Monday, July 23, 2018

'Fraidy Cat Eventing Learns About Studs

Have you ever noticed that there are certain things in horses and riding that people only really talk about as if it was the most normal thing in the world? Like, let's take studs - a common fixture in eventing where horses are jumping at speed on variable terrain.

Every time I hear someone talking about studs, it always seems like they have a sort of casual air about it. As if expert knowledge of studs is just second nature. To put it in other words - I've rarely, if ever, really seen people talk or write about the process of getting started with studs. Like you're either a stud aficionado or just, idk, totally out of the loop lol.

Maybe people don't really talk about it in much detail bc somehow everyone else in the world already knows everything about it except me. Tho, in my experience, just bc some aspect or another in horses is well known doesn't mean horse people haven't wanted to keep talking on and on about it lol...

Another reason why there might seem to be this perceived lack of candid discussion (at least as it seems to me from my perspective in the circles I'm most involved...) could be bc a lot of people just kinda... wing it when getting started with studs.

somebody, not naming any names here, but somebody was a little careless in reading the item descriptions (esp vis-a-vis quantity) when placing this order lol...
My close riding buddies Brita and Rachael first started getting their horses' shoes drilled and tapped for studs last year. And as far as I can tell, they've gotten along by chatting with other riders and a fair amount of experimentation, trial and error.

Personally I haven't really felt the need for studs in the past. It seemed pointless for Izzy since she was only shod up front. And it felt a little presumptuous with Charlie at the lowest of low levels. Plus he's kinda an awkward guy and I have what feel like legit concerns of him managing to disembowel himself somehow with newly weaponized shoes.... And with him being such a big guy that novice isn't really much of an effort for him... Ya know, I just didn't see much point.

Lately tho, my mind has been wandering a little bit. Charlie never really had an issue with confidence before Plantation. And I'm not really ready to say that he's lost confidence exactly, either. But he did learn a hard lesson about just how much more difficult it is to jump a bigger fence (like, say, a maxed novice table) when he's kinda sluggish and behind my leg.

That newfound knowledge in him, combined with his feeling somewhat shaky going downhill I believe are part of why we struggled with the rolltops in our recent schooling. Especially after he had that nasty slip down the hill on our second attempt, it really seemed like maybe some added traction could help him feel more confident.

i saw plenty of normal wrenches in the vet box at MDHT a week ago, but this bionic wrench seems most popular
So I talked to trainer P about it. And then talked to Charlie's farrier about it. And then also talked to my friends about it haha. Lots of talking lol! Also, yes, of course, a fair amount of reading. This article from Dover Saddlery is especially nice and straight forward. And the consensus is: we're going to try studs for Charlie.

His next shoeing appt is this week, and the farrier will drill and tap Charlie's shoes and plug up the holes for me - presumably with cotton. For my part, I've gone about the process of amassing my "stud kit" based on what I've observed Brita and Rachael using this past year as they've gotten familiar with the process.

poke-y thing and spin-y thing. both considered essentials according to everyone i asked
There are plenty of 'starter kits' available online that supposedly have all the important pieces. But a lot of the reviews seemed like some of the kits had extra unnecessary stuff or like the stud collection included in the kit weren't the most useful, or like some of the included tools were really cheap or whatever.

So I opted to collect my kit piecemeal. This isn't to say that I shopped for the absolute best deals or top notch equipment - it's entirely possible that maybe you could stock a similar kit at a better price point. I'm just sharing what I got and why.

It seems like the tools involved in getting the studs in and out of the shoes are just as important as the studs themselves. Esp when my friends first started using studs, it could take them a long time to get the studs in securely - which can be stressful if you're in the middle of a show and are pressed for time. So tools that break or don't work very well only create more anxiety.

pointy for hard firm ground, longer and fat for deeper ground, shorter and flat as more of an in-between
The basic process with studs is: collect your tools (hopefully they're already organized in a handy kit) and select your studs. The small magnetic tray will help keep the studs safe and together as you have to move around from leg to leg on the horse, often on grassy surfaces.

Doing one hoof at a time, start by removing the plug from the stud hole with the spikey end of the above red handled tool. The plugs I ordered (not pictured bc they haven't arrived yet) are rubber, made by Nunn Finer. There are also cotton or fibrous type plugs, but I've heard mixed reviews on them. Then use the metal brush end of the same tool to clean out any dirt, grass or debris from the hole.

Next comes the Safety Spin gadget (mine is also by Nunn Finer). This was the #1 piece that seemed to help my friends the most with getting the studs in quickly and easily. You just screw this spinner into the hole, then unscrew it. This process ensures that the threads are aligned and clear, so the stud itself can then be placed into the hole and tightened by hand.

Last step is tightening the stud with a wrench. I've seen all manner of wrenches but this Bionic version seems most popular. It tightens to fit whatever size stud you use, just by squeezing the handles.

From my observations, a lot of riders prefer to have their horses booted up before the studs go in, and keep the boots on until studs come out. Tho this doesn't appear to be a hard and fast rule, as some of the FEI riders coming off the CIC1/2* course last week (when I was volunteering in the vet box - post on that coming soon!) felt it was more important to get their legs cooled down asap vs waiting for the studs to come out. And since not every horse is ready to stand for stud removal fresh off an FEI course, that meant taking the boots off before the studs came out.

this tackle box is maybe unnecessarily large. i'm sure i'll figure out how to fill it lol... also that magnetic tray is key
So. With all this in mind, I went ahead and ordered all the above tools of the trade, along with my first couple sets of actual studs.

Tho naturally I was a bit of a bonehead in ordering them. Bc uh.... there are eight stud holes, two per shoe. And most of these sets were sold in 4packs, which I noticed but didn't really connect the dots. So I only ordered four of each for two types. And then the third type I somehow only ordered one single stud. I guess it really was too good of a price to be true lol.....

From what I understand, it's pretty normal to mix and match studs. Like having a bigger set behind than up front. Or having a bigger stud on the outside of a shoe and a smaller one on the inside. Tho I think for just getting started I'm going to keep things pretty simple lol. And yes, I did go back and order additional studs for a little more completeness lol.

unrelated: the move is finally happening. many many boxes, so many boxes
The longer fat ones are better for mud or soft deeper ground, and narrower pointy studs are better for harder ground. The very short flat ones are better for paved or very hard packed surfaces. I'm not sure yet how well my current selection stacks up, or what will end up being our favorite or whatever for different ground types. But this is where we're starting!

So we'll see how it goes haha. I'm sure there will be more trial and error involved, and possibly some additional stud shopping. But I'm hoping that the kit itself is stocked more or less fully for our purposes.

Have you used studs before? What did you find the most useful in getting started? Are there any tools you absolutely can't live without? Or any mistakes you made early on that could have been easily avoided? Or maybe you're in the process of thinking about studs soon or sometime in the future?

Do you go about learning this stuff mostly by trial and error? Or is there a more formal education process - either via something like Pony Club or maybe as a working student? Do you have a a fairly lean stud collection - maybe just three main types? Or a vast array of slightly different shapes and sizes for a completely custom approach to any ground condition?

Friday, July 20, 2018

charlie schools xc again, finally!

I've been itching to get Charlie back out on cross country since our disastrous attempt at Plantation last month. It's been tricky tho, and naturally I have excuses.

Most of our jumps at home were sitting piled in the front field waiting for the course designer to reposition them. Work has been busy. The ground has been harder than hard. Etc etc etc. Reasons. Ya know how it goes.

yup, still crazy about him <3
Finally tho, the course designer got to work ahead of our farm's USEA HT next month. The course is set and the fields are mowed. So my friends and I made plans. AND. Mother nature for once appeared to smile on us - with blissfully soaking rain and thunderstorms literally the day before our planned outing.

Normally we wouldn't school the day after rain, but the ground has been so dry and so hard that the rain just made it normal vs muddy. It even partially refilled the water complex that had dried out! Perfect!

sunlit bn feeder for warm up
The only bummer was that we hadn't really considered the rules about competitors schooling the course in advance. So Rachael, who is entered in the upcoming recognized event, ended up not being allowed to actually jump anything. Bummer. She still came out anyway tho to hack and gallop around and take pictures and help move flags and stuff as needed, so it was fun getting to ride with her anyway!

familiar N coop going into the water mud
For my purposes, I wanted to be really clear in my objectives for the day. As an admitted over-planner, I tend to like creating these long term, step-by-step, progressive plans that unfold from one ride to the next in small iterative steps. Each ride building on the foundation laid in the ride before.

This isn't a bad thing, superficially speaking. And possibly this approach to Charlie's training is part of why he's been able to settle into the job reasonably well.

turned around and came the other way - water mud to coop
The issue, however, arises in maybe kinda subtle ways. Unintended consequences and such. Bc when you think about it, that's an awful lot of pressure on each ride. Take last summer as an example. I had this big beautiful plan, casually referred to as "Novice by November." It was a good plan, lots of small realistic and attainable steps.

But every time one of those "steps" didn't go perfectly, or even quite as well as I wanted, it disproportionately stressed me out bc all I could see was my long line of carefully planned steps all falling like dominoes. Like when we ran BN at Fair Hill in September, and Charlie was a good boy but had a number of green mistakes on course.

Honestly I should have been happier with that event than I was bc I was too busy worrying that it wasn't a positive enough prep run to keep us on track for November. Which is kinda crap, right? Like I managed to rob my own self of the happiness of fully enjoying that day, esp since it turned out that Charlie's splint eruption negated the rest of our season anyway.

this N hanging log with downhill landing has always been intimidating to me
So after our Shitty Plantation Day kinda put everything into better perspective for me, I'm trying harder to just take each ride as it comes. Not worry so much about tomorrow or next month or whatever.

And thus, for this ride, nothing depended on the outcome. We weren't building toward anything. Didn't have any targets that just had to be hit, or else. It was gonna be fun. I was gonna stick to my guns about discipline etc, bc that's important right now, but mostly just enjoy the ride and do what felt good in the moment.

meanwhile charlie basically just snoozed over it. check out that majestic AF tail action tho!
As such, I decided to experiment a little bit with tack. Charlie and I had a very pleasant school with ground poles and a couple small jumps the night before in the hackamore, wherein all I did was apply leg and aim the horse. He was 100% responsible for organizing his legs and figuring out what to do over all the ground poles. No micromanagement. No packaging the horse up and trying to make all the decisions myself. Nope. Charlie had to figure out his legs, and I just legged him on and aimed, with basically a loose rein.

This worked out really well and he felt great, so I decided to keep the hackamore train chugging through to the xc school too. With the idea being: I don't really get the same "contact" with the hackamore. There's no "feel" to pull against like there is with a bit. So really the only feeling I can get is by adding more leg. Just leg. More leg. Always with the leg.

simple N house going uphill (and slightly sideways apparently, ahem charlie)
And it worked out pretty much ok! I probably should have also had spurs on, since Charlie was taking up a LOT of leg haha, but did opt to carry a dressage whip. All in all, tho, this feeling of experimentation with equipment kinda added to the relaxed nature of the ride.

whoooops, there's even more sideways action!
For Charlie's part, he was a very very good boy. We started out by hacking all around the fields letting the horses stretch their legs while we checked out the jumps. Then started trotting and cantering around, and catching a couple small jumps and cruising through the water.

aaaaand then a very unfortunate slip down the hill to represent, and he stopped again, womp
I really liked that we all seemed to be on the same page too - the pace of our schooling was very slow. No real sense of urgency. Lots of walking and chatting between jumps. Taking turns, even tho we were doing different stuff. It was nice! And definitely helped me stay relaxed and focused on just doing one thing at a time.

third time's the charm tho!
We warmed up over a couple BN jumps that Charlie's seen before - a small feeder and triple bar. Then worked over a simple N red coop in both directions - into and out of the water. Charlie was taking a LOT of leg, but was a good boy.

the line was kinda messy tho - we actually trotted in it haha
Then we did the N hanging log going down hill - a jump that's always intimidated me lol. It doesn't look like much in the pictures bc... Well let's be real. Nothing looks like much in pictures compared to Charlie. But it's not an insignificant jump - esp considering it's upright-ness and slight resemblance of a collapsible stadium jump.

Charlie didn't care. Kinda just loped up to it and popped over without much thought. Or, uh, effort. Haha. Ok big guy, nice to know you don't care about these things!

one last time for good measure tho, atta boy charlie!
I looped around to a chunky N house after that and he kinda tried to squeeze out the right side but jumped it anyway. It helped that the approach was slightly uphill so I was mainly focused on just adding leg.

But perhaps I should have been a little more in tune with having two kinda not quite great efforts in a row, bc when I aimed him next at the N line of rolltops, we had a run out. In reviewing the footage you can kinda see it coming from the two jumps before, and from an iffy approach to the line. Oh well tho, in a way it was nice to have this issue crop up again so I could work through it in a schooling setting vs dealing with it mid competition like we did at Plantation.

still didn't quite get the striding but was much better
Part of the issue was the approach to this line. It was set for a very going two strides (that Brita and Bella deftly demonstrated for us), but had a downhill and short bending approach. I was having enough trouble getting Charlie to open up his canter (we're still riding the "forward" struggle bus...) as it was. Then there was a definite change in his rhythm as soon as we hit the downhill section.

So I guess Charlie's still just not super comfortable or confident about going down hill at speed. Idk. I mean maybe that's an excuse, but I'm looking at it instead as just information to store away for later (for future planning, natch haha #canthelpmyself). Anyway, we had a run out to the right. Nbd.

lots of pets for a good boy who could work through our problems
I reapproached with a bit more conviction, and I swear Charlie likewise felt more committed. Unfortunately his hind end slipped out underneath him right as we were reaching the jump. Maybe on a different day he would have still jumped, but right now his confidence cup isn't exactly runnething over haha, so we stopped again.

then a nice little confidence boosting spin through the BN line 
Honestly I wasn't too bugged by that. It felt like an honest mistake, just an unfortunate misstep. Not exactly a punishable offence. So we reapproached again, this time with some added shout counting for verbal encouragement lol, and while it wasn't pretty, we got through it.

Then once more just for good measure, and Charlie was much much better. Still added through the line, but I think that's kinda just where we are right now so I was fine to leave it as is.

which he clearly did just fine
Tho I opted to move on next to the BN line, one element of which (the above lattice) is closer to starter size. Charlie's jumped these jumps a zillion times and was happy to canter on through the line without hesitation. Confidence building, not confidence proving, amirite?

and the BN table too, just to really help him (and me) feel good about himself
Same story to the line of giant log table thingys. Charlie's jumped both the BN and N before just fine, but I opted to start with the BN again anyway. Just focusing on getting the revs up in the canter and adding leg leg leg leg leg.

Charlie was definitely getting the picture - sorta. As soon as I picked up my reins he'd brighten up and break right away into trot or canter. Both leads, both going toward and away from the farm. All good things. But the canter was still sluggish and I spent a lot of time pushing him for more.

and then he was a superstar over the N table <3
He was fine for the BN table, and then even better for the N table. Again, I know these jumps don't necessarily look like much compared to brontosaurus Charlie over there (or, uh, the modified version it's sitting next to...), but that sucker is big. Which I think helps Charlie bc he takes the jumps (and my requests for moar 4wrd plz!) a little more seriously.

we take this job v seriously, guys ;)
Anyway, after that I felt pretty satisfied with the outing and Charlie's general performance. There's a lot of other jumps out there that we didn't get to, mostly bc all the gates are closed with horses turned out in all the fields and that's kinda a hassle. We'll get to the rest soon enough tho, I'm sure. Hopefully in a lesson with trainer P!

oooooh we also tackled the terrifying deep dark T ditch!
For the purposes of this ride tho, I felt mostly pretty done, only wanting to just do a couple more things just to reaffirm to Charlie that we keep going when I ask. Gotta always be thinking about that discipline with Mr Barn Sour lol.

It worked out tho bc Brita wanted to take a couple spins over the big giant scary deep dark T ditch (remember when we painted it last year??) and I impulsively decided to fall in line behind them too after it was clear Bella was jumping without hesitation.

charlie didn't care tho - actually tried to jump that big skinny on the other side lol
Realistically, Charlie is not ditchy. But maybe I kinda was with this particular beast, so I was happy to just let him follow a lead for a few passes, which he did with minimal hesitation at the ditch. Actually, wouldn't ya know it, but both times we jumped it, Charlie was clearly drawn toward that giant skinny dead ahead. Maybe some other day, bro!

his favorite part - hangin out with other horses and pups just chillin
After that, I just did one last pass over the red coop into the water. Again mostly just to confirm that when I say "canter forward" we ... ya know ... canter forward, even if we've been out for a while and Charlie thinks maybe it's closing time.

He was foot perfect tho and just went on up and jumped the thing just fine. Despite, uh, a random pony galloping hell bent for leather across the fields right past us, and Charlie swapping to a cross canter as we passed the gate toward home lol. Lots of distractions but when I put my leg on, he still went anyway. Good boy.

and my favorite part, hangin out afterward with a cold beer lol
So ya know. It was a pretty solid ride. And also pretty solid proof why attitude matters so much for me in my perception of a ride's relative success. If I were in serious planning mode with something important on the calendar, it might have bugged me that we had a little trouble with the rolltops. Or that I felt like we had to use some BN jumps to puff more air into Charlie's sails. Or that we still weren't quite where we needed to be in our canter gears.

But.... Nope, nothing on the agenda. No big important next steps. Just one ride at a time. And so with that in mind, it was easy to just enjoy the ride for what it was. Which meant less stress and tension, always a bonus.

(also keep your eyes peeled around the 2:34 mark for a random flash of loose white pony galloping past us haha)

And I'm excited to get out for more soon! We definitely need more galloping in our lives. And I think Charlie would be perfectly happy to putz around with BN and N jumps for the foreseeable future. Until he gets that feeling back of really pulling me forward to the jumps, I don't see much point in worrying about anything else lol.

Next on the docket is a Pace Clinic, which should be fun. I don't really care much about timing my rides, per se, but anything that can help us better establish forward and help me get more in tune with correct pace for novice will certainly help, I think. The clinic is supposed to involve some steeplechase type work, so I'm looking forward to it! Plus I think my friends and I might be trying to get out to Windurra soon. Hopefully. Fingers crossed lol.

For now tho, I'm just enjoying the ride. Have you similarly had to reset your mindset or attitude in how you approach your schooling rides? Surely I'm not the only one who has proven to be my own worst enemy when it comes to the mental game necessary for this sport??

Thursday, July 19, 2018

hoof works

A little over a year ago, I spent some time writing about the products used to help manage Charlie's tootsies.

He's a typical thoroughbred I guess in that his feet are kinda soft, and we went through a not-insignificant phase at the end of last spring through the middle of summer where Charlie was basically on a 2-week shoeing cycle. That sucked just about as much as you would expect.

tell me he's not the most lovable thing
Obviously his feet had to undergo a fairly extreme transition in coming off the track: shortening his toes wayyyy back (for the record, while his original splint injury was self inflicted from weaving, I'm about 89% sure the subsequent flareups were all due in part to too-long toes....), and growing more heel.

These goals on their own were enough to motivate a short cycle - typically about 4 weeks.

RH: fairly prominent crack growing out from when Charlie stepped on a nail and then abscessed last winter; and chipping around nail holes
But then just as we were thinking Charlie could graduate to a 5wk cycle, summer kicked into high gear with bone dry, rock hard ground and lots and lots of stomping at flies, and Charlie basically started walking out of his shoes in no time flat.

LH: surprisingly his one white hoof is the least problematic of the bunch!
Looking down the barrel of Spring earlier this year, I was absolutely determined to not fall into the same cycle again.

LF: you can sorta see how the outer wall chips away around old nail holes and clips
Charlie continues to get the supplements recommended to me by my vets, farriers, and trainers: Platinum Performance and Farrier's Formula. Both have all sorts of fun little extra goodies in them, and Charlie eats them well.

He's on a maintenance dose of the Platinum Performance now, but ramped back up to the full dose of Farrier's Formula once the faintest haze of sprouting green grass appeared this spring.

RF: fairly significant chipping around the edges. nails still tight tho!
Additionally he's back on a religious 5wk cycle, after going through a period of ~6wk cycles (sometimes longer, I admit, esp around his surgery) since moving to this farm last year. Including a couple times when I had him on the list to be done, but the farrier decided not to bc "his shoes were on tight," even tho his toes were getting too long.

Knowing what I do now about Charlie's hoof history and general soundness, that logic doesn't really work for me. So after some trial and error I've switched farriers and am satisfied that Charlie's current guy will basically do what I ask while also feeling free to make suggestions and tell me what he thinks is best for the horse.

front shoes have leather pads + clips
Case in point: Charlie's schmancy full leather pad boat shoes. The farrier at our last barn had Charlie in leather rim pads, which I really liked - but the new farrier says he doesn't like them bc they have a tendency to not stay put.

Personally I would prefer rim pads I think - esp bc of the freedom it allows for things like packing the feet with poultice or magic cushion as needed. But Charlie's been in these pads now for a few cycles and seems to be doing well with them, so I'm just trusting my farrier on this one.

hind shoes just have clips
Especially considering, knocking on all things wooden, Charlie hasn't lost a shoe since last winter. And even that was kinda a fluke - he was super lame from stepping on a nail and abscessing, and his other leg had to compensate and carry a heavier burden. Add in the extremely muddy conditions and maybe that shoe didn't stand a chance.

But so far, through the heat and hard dry ground of June and July, Charlie's shoes have stayed on tight. All the pictures above were taken at about exactly the 4wk mark, and you can see that the edges, especially around the old nail holes, are just starting to crumble a bit.

Luckily, in addition to all his feed through supplements, religious application of Keratex (usually just the fronts, with the hinds maybe 50%-33% of the time) around the nail holes has kept his hoof wall flexible enough to not grow brittle and completely break apart. All the nails except one are still on pretty tight.

So I'm optimistic that the approach I'm taking to Charlie's hooves is working for him. Fingers crossed lol. I never really knew much about the inner workings of farriery before. Obvi I didn't have to as a non-owner. And even tho I was responsible for Isabel's farrier appointments she had such excellent sturdy little arab feet that everything was always really straight forward.

Charlie, as a Size Large OTTB, has been a little bit more of a trial by fire for me haha. But it's interesting stuff! So we figure it out. Have your horses ever required special footwear? Or any extra care in keeping those toes happy? Any products you love and swear by? Or maybe you're one of the lucky ones whose horse's barefoot feet crunch gravel for breakfast?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

riding yesterday's horse

Charlie is rapidly approaching his 2 year anniversary of transitioning from race horse to riding horse. His last race was Aug 9, 2016 and I met him just one month later on Sept 9, 2016. And, as you all know, he debuted here at 'Fraidy Cat Eventing ten days after that.

can we just pretend that the uber-long mane adds to charlie's aura of majesty?
He's my first horse, after years spent riding schoolies, project ponies intended to be schoolies (including a number of OTTBs in college), the occasional school master, some catch rides, and of course four transformative years leasing Isabel. In short: I've been waiting for this for a loonnng time haha.

lol it certainly makes him look extra fierce over this sma jompie!
And it's been a great two years so far! I think it's safe to say that Charlie isn't really "green" any more - at least, not in the roughest sense of the word. He's reasonably schooled to training level dressage work, and is pretty consistent through 3' coursework. I might even venture to say he's well schooled to grid work and gymnastics. Maybe, lol.

gotta be honest here: i have no idea why i like this picture so much lol. charlie looks like a friggin pony lol
Overall tho, it's been a while since I've had to ride him like a green horse. He understands the job, knows the aids, and is more or less sorta kinda reasonably compliant.

Mostly what we're working on at this point is refining the pieces. Making things smooth. Seeking greater degrees of consistency and discipline - wanting to keep doing what we're doing, but more. And better. Forever lol.

casual about the oxer
Which works for me, ya know? I don't have to tell you that I'm a pretty serious planner. I spend a lot of time just thinking things through. Visualizing how I want any given ride to go, what I want to work on and where we might encounter potential issues or obstacles. Using all our past rides as input for estimating what the future might look like.

The less green and more consistent Charlie becomes, the easier this planning and visualization process gets for me. Right? Like, the better trained a horse is, the more predictable he is.

mighty cute over the swedish tho!
Only... Ha, well. Sometimes this intense compulsion to plan everything out in advance gets me into trouble. Sure, Charlie might not be "green" in the broadest sense of the word any more. But he is still "green" in terms of his technical proficiency.

Meaning: every time we expand Charlie's (or my!) horizons, whether by introducing greater complexity to a jump course or dressage movement, he becomes green again to this new level. Obviously this may seem like a huge "Duh!" moment to readers out there, but it's something I forget again and again and again.

ooooh but hey, lookie here's more kinda awkward cantering pics ;) 
Because I get so caught up in my plans - riding the horse I expect Charlie to be based on the horse he has been in the past, and my interpretation of the factors contributing to his past performance - that sometimes I kinda miss the forest for the trees.

I miss the fact that, sometimes he's a different horse today than he was yesterday. And sometimes I need to adapt my plan to meet him where he is - and to change my plans on the fly if my expectations turned out to be way off base.

why so serious tho, charlie??
Obviously sometimes this can prove to be a huge problem. Like at Plantation where I kinda expected him to just cart my butt around the course like he had a Loch Moy, but he proved to actually need a much more decisive and firm ride than I had expected to provide.

Other times tho, his changeable nature catches me off guard in kind of a good way. Like when we went schooling at Shawan Downs and I half expected him to drag me around the grounds like he had at our season opener, but he was actually a perfect saintly gentleman about literally everything.

It's tough for me to not want to plan things out so specifically. I love knowing what to expect, and feel more confident when I'm familiar with a situation and have a plan for how things might unfold.

Simultaneously tho, it's becoming clear that I'm way too slow in adapting when Charlie comes out to play in a different mood than I expected. Like, we can both be moody - but I tend to hang on to things. To dwell. Mostly bc that's part of the process of digesting everything that happened previously to better understand how to either avoid trouble or reproduce success in the future.

Still tho, sometimes I think I just need to let go a little more lol.

ok you caught me - these may or may not be the most awkward canter pics possible lol. dis charlie's lerd chernge
June was a really crappy month for me and Charlie -- but that doesn't mean I need to go into every ride in July expecting the same thing. Especially bc sometimes Charlie comes out and does his job and casually just jumps on around like the easiest thing in the world. And it sure would be nice if I could sit back and enjoy the ride haha.

he jumps tho! and that's what matters! also plz to enjoy the trainer K cameo as she legit tries to air-kick my horse up over the fence for me lololol
Like this past week's lesson with upper level event rider K, where we kinda just cruised around small jumps focusing more on some interesting turns and bending lines than anything else. It was a group lesson with some new members, so the jumps all stayed small. But Charlie didn't care. Just loped on along through.

Even when we kinda managed to land on every wrong lead, or miss a few turns, he didn't care. Nbd. He even proved that he learned something from last week's lesson with Trainer P where we faced all manner of placing poles all over the place. During this ride we revisited the same raised pole to the oxer that almost killed us last week - with added bonus of having "V" poles on top of the oxer. And Charlie slayed.

And trainer K had to keep reminding me to stay forward with Charlie - stay soft with him and not be too defensive or too driving with my seat. Just let him keep coming, keep cantering forward to the fences.

quick compilation from the lesson here!

Bc I spend so much time visualizing how I need to ride Charlie when he's very strong and pulling me around, or when he's sluggish and recalcitrant, that maybe I don't ever really remember how to ride when... ya know... he's just kinda going along just fine, thankyouverymuch lol.

So ya know. It's good food for thought lol. Maybe I need to meditate a little bit on how to not overthink things so much that I can't recognize or appreciate the good while it's happening. If anything, this all reminds me a lot of a lesson I had with Dan under very different circumstances, where he pointed out that the "greats" all have short memories. Meaning: maybe sometime's there's a real advantage to not always be thinking about how things went in the past such that you're too distracted from what's going on right under your nose.

Hopefully this proves to be good timing too, as Charlie and I have a few fun plans this week. While I am still 100% committed to the discipline and consistency that I've been writing about all month -- it'll still be important to remember to ride the horse as he is in the moment too. Tell me I'm not the only one who gets stuck in this trap of over thinking every single thing??

Friday, July 13, 2018

friday foto finish (the 4th)

Happy Friday, everyone!! Congrats on surviving another week of summer. Surely I'm not the only one who feels like it's FLYING BY right now, right?? Like the days are already noticeably shortening. Wth, how does that even happen??

can we just appreciate what an inspired gift this is?? the quotes on each card are perfect too.
Who knows. All I do know tho, is that Sara's 2nd Quarter Prize for her 2018 Volunteer Challenge was absolutely spot on. This gift is so perfect in so so so many ways and I mayyyy or may not have gotten a little misty eyed opening it up!

oh man, so many pictures, so many memories!!! <3
Obviously the calendar aspect is perfect bc - again, I can't stress this enough - time is flying right now lol. More than that, tho, Sara spent a little time browsing ye olde 'Fraidy Cat Eventing blog for some of her favorite shots. Which, naturally given my fully fledged #mediajunkie status, there's no shortage to choose from lol!

Her selections are so great tho. So so so so many of my favorites here, so many special moments. Especially when I think about not only what's happening in the picture, but also what was happening just outside of the frame - my friends who were all right there cheering us on either from the sidelines, the saddle, or from behind the camera. Just so many memories, and I'm so freakin touched. Thanks so much Sara!

omg hand shit and shitting rainbows socks. yesssssss!
Plus there were also some awesome socks and the most delicious smelling Hand Shit too. Seriously guys, Sara gives great gifts. She's pretty committed to making her 2018 Volunteer Challenge awesome, and for rewarding those who give their time to making eventing such a great sport.

So definitely get out there and volunteer! Sara does random drawings monthly (except on the quarterly months) so even just a little bit of your time is enough to be eligible for a prize! Volunteers who have accrued the most hours in a quarter win special prizes too, so there's real incentive to make time for it!! So what are you waiting for, right??

moar saddle surgery!!!! bet you're not used to seeing their guts spilling out like this, eh?
Anyway. Tho it may seem like I spend literally all of my time volunteering (bc uh, yea I do it a lot and will actually be in the CCI1/2* Cross Country Vet Box tomorrow, much excitement!!!), I do actually do other horse stuff too.

Like, ya know. Occasionally ride. Lol, assuming the horse is sound.... Which, last I checked he was. So these are all good things.

but just like that, charlie's got himself a new gullet plate
I wrote after Plantation that we're doing a comprehensive wellness check for Charlie, which includes all sorts of little things like checking tack fit etc. Charlie's massage therapist felt like he was a little saddle sore, so I finally got around to changing out the gullets in my Bates jump saddle (after sending back that beautiful Beval monoflap.... much sadness).

mcta always has the best prizes. allllmost made me sad i wasn't showing this day!
It's hard to say if it's made much of a difference, honestly. Mostly bc it's not really clear if saddle fit was really the big issue anyway at Plantation, vs regular old attitude problems. In any case tho, I've jumped Charlie in the new gullet plate three times now and he seems fine. He's also been happy to stretch out for a gallop or two as well.

So we'll see. A new jump saddle is probably a little higher on the "Want" list these days, but it luckily isn't urgent. For now..

it was exciting to be cheering on friends tho!
And meanwhile I've kinda been bummin around other local shows too. Not always volunteering - sometimes I'm just the cheering squad and/or chauffeur. Like when I took a couple barn mates to MCTA's starter trial at Tranquility.

brita and bella are back in action after a little vacay. bella naturally looks like she never skipped a beat!
It was a really great day - the first starter trial ever for both riders and both horses. And they were all superstars! Did the dressage thing, jumped all the stadium jumps, and tooled around the same awesome little starter xc course that Isabel and I did at a Tranquility Hunter Trials all those many years ago.... They even had the same little stone wall and everything!

Brought back a lot of happy memories, and I was so happy to see both my barn mates kill it!

rachael and birdie meanwhile have been keepin busy!
I also got to go help Rachael out at Loch Moy's recognized event recently too. They had pretty tight times between phases so I was happy to hang out and groom for her while she rushed off to walk her courses.

usef blood testing!!
Which proved extra convenient bc Birdie got pulled for random testing lol, which I had never seen before and naturally asked about 1,000 questions lol....

Anyway tho they had a great day and made that course look like a cakewalk! Made me kinda sorry to not have anything on the books for a little while myself. Oh well, in time!

fireworks prep is very serious stuff, guys!
Bc for now we've kinda just been chillin. Enjoying summer. Relaxing. Like obviously everything I've been writing about being disciplined and consistent still holds and is still my #1 priority. But that doesn't mean I'm full on Gunnery Sgt Hartman all day every day, ya know??

this was the day i learned trainer P is also a licensed pyrotechnician lol
Bc c'mon, let's be real: we gotta make time for the parties, right?? I've heard tell of OF's epic 4th of July parties, but had never actually been to one before. I moved Charlie to the farm at the end of July last year, so clearly had just missed it. And despite coming to the farm for lessons for the past 4 years, I never really came for anything else.

the on-farm fireworks show did not suck at all
This year tho, I was determined to go. And I also learned this year that my weekly jump trainer P is also a licensed pyrotechnician. So... they definitely got the BIG fireworks. And put on a BIG BIG show. It was seriously impressive. Plus we were all basically right there directly underneath the explosions - they were so loud and so bright I needed my sunglasses lol, and by the end I was completely covered in ash. #worthit

horses are also just bein horses. way too smart horses lol
The horses had been kept in the barn until after the show was done, but they were all fine anyway. Like, annoyed and confused about being inside and eager to get out, but not at all crazy or anything. Apparently the golf course next door sets off fireworks fairly often too so I guess they're all used to it.

Which seems reasonable to me - Isabel lived next to a gun shooting range, and sometimes they'd be shooting some LOUD stuff. But the horses never really cared about that either. Go figure.

we've still been finding lots of time for this too
Anyway tho, things are just chuggin right along. After a seriously crappy June, July is starting to feel a little better. Charlie feels good again. And feels like he's responding well to my zero-tolerance approach.

they've been mowing like crazy and everything is getting brown :(
He's also been jumping well - like you saw from last week's lesson with trainer P. And I'll actually have more to share from another lesson this week with trainer K. Nothing ground breaking, but just good solid practice. Just what we need!

can't wait to get out and gallop, but just wish the ground wasn't so hard...
Meanwhile, the farm is finally finally putting the xc jumps back out in the fields after having pulled them all out back in May for Shawan Downs. The ground is harder than concrete right now bc it's so dry....  but we may be scheming all the same anyway. More on that soon ;)

For now tho Charlie and I have been just trying to get back in sync at speed. There are a couple great spots out in the trails that are perfect for some speed. And Charlie's been rarin to go! Like, we turn toward a clearing, I push my hands up his neck and get into half seat, and he just GOES! Now that is the feeling I want from him leaving the start box haha.

So maybe we'll do a little more galloping this weekend too haha, it's addicting. Plus obvi I'll try to take a lot of pictures in the vet box tomorrow at Loch Moy. I'm pretty excited about that - have never really been behind the scenes at the finish line for upper level cross country, so hopefully there will be lots to learn! Stay tuned for more later.

Do you have any big plans this weekend? Or is it more like the dog days of summer - weekend beach trips or backyard bbqs or quiet trail rides?