After showing off High Level’s flatwork, which featured a big, long stride and open frame, Catledge started by trotting the crossrail a few times, then the crossrail oxer and the one-stride. High Level has a slow, lofty jump. Catledge got brave and cantered the oxer—just the second time she’d cantered a jump with High Level—and the horse jumped beautifully. She also got Pittman to turn the second element of the one-stride into a 2’3” oxer and jumped through.
Catledge kicked the performance up a notch right at the end, dropping the reins on the neck and extending her arms out to her sides as she cantered down the long side of the arena. High Level didn’t blink an eye and kept his slow, steady rhythm, much to the crowd’s delight!
Working The Crowd
Blackmer was up next on Tempyst (Domestic Dispute—Rynot, Caveat). She noted that the liver chestnut was the most worried six weeks before at the Maryland Horse Expo, when they chose horses. “There, he pranced sideways the entire time and never went straight,” Blackmer said as she trotted around in a lovely rhythm. “But once I got him home, he turned into the easiest, most rideable horse. He goes around like he’s done it his whole life.” Tempyst, who is 4 this year, is the youngest of the challenge horses.
Tempyst’s trot work was excellent, with a relaxed frame and long step, but he got a bit snarky and tense in the canter. Blackmer explained that he tended to fall behind her leg, especially in the canter, so she spent a lot of time working him outside of the ring, getting him going freely forward. She also spent much of the canter in two-point, off Tempyst’s back. “But if he gets fussy, I don’t worry about it. I just keep him going forward and straight,” she said. Read about Tempyst's development on Blackmer's RRTP blog.
Blackmer trotted the crossrail a few times, and Tempyst was a bit sticky off the ground and hesitant. She jumped him through the one-stride, which got him a bit more into the festivities.
Throughout the riding, Tempyst was a crowd favorite. While Blackmer walked on a long rein during the other trainers’ riding, he’d stop and visit with spectators on the rail, getting some scratches and love.
Talking And Riding
Dierks, who could be nicknamed “The Professor” after the trainer challenge, strutted Brazilian Wedding’s stuff next. In his video blogs, Dierks proved to be a master at talking while riding, explaining via headset microphone his philosophy and decisions in training the gray mare. He didn’t disappoint at the final, giving the crowd real insight into every move he made. See his training videos on his RRTP blog.
Brazilian Wedding (Milwaukee Brew—Lady In Tails, Black Tie Affair) didn’t take well to the Expo experience, and she was quite nervous, according to Dierks. They had trouble getting her to eat well, and during Pittman’s lecture the day before, they spent most of the time hand-walking.
The 6-year-old gray mare had settled a bit since the warm-up time, and Dierks was able to show off her lovely trot. He explained that Brazilian Wedding naturally traveled in a long outline, and that she tended to lug down into rein pressure. “My challenge was to get her to stretch her neck and balance on her own,” he said. He employed lots of lateral bending to encourage a suppleness that would carry over to the mare’s topline.
Dierks trotted a few jumps, then demonstrated cantering to the jumps while counting down from six strides out. He explained to the crowd that he uses the exercise to help develop a consistent rhythm to the stride. He also discussed jumping toward the in-gate and away from the in-gate and how it affected the horse.
Dierks did the most jumping, getting Pittman to put the oxer up to a square oxer of about 2’3” and cantering that a few times.
Last But Not Least
Catledge then returned on Solidify (Alajwad—Kali Dearest, Dearest Doctor), who looked a bit tense and tight under saddle. Catledge explained that as she began training the bay gelding, he was short and uneven in the left hind. After taking radiographs and determining there was no major physical injury, Solidify’s owner, Bev Strauss of Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue, told Catledge she thought it was just body soreness and stiffness and to push on with his work. Catledge noted that once she stepped up what she was asking of Solidify, 6, in terms of accepting the contact and pushing forward into it, he became much more even and stronger.
“All three of us [trainers] thought at the Maryland Expo that he would be the most trainable, and we were right,” Catledge said. “He’s got a phenomenal work ethic, and he turned into quite an athlete.” Pittman noted that Solidify’s canter caught everyone’s eye, as it is very uphill and balanced, unlike many ex-racehorses. Catledge explained that because of this, she used canter work early in her training sessions to get Solidfy relaxed and loose. Solidify looked nervous as she worked him, and he got confused about leads, but Catledge kept calm and quiet, working him on a circle until he took a breath and relaxed a bit.
Solidify’s tension carried over as Catledge trotted to a jump, and he got quick and tight. She only jumped the crossrail three times before ending the session. Time was running out, too, as Pittman started to wrap things up.