So, as promised (admittedly some weeks ago) time for some training insights. I have had some weeks to implement the ideas and strategy Steffen and I worked on with Cadenza and, surprise, surprise, it seems to be showing. Granted I won’t be competing again until after his final clinic for this series (May 7/8th), but I sincerely hope that I am given the “thumbs up” for the big GP scheduled the following weekend.
A quick recap…after reasonable success at national level shows in the Prix St Georges (psg) and Intermediare 1 (I1) late last season and early this season it was time to bite the bullet and finally get into the CDIs. What followed was truly “make it or break it” time. I would never have planned the schedule, the results, the humiliation and frustration that came with competing in two CDIs back to back, whilst working with Steffen, organising two clinics with him and being as involved as possible with WDM. Steffen made it very clear that he didn’t care how many mistakes I made but I was, under no circumstances, to allow his carriage or frame to revert to non-FEI territory. When Steffen made that statement, I’m sure not even he envisioned the number of mistakes that would follow. After the last I1, where it seemed we did one-tempis behind in EVERY canter movement, I quietly put Cadenza into his stall, went to the adjoining one and bawled my eyes out…and I mean bawled. Ken looked in and wisely went away to give Cadenza carrots, my local “eyes on the ground” and support, Allyn Schiavoni, looked in and wisely went to help another student who was competing and my great friend Dauby, who was only in town for the week, realised she had seen this moment before and basically chatted with Ken and occupied herself until I emerged and announced that I thought I may return to chasing cattle.
Honestly, the major venting was just what I needed to get it all out of my system. If I had planned it, I would never had the courage or stupidity to put myself in that situation. And, lets face it, how many professionals ever confess to their frustrations or humiliations! However, it really made me force the issue of several holes in my training with this horse and I am certain that I am NOT the first trainer to experience this. A quick history on Cadenzas and my relationship…I am 100% responsible for everything in his training. I bred him, raised him, started him…you get the picture. He injured his back in a freak accident as a 7yo and the next 18 months involved huge vet bills and me treating his back like it was made of eggshells….which it probably was. The result has been that, even though his back is the best it has been since the accident, I have become well trained to think that any sign of resistance is due to pain/weakness etc etc. In translation, my clever gelding has learned how to get away with murder.
Part of the plan with the intensive work during Steffens 10 days tay in Wellington was to push the envelope and see how many of Cadenzas issues were physical and how many were mental….wow does that horse have me trained! By the last day of the final clinic, Cadenza was fit and strong with plenty of energy. The plan of Steffen riding him and talking through everything he was feeling and doing was totally possible. It is far from the first time that Steffen has ridden Cadenza, but the objectives have changed a little and I really needed to know if it worth moving him to competitive Grand Prix. Steffens summation at the end of the ride was that he is a very capable horse with really good talent for some of the collection (piaffe, passage pirouettes) but his work ethic REALLY sucked. “He is very intelligent, and uses it to work against you, it is your job to make him use it for and with you” He supported his belief in the horse by saying “you have 8 weeks until you see me again, if you haven’t changed this issue by then, I’m changing the ownership on his passport and he is moving to San Diego”. How about that for motivation!
Yes, I am off track again…training insights to follow…I PROMISE