Videos are Good

I’ve known for years that a video is a useful tool to analyse and improve one’s riding.  No surprises there… well, it never dawned on me that it might also be a useful tool to improve one’s groundwork.  Until last week, that is.

The LSH shot my video for the Interdressage Practical Horsemanship class (I’ve already shared my trial run here).  A couple of days later, I decided to prepare the video for the competition.  Before I got stuck in, I read the small print on the website.  A bit late, perhaps.

Oops.  Videos must be unedited and must not exceed 4 mins 30 secs.

My video was a healthy 6 minutes and some seconds.  The routine itself would probably be 5 minutes if I did it with no fluffs, but we’d had quite a few hiccups.  I forgot to pick up my whip at one stage, and had to go back for it.  It took two tries to reverse around the corner.  I allowed Aero to stop for a coughing fit while doing the umbrella from the right hand side.  Little things like that which added seconds on here and there.

What to do, what to do…  I was in too much pain to contemplate going back up to the farm and rerecording it – I had twanged my back right before we started recording that day and it wasn’t healing at all.

How much could I chop from the beginning and end? Nowhere near enough, sadly.  In the end, I chopped as much off the beginning  as I could, so that the video starts a bit strangely with us running/trotting up the centre line to halt and salute, saving 20 odd seconds.  The umbrella routine was the last thing before the final halt, reverse and bow at the end.  I decided to chop the video at the end of the ‘umbrella from the left hand side’ piece.  This would remove the coughing fit that happened in the middle of the ‘umbrella from the right hand side’ and also my finish, which was quite nice, if I do say so myself.  But I had no choice.

So I hacked the ends off my video, giving it a very abrupt end and bringing it down to 4’40” which I presumed I would get away with. I loaded it up to Youtube, paid my entry fee and sent the address of the video off to the organiser.  Then I turned my attention back to the original video.

Music. A bit of editing to chop out the weak bits and the coughing.  Jiggle the music around so it matches the trot work.  Sorted.

Here’s the result of my efforts – Facebook friends have already seen this, so you guys can skip over it!

It was fascinating for me to watch the video as I worked on it.  I could see loads of inconsistencies in my posture and plenty of little mistakes.

In the led work – I frequently keep the whip in front of Aero’s nose – MISTAKE! That’s a slow down/stop signal! (Mind you, it’s entirely possible I was asking him to slow down because I was in too much pain to run fast, but even so… once the horse has responded to a signal, you have to stop asking!)

Stand – I don’t give him a clear ‘stand’ signal. He stood like a rock anyway – good boy!

You can probably see that I edited the ‘Stand while I walk away’ piece.  That’s because Aero started to back up, because I just possibly might have raised my hands, which could be interpreted as a gentle ‘back up’ request.  (I have to explain here that Back Up is Aero’s party piece.  He starts reversing and you can see in his face that he’s thinking “Yup. Going backwards.  I’m so good.  She’ll be happy.  Just keep going backwards.   She’ll be pleased.   Backwards, backwards, tum-ti-tiddly-tum.. oh wait, what’s she doing? Was I supposed to stop? But I’m going BACKWARDS.  It’s what she asked me to do!”  If he’s ever in any doubt as to what I’m asking, his response is almost always Backwards.  So a signal that could be interpreted as a gentle ‘back up’ request will be leaped on and seized eagerly.)

Trot work from the right – he was tardy.  He needed a little flick from the stick.  Trouble is, this was the competition video and when you’re working a highly strung (I know he doesn’t look it, but he is) horse at liberty, he can often overreact to a correction (i.e. disappear at a flat out gallop to the far end of the arena), so I chose to allow him to dawdle and he came back to walk early.  It looks bleh to me, but I’m not sure if anyone else would notice.

The reverse around a corner.  Our bête noir, because of the aforementioned love of Backwards.  First try, he stomped merrily over the poles as he ignored my ‘stop’ signal.  But WAIT – while scrutinising the video, I realised that my stop signal was rubbish!  I was tilted forward and my hands were up (pushing), instead of leaning slightly to the back with my hands down, or my whip on the ground (inviting).  So that was a huge revelation to me!

The umbrella work – with the coughing edited out.  You can see that he’s just not quite as comfortable with the umbrella from the right as he is with it from the left.  Well, it’s only logical.  He’s almost fifteen, and all his life he has been handled and led from the left hand side.  The right hand side is, at worst, the territory of the devil and, at best, a bit weird.  It’s taken a long time even to get a good follow from the right, so I’m not disappointed with this.  He’s made huge strides (pun intended) in this department already and is continuing to improve.

The walk, halt, reverse, and bow.  It could have been better.  We should have reversed for longer.  I quite possibly didn’t need to wave the stick in front of his nose to get him to reverse – normally he will just follow me when I start to move backwards.  ‘Bow’ is a new trick – I think that’s plain to see!  He started the bow with his legs in the wrong place – his front left was forward, where his head needed to go.  I need to pay attention to this and get him to take an extra step if necessary.

If you are interested enough to want to see all of the mistakes I’m talking about (because of course I removed them from my fun version!), you’ll see them on the competition video here.

So win, lose or draw, this has been a really worthwhile exercise for me.  I have a clear idea of what I need to work on.  Can’t wait to get back out there and start practising again.  And riding.  My goal for March is absolutely definitely to enter an online dressage test with Aero, and there’s also a dressage competition locally which I would hope to go to with Flurry.

My back has to cooperate, though.

PS I’m writing this before the Interdressage results are published.  If you want to find out how I did, have a look at the Interdressage site.  Class 8.

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