the fences at Training level Events -- although we still run into the occassional "scary" situation for him. But, with more experience, that will improve. Today, we went out to try our hand at the new "coffin" (ditch) fence that we built in our valley. Click on the photo below to see some shots that Jenny took of us teaching Gamble that it really wasn't so scary after all!:

May 15, 2012: Tracy worked on dressage with Gamble today. She said he went well, but he seemed tired. I think maybe just an easy hack with him tomorrow (Wednesday) to give him a break.

May 14, 2012: Did 4 km of canter work, the last three at Training level speed, which Gamble did with ease. I'm supposed to be at 450 metres per minute which works out to 2:13 per km. Here are the 1 km splits:


These times included going over fences along the side of the field, so they are pretty close to an actual event. But, an actual event would only be 2.5 km max. for our division.

May 12, 2012 - Glen Oro Event (Training Senior Division): Today was the first event of the season, and I was definitely on edge leading up to it. I was pretty confident with dressage with all the work Tracy and I had done over the past six months since our last event -- although I also knew that anything can happen once you're actually in the ring. But I was a bit nervous about the jumping elements. I'd taken Gamble over for a lesson with Holly Hayman at Con Brio Farm the weekend before for a jumping lesson and she was excellent. She's jumped a very high level and showed me some simple tricks and corrections, plus a new style (for me) of getting him to "check" a stride or two before the fence. And at the end of that lesson, we popped Gamble over a short course with some Training level fences and he was good as gold. But, other than the various fences I've been building in the valley and the water park over at the barn, I really hadn't done much in cross country. Combine that issue with the fact that the Glen Oro events were well known to be amongst the most challenging on the OHTA schedule with many tricky fences, and I had pretty good reason to be a bit apprehensive about how things would go.

So to solve the issue with cross country and still keep what we'd practiced fresh in his mind, we arrived a day before the event and took Gamble over to Woodwind Farm down the road from Glen Oro. Because we had won our division at the last event of the season, Chris Eaves had provided a prize of a free schooling on their jumps. This was quite possibly the best prize they could have given -- better than tack or gift certificates, etc. -- because it allowed us to try all sorts of new fences in a relaxed environment. Gamble was definitely ready to jump. We popped over some smaller log fences to get him warmed up but then moved up to some full sized fences -- possibly even Prelim level fences. From corner fences to logs, he did everything we threw at him. We had two refusals during the schooling: one at a round-topped table which was probably 1.1 m but because there was stuff underneath it, Gamble wasn't interested in doing it the first time. But the second time was no problem. The other was at a coffin (wood-lined ditch) combination -- but, again, on the second introduction to it, he was fine. We did drops and banks, sod-topped fences, and another longer coffin combination and everything was good. As a bonus, Chris had a Stadium course setup where we usually did the dressage during the events , so Tori setup a course with some combinations at max Training height. Gamble did everything with ease. The only issue was getting him to not rush the fences.

On the day of the event, we had tons of time. My dressage didn't start until just before noon, so we were out to the facility by 9 am to get Gamble his grain. Someone had already thrown him a couple of flakes of hay and topped up his water. I cleaned my tack, reviewed the video of the XC course and basically tried to keep myself occupied. I was tacked up and heading to the dressage ring around 11 am, so I had tons of time to warm up. We did a lot of walking at the start, and then started with transitions, leg yields, and practicing the test. It was all being done in a field on a slope with lots of distractions from other horses and riders, but I was hoping that if he could do the test half-decently there, he'd be fine in the flat, relatively secluded dressage ring. We were at the dressage ring at the designated time, but since I was the first rider in my division, they had to make modifications to the dressage ring to take it down to 20 x 40 from the 20 x 60 m. size of the previous Prelim division tests. That process had us standing around for about 10 minutes while they got everything sorted. But Gamble appeared relaxed so, I didn't worry about it.

The one issue I'd had before was with the dressage ring itself. Gamble wasn't used to having the white boards and so he was gawking at them as I was warming up, but he seemed comfortable as I started into the test. The test started off well, but then degraded quickly. Here is the test:

I was happy with my entrance (7), loop (6), change rein (6) and canter (6), but thought I really screwed up my canter "circle" (more of a square) and Gamble was pushing enough to not allow me to do a proper "give and retake the inside rein over X" -- but I got a 7, so I guess what I muddled through was okay. I got put in my place with the canter down the long side as Gamble was really rushing -- I thought he might jump out of the ring -- so I got a 4 there ("Resistance to riders hand." No kiddin'.). We settled down at the walk and started off into a very nice half 20 m. circle on a long rein -- until a horse clip-clopped by on the nearby road and Gamble gawked at him (5 -- "needs to be more attentive"). Then I screwed up. I was to do a loop -- and had consciously said to myself "remember, loop, not transition" -- but when I got to X I walked for my 3-5 strides until I figured out that I was, in effect, off course. But I picked up the trot again and it just looked like a crappy loop (4 - "Resistance at X". Should have read "Rider was an idiot"). We finished the test with 6s and 7s. We almost nailed the halt from a trot, but he shifted his off-hind leg over so I got 6 ("losing balance at halt."). But if he hadn't shifted, it would have been a 7 or 8. Overall, I had 59.5%, which included 2 fours, 2 fives, 5 sevens and the rest 6's. "It was a nice ride, but you should develop better acceptance of the contact, the horse is often behind the vertical." and in looking at the video, the judge was absolutely right. But the good news is that being behind the vertical is pretty easy to correct -- and allows me to ride the test more forward to get his head up, and with my hands held higher.

Here is the link for the actual score sheet.

So, while I'm sure I'm in the bottom of the rankings for my dressage, the test results weren't as awful as I thought it was just after I completed it. And there is no question that the results will improve quickly as the season progresses and Gamble gets more comfortable with the scary dressage ring.

Next was Stadium Jumping. The course was relatively challenging with a couple of one-stride combinations (one two-fence, one three fence), some turn-backs and broken-line fences, and a "skinny" fence, but the course designer eased us into it with a low starting fence getting progressively higher so by fence 3 we were at a max height and width oxer. Gamble did very well -- so the hunter show at Highland Green, the training with Holly, plus the practice at Woodwind must have paid off. Here is the round:

Finally, we got to Cross Country. So far, I hadn't been eliminated, which is the main thing I was going for. I know from experience that the big issue with any jumping course is the variety of "new" (and therefore scary) obstacles there would be for the horse. So experience is something that you can only get by doing lots and lots of events -- and you have to start somewhere! As mentioned above, the Glen Oro events are known to be challenging and this event was no exception. When we were walking the course there were about 7 areas where we thought we might have a challenge:

Jumps 6 and 7 -- a drop with a ditch at its base. Gamble had never seen one before.
Jumps 9 and 10 -- a drop into water with a Sharks Teeth fence on the other side of the water. We'd done lots of jumping into water at Rapport's Water Park, but Gamble had not done a jump at the other end of the water, other than jumping out of the Water Park.
Jump 12 a, b and c -- a coffin with a single stride between log fences on either side. After walking the course the day before, we'd schooled two examples of this sort of fence over at Woodwind, so I felt pretty confident.
Jump 14 -- a jump at the other end of a water obstacle. We'd done lots of these at Rapport's Water Park so I didn't think this would be a challenge.
Jump 15 -- a full Training height corner fence. But this was less scary looking than the one I'd built in the valley, and which Gamble had never had an issue with.
Jump 17 a, b, and c -- another coffin with log fences at either side.
Jumps 18 and 19 -- simple log fences, but at a 90 degree angle to one another -- maybe 5 or 6 strides between. Not challenging individually, but the horse had to be prepared for both fences.

Because of how well the schooling had gone the day before at Woodwind, I really only thought that the first two challenges would be a serious problem. As long as I got Gamble into the obstacles straight so that he knew what he was to do, there shouldn't be any issues after that.

But that's now how it went down. We got through the first 11 fences including the drop-over-ditch and jump into water without a challenge. Here is how the first 8 fences looked from Tori's perspective:

But as Gamble was jumping fence 12a he saw the coffin and wanted nothing to do with it. Several attempts couldn't get him to go through it and I was eliminated. Here is the helmetCam video:

Hindsight being 20/20, I now see that this course gave him an easy way to duck out if he didn't want to go over the ditch. In other ditch situations, it was much wider so his momentum didn't give him much of a way to bail. A way to address this situation may have been to approach the first fence at a bit of an angle towards the left so that it would be more difficult for him to duck out to the right.

So, while I was naturally disappointed that we were eliminated, there was nothing that indicated that Gamble would have any long-term issues once he has a bit more experience under his belt. There was certainly no issue with height of the fences and so I just need to build a coffin fence in the valley and we should be good-to-go when the next Glen Oro event come up in the summer!

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