On Saturday, Tarrin worked us through obstacles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. On day two, we finished with 6, 8, 9 and 10.
The slalom was probably the most surprising. I had been riding it as a series of teardrop moves, changing the bend at the crossing point in between poles and trying to make my circles concentric with the poles in the center. So, my pattern would have looked similar to this:
Teardrop shaped circles with the pole at the center
And yes, I am geometrically challenged even on an app
Instead, you should swing wide coming into the pole, make your half circle and cross as close to the pole on your right as you head for the second pole. The important part is the straight line from pole one, to starting the circle on the next pole. It should look more like this:
Again, I am geometrically challenged, but you get the idea.
Something I just discovered in drawing these two images on my Equisketch app (which is a lot of fun to study tests on when you are in a business meeting at work). It is really difficult to draw a circle around a dot and not put the dot in the middle. I drew the above image ten or more times before I was able to get an image where the dot was off center consistently through the pattern. And it was really difficult to hold the lines truly straight. Even on the app, I had a tendency to center the pole more and more as I got toward the end of the pattern. Which is exactly what we saw on our horses on Saturday.
We worked this obstacle a lot. The turns are tight. The poles are twenty feet apart, both longitudinally and on the diagonal. The half circle starts when you cross the plane of the pole and they should be concentric. The riders doing this at the Intermediate level should make a simple change where the horse is riding straight. If you don't ensure that every turn is exactly where it needs to be, you over run the pattern and then the lines are not straight any more. It was much tougher to ride in the manner that Tarrin had directed us.
The bridge was pretty simple. You slow to a walk just before the entry cones, walk without hesitation across the planking, and then exit completely before picking up your gait for the next obstacle.
The three barrels were a bit different, You should think of them as three independent circles around the barrels, which is a little more technical than the way we were practicing them. I was riding a circle, a teardrop at the top, and another circle. Kind of like this:
Probably a pretty accurate assessment of how I ride circles.
Again, I was trying to center the barrels and in reality I should not have been.
Tarrin had us change our approach. Each intersection should be ridden straight (with a simple change for the upper level riders) and the circles should be placed so the top circle (the one I was riding more like a teardrop) is circle shaped. And of course, you ride out the same way you came in.
The straight line that closes the circle is where the simple change or change of bend would occur.
Again, my circle is not exactly symmetrical, but you can see the two areas where the changes would occur. Tarrin wanted us to make them touch. Or almost.
Again, the straight line for the change, then a nice circle around the final barrel.
This was another tough obstacle, but the change between what we had been doing and what she wanted to see was not as great as it was on the slalom.
The fourth obstacle was a corridor with a bell at the end. You walk in, halt (immobility) and then back out straight. The rein back is tough for us, because your horse is not supposed to drag it's feet and Ashke has an issue with that. We back fairly well, but he also tends to raise his head and drag his feet. We are going to work on it though.
The fifth obstacle was the gate. The opening was set at six feet, which can feel tight to your horse. Ashke performed well at this, although we do need to work on him relaxing and dropping his head more during the different movements: sidepass to stop at pole, stand immobile while I lift the rope, back, walk forward through the gate, back to the pole, stand immobile while the rope is replaced, leave on a perpendicular line from the gate.
Then we worked on the garrocha pole. The pick up was from a barrel, then twenty feet to spear a ring, then Tarrin had us turn a very tight half circle and ride back to deposit the pole in the barrel. Again, it was set this way primarily to accommodate the space while providing the most obstacles to work through. Making that turn after picking up the pole was tough, especially since Ashke has not been worked on a small circle with the garrocha pole and the need to ride the obstacle one handed.
That was it for the first day. I was mentally and physically exhausted from all of the work we had done (plus the stress of driving the trailer by myself). I was depressed at how poorly I rode and felt like I had let my horse down. He tries so hard and I wasn't there for him. I think there is always an innate need to impress those you are performing in front of and did not perform well. Ashke could feel my anxiety, stress and frustration. I thought a lot about my ride on the drive home. I thought a lot about my goals with Working Equitation. I thought a lot about what I wanted as far as the relationship with my horse went. I recognized that I can't hang him out to dry like that. We've been under saddle for three years and he's not a seasoned horse yet. I need to step up and get better as a rider. It was a humbling moment.
When I met J at the barn to help park the trailer (yes, I am planning on practicing at some point) I told her that my goal for Sunday was to be connected to my horse. To be soft and listen and ask him to join with me. I wanted the feel between us more than I wanted a perfect ride.