Training Sessions And Tennis Balls

Feb 21, 2013 - 10:01 AM
Not too shabby for eventing dressage! Jennie Brannigan and Cambalda, aka "Ping," showed their stuff at the USEF High Performance Training Session with David O'Connor in Aiken, S.C.

Well, I have to say, things have been pretty busy since the last time I checked in with you all when I first arrived in Aiken. It’s hard to believe that the first month of our stay here has come and gone, and that Rolex is now only eight weeks away… Time does seem to pass by faster and faster.

The first show of the season for me was Pine Top I, with Indie running in the intermediate. He won the dressage and went cross-country the best he’s ever gone—very smooth and confident. We’re still working on the show jumping, but I’m looking forward to the next Pine Top, this weekend, with him.

Unfortunately the Friday of Pine Top was also the day that Andrea lost Neveah at Ocala… It broke my heart hearing the news because Andrea really loved that mare. She found her and had produced her so well and had a ton of success at every level. It of course made me reflect on how something like that could happen to anyone at any time, no matter if you’re trail riding or eventing. I’m just sad for her loss and wish her the best.

The following week was quite busy at our barn due to the fact that David O’Connor came to town for the USEF training sessions, which were held at the lovely Stable View Farm, about 45 minutes away from our base at Red Oak.

I have to say, the training sessions were quite good. The first day we worked on the flat, and Ping was little stiff and not quite swinging, but by the second day of flatwork he was really feeling top-notch. We were able to go through the four-star test movements and build a plan for riding the test to get the most points for Ping and I.  

David laid out tennis balls on the centerline as well as the diagonal to work on the extended canter and change in the test. Ping’s canter is quite good, so he really wants me to focus on getting every point possible. The tennis balls really made me aware of Ping’s body and controlling it within the transitions and in the corners. The old five-loop canter serpentine is quite hard to ride, I must say, and David had good pointers for that movement, like keeping my focal points only a few strides in front of me instead of looking around the loop and twisting my body, which causes Ping to change.

We ended with some trot work, and I was thrilled with how loose Ping felt in his body, and the medium and extended trots got better and better. The last day brought jumping, which was neat because I rode with Phillip and Mighty Nice. 

The main thing I picked up from the jumping was that David had me halt Ping in the start and work on the cluck/stick method, which teaches the horse to really move off the cluck and have him stay in front of the leg. I must say, it really helped Ping get way more in front of me, and I feel much better on him when he’s taking me forward and is a bit more adjustable. 

The other neat thing about the training session was the vetting they did to get to know the horses. Dr. Mark Revenaugh and Dr. Duncan Peters were really thorough and got a good baseline on my horse to work off of. I’m confident that it will be helpful in the future and think it will be a beneficial part of the program. 

I had three horses do their first event at Paradise Farm last weekend—Beth Battel’s As Cool As Ice and Nina Gardner’s Right Above It and Ibella. They all handled it well, and I’m excited about all three of these lovely young horses! They go to Sporting Days next, while Ping has his first outing at intermediate at Pine Top, as well as Indie, competing intermediate again. It also looks like I’ll have two catch rides for my friend Nick Cwick at the preliminary level, so fingers crossed for a good weekend!

All the best, and I hope to check in again soon,


Brannigan Eventing


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