Monday, September 30, 2013

Dressage at Devon 2013, Thursday and Friday

So, the live blogging at Dressage at Devon (DAD) thing did not work so well.  The WiFi was intermittent at best and non-existant at worst.  I thought about Tweeting but decided against it since actual experts would likely be doing that.  Instead I typed some notes on my iPad.  My first thought was to critique the rides....but then I decided that most people would say "Well who is SHE to critique the rides!"  So I have decided to write some highlights and overall impressions.  I have some photos but will take more of riders on Saturday night during the freestyle and Sunday during the day.  I think I will get a hotel room next year so that I can spend more time at the show.  A hotel would allow me to escape for an hour or two and refresh for the evenings.  There is one hotel within a block of the show grounds while the majority are 6-10 miles away.  I'd better make my reservations now! I live 45 minutes from Devon but rush hour traffic extends that and makes me not want to go back once I get home.....

Thursday, September 26, 2013
I rode early on Thursday morning so after a quick shower I was out the door.

Driving to Devon I always get excited as I get closer.  A road was closed nearby but fortunately I am quite familiar with the area and was back on track quickly.  On Thursday and Friday I always park across the street at the bank.  I have been parking there for years.  A few years ago they started charging for parking in that section on Friday nights and Saturday afternoon and evening.  The air was cool and crisp with bright sunshine and as I looked up the flags were flapping in the breeze on the Devon show grounds cupolas.  Darting across route 30 (not always an easy feat!) I could hear the announcer in the Dixon Oval (that is the main arena at Devon) where a sign declares "Where Champions Meet".

The souvenir stand had many new items this year but I opted for a sweatshirt for Isaiah, car magnet and hand painted DAD mug.

There was still awhile before Louise was going to show her 2 year old Knabstrupper in hand so I stopped to have one of favorite DAD foods: cheese fries!  They are fresh, hand cut fries with awesome cheese on top.  My guilty pleasure.  So I went up to the box that I share with a friend (Bobbi, who owns Whisby, the mare that was in the fire with Suki) and watched a few breed classes enjoying my fries.  I have not attended the breed show portion of DAD in several years observing the classes I was reminded how important it is for the handler to match the stride when they are exhibiting the horse.  A few lovely horses were not presented at their best because the handler was either not tall enough or just didn't run well.

The crowd favorite of the day was a tiny Appaloosa colt representing the Appaloosa Sport Horse division.  The pint sized boy had been rescued from the New Holland auction, while still inside his mama.  His owners proudly clutched their blue ribbon accompanied by rousing applause from the audience.  Lucky mom and baby to be snatched from the auction pen for a safe and happy life!

In Barn 12 I found Louise and Captain.  He was braided and bathed standing quietly in his stall wearing an Irish knit sweat, looking handsome and relaxed.  Louise was nervous, but aren't we always when it is time to show our "children"?

Louise holding Captain
Posing for the camera with Ken

The breed classes are difficult, I think.  Subjective and a little political I suspect.  Louise hired Ken Borman, known for breeding Oldenburgs and bringing young horses along, to maximize the show ring experience.  We were all so impressed with Ken.  He took Captain around to show him all the things that might be scary, patting him frequently and talking to him softly.
When Captain went into the arena he was holding back a little going toward the grand stand (it's a bit intimidating) but really showed his stuff coming home.
In the arena
They were rewarded with 4th place.  Louise decided to take Captain in for the award ceremony instead of Ken (I would have done the same!).

Next I made my way over to the Gold Ring for the FEI 5 year old test.  First, I will get my petty idiosyncrasies out of the way.  I hate, hate, hate the short jackets that have been trending for the past few years.  I understand that it gives the illusion of lengthening the leg, but who wants to see a big white butt?  Even stick thin women do not look good in this jacket.  Yes, I am a traditionalist!  I did see a woman wearing a traditional length dressage coat in a cornflower blue which was somewhat attractive because she was slim (go ahead, slam me!) but I really did not like it.  Dressage coats should be black or at the very least navy.  I love my black Pikeur dressage coat with the red silk lining and traditional cut.  It is pure and classic.  Must we mess with tradition??? I am all for fashion forward.  My Vogue September issue, which I refer to as "the Bible" sits in my family room.  But I truly believe that tradition should be maintained.  I do embrace some change but if totally unflattering....well...NO!  Also.  If you are going to wear white breeches and shirt, with a white saddle pad, please, please, please do not wear ivory gloves!  Okay.  Rant finished.

There were a few 5 year olds that were very impressive, but others who seemed just not ready for the task.  Not that they weren't nice.  But simply not ready to compete in the FEI test for 5 year olds.  I have never been truly certain about these tests.  Suki as a 5 year old was still quite gangly and not balanced enough for that test.  She was really just trying to figure out where to put all of those REALLY LONG legs!  It had improved by age 5, of course, but I think it would have been a lot of pressure for her.  The test confuses me a little though.  There isn't any lateral work.  However, it does include a turn on the haunches, which most horses did not execute very well.

The two standouts were ridden byNadine Buberl of Germany.  Her two Oldenburgs were very lovely and correct and she is a skilled and refined rider, rewarded highly by the judges.  The wonderful feature of the tests for 4, 5 and 6 year olds is that the judges critique each ride over the loudspeaker at the end of the test.  This is quite informative as it offers a view of what they are looking for and what areas need improvement.  When horses are disobedient they acknowledge that these are youngsters and sometimes tension and distractions occur.  One rider was told that perhaps she needed to revisit the training scale because it was thought by the judges that perhaps she was not helping her very willing and nice horse because of lack of understanding.  The critique was offered kindly but firmly.  I applaud the rider for putting herself out there.  She was probably a bit upset as it is such a public display of judging, but I am also certain that it was a learning experience.

There were some very nice 4 year olds as well.  One seemed particularly mature for his age in attitude and skill.
One thing that I noticed also was the inability of many riders to really sit the trot well.  This observation was even more evident when watching those who sat the trot well.   Standing outside the schooling area I was able to observe a vast variety of riders, as even those not competing on Thursday were riding in preparation for the next few days of competition.  The schooling area at Devon can be difficult because it is always busy with riders, trainers and spectators.
On Thursday it was pretty mellow.  For those not familiar with the Devon venue, it is on the Main Line right on Route 30.  Over the past several decades office buildings sprouted around it, and one can here the train arriving at the Devon station and school buses behind the Gold Ring.
Anyway, there were just far too many riders bouncing in the saddle with stiff backs, not helping the horse at all.  I do think that in the US this is something that is not given enough attention.  Once again, thank you Rema, for putting me on a lunge line without reins or stirrups for the first few months of my riding lessons.  At the time, my 15 year old self wanted t "just ride", but that start was the best thing for me as a new rider.

Friday, September 27, 2013
Another crisp morning.  Louise rode Nikki for me so I put Isaiah on the school bus and headed to Devon. At the early hour, the Devon midway was peaceful, still waking up to a full competition day.  I really do love the weekdays for that reason, and in spite of my sore throat, ear ache and low grade fever I was planning on making it a great day!
Early mornings at the show grounds always makes me think about what the day can bring.  Show days are filled with preparation, anticipation and anxiety, culminating in just a few minutes in the arena.  But truly it is what we live for.  The sound of the announcer echoes through the still morning air, while grooms and riders pull off blankets and coolers for final preparations.  Horses feet are picked, legs are wrapped and riders don jackets in the cool morning air.  Sleepily the grounds awaken to the aroma of breakfast sandwiches and coffee mixing with hay, grain and mashes....just the right mix for everyone's preferences and special needs!

In the Dixon Oval the 4 year old test was under way to be followed by the 6 year old (which I did not see on Thursday) and the 5 year old tests.  The Gold Ring would be consumed by the very large Prix St. Georges class, so my plan was to visit both arenas and observe the schooling area.  First stop: secretary office to pick up the day sheets.  I headed to my box to watch the 4 year old tests, which had been held in the Gold Ring the day before.  The Gold Ring is definitely less intimidating than the Dixon Oval, but early on Friday morning the spectator mass was small and quiet.  I still think that for a 4 year old it is probably quite intimidating though!
There were some nice horses, but training holes were obvious.  And some were just too immature to perform these tests well.

The 6 year old class also had some nice horses, but again there were a few that in my opinion were really not physically ready for the challenge.

Prix St Georges offered up some very nice tests, some very bad tests and everything in between.  Some horses are so correctly trained that it is nice to see.  One of my pet peeves is when the rider sways with the flying changes....I have ridded the 4'3, 3's, 2's and 1's, so I know that it is not easy to keep still.  But I was also taught how not to do that.  I find it distracting as a spectator and wonder how the horse feels. At the Andreas Hausberger clinic he emphasized repeatedly the importance of less is more.  Do not over drive, over ride or over think.  Observing tests and schooling there was quite a bit of over driving. Since that clinic I have become more aware of it in my own riding and when watching there.  Sometimes I think people do not realize that they are doing it, as it becomes habit.  I am finding that Nikki really does respond better when I don't over think everything!

For the PSG I really enjoyed Tom Dvorak of Canada on Ribot and Patrick Tigchelaar of the Netherlands on Davidor 4.  Their tests were clean and correct.  I was less than impressed with George Williams of the Us test on Cleopatra, but he finished 7th in the vey large class!

More tomorrow....

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