So I'll try and describe my problem as clearly as possible. Right now I am competing two horses at the Prelim level. One is a big 16.2 Tb with a huge ground covering stride. The other is a very small Tb with a short fast gallop.
Here's the problem. Lately I am often being accused of going much too fast on the smaller horse. But I almost always have time faults on him. Usually between 15-20 on average. The larger horse makes time without even trying, but his speed is never questioned.
I have competed through the CCI** level. I feel pretty confident that I know how to rate my horses. I want to play by the rules. If I'm told to go slower without question I do. I want to be as safe as possible. But it's gotten to the point that I'm scared to let go of his face b/c I am scared of being accused of going too fast.
This little TB has been competing at Prelim for three years. Only one stop XC in those three years. He has the scope to be competing at the upper levels. He always jumps balanced and in stride. I know he has an "ugly" gallop. He tends to keep his head up and I know his stride is a bit short and fast. I have been to shows where riders with refusals have made better time than I have. Yet, there speed is not questioned and mine is.
Has anyone ever had this problem? Is it possible that he just looks faster than he really is? How can I help his gallop appear more rideable?
Who is "accusing" you? If time and again you are getting warnings from TDs, etc. then I would make a point of talking to them ahead of time, showing them your competitive record and the horse's XC times. Explain that the horse is short-strided but safe and not, in fact, too fast. If it's your trainer, I'd listen up and ask what he/she thinks can be done about it. If, OTOH, it's just chitter-chatter, I'd simply smile and keep riding.
I actually don't agree with DW at all on this one. Your competition record to my mind doesn't mean much as to whether you're going too fast on course, because time faults are based on an average speed. Thus, it is entirely possible to be going too fast and still have time faults. Your time is over the entire course - so if someone is going hellbent for leather in between the jumps and then tug-tug-tug to slow down for a jump, and then go-go-go, it's very easy to have time faults and not have been riding at an appropriate pace. Or, if you're riding some jumps at an incorrect speed and balance for the question (like, for example, wing-dinging at a coffin), you could be going "too fast" even if you're not making the time.
It's pretty rare in my experience that someone will say you are going "too fast" just because you're on a short-strided horse (heck, we have a just over pony-sized Connemara that always makes time and has about an 8 foot stride but he's so well balanced he looks smooth and laidback). The fastest horses on course usually don't look like they are going that fast - think of someone like Philip or Kim, who are so efficient in their pace. If you're getting repeated comments that you are going too fast, I'd listen to them. How about asking what it is folks are seeing - because I bet it's not just sheer footspeed. What about videoing a bunch of your rides and asking a good coach to review them with you? Or take a clinic or an XC lesson and see what folks are telling you?
Gotpots, I see what you are saying. This horse does like to land a fence and go. Though I'm definitely not kicking him on after each fence tying to make the time. If anything I am holding him back. Like I said, we have been going prelim for three years and this past season is the first time my round has ever been questioned.
I work with a very well respected BNT on a daily basis. I am lucky enough to ride 6-8 horses a day. He tells me that my speed is fine and if anything I need to get out of his mouth and let the horse do his job. But one TD telling me that I was going too fast is too many for me.
This horse has a very sensitive mouth. Whenever I set up for a fence he always has a few strides where he chucks his head. Not pretty, but I feel like I always have him balanced for the jump.
GS, I also see your point and (in my haste) hadn't even considered that possibility. Mea culpa. I was sort of assuming the horse looked out of control but wasn't, not that speed was excessive at times and not at others.
Two things make me think that the problem here may not be speed, but the manner in which the speed is controlled. One is the OP saying that she "hangs on the horses' head" and the other is the horse throwing his head up before fences.
If your sole means of control is through the rein aid, then you will ALWAYS be going too fast, IMO.
I think this is related to what GotSpots is saying : how smooth is your round, as a whole?
Actually, this issue has come up amongst a few prelim riders who ride with my coach ( a big time BNR) this spring. At several events, 2 particular riders were criticized after XC by the officials who felt they had both gone too fast. Both riders finished within about 10 seconds (over or under) the optimum time on both occasions and had what they and our coach felt were nice rides without any reasons for concerns. Both are in their first season at prelim on nice horses (16'0 and 16'2). My coach was rather unhappy about this and felt it was unwarranted. His opinion was that if coming in on the OT was too fast, the OT should be adjusted. He is an FEI official and needless to say the officials at the events who discussed it with him and the riders sort of let it die after realizing they were his students. According to my coach, this has been an increasing concern amongst officials in the last 12 months.
Strangely, I have not heard anything at the same events about my time, and I feel I ride very quickly in general as long as my horse is going well and in good balance. At one of these events, I was also competing at prelim and I was the only person at that level to make the time...and I finished 20 seconds under (I was preparing to move the horse up to intermediate and he had a very smooth ride.) My coach and I were both quite surprised that other riders were told they had gone too fast, and I was actually given a pat on the back from the some of the event staff who said, "great job being the only one to make the time!"
This all has led me to the conclusion that what is really bothering the officials is the balance to the fences rather than the speed. Or prehaps these riders are having a few sticky spots, and the officials feel that in that case they should be slowing down. Because it does not seem to be an issue with speed per se...as it seems like the OP is noting when she is NOT accused of riding too fast on her other horse who is making the time. but it does seem to be a phenomena that is a lot more common this year, for whatever reason. Just out of curiosity, to the OP, are you in Area 3? I wonder if you have had this problem at some of the same events the riders I know have?
Blackwly, it actually was an area 3 event where this first came up. I finished what I thought was a great XC ride. BNT told me that "was how to ride XC". About 10 minutes later I was getting a stern warning from the TD, who admitted she had not actually seen my ride but a jump judge had radioed in saying I was going way too fast. I had about 8 time penalties that day, on a course that most riders were making time.
It was after that event that I started holding him back and being too much in the reins. I was just so horrified that someone thought I looked out of control.
Overall I think my courses ride pretty smoothly. I don't go for the long distances or let him run fast and flat through the combinations. I'm afraid that it is the head tossing that makes us look out of control. He always throws his head up for a few strides when I go to organize him before a jump. I am sure it looks hideous.
But like many of you suggested this is most likely not a speed issue, but a balance issue. Something to definitely work on.
Keep in mind that the jump judges ARE NOT TRAINERS. Or, in many cases, very experienced horsepeople. Or horsepeople at ALL. Are you going to freak out and change your riding style, contrary to your trainer's wishes, based on what basically amounts to railbird nitter-nattering?
I would address the head-chucking issue, though, and work on having a better balance before fences. Get more half-halt and balance from your body, consider a bit change, a hackamore, school canter-halt, whatever.
Eventingdaze, it sounds like it may have been the same place we were. Since it sounds like you're getting good help, you're experienced and you've got the sense God gave you, I'd probably just say, "Well, thanks for the input!" to the TD and shrug it off. That was my coaches advice to the 2 riders in our group, anyway. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if we have some overzealous officials out there now and again given the current safety climate. The best you can do is give their opinions honest consideration and keep working on getting better!