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Too Fast on XC! - UPDATE: maybe not!

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  • Too Fast on XC! - UPDATE: maybe not!

    My new horse, Fuji, is pretty perfect (to me at least) in most every way. However, his "cruising speed" on XC is just faster than it needs to be.

    We're competing at Novice where the speed is usually around 400mpm. Fuji is a very long bodied, long-legged 17H TB whose stride covers quite a bit of ground. He's a gamer who enjoys a good romp around XC. At our last event, we ended up going closer to Prelim speed and I had to eat a little time in order to avoid speed faults. Rather than having to walk off some time, I'd prefer to teach him to dial it down a notch or two and have a more consistent speed from start to finish.

    Fuji is definitely adjustable in front of a fence. I had a bank up to a log at last week's event and I was able to get him in a nice bouncy canter up to the bank and then on to the log without much fanfare. I can pull him up and begin again and he's still engaged - it doesn't ruin our mojo so to speak.

    The course last week was a bit congested, so often there would be a jump for a different course in our line after a particular fence. He would draw to it, but when I let him know to skip it it was no big deal and he went on to the correct fence.

    When I rate him between fences, he slows down for a few strides and then creeps back up to a faster pace. I think he's just comfortable cruising at a higher speed, but it's still not appropriate for the level and I want to address it. He likes to jump, land, and GO. My fear is that if I pick at him, he'll end up not digging the job quite as much or I'll make him worry about what's coming up. The last thing I want to do is micromanage him and create more of a problem.

    He's not so "on" when we school, but certainly was more forward at the event. This was our first event together so I'm still figuring him out.

    We're going in a full-cheek slow twist. He doesn't root or throw his head or do anything belligerent. I'm thinking a little more hardware might be a good idea, but what would that be?

    I don't want to give anyone the impression that he's a runaway, because he's not at all. He's rateable, rideable, and wonderfully honest. It's a sweet ride, I'd just like to take it down a notch.

    Thoughts?
    Last edited by BigMick; May. 31, 2010, 10:05 AM.

  • #2
    If he's safe, listening, well-balanced and just plain faster-than-your-average-horse, I wouldn't make a big issue out of it, especially if your goal is to move him up the levels.

    But you can use the space between Novice fences to get him even more fine-tuned to your half-halts, and what an educational opportunity! Teach him to adjust his stride by rebalancing your weight, and think how much easier Prelim combinations are going to be.

    Don't wreck a nice, ground-covering gallop, and don't nag him. But you can probably dial 20-50 mpm off a horse's speed just by doing lots of half halts and adjustability exercises in the canter/gallop. If you're still going too fast, do some easy serpentine paths between fences and wheel your course to ADD ground, not to save it.

    I've never had a super-speedy horse, but when Gwen was really fit and doing Prelim, we'd have a few disagreements as to how fast we needed to go for Training level. Her "optimum speed" was 470-500mpm, so for Prelim we had to push, and it wasn't like we had speed faults at that pace even at Training. But I found that w-a-l-k-i-n-g out of the start box was a good way to eat up a few seconds, and got in the habit of taking very wide, leisurely turns. Beyond that, I hated to argue with her because it didn't do any good. She was always in perfect balance and would make like an accordion any time I needed her to, so I just enjoyed the ride.
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    • #3
      My guy is exactly like that; he has a HUGE stride and it doesn't feel (or look) like we are going fast. I found what worked best for him was exactly what deltawave said. I do lots of half halts and big, wide turns when possible. I also found that with time and experience, it became easier to rate him, but we were always knocking at the speed fault time (I would actually set my watch for speed fault time instead of OT). Now that we have moved up to Training, I am finding it is a lot easier to make time because his natural stride length is about 450 mpm.

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      • #4
        move him up the training.

        actually...I'm only sort of kidding. I really wouldn't worry about it. How long do you plan to spend at novice? If you are planning to spend forever at novice....well, then I would work a little bit more at finding a slower pace between the fences. But if you plan to move up.....just take some wider turns between your fences for now.


        But I would want to make sure you are able to go more like 450 mpm than 520....
        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by deltawave View Post
          If he's safe, listening, well-balanced and just plain faster-than-your-average-horse, I wouldn't make a big issue out of it

          you can use the space between Novice fences to get him even more fine-tuned to your half-halts, and what an educational opportunity!

          Don't wreck a nice, ground-covering gallop, and don't nag him.

          Thank you, dw! I especially appreciate you mentioning the educational opportunity. I try to come out of every encounter asking myself, "what did I learn today?" and then use that going forward.

          move him up the training.

          actually...I'm only sort of kidding. I really wouldn't worry about it. How long do you plan to spend at novice?
          bfne, several people have said that. It's only been one event, so I feel like I need a few at Novice under my belt before entertaining a move-up. I want our partnership rock solid before giving it a go at Training. Not to mention we need to work on those lengthenings! It's a process and I enjoy it no matter the level. There's always something to learn and work on.

          I do fantasize about moving up to Training and then qualifying for a T3D. Given his enjoyment on XC, I think he'd dig the classic format.

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          • #6
            Definitely don't up the hardware in his mouth! He is happy and controllable as is, don't mess with it. Wider turns and a slow start out of the box, as suggested above should take care of most of the speed problems. Besides walking out of the start box makes sure that you don't end up with a monster that will not stand still in the box.

            Btw, it isn't just the big horses that cruise fast. My little guy is barely 14.2, but has a huge stride and really would rather cruise at 400-450, which really makes beginner novice fun. Our first event together we managed to come in 3 seconds over the speed fault time while trotting out of the start box and refusing the first jump. We were both in control the whole time and didn't look like we were moving that fast.

            Good luck with your boy, he sounds like a blast!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by BigMick View Post

              bfne, several people have said that. It's only been one event, so I feel like I need a few at Novice under my belt before entertaining a move-up. I want our partnership rock solid before giving it a go at Training. Not to mention we need to work on those lengthenings! It's a process and I enjoy it no matter the level. There's always something to learn and work on.

              I do fantasize about moving up to Training and then qualifying for a T3D. Given his enjoyment on XC, I think he'd dig the classic format.

              Eh. My current OTTB only did one novice and then I took him training at Fair Hill this past weekend. To be fair...I thought we would have done at least one other novice event when I had entered the training level event. And I will admit I was a bit freaked out when I walked xc. But he was a rock star. We will just stay at training for a while. (and we too have to work on those lengthenings...and the stretchy circle...and the walk) But do what you are comfortable with. I don't think there is a HUGE difference with novice and training....often it is in our minds!


              Have fun with your guy! I loved the pictures of him when you first got him....he looks like an eventer!
              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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              • #8
                The young TB I just sold in January to a girl in the barn cruises at just about 475mpm. As in you would swear to god he was barely loping, but comes in well over a minute under time at novice. I left him alone at the events I did with him. I wasn't looking for a novice horse, and the plan was to keep moving him up and see what he could do. The new owner isn't wanting a novice horse either so she ignores it and just makes sure to check her watch and take some scenic routes along the way, and if need be with throw in a circle or 2 just to waste time. He also walks out of the box a few seconds after they say go. He just has that big and balanced of a stride. Once he gets to prelim I think we might actually have to ask for more then just his canter.

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                • #9
                  Is he is balanced, rateable, safe and listening to you? If yes, then I personally would not up the hardware or worry too much about it. If you can slow him down without nagging him, then play with it a bit between fences and see what it does but I would not worry about it too much.
                  My mare (a 17 hander who can trot a 350 mpm when doing conditioning sets in the field wihout feeling like she is going that fast) was the same way at novice and rather than interrupt a perfectly nice rhythm all the time, I made big loopy turns, usually picked somehwere to trot (through the water, through the woods), balanced her up for fences more strides in front of the fence than absolutely necessary and that was enough
                  There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)

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                  • #10
                    Like others, I wouldn't up the hardware at all. He sounds very rateable and enjoying himself. Lots of transitions...walking out of the box, trot sequences, maybe even a walk here and there. If you are going to stay at novice a while, you can be teaching him that you set the pace. Walk or trot in places so that you can pick a nice rhythmic canter/hand gallop or forward trot to the fences. I spent a lot of time at Novice trotting my old horse to the fences when he was just starting out. Teach it like schooling and that he can enjoy himself but you are the one setting the pace because only YOU have walked the course beforehand. Will pay off when you are at Prelim.

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                    • #11
                      I'd make big loops/wide turns, do some sightseeing on course and allow him to go at his comfortable pace. Or suck up the speeding tickets once in a while.

                      I think if you start fussing too much with him it might make him nutty and that's no fun when you do move up.

                      The fact that he is easy to adjust will work in your favor when you move up - instead of spending 6 strides setting him up, you only need 2 and those other 4 strides per fence ( X 15-20 fences) will make making the faster times a piece of cake.

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                      • #12
                        Vernon was not much fun galloping between fences at novice. His cruising speed is probably closer to 450, so we spent a lot of time arguing with each other at novice. I didn't really make a big deal of it, just tried to set the rhythm then leave him alone, then repeat if he decided to barge along. He didn't stay very long at novice so I wasn't worried that much about it, and he was much, much, MUCH more pleasant to gallop between fences at training, since that's just where his natural rhythm wants to be. DW gives good suggestions, and I also prefer taking the scenic route, need be. Make sure to do it in the meat of the course and NOT between the last one or two.
                        Amanda

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                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Alrighty! We just went to MayDaze and had another fabulous ride on XC.

                          We walked out of the box (actually didn't even go in until they counted us down to "1"), took wider turns, and was more "conversational" with Fuji this time - asking him to come back to me more often on course in between fences instead of just rolling at whatever pace he wanted. I was careful not to rattle him or cause him to think there was an issue, walked in one or two places for a few strides, trotted a few turns, etc. He was still engaged and game for every fence. I think the oppressive heat at 2:50 in the afternoon on Saturday likely helped to take him down a notch as well.

                          We finished exactly one second OVER optimum time. How's that for precision?

                          For a rather open, gallopy course I was thrilled that he listened to me all the way around. He processes everything that we pass (other jumps, jump judges, etc.) but it doesn't affect him. Once he finds the jump, everything else fades away and he draws right to it. (My old horse would process everything, but by the time I asked him to jump it was too much and a meltdown/overload would ensue).

                          Next up is Spring Run. There, I'll likely let the varied terrain be our brakes and just re-balance in front of the fence.

                          What a good boy!!

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                          • #14
                            That's great! I was happy to see you and your new guy again this year.
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                            • #15
                              I'm not a big fan of walking or trotting during the course. I like to keep a rhythm going the whole time. Balancing, and talking to them, giving them half halts and controlling the gallop is one thing, but breaking pace unless your horse needs to trot a scary fence is different to me.

                              I just recently dropped my intermediate horse to training for confidence boost for him. He's done two back and even after a winter off, he canters around training level at prelim pace. It's what is comfortable for him, it's where he's happy and it's a great pace. We're too fast for training, but he's balanced and in style. I suck up the penalties when I get them. I'd rather him be comfortable and have fun than have me fuss with him and make him tell me to "piss off" for the sake of a ribbon.

                              Taking the scenic route will go a long way, but I wouldn't fuss with being "right on the optimum". I would prefer a horse that has a natural gallop than trying to teach a horse to go.

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