Last weekend I took a road trip up to the gorgeous Millbrook, NY to go watch the Advanced division run cross country at the Millbrook Horse Trials. Living in Area 1, we don't always have access to watching the pros run at the upper levels. Most events around here only run to Prelim, if we're lucky. It was a great opportunity to watch and learn.
I had originally planned to walk around the course a bit but we ended up getting a great spot at the water complex so we sat there for the whole division. This actually ended up working out nicely because you could watch every pair through the same series of fences and see what made it ride well and what made it ride not so well.
A trend I've been noticing not only at Millbrook, but also from watching video from other upper level events, is that the riders who have a nice forward stride make it look a lot smoother than those who don't. Even for the combinations on course that require a shorter, more controlled stride, those that can package their horses up while still maintaining the energy level in the hindquarters end up having much better rides than those who pick at their horses and kill the power.
The particular complex at Millbrook was a decent drop into the water, four very forward strides to a corner in the water, and another three forward strides to a table out of the water. The table was luckily very forgiving as more than a few pairs ended up more or less crawling over it!
Another thing I noticed was that the riders who were able to stay over their legs as they dropped into the water had much better rides. Those that lost their legs dropping in were required to use the first stride in the water to catch themselves and sit back up which left less time to find their line and distance and kick on to it.
Here are a few photos:
Overall it was a great day and Millbrook is a lovely venue! Hopefully I will make it there as a competitor next year!
Tomorrow Ben and I are off to compete at the Frazier Farm Horse Trials in the Novice division. His dressage has really been coming along at the Training level so I have high hopes for his performance in the much simpler Novice test. I'm also hoping for a forward, bold, and confident cross country run. If all goes according to plan I should have a helmet cam video to share as well!