1. If I do Novice, could I still do beginner novice at recognized shows, or actual 3 day events? I read somewhere you can still compete a level down from what you have shown.
This is not quite true. Firstly, it doesn't apply to schooling shows. Secondly, you can always compete in the open divisions.
2. If you have the capabilities to watch a youtube video, please watch my eventing derby from last year under HesUltimatelyFine. I'm mostly concerned about the dressage test, so could you point out what was wrong, and how to correct it? (I will probably post it under the riding critique section if you want to comment there)
There is a lot going on here which I will address in a bit.
3. My horse has a terrible time getting his left lead. If I canter to trot to canter him, and keep doing that to have him get it, he usually speeds up and loses his "partnership" with me. Would it be better to just chance his lead the first time, and lose the points of one movement, than to have a chance of ruining the rest of the test?
Theoretically, yes, but this is a major red flag.
4. Any other advice?
Yes. Stick with your bump down to BN. You are not ready for Novice. See below.
Starter to Novice is a HUGE jump. Not only are the fences higher, but the courses are more technical and you need to be in complete control of your horse's stride to adjust to the distances.
I watched the video, and I don't think your dressage is up to Novice standards yet. Your horse is bent at the third vertebrae in parts of the test, and he doesn't bend throughout his body--in fact, he's counterbending throughout much of it. When you asked for the left lead canter, he rushed and was unbalanced through the transition, causing him to counterbend and pick up the right lead.
I would stick with Pre-BN or BN.
One of the big problems with the left lead in the video is because of the 6" deep mud where the transition was. I'm not really concerned about the length of the course since it is short, and doesn't have many techniqual parts. I've jumped up to 4ft with him, so height shouldn't matter. I'll probably end up doing beginner novice.
I'm specifically looking for advice on how to improve him.
First of all, don't make excuses. You have already stated this is a problem area, and now it's the mud? No. It's a problem area. No big deal--it's not like it's a massive disaster, just something you're working on. Accept that, don't make excuses for it, and you will improve.
As for the 4', if you were confidently and correctly jumping 4' you wouldn't be asking these questions. Having cleared 4' does not make one ready for any specific level.
You are fine at Pre BN or probably BN on this horse. You have a lot of good things in your riding, and you have a cute horse that looks to be the sort to teach you a lot and give you quality miles. You treat the horse well, and are looking to learn. Don't overdo it and wreck your horse's or your own confidence.
Last year he didn't have extensive conditioning either. I am entering this show as schooling. I decided on beginner novice, and most likely will trot the course, maybe canter, definitely no galloping. If my horse can't finish the course safely, I will stop and disqualify myself. It is the same price as schooling. I don't see why I wouldn't do it.
I posted this thread, purely for advice, not for discouragement against pushing for improvement.
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Good choices. BN should be cantering the course in theory, but if you are not ready then trot. The fact that you are thinking this is a sign that you were not ready for N. Certainly pay attention to his conditioning. Has he been ridden at all lately? If not I would scratch. You shouldn't jump AT ALL if the horse hasn't been under saddle.
Go & do what you can, attendance needs to high at all events. Keeps shows going.
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NO NO NO NO NO. Yes, events need to be well attended, but first and foremost they need to be safe and fun for all involved.
So in eventing, going to events, no matter what the result, is good in the end? I want to enter a larger one in August, and this will only be my second event
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No. Go when you think you're ready. Sure, sometimes you are a bit off in your assessment and must choose to scratch or retire. Sure, sometimes you have a bad day or the horse is off or whatnot and you need to scratch or retire, even though you are ready. These should be RARE occurrences.
Okay, now to your riding. The biggest issue is that you are not using your leg. I noticed it in the first few moments of the vid. Your lower leg is not against the horse and doesn't DO anything. You can see this clearly at about 5:40. You are also in a slight chair seat. Your seat is good and quiet, but you aren't using
First, remember that the contact should be evenly distributed across the inside of your leg. Your lower leg needs to be ON the horse so that it CAN do something. Only then can it actually ask the horse to lift his back and step under himself and push forward. You need to get that sorted. In order to get your leg in the proper position, try a few exercises. First, try doing some two point. Notice how your leg slips back? That's where it should be all the time. Then try standing straight up with your crot.ch over the pommel as the horse walks and trots. You will need soft knees and serious leg strength to do it for any length. Again you will notice your lower leg sliding back. It is where it should be. Begin posting, keeping your lower leg back. And finally, the hardest but most effective of these exercises (do the others first!) is to do the alternating posting. Sit, stand, stand, sit, stand, stand. You are effectively switching diagonals by standing (not sitting) an extra beat. Then you switch right back the very next stride. It's tougher than it sounds! Once your leg is in place, THEN you can begin to learn to use it properly!
You will also notice how much core you use. Your posture is already good, but you will find as you use your core more, it will become even better. Your core is your support to steady your upper torso and to help you follow your horse's motion. You will use your seat more effectively once your core is strong.
In the meantime, the other big things to work on include geometry, left lead, overall balance, and bend.
You can always, always be accurate. You are not going fully to the rail, not going into your corners, not precise in your locations and shapes--these are easy fixes. The next is the bend. You want the horse's ribs bent around your inside leg and his topline to follow the shape of your track. So if you are on a circle you want the horse's spine to be lightly and evenly curved to the arc of the circle. This means you should barely be able to see the corner of the inside eye, but it also means the horse's ribs are to the outside. Remember that the head should be in line with the shoulders! This helps the horse balance, and it is a major reason for the struggles with the left lead.
Again, you have a solid seat and good posture, but your hands are a tad unsteady (very evident at the 4:00 mark). As your seat becomes more independent and your base and core stronger, this will take care of itself. However, you need to work on how to approach a fence. You tend to ride the horse's front end and not the back. This is evident at 4:13 when you start to jump, but the horse's back end isn't ready to do so. You don't have leg on and the horse is not pushing from behind. The front end has to stutter step and get in close to the fence to allow the hind end to catch up. This means you are ahead of the horse's motion and up over the fence before he leaves the ground--a serious fault because if the horse stops or stumbles, you are on the ground. Plus you make his job harder because instead of just hanging with him, you now make him push you up out of his way. You can get away with it over these teeny fences at the trot on an honest horse, but my mare would have you on your hiney faster than you can say Bob's your uncle. She taught me to correct this particular fault!
Putting your leg on will also allow you to keep your horse straighter. At about 4:30 or so he's a little wiggle worm--butt sliding left and right. Legs on pushing the horse straight forward and up into a soft, steady hand (and while unsteady, your hand is relatively soft) is the goal. In the meantime at least sending the horse forward and keeping his butt straight will help. He's honest and you do a good job keeping him from taking advantage of the wiggling, but best to nip it in the bud and just ride him straight, straight, straight. You already keep him from popping his shoulder out and tend to keep his nose forward. Now just straighten the bum! This will help your dressage--remember that bending issue? The two are related. Put your legs on, and you can start to control the horse's bum and body position, which will help your straightness, bend, and balance (and your geometry), which in turn will help your left lead. Legs on will help keep you from jumping ahead, keep your hands steady, and keep the horse moving forward and up. Are you sensing a pattern yet? ;)
If your horse has been in some work, jumping a bit, and feeling good, go for the BN. If the horse hasn't been in work, don't jump until you have built up fitness slowly over time.
Good luck and have fun!