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Question about pace at a schooling trial

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  • Question about pace at a schooling trial

    So I'm relatively new here and I'm hoping to hear what you guys have to say about this.

    I have a 17.2hh Hanoverian gelding who started out life in Germany, was imported, shown as a GP dressage horse and is now living his second life with me. This horse possesses an anxiety disorder to stump most psychologists which is why he wasn't successful in his first career despite being beautiful, talented and kind. Since I've had him we have done some dressage, some jumpers, some eventing and this fall, some foxhunting. It has taken me 3 years (and counting) to gain his trust and confidence to the point where I feel that we are a united pair.

    So on to the pertinent info... we have done maybe 6 or 7 schooling HT's at beginner novice and have been pretty successful finishing on our dressage score most of the time and finishing first a few times. I am planning a move up to novice this coming weekend at the starter horse trial at the Carolina Horse Park. Since this is a schooling horse trial, the XC is not timed. When we were there in June doing BN, the Giant Red Horse (GRH) was pumped for XC and as such, I let him roll forward faster than the posted pace. He is always adjustable, has great brakes and comes back nicely before fences so I wasn't worried about getting "run away with" or being unsafe over the jumps.

    So here is my question:
    Having this horse, for whom confidence has always been an issue especially on XC, am I doing the right thing to let him roll forward when he is feeling bold? Like I said, I always have the brakes and adjustability so I'm not worried about losing that, I just wanted to let him carry on with his bad self if he feels that great. It is easy to get rolling with him with his 20'ish gallop stride. WWYD in this situation? I don't want to be running all over the course getting a reputation for being a kamikaze. In my life with this horse, as long as he is happy and comfortable with what we are doing, I'm happy so it is fun for me when he is so enthusiastic.

    I look forward to hearing what you think. Here are some photos of us at his last BN. :-)


  • #2
    Unless you're going faster than about 450 mpm, which is a stout hand gallop, your speed is not going to be inappropriate for a Novice XC course.

    If eventing is what you want to do, then it's appropriate to figure out, at these schooling trials, how he handles himself galloping along at speeds that are appropriate to the level. If you find this gets him rattled, OK, you have your next task outlined. An event horse needs to be able to roll along confidently, so what better opportunity to find out how he handles it?
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    • Original Poster

      Thanks Delta,

      I guess what I was trying to say is that I do let him move out at a faster pace when he is feeling bold and happy. I don't want to get in trouble for going too fast but I do let him "roll on" so to speak. Just wondering if this is the right thing to be doing, and it sounds like you think it is? Thanks!!


      • #4
        Even for schooling shows without timed XC they usually still give you an "optimum time" for the course so you can use it for schooling purposes.

        What I would do if it was me, is when you're walking the course, decide on a few areas where it is OK to let him open up if both of you would like to (like a nice open area between jumps, preferably very flat or uphill), and know where you need to shorten up before jumps and such. If he's still listening to you when he gets going, I don't see a problem with letting him run a bit in safe places - just try to make it your idea to do this, rather then his.


        • #5
          It might be time to start developing an idea of what different speeds feel like--350 vs. 400 vs. 450. You can measure out the distances at home and canter them with a watch on to get a basic idea. You really probably aren't going faster than the speed fault time for Novice (450) or even BN (420)-- but if you are, that's probably unsafe.

          OTOH, on a big horse, 300-350 mpm is sometimes barely a canter, so it is not surprising you would be under the optimum time just by letting the horse roll pleasantly along.

          I have seen a Prelim horse do BN at Prelim speed, and while it apparently didn't bother her young rider (or at least she made no visible effort to slow down) it scared the heck out of everyone watching. You don't want to be that person, but you can find a happy medium.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks everyone! I have evented up to Intermed. before so I have spent a lot of time with the watch and measured distances though admittedly, it is harder to assess his pace since his stride is so large.

            Highflyer - you are right, the BN speeds are a nice forward trot for us most days.

            I will, as always, assess the course and find some spots to let him open up and take the rest as a forward and back schooling exercise. I'm looking forward to moving up with this horse, as long as he is happy and comfortable!


            • #7
              I have one running under his level due to coming back from an injury.
              Try wheeling your course with wider turns & longer lines than what is posted. You can use those spaces to let him "get his groove on" & you always have the option of running their line if he needs to stay closer to division speed.