Saturday, February 13, 2010

Janet Foy Seminar hosted by HDS

A special treat for me, I got to sit with Janet during lunch where she amused us all with tales of her first horse named "Snakes" and the subsequent Welsh pony and Appaloosa named "Chief" that got her started as a child in the world of horses.

There is much to digest from the Janet Foy seminar Saturday, February 13 at Rice University. Janet began with the Training Scale, which she said is the "basis for everything." She explained that dressage judges in the US have to ride to the level they judge, which is not so for many other countries including England and Australia. The goal of USDF is to make the US judges better. One way we as riders can help facilitate this is by filling out judge evaluation forms at shows (or from forms online) when we feel judging errors have been made. Janet emphasized that these evaluations are confidential and that this past year several judges have even lost their judge's license due to these evaluations. "Santa Clause" judges, who are too generous with their scores, have also received letters for example for giving 69 plus scores, but then the same rider is unable to make even the 55 required at the regionals. The FEI judges must have a conference when there is a greater than 5% difference in scores; Janet feels US judges could benefit by judging on panels and conferring with their peers. Additionally, US, Canada, and Mexico are the only countries that pay our judges. Sadly, the US lost our team placing when Courtney King-Dye was kicked out for illegal drug use (for the horse). The Olympic committee took away our $60,000 funding, with no entry to London until we medal at WEG which will be tough to do. We need to send a strong team to the Pan Am games in Mexico.

Continuing with the training scale:

  • Rhythm: you have it or you don't; there are no degrees or good/bad. If pervasive unsoundness is present (the gait is irregular due to unsoundness) the horse should be eliminated to prevent serious damage. Walk or canter issues won't cause an elimination, but rather is a scoring issue. A new rule allows bute, but you cannot stack (using two or more different NSAIDs together). A regular gait should automatically start with a score of 6, then move up or down from there based on the essence of the movement, the basics, and any modifiers. Score=quality.
  • Relaxation: an extra point is given for suppleness
  • Connection: "lightness" means elevation and lightness in the horse's shoulders. Contact must be EVEN. "To lean on the bit" is the literal translation from the original German for contact.
  • Impulsion: how the energy is going to be used.
  • Straightness: the balance must be toward the hindquarter in 2nd level and above, but not at 1st level and below. At 2nd level collection is expected to come and go; there should be an "uphill tendency." For a correct turn on the haunches, you can be three feet off the rail and it is still not too big. Shoulder fore is the best way to keep the horse straight. Half pass and travers (haunches in) are the only movement where the shoulder is on the track. We desire mobility and the horse desires stability. Mobility leads to...
  • Collection: balance to the hindquarter with lightness of the forehand.
An equation that Janet uses while judging is:
Gait(quality) + Basics + Essence +- Modifiers = Score
where an example of Essence of the movement for leg yield is the crossing of the legs; an example of Modifiers is if and how well you use the corners to prepare. The best horse with the best training wins.

The Gaits:
Walk: Janet explained that a good way to improve a lateral walk is by slowing the walk while in shoulder in. Uneven walk versus unlevel, where uneven talks about the length of the steps and unlevel talks about the height of the the steps.
Trot: For an incorrect or "passagey" trot, the best way to improve is to quicken the hindlegs.
Canter: Janet explained how Fresians can have a tendency to canter with the hindleg out behind, making it harder for them to do correct true flying changes.

Janet believes that too many judges give the horse a 4 or 5 in submission and the rider a 6 when it should be the other way around for a horse that tries and a rider that is not quite there.

Concerning the new national (USDF) tests for 2011:
Now there will be only three tests per level with a maximum of six minutes for any test, in the hopes that riders can show all three tests in the respective level at each show they attend.

Training level: Transitions will be all on circles to help the horse's balance.

First level: we can expect quite a bit of change, no more "canter hell" as Janet put it; rather the canter periods will be interspersed with trot and walk. The rider can choose to sit or rise the trot, and there will be leg yield zig zag pattern out of the corner to x then back to the corner. The requirement for the lengthening in 1st level will now be called "moderate" with no transition score for lengthened trot, only for the comeback transition from the canter lengthening.

Second level: still has simple changes, but not every second level test will have rein back and turn on the haunches. Rather, in test 1: shoulder in; in test 2: haunches in; in test 3: shoulder in to renvers. Second level will have more counter canter.

Third level: the trot requirement will remain much the same, with some more counter canter but not very much change in third level.

Fourth level: Happily, Janet said that 4th level will be "way easier!" Tests 2 and 3 have "working" canter pirouettes, no tempis, and three changes on the diagonal line "near" a respective marker and three changes every fourth stride in test 3 but no serpentine in test 3.

Janet seemed to get it that people would show at a level beyond which they are fully capable, such as at grand prix even if there is a hole somewhere such as the horse does not piaffe, passage, or have the one tempis but the person does not have the luxury of having four or five FEI horses in their life.

From the video segments:
"Stretchy circle:" The Essence of the movement is: Out plus Down plus Rider maintains a contact. The Modifiers would be the size of the circle, correct bend, and correct speed.

Half pass: Weight the side toward which the horse is moving. The horse should wait for the sideways aid, and the horse should move the shoulders first.

Travers (haunches in) now requires the horse to travel on FOUR tracks. Renver is also on four tracks.

Turn on the haunches: can be one meter in diameter.

Simple changes of canter: The essence is Canter, then Walk, then Canter, with no trot steps in between.

Medium trot: make clear transitions at the respective letters; make half steps in trot in the corner then go forward out of the corner at the end of the movement.

Shoulder in: Janet used the "gunslinger" analogy: When the shoulder comes in yoou should be able to shoot the horse's ear with each respective six gun in each hand. Sit into the stirrup in the direction the horse should move.

Rhythm is four beat, three beat, or two beat, where Tempo is fast versus slow. Tempo should actually slow in a lengthening to allow for more ground cover.

Some final titbits:
In Janet's opinion, Straightness and Suppleness are the "biggies" in the training scale. What is the most important body part in riding dressage? The BRAIN. We as riders should read the directives for each movement of each test we ride, and read the rule book. This is free (and important!) information. The horse/rider pendulum swings from the two extremes of extended gaits to collected gaits (canter pirouettes and piaffe) where extended gaits cover the most ground but get lower to the ground and collected gaits such as canter pirouettes and piaffe add the most height. The FEI rider should be able to ride everything in between with transitions from one end of the spectrum to the other. As work-a-day campaigners, we should be striving toward two or three steps toward extension, then two or three steps toward collection, and back again.