California Classic CDE at Shady Oaks
We had a great time at Lodi this year, and placed First in Intermediate Single Horse at this event. Here’s a short rundown of our event and how it went.
I hurt my back before the Happ’s event (the weekend before Shady Oaks) and didn’t drive Niki for two weeks prior to the Event. She did get lunged once and a student drove her once, the weekend prior to Shady Oaks.
We arrived at the Grupe’s Shady Oaks facility on Wednesday afternoon. We unpacked, got settled and gave the horses the afternoon off. On Thursday, I lunged Niki, then put her away so I could do other things before driving. I got her out to drive and right off could tell she’s had two weeks off. She was eager to go and very forward for the first twenty minutes of our drive. For the first part of the work I drove her in the camp pasture, moving then to the warmup field by the dressage arena, finally progressing to the warmup arena as the last of the competitors finished up for the days. I focused on big figures with lots of balanced changes of direction. She continued to be very forward but required less effort on my part to keep her at a quieter pace as the warmup progressed.
She was bending very well in both directions, but her lengthenings were still a little bit eager and hoppy. She was perfectly willing to stop and back when asked, so we called it a day and working on walking back to camp. As she was still a little more interested in forward than in walking when we reached camp, I made several circuits of the camping area to get her fully settled into the “we walk” mentality.
Dressage day dawned. As we were competing at Intermediate, our time of go was fairly late (1:30 pm). I planned on a 20 minute warmup, and hitched accordingly. Our quiet and consistent warmup the day before paid off. After a lovely walk to the dressage area, we worked in the warmup field doing circles and changes of direction, moving to the warmup arena when directed.
Dressage was judged by Enos Georg (C), Tom Hilgenberg (E) and Nancy Meyers (B), and the test was Intermediate Test 2.
We circled the dressage arena one time, and entered at A. Niki was fairly straight on the centerline and her halt was okay. Not gross, not stellar, but very workman like with no gross flaws. Scores, respectively, were 6, 7, 4. Her upward transition was good, as was her bend as we tracked left (7, 7, 6). Our 30 meter circle at E was a very good shape and size, but was flawed by some independent thinking on Niki’s part. She want to make the circle just a little bit bigger than proscribed by the test, and corrected the issue when asked, but I’m sure the very fact I had to correct her contributed in a decrease in our mark (7, 7, 5). The walk transition was timely and forward, producing a very nice working walk in which she came off the rail before the corner. The bend through the corner was good, but the lengthening required between the corner and X was marginal at best (5, 6, 2). The upward transition was lovely but an unsteady head cost us points (6, 5, 6).
The second 30 meter circle (at B) was as perfect as they ever get in size and tempo (7, 6, 7). The walk transition was good. The lengthened walk was still not defined, though she was forward and stretching down (6, 6, 4).
The serpentine was good, with even loops, good bend and steady tempo, though one loop missed touching the rail by 1/2 a meter (7, 6, 6).
The first lengthened trot was not as defined as I would like (6, 6, 7). The collected trot work was excellent with good upward and downward transitions, the shape of the figures was good, but she wanted to return to the rail early, which I attempted to correct (6, 6, 8, first collection, 5, 6, 8, second collection).
The second lengthened trot was very good with the exception of arena placement. There was a slight bow in the figure putting us on the E side of X (6, 7, 8).
Our halt before the back was good but not long enough, the back was good (carriage was crooked but the reinback itself was good), and the forward to G piece had one crooked step. The final halt was okay (5, 6, 7) and we trotted from the arena in stylish fashion! All in all, for having two weeks off, it was a very good test. We finished the test 6 points out of first place, tied for fourth.
The walk back to stabling was very good. Upon checking placings, I had a 60 and was six points out of first place, tied for fourth. The best score was a 54.
Terry and I had calculated the kilometer elapse time for section A at 3 minutes 50 seconds, and that’s what we attempted to stick to. By the third kilometer, we’d fined it down to being only 20 seconds fast. We finished A almost exactly in the center of our window. Niki was fairly easy to rate and produced a steady workmanlike and attentive performance.
My biggest concern at this event was the walk section, as we’d done so poorly at Lincoln Creek, completing the 1K walk with 1 minute 6 seconds overtime. I realized LC was an unusual situation, with many horses besides Niki acting bizarrely. I’d been working on getting her relaxed and forward at the walk in the interim, and it paid off for Shady Oaks. We had NO shuffling into a jog, no jigging, just steady forward walk, not always relaxed enough to produce sufficient ground coverage to make time, but we were only 33 seconds outside our window with such a tremendous of improvement over our last event I was immensely cheered. I feel with a little more work we could easily have a stellar on time walk. I think one of the keys is three day events. They give her time to settle in and relax, without the competitions being jammed together as they are with Driving Trials and Two Day Events. Regardless, I was ecstatic over the walk.
We came in 60 and 60 at the vet check, leaving 10 minutes later 42 and 42. Section E at Shady Oaks, if you haven’t been there, is very flat. The water hazard (tunnel) provides the biggest terrain challenge.
The first hazard drove very fast, though I did drop a rein before gate E, which caused us to be a little wide coming into that gate (we were actually headed out into an orchard instead of toward the gate), but we had the fastest ISH time in the hazard.
Hazard two was the bridge/water/tunnel hazard, which drove well. We finished second fastest is this hazard for ISH.
Hazard three drove really well, but the driver had brain lock and drove an extra loop in the hazard. We were fourth fastest there.
Hazard four drove really well, but I failed to check Niki as we blew through Gate F, so instead of the short route I’d planned, we drove all the way through the hazard to get out. We were fourth fastest in four.
Hazard five was the Fort of No Appeals. I’d planned to drive all the tightest routes, driving the entire hazard on the inside. Niki did a stellar job and couldn’t have been more “there” for me. I failed to turn her tightly enough to make gate C and she had to back her nose out of E to make C, but we still drove the hazard very fast. We were second fastest in Five.
Hazard six drove very fast and very smooth with no problems, no overshoots, not changes of route. We were second fastest in six.
We finished E almost exactly in the center of our window, still shooting for the 3:50 kilometer.
We finished the marathon second best for ISH, with our good scores moving us to first place overall.
The cones course at Shady Oaks is my least favorite type of cones course, requiring lots of changes of speed and direction. For me, cones is the price you pay for getting to do marathon. I used to diligently practice cones, and used to be very good and producing double clear rounds, but have gotten lazy in the time since those days.
We were last of the ISH class. Our lead was a tidy six points.
During cones warmup I noticed Niki was falling slightly to the right. I tried to compensate in warmup, and she was able to give me good bend in both directions, but it took longer for her to get the quality of bend required to the right over the left.
We started cones and, because Niki wanted to fade right, we took out the first cone. Oops. I’d failed to compensate adequately. We continued on, producing a clean go until Gate D of the Zig Zag, which we brushed (right side). We also brushed one other cone (right side) with a total of 15 course penalties and no time penalties. We’d retained our first place position due to all the other competitors taking down two or three balls and having time penalties. We missed best overall Intermediate by one point.
We had a really fun event. The facilities, officials and volunteers did a stellar job and are to be commended.