Happy Holidays! I can’t believe they are already here. This could possibly be the best time of year. Everything slows down a little, there is a ton of great food around, and we get to spend quiet time with friends and family. If you could take away the cold and add some more daylight hours it would be no contest.
Still, a lot has happened since October. We had Lilo Fore in for a clinic. Great times as always. I was less prepared than usual as both Willie (Weltdorf) and WakeUp had time off after the Festival Of Champions. Then we only had a few days to get built back up for the clinic, and then we were travelling to Kentucky for the U.S. Dressage Finals that next week.
I think the strategizing of down time versus building time to get your horse to peak at the exact right moment is really a key element of our sport. I believe that my horses do better if they are given time to recuperate after shows—and not just a Monday off, but a good week of just walk, trot and canter to let them mentally slow down. Physically they need to exercise and loosen themselves, but after travel and a tough show they also need time not sitting, carrying, pushing and collecting, etc.
OK...but what happens when you have a show or clinic the next weekend after your show? I get the most out of a clinic when the horses are peaking—usually about the third or fourth day of “real” work. But knowing I needed the horses to be fresh for Finals, I gave them their down time. We still were schooling the basics, but WakeUp went into the Lilo clinic having not done a pirouette in a couple weeks. Luckily he didn’t forget. He and Willie were awesome!
WakeUp is getting so much stronger all the time. He can now hold his expressive trot in better self-carriage and a shorter frame…for longer than a circle! It is amazing to me how much he can improve in a short time, especially since I did no collected trot for a couple weeks. (Imagine that…schooling the basics pays off!)
Also, he is really learning not to get so stuck in the piaffe. He gets “on a pedestal,” as Lilo says. (That’s too underneath behind, so his front and hind legs are too close, and he can’t figure out how to get out of it. I could be stuck piaffing for days!) So we approached it from the idea of making sure I could control how much he gave me. In other words, how close could I get to piaffe without actually piaffing, so that he was totally with me? We will figure it out!
Willie and I are now working on increasing the basic quality of his gaits and improving the details. Willie will never have a WakeUp canter, but I can get every single change in the canter zigzag more expressive, try to make it super even, and squeeze out every point possible. It takes time, focus and precision on my part. It is fun work though!
Then we were off to the U.S. Dressage Finals in Lexington, Ky. The atmosphere was amazing! Everyone was excited to be there. The barns were open (unlike a restricted CDI barn), which was fun. People would come walking through the barns asking about dressage, the horses and the show. The Alltech Arena was breathtaking, and it felt like a European indoor show. Unlike the USEF Festival Of Champions, there were many more competitors, so the show was much larger, there were more spectators, and it felt great to be there. The weekend was very special.
Carrie Gordon, my student and close friend, competed in a national championship and made me very proud. WakeUp had a fantastic ride and became the open Intermediaire I champion. We had a few “exciting” moments in the freestyle and finished second. I’m so excited with how he is going now. When I watched video of the Festival I was disappointed, but watching video of the Finals I am really so excited!
Willie had a couple spooks, so finished with a 65.70 percent in the Intermediaire II. Usually we were sitting around a 66.00 percent if we had a clean test, so, even though I wish we could have finished higher, it is encouraging that we can get that score with big mistakes. Now if we could get the quality and a clean test?!?!
Blogger Emily Wagner, 25, shows and trains dressage horses out of her family's farm in LaCygne, Kan. Her WakeUp is one of the riding stars of U.S. dressage, having won the 6-year-old national championship in 2011 and winning the Developing Prix St. Georges national championship in 2013. Read her inroductory blog to get to know her better.