Monday, December 5, 2016

virtual barn tour!!

For as long as there have been equestrian bloggers, there have been virtual tours of the barns where we keep our horses. L. Williams revived the tradition after settling on her new barn in SoCal, and I immediately wanted to hop on the bandwagon and share Charlie's new digs!

What you might not have realized is that while this barn is new to Charlie, it's quite familiar to me. This is where I rode before meeting Isabel and deciding to pursue eventing.

screen shot from da google
A - Adjoining barn and indoor arena. The "A" covers the arena section and the attached perpendicular structure houses the stalls, tack rooms, office, wash stall, feed room, etc.

B - Outdoor riding arena.

C - Riding field.

D - Charlie's turnout. Extends into another field past the upper edge of the photo.

E - Mares' field / occasional riding field. Home to that adorable little bank that Charlie so gracefully navigated haha.


Stalls & Amenities

The barn has wide aisles filled with cross ties and rubber mats to stand on (or pee on, if you're Charlie lol). There are saddle racks on every stall - very handy for setting up wherever there's space to cross tie the horse!

standard barn aisle
The wash stall, lesson tack room, boarder tack room, feed room and office are all in the same barn aisle too. I basically adore the wash stall, after so many years without one at Isabel's farm. It has an overhead hose hanger, rubber mats, and hot water.

it's also convenient for staying out of the way during tasks like mane pulling or letting freshly treated feet dry
The barn is always tidy and organized, with the lesson schedule, farrier schedule, daytime and overnight weather conditions, and turnout assignments posted on the white board.

white board and ferns, plus large wooden mounting platform visible through the door
There are stalls inside the indoor arena too. These are larger than the rest and have bars on three sides instead of solid walls. Charlie is MUCH happier in here; he weaved liked a maniac in the main barn but is mostly cured of the habit now.

i spy a star face!!
Only downside to this stall is that the horse is always covered in arena dust haha. Whatever, it's a small price to pay for his comfort and happiness!

Indoor Arena

And speaking of the arena, here it is! I don't know exact dimensions but it seems close to the width of a dressage court (20m). The narrowness makes it tricky when there's a lot of traffic plus jumps set up... but it's cool. We make do!

looking into the arena from the main barn
The arena has large exterior doors at E, B and in the back corner, tho they're only open in the summer heat when the indoor cooks like an oven.

Outdoor riding arena

The outdoor is is by far one of my favorites. While the arena at OF probably tops the list as #1, this ring is right up there. It's very generously sized and can hold lots of horses and a full jump course without feeling crowded.

with gazebo, naturally
There are giant heavy duty mounting blocks in both rings and a wooden platform just outside the barn's doors. Super convenient for those of us who need help climbing up on our high horses!

looking back toward the barn, in the upper left corner
The footing is that fancy fibrous cushy stuff - seems pretty nice and I like it, tho it's perhaps somewhat high maintenance with a propensity for deepness. They drag and water it often tho, and avoid riding on it in the rain (tho they don't close it to those who might brave the elements).

much pretty, so wow.
Only real bummer is that there are no lights. So night time riding is out. Meaning we're stuck sharing space inside during the work week when I can't get there until after night fall. It's cool tho, still grateful for the indoor. Plus the program director is trying for lights, so I'm holding out hope!

the whole arena, complete with judge's stand to the right
They host a lot of h/j shows here too, both for the resident IEA program and just general schooling shows open to the public. I have visions of competing Charlie here next season!

Other outdoor riding areas

Beyond the arena is that nice grassy riding area denoted by "C" in the aerial image. There's a gate between the arena and field that they open for derby classes too - so riders can jump out of the arena, around the grassy field, then back in again. Fun fun!

grassy riding area behind derpy horses. with single random skinny coop haha. we'll jump that eventually. 
It's an easy way to get out of the arena for a (slight) change of venue and scenery. Charlie likes it out there too and seems really comfortable on the grass. Must be his turf racing roots lol.

Casanova cameo!
Plus during daylight hours it's nice to finish a ride by cooling out with a few laps around the grass surrounding the arena. I like to think of it as hacking-lite lol.

hacking up the grassy stretch away from the barn between the arena and the mares' field
Tho the side of the arena opposite from the mares' field neighbors a soccer field, which can occasionally be a bit distracting for the horses lol. 

heading back toward the barn, with Casanova's attention fixed on the soccer field lol
It's cool tho. While tournaments and busier weekends still grab Charlie's attention, he's basically gotten used to the sights and sounds of sports.

apparently not actually that spooky
Another nice feature around the arena is this strange little mound near the gate. Idk why but I always make Charlie go up and down it on our little walks haha. Race horse has gotta learn about terrain sooner or later, right?

to the arena! see the green mound too? just behind the tent?
The other outdoor riding area is the mares' field itself. It's usually occupied by turnout horses but we've made it out there a few times. The ground in this field is a lot more like what you might find on a typical xc course: more terrain and less manicured / perfect than the other grassy riding area.

baby bank in the mares' field! we've since actually ridden up and down it too
We haven't done much more than walk and a little bit of trot out there, but I look forward to more speed work next year! They occasionally set up xc style jumps too. Sounds fun!

There are narrow lanes around all the pastures too tho Charlie and I haven't explored them all yet.


Charlie's been in a few turnouts since moving to this farm. Starting obvi in solo turnout during his quarantine period, as pictured below.

looking back down a lane toward the barn
He was in with another herd for a while before moving into his current group in the biggest back pasture. I'm pretty happy with his group and the field itself, tho frankly the horse seems fine with whatever turnout he's given, especially if he has friends!

Just General Prettiness 

It's a fairly compact farm and I'm really missing hacking out and trail riding, especially since long slow miles would be perfect for Charlie during this stage of his physical transformation. Plus it's just plain nice to get that mental break too. It's cool tho. Have trailer, will travel, right?

Bc everything else about this farm has been really pleasant. It's a quick easy drive, the amenities more than meet my needs, the care is good. And - perhaps most importantly, the people are REALLY nice. (Even if they're all slightly skeptical of eventing in general, and pretty damn convinced that I'm basically certifiable lol).

swans!! and willows!!
Plus. Ya know. It's just plain pretty haha.

What about you? Wanna share a photographic tour of your barn too?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

adventures await!!

Happy weekend everyone!! Just a quickie post today featuring pictures of the horse world's newest power couple: Charlie and Bella!!!

"we want to be one of those adorably sweet couples that always match. like here, where we're wearing the same facial expressions!" - Charlie
Charlie and I headed over to OF yesterday for our weekly lesson.... except I was super late and didn't get to jump, womp womp, my bad. It was still a good ride tho and really at this point it's more about going through the motions and getting that mileage on the horse anyway. There's plenty of time to learn the finer points of jumping eventually lol.

charlie is relaxed and happy with company
Mostly tho it was just fun to get out and ride with my friends and get media of some of Charlie's progress (details forthcoming later!!).

obviously stuffing them with carrots helps bolster equine satisfaction lol
And while I was there with the truck and trailer, Brita and I planned to get in a little trailer practice with her new lease horse Bella. Bella's been on trailers before so we expected her to be fine. And she was. So we took it a step further and practiced with both horses on. Didn't drive anywhere - just chucked 'em both on to see how they'd react.

happy campers!
Verdict? They were great! Not a single pinned ear or squeal. Both were super quiet and actually seemed more relaxed and at ease with company than either had been alone. Methinks this bodes well for all the grand schemes and adventures Brita and I are dreaming up for the coming year!!

twu wuv!!!!
and obvi brita declared that bella's trailer tie be bright pink. i couldn't agree more!!!! just wish it was a tad longer... 
It's kinda funny - I got the same questions from an onlooker that I occasionally get here on the blog: Why bother? She didn't understand why Brita and I went through this whole little theatrical rehearsal, why we bothered practicing. Because she'd never had problems before and doesn't really think it's a big deal.

Which I guess is totally fair. Tho I would point out that I've never had problems trailering before either, have never been in a situation where we were stuck or in trouble or needed help. And personally I'd like to keep it that way haha!

I turned the tables on her and asked if she ever regretted practicing anything with horses ahead of time. She kinda shrugged at this, but for me it counts for something. Brita and I assumed that Bella would be fine on the trailer, and she was. We figured that having both horses on together would be also be fine, and it was.

But.... Now we know. We don't have to guess. It'll be one less thing to think about, one less unknown, when we're scheduling some outing for which I'll pick Brita and Bella up and hit the road. And that's reassuring to me (and Brita), and makes this little extra effort of practicing totally worth it.

Especially since.... well. We've got plans, y'all!! Not this week, and not next week either. But soon!!!

Friday, December 2, 2016

friday foto finish!! ii

Another Friday, another collection of the various photos that have accumulated on my phone. It's a little refreshing in some ways, right? After a couple days of writing out more detailed or dense posts, it's nice to just sit back and look at some pretty pictures, right?

And sure, we all have our own definitions of 'pretty' but I'm still riding high on this barn door vista kick lol. And I have LOVED seeing all of the versions you all have posted too!!

While the fall foliage is mostly gone now, I'm looking forward to how the view might transform come winter!

Ahh Fall, tho. It's definitely my favorite season - I just love all the colors! And apparently come by it naturally, as my mom and aunt are both big fans too and created this lovely Thanksgiving centerpiece out of leaves and sticks and old blossoms collected from my mom's home on the rural Eastern Shore.  

Or here's another pretty fall view - a dramatically lit oak (I think?) tree visible behind the restored-ruined walls of my friend's wedding venue.

And obviously, we can't discuss pretty over-long without landing on my favorite handsome bay, Mr Charlie Murray. In this pic he's sporting his freshly pulled mane. It's bad lighting tho.... and really, it hardly matters anyway bc despite yanking what amounted to an actual small mountain of hair out, he still has TONS of mane omg. It's been a couple weeks and yea... it's still not really all that obvious that he had the work done lol.

Anyway. Still talking about Charlie, but moving on.... Does anybody know how to teach a horse to paint? Charlie loves carrying things around and I have a sick sense of humor and fantasize about subsidizing my horsey habit by selling overpriced masterpieces on etsy or something.

Tho I guess we have to work on him hanging on to the thing long enough anyway lol....

Oh Charlie. So much to work on all the time. He's good tho. Lately we've been taking every opportunity we can to say hi to new dogs. Charlie's never spooked at dogs or anything... But he's given a couple of them fairly hard looks. And since dogs are ubiquitous around barns he's gotta get desensitized! 

Apparently he has to get desensitized to deer too. Ugh. Well. I guess that's unfair... it was dark out and the deer came out of nowhere. And Charlie did one of those startle-in-place spooks, then recovered perfectly and went on with his life.

Except he somehow managed to more or less crush my foot in the spook. Note the half-hoof-print on the side of the boot? Luckily the foot was only badly bruised and nothing worse... Hurt like a bitch tho. Thank god for solid footwear!! Actually.... there's a funny story with those boots too*... 

Oh but Charlie wasn't the only one of my pets to unceremoniously stomp on me lately!! My stupid fucking kitten (why do I have cats again, can somebody remind me?) did one of those stupid fucking kitten things and freaked out at nothing, jumping straight up off the couch, then running away as fast as possible.

Somehow in the process leaving the above paw print on my bicep. And yea that's all bruising around the scratches. How the F does a cat leave a paw print with the claw marks all in a line like that?!? Wtf. Ugh. 

Seriously these goddamn cats haha. Can you figure out which one is the asshole responsible for the claw marks? And which one is trying to pretend he's the good cat? lol

Hint: the gray one's the asshole. As evidenced in his above pose of "You will accept my grooming. Or I will choke a bitch out."

Cats, guys. Not even once.

Anyway, moving on from my sad little stories about mutilation at the hands paws hoofs weapons of mass destruction ... of my animals... Anyway. I've been so excited about Charlie's great attitude about traveling and going places and doing things that I'm starting to seriously dream about all the fun we could potentially have!!

Like when Allison posts about fox hunting and I start thinking that maybe Charlie and I will have to find a way to go up and join her!!! But then apparently I take it 18 steps too far (with also way too much time on my hands... how?) and photoshop bend MS Paint to my will to imagine what Charlie might look like out in the field!!

Because I can totally see the field hunter in him. Right?!? He's always (always**) got that look about him lol. Maybe one day!!

Anyway tho. Maybe I'm not the only one feeling particularly scatter brained right now, lol. Have you had anything random happen to you lately? (Hopefully not along the lines of being stampeded by your critters!)

* - Funny story about the boots: So I wrote a while back that my calves are wildly different sizes since breaking my leg. The formerly broken left leg is now bigger and a different shape, such that my tall boots don't fit as well (fucking BOO). The weird thing was.... my river boots were the opposite - the RIGHT boot was way too tight, whereas the left boot was fine. Further confusing matters, the left boot fit perfectly fine on the right leg (bc sometimes I put the wrong shoes on the wrong feet. Judge away y'all). This has literally been a giant mystery to me for WEEKS. how could this boot have shrunk like that? How could both of my legs be bigger than the other, depending on footwear??? Until. Finally. I realized. And thought to ask Brita whether she had noticed a strange discrepancy in her boots too..... lolz oops. Turns out we inadvertently swapped a boot somewhere along the way, so I ended up with one of her normal calf boots and she got one of my wides. Haha, at least that mystery has been solved! And I'll still be able to layer under my boots come winter!

** - Charlie ALWAYS looks like this. Austen had been wondering how I always get so many nice shots of him. Until she saw him at the show. And realized. Oh. He just always looks like that, huh. Like the above picture. Charlie stood exactly like that, stock still, expression unchanged, for at least three minutes. lol. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

magic trainer dust

I bet if you looked back at all the times I've written about dressage trainer C from TM Farm, at least half would go something along the lines of "Gosh it's been forever since I've ridden with her and I miss it desperately!!" And so it goes.

My last lesson with C was in August, on her giant warmblood gelding Cole. And I've eagerly counted the days until she could meet Charlie. The main delay was the trailer: loading Charlie onto the Calico trailer was a two person job and that's just not feasible for solo travel. So the first order of business upon buying the Cotner was getting on C's lesson schedule!!

orally fixated horse will perform for snax!!!!
he's also not totally clear why i'm bothering him so early in the morning lol
There's no media from the ride so you're just going to have to take my word for it: Charlie was a star! He was immediately the softest over his back that he's ever been, and actually had moments where he could maybe have even been considered going on a contact.

Obviously this is all relative folks - you saw the pics and video from our dressage show, and no I'm not trying to say he morphed into Valegro the moment he stepped into the indoor at TM....

But. He did in fact go super well, tried very hard, and perfectly demonstrated to trainer C exactly what we're working with here. And naturally C had just the right kind of magic trainer dust to sprinkle on us to help Charlie perform to his very best!
side story: i hemmed and hawed about whether to leave his sheet on for the trailer ride, since it was so wet and chilly out. whelp. i chose poorly. one of the leg straps got caught on the butt bar closure on charlie's way off the trailer... at least he was very mature about it. paused long enough for me to see the problem... but there wasn't anything i could do to help him so he freed himself at the expense of the (new) sheet (rip). and immediately set about grazing at the new-to-him farm as if nothing had happened. good horse, bad handler....
Anyway. Dressage lessons are tricky enough to recap as it is. And those of you who watched our dressage test video from this past weekend already know that we're not exactly digging into the meaty cerebral nuances of pure dressage yet. So our conversation to kick off the lesson sounded a bit like:

Trainer C: "What have you been working on?"
Emma: "The most basic of the basics."
Trainer C: "Ok. So is there anything in particular you want us to look at today?"
Emma: "Nope, have your way with us!"

hangin in the wash stall mostly kinda sorta patiently! i normally tack up at the trailer but damn that rain was miserable
Rather than give you a further play-by-play narrative of how it all unfolded, I'm breaking it into three main categories of bullet points. Mostly for my own reference but who knows, maybe some nugget will translate for your own horse too?

Anyway. First up, and for my own personal gratification:

First Impressions of the Horse:
  • Loved Charlie's expression, observing that he should develop into a very fine looking guy. Saying she expects he'll have a lot of 'presence' and that these TB geldings always mature into very handsome faces. This reminded me of Trainer P saying Charlie has the build for a very 'elegant' picture. Fingers crossed I can do it justice!
  • Expects he's going to look like an entirely different horse in six months. 
  • Liked his brain and understood why I bought for the brain even if it doesn't come with much flash. She agreed that Charlie seems perfectly suitable for my purposes, tho also noted he's got a nice enough look to him that he would be easy to sell if we ultimately didn't mesh. 
  • Decided that the canter is his best gait.

inspecting all the mirrors in the new indoor!
Next up, all the various little tips and tricks and kernels of wisdom that I need to remember while riding:

For the Rider:
  • My legs need to seriously loosen up. Especially that inside leg. 
  • Think about it hanging around loosely to bump on and off Charlie's side to keep activating his inside hind, and keep him bringing that leg up and under himself.
  • Because I need to ride more forward. More. MOAR. 
  • Notable: she had me pick up a dressage whip partway through the ride. I usually ride with a crop but hadn't tried a whip yet (tho I carry one for ground work). I expected it to be a nonissue and Charlie agreed.
  • My outside hand needs to be basically irrelevant. Plant it low near the withers and keep it there. (I imagine it behaving somewhat like a side rein - steady but neutral).
  • Raise and open my inside hand (thumbs up plz!), but with reins short enough that my hand doesn't need to go drifting off into the stratosphere. 
  • Use circles in the short ends to establish FORWARD and BEND (forever and ever, amen), then work to hold that going down the long sides too. 

alllllll of them!! they're so much cleaner here than at our home barn haha
  • Trainer C was cool with the strategies I've been using for canter departs. 
  • Basically Charlie is funny about his leads. He has both, can pick both up nicely, but is occasionally sticky on one or the other (it changes). 
  • Often if I get the wrong one a couple times in a row, I'll just change directions so that it becomes correct. Then usually when we go for the next one it's there. We also used the h/j trainer M's idea of making half turns back to the rail to lead into the depart. 
  • Trainer C thought both were totally fine - but reminded me to always organize and bring the horse back to stasis before asking again if we biff it. That I shouldn't be contorting myself into a pretzel just to get the lead, bc otherwise he'll think that's what a canter depart is and I'll always have to do it like that. 
  • It's worth noting that by the time we got to the canter, Charlie was pretty tired and we struggled a little bit. C said tho that once you get the lead you want, don't canter around on it forever - make it quick and easy then apply praise.

this sure beats the last picture i took in this pose, with Ms Krimpet lol
For the Horse:
  • Basically if Charlie gets too heavy or too high in his head, he's probably not moving forward enough from his hind end.
  • He's got to be able to get his shoulders up and out of the way and bring his hind legs up and under.
  • Leg yields are going to be my friend for this.
  • Charlie's natural inclination is to be a LOT heavier than I'm used to - we will both likely need to do some adjusting here. 
  • When changing directions, Charlie's allowed to take time to change bend - even if it takes a full circle, let him go gradually if he needs it. That doesn't mean 19 million circles tho haha.
  • Tracking left is just plain harder - but he's basically just doing what race horses do. It'll take time but he's trying!
  • Charlie's hind end gets tired pretty quickly right now. 
  • He trips and stumbles bc he's shuffling and not stepping under himself. 
  • Damn, his true working trot is a LOT bigger/faster than I've been riding it. It's maybe a little outside of my comfort zone haha. C told me to take advantage of his power forward immediately after a canter to really settle into that bigger trot. 

temporarily stall squatting bc homeboy had to pee (#racehorseproblems) and trainer C wasn't about to let him desecrate her nice footing lol
So. This was undoubtedly the hardest both Charlie and I have each worked since we met each other two months ago lol. It was good tho. Charlie was very good. I'm really happy with him.

He's a VERY different ride from Isabel tho - and in some ways much more physical. I'm gonna need a lot more core strength if I have any hope of avoiding feeling like he's pulling me down out of the saddle lol. Rather, it's supposed to feel like he pulls me down into the saddle.

Trainer C always knows how to get the best ride out of me tho (and the horses too) so hopefully we're starting on that path of building the right muscles and habits in these lessons!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bob's No Halters Required Dressage Show

We know from yesterday that Charlie went to his first dressage show this weekend! And that he actually did pretty darn good! Lest there be any misunderstandings on what 'pretty darn good' means to me right now, tho, let's get this post started off with a representative photo:

Lol... Yup that's basically what we look like right now. It isn't what you would call "classically pretty" or "elegant" or... idk, choose your own adjectives.

And no, that moment isn't cherry-picked for maximum awkward. It legit demonstrates our current combined level of training. While I hope you'll watch the test video below, I'll still assure you right off the bat: No, Charlie doesn't go on the bit, nor does he soften his topline for more than a step or two (if that). Yes, it's mostly a little awkward and stilted.

please enjoy this pic of Brita & Bella killin it as a balm for the previous eye sore lol
BUT. It's Introductory Level. I read that dressage test sheet top to bottom, front to back, in choosing this test (test B) as Charlie's grand entrance into the dressage court:

Test requirements: Free walk; Medium walk; Working trot rising; 20m circle; Halt through walk

Purpose: To introduce the rider and/or horse to the sport of dressage. To show understanding of riding the horse forward with a steady tempo into an elastic contact with independent, steady hands and a correctly balanced seat. To show proper geometry of figures in the arena with correct bend (corners and circles).

Charlie's got the "regal pose" thing down pat tho haha
So... yea that sounds right where Charlie and I are in our training (read: zero dressage lessons yet haha).

Steadiness, geometry, accuracy... these are things we can do fairly consistently. Correct bend? Actually usually(ish)! Contact needs work (obvi), as does our forward as a function of true impulsion... but that's exactly what this level is all about.

not particularly "forward" in warm up, but steady tempo at least
And, recall from yesterday that my purpose in this outing was less about the dressage test itself and more about all of the pieces that come together to create a successful show:

From hauling over and arriving on the property, hand walking / grazing to familiarize (they also let me hand walk around the dressage court too - bonus!), and tacking up at the trailer, to warming up, riding the tests, and winding back down again at the trailer afterward.

The tests themselves are only minutes out of an hours-long experience. So imo, every other element in the above process is at least as important, if not more so, in making a positive day for the horse.

a little more forward and maybe some actual bend
Plus, as we've all learned the hard way at some point or another with horses... little hiccups and bobbles in those other steps in the process are often contributing factors to a disappointing performance.

So idk. You might be confused about why I'm dwelling so long on the time spent out of the show ring in a show recap post... but for me, with Charlie, it was the most meaningful part of the day.

Personally, I'm at my best when I know what to expect. When I have a clear idea of how an outing will unfold. Down to details like how equipment is packed on the trailer, or where and how I'll actually get on the horse. How long I expect to walk the horse in our warm up. Etc etc.

if you ignore how we look in motion, we might actually be mistaken for a dressage pair!
Which, naturally, is basically impossible with a new horse haha. Because legitimately everything is new right now. I don't know how Charlie is going to react to new things yet bc we just haven't built up a history of shared experiences from which I can make predictions.

However, I *DO* know one very critical quirk about Charlie, from our first session with my local horsemanship guru: Charlie cracks a little under pressure. Specifically, he can get defensive or upset if he doesn't understand or thinks he's in trouble.

Therefore, my #1, primary, most importantest goal of the day: Help Charlie get the answers right, make it easy for him to succeed, and don't dwell on mistakes. No fighting, no getting in trouble.

in motion tho haha..... ahhhhaha. sometimes we trot like this. majestic AF guys. 
So when he got a little agitated while I was watching Brita's tests? Or when he couldn't stand still to be tacked? Nbd. When some loud rattling trucks and trailers filled with kicking horses drove by during our warm up, and Charlie got to thinking he could escape faster without me on his back? Just keep riding and keep guiding him forward to stay with me.

Sure it made me a little nervous and tense haha, but the great thing about this horse is that he honest to god is not super reactive. And if something upsets him, he can basically recover and move on with his life pretty quickly - actually more quickly than I can!

the walk ain't so bad tho. and scenic arenas and pretty sunlight make for an actual reasonable picture!
This philosophy contributes to how I rode him at the show too, and maybe how I ride in general. It maybe makes for a more tentative ride than what's called for. A comment from the judge, echoed by trainer P watching from the sidelines, was that I need to ask for more when Charlie softens and relaxes.

But... eh. It aligns well with my purposes for the day and we can fix the actual training later (hopefully) lol.

now this is a cherry-picked moment. we might actually have been mid-stumble here haha
Anyway... shall we discuss the tests themselves? My biggest concern was halting haha. Because damn, this horse just... like... doesn't, sometimes. Not running away or anything, but like a long slow heavy downward dribbling ever forward pulling me down down out of the saddle but never actually physically stopping. We can legit be going sooooo slow and I'm still using a goddamn pulley rein to actually achieve the halt haha.

So yea it's a struggle. Bend is kinda a struggle too bc, among other reasons, I'm not very good at moving Charlie's shoulders around yet, and he has a strong draw towards the gate. Everything else tho I kinda figured would be ok.

turns out homeboy can halt tho!!
Alas, in the first test there was something massively distracting in the corner by H, and we were both just generally quite tense. Charlie was very obedient (and shockingly accomplished both halts beautifully! yay for practice paying off!!) but our rhythm and circles were hurt by the tension.

Upon completion, the judge reminded me to create that forward channel for the horse to move into, and that any horse but especially an OTTB will just bear down on me if I hang on him.

Luckily tho, I had entered to ride the same test twice and was consequently scheduled with back to back tests. Perfect. We left the court for a little more walking and trotting around the perimeter, then were rung back in to repeat the whole process over again.

gooooood pony!
And Charlie settled right into it like a very good boy. This guy, he's a quick little learner haha. Where the first test was tense, distracted, and unsure, the second test saw Charlie saying, "Oh, this again? Yea ok I know what this is."

2nd test video here, captioned with test directives, scores, and judge's comments
it's probably the shortest dressage test video evar, just 2:30!!

So again, it's not very .... dressage-y, but it felt like a real win for Charlie that he could relax and understand the process so quickly. That he could just go right to work like he does at home (bc yea, I admit that's basically just what we look like right now lol).

picture chosen purely for its merits of dramatic lighting and otherworldly proportions lol
After finishing the second test I hopped off while still actually in the arena and we stuffed the big guy full of carrots. His whole demeanor was easily the most relaxed it had been since we arrived on property (aided undoubtedly by me finally relaxing a bit too).

it's a charlie party at the trailer chuckles-mobile!
Then off to the second half of his grand adventure: chillin at the trailer for a while longer while Brita, Austen and I socialized with a few other friends and family members with sandwiches, snacks, pie and beer. That's the best part of showing, right?

Charlie, for his part, got to eat his lunch at the trailer too (effectively covering the sparkling new fender with slobbery mushy mashy slop) and just generally settle in and relax as the world and barn hubbub continued on around him.

big boy's first ribbons <3
(with slobber spatters visible all over the trailer lol)
Plus, obviously we had to wait around for the division to finish so I could get my tests and RIBBONS!!

Our first test earned us a very well-deserved 58.75% for fourth place (out of six or seven, I can't remember) - with high marks (6.5s) for our halts and trot-walk transition and low marks (5s) for the free walk and submission.

The second test (scored in the same division) undoubtedly benefited in its immediate comparison to the first and earned a maybe-less-well-deserved score of 63.75% for first place!! Yay Charlie!! Scores are noted in the video above, but high marks (7s) were more abundant, again for halts and trot-walk trans, plus a few others. Low mark (5.5) for impulsion.

So. Charlie's first show is in the books. Not earth shattering, but rather just a solid ground on which I'll hopefully build a foundation.