Friday, November 22, 2019

methods of learning

Each fall, Waredaca hosts a long format Classic 3 Day Event for Novice, Training and Preliminary, run over championship courses. It's intended to be both a test and celebration of the sport, the riders, and their amazing horses, and includes all manner of educational opportunities for qualified participants.

Not least of which are introductions to (and mini-clinics on) riding steeplechase and roads and tracks. Instruction is provided by world class professionals who are on hand all weekend for questions, encouragement, and insight. This year the clinics and course walks were led by European, World, and Olympic team rider Eric Smiley, and Olympian and Burghley winner Stephen Bradley. (Notably, Stephen Bradley is the last American to have won at Burghley.)

partying at the Waredaca Classic 3DE after finishing cross country day. +100 for having a brewery on site!!
My friend Rachael qualified again this year, after an extremely poorly timed hot nail ruined their weekend last year. So I and a few other friends got to spend the weekend playing support crew, while conveniently also being on hand to soak up some of the learnings ourselves haha.

And. Ya know, per my usual habits, I wanted to share with y'all my impressions from all that haha.

Truth be told, this should probably be like 3 different posts bc there are a few distinct aspects that had an impact on me... But I didn't want to put off writing any longer, so here we go with this.

excerpt from Eric Smiley's book. emphasis mine... hint: this passage is a theme
My first step down the rabbit hole began when I tagged along for the T3DE course walk with Eric Smiley. During which I (obviously) took copious notes haha. But I also peeled off a few times to take a closer look at the N3DE course while Eric talked technicalities of riding the T.

Bc let's be real. I've spent all season walking T courses, schooling T questions, working/yearning for that eventual move up. But we're still just plain old not there, and I had already concluded that we'd finish the year with more positive N outings. So, why not get a closer look at an N championship course, right?

T3DE course walk with Eric Smiley, wherein he tried to explain that this up bank - down bank (with hedge) - to wedge (not pictured) combination isn't actually bonkers 
Plus, I didn't write about it at the time, but I volunteered at the Morven Area II Novice Championships a few weeks back too - and also walked that course. It looked flipping fantastic, with all manner of interesting terrain and variations of style of fence. Particularly, the first few elements looked like a proper test and I LOVED the first water: a slightly-less-than-straight line through a small pond then direct up a steep mound with a log on top.

HOWEVER. What really struck me from Morven's Area II Novice Championship course was.... there was neither a ditch nor a bank on course for N. Certainly there were combinations for both on T and the levels above... but nada for N. Hrm.

hint: is confirmed to be bonkers
So yea. It was at that point that I started wondering what sort of courses an N rider had to tackle to make the next step to T seem more realistic. Thus my curiosity to study Waredaca's N3DE course, also billed as a championship course.

But anyway. More on that in a few. Back to my notes from Eric Smiley's colorful commentary on the T3DE course particularly, and cross country more generally.

this was the 3DE Training question that i was pleased to see repeated in Novice form on my recent waredaca course, tho you can sorta see there are flags on the other side of the mound for another (equally inviting) T fence, whereas our N combo just had the first fence and mound. still tho, it's a clear visual progression from one course to the next!
He got us started by declaring that fences ARE related on cross country. For instance, you may have an angle early on course, then a corner later. Or a skinny early and then another even skinnier skinny later.

The well designed course should be a progression, and you'll see if it you're looking for it. Generally speaking, the courses are testing your stage of schooling.

looking at the first water complex on course. there are lines for P, M, T3DE, T and N3DE here. notably, my starter N from a couple weeks later did not touch this water
Furthermore, Eric expounded on how you "warm up" for this progression by describing how he runs his clinics: First thing he has riders do in a clinic on jumping day is canter a pole 3 times. Question is: "What has your horse told you?" Has he said which way he drifts? Whether he has made a plan? Whether he’s on deck?

Has he told you at the practice pole whether he’s going to run out at 24? Has he told you he’s going to need help making a plan or whether he will do it himself?

closer look: T3DE and M share this center line (elements circled in red) of two stride line of logs dropping into the water.
regular horse trial T has the yellow circled line on the right -- log drop into water at A, then mound up to house at B
I actually brought this example up in a recent lesson (er, yesterday, post coming soon!) wherein my trainer noted Charlie was much straighter than last time, and I said he'd been leaning hard left all warm up so I'd been working on it. Turns out -- isn't that exactly what the warm up is for?? (hint: yes)

To the same point, Eric also said that the benefits you receive from steeplechase are enormous. The phase (which replaces any informal warm up you'd do for cross country at the standard horse trial) is there to get the horse into gear mentally and physically. And it is in this phase where you should be inventorying what the horse is telling you about their readiness.

close look at the other side - P (green) has a roll top inside the water, then a skinny out at B
and N3DE? the log that technically does not constitute "having height" so it can be at the water's edge (jumping out).
i understand the idea here, but c'mon. where's the progression? the step up is enormous from that little log on the championship N3DE course to the regular horse trial T log drop into water with house on far side, right? /rant
Once on course, Eric encouraged riders to "allow the presentation of the fence to tell the horse what’s up." Specifically, he warned: If the jump is going to re-balance a horse, don’t do it yourself.

Meaning, if the jump has some sort of intrinsic aspect that might make the horse sit back and adjust (like the ditch under a trakehner, or a giant mound behind the roll top), then you don't want to layer your own half halt on top. The risk is you'll in essence double the effect and possibly run out of petrol.

it's useful that waredaca literally has a brewery right there on the premises
Instead, Eric advised riders to keep riding the horse to/at the fence and let the horse figure it out. Keep riding forward. He called the trakehner in particular a fence style with a "natural re-balance." The ditch, clear ground line, and sloping profile do all the work for you, so that the rider can just keep coming to it.

This theme was much repeated throughout the entire course walk. Eric encouraged riders to "Sit up, Look up, Get up. Look where you want to be."

yep. totally bought the book. "Two Brains, One Aim." some chapters are more interesting to me than others but so far i'm liking it and finding it directly applicable
It sounds simplistic, but actually ... Yea. It is. And he really means it to be that way. He used Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton as examples here - as riders who make things happen. Doesn't have to be pretty. Doesn't have to be perfect. But it has to happen, or, ya know, it doesn't happen. It really is that binary.

Eric advised riders against getting overly technical. And against getting too stuck in the details of the thing. Again, he was adamant. Make things happen. Get the job done.

final chapters. full disclosure, i haven't read them all yet
In essence, Eric's overall warning was to not overthink things. Or over analyze. Which, uhm, haha, cough cough... Well, y'all know that's a bit of a hard pill for me to swallow. I want to know it all. I want the data. The trends, the margin of error. Historical context, calibrated measurements, and predictable outcomes.

Which, according to this particular world class professional, jusssst miiiight be doing a disservice to my overall mental state and philosophical approach to this sport lol.

Fun fact: I may or may not have finished that course walk musing whether I'm emotionally pre-disposed to a philosophical mindset diametrically opposite of what's required in eventing...

Which... Ha, well if that isn't a recipe for an identity crisis, I don't know what is lol.

are we there yet??
Luckily I already sorta went through all my own tortuous mental contortions this summer about "But do I really want to??" And already determined the answer to be, "Yes." So. Nice try, Eric haha. But just because I'm overly analytical doesn't mean I'm gonna quit!!**

Obviously not his intention tho, let's be real. But it did give me a lot of food for thought. Clearly I'm not about to abandon my desire to analyze and understand and study all the things. Or (case in point) document all the things too. Bc that's just how I roll.

But maybe I need to do a better job of categorizing all that data, that information, in terms of overall "usefulness." What data is going to help me act in the moment? What will help me make things happen? And what ultimately ends up being a distraction?

In other words, do I need to know the exact distance between that hedge-topped down bank to the narrow wedge? Or, rather, do I need to know whether my horse has been drifting left or right, or has been on board and making plans along with me the whole ride?

There's probably more I want to write on this subject (and other tangents), especially as we go into the navel-gazing daze of off season haha. For now tho, let's leave it at that.

There's so much to be gained from opportunities to discuss riding and courses and overall mentality with these seasoned professionals, and I'm extremely grateful to have had this chance. For any of you sitting on the fence about signing up for volunteer jobs at local events -- these are the sort of interactions, observations and conversations that can arise from nothing more than the luck of being there in that moment. So, ya know, go for it ;)

**Srsly tho, that was obviously not his point. He's an extremely encouraging sort and I would 100% ride / audit / drink a beer with him again in the future!

Friday, November 15, 2019

winter wine nights: boot care + ERM XC

Happy Friday, everyone. It's officially mid November. The days are getting shorter and shorter, darker and colder. The Holidays are staring us down unrelentingly lol.

And it's starting to get to be that time of year where I want nothing more than to cozy up on the sofa with the kitties, a glass of wine, some video entertainment, and possibly a mindless but satisfying task to occupy my hands. Like, ya know. Cleaning tack. OR, my tall boots.

QHP Sophia boots in action. these things take a lot of abuse!
I wrote yesterday about being head over heels (puns lol) in love with my QHP Sophia tall (or long, if you're all Euro) boots. These things are comfortable enough for all day wear, including speed walking cross country courses, and feel like a second skin when I'm riding.

In short, I want them to last forever. And ever and ever. The leather is actually pretty nice, and so far all the seams and everything are holding up admirably well. But they were still pretty inexpensive boots, and that savings had to come from somewhere, right?

Typically, at least in my experience, you see the quality sacrificed in areas like the zipper, elastic panel, and possibly the sole too.

i'm officially converted to using boot lasts to help keep zippers upright
So I've been trying to be proactive in helping safeguard those weak spots from succumbing to the rigors of the lifestyle I provide haha. Which... Yea, these boots get worn for everything. I'm not one for changing my shoes right before or right after a ride, even in nasty wet or muddy weather, or when I know I'll be bathing a horse.

Your mileage may vary there, but that's just kinda how I am. I really don't want to be thinking about my footwear while I'm doing other things. So instead I just do what I can in between wears.

Like using boot lasts. I actually asked for a new proper set of lasts for my birthday (hopefully will have an update on that soon!!) but to date had been using rolled up cardboard until I upgraded to these inflatable dealies.

The idea is that the lasts will keep the boots from folding over or collapsing too much at the ankle, which over time weakens and damages the zipper.

shoe care kit i won from year end awards! plus zipper wax i bought myself
I've also been trying to keep these boots cleaner than their predecessors. Especially in those weak spots like the zipper and where the uppers meet the soles.

Last winter I received this Shoe Keeper kit as part of my goodie bag from my local association's year end awards, and was kinda surprised to see it contained two different brushes. Brushes had never really been part of my boot kits before, but once I had them in hand it actually made a lot of sense.

this brush makes a substantially noticeable difference when trying to get a smooth zip
I keep the brushes near my door where my shoes live, and actually find myself reaching for them often. The moment I feel any resistance to pulling up a zipper on the boots, I pause to remove the boot and just brush out the zipper teeth. It's doesn't take any time at all, and actually makes a HUGE difference in getting a smooth zip.

My hope is that by routinely brushing out the zipper, keeping it clear of dirt, debris and hair, I'll be able to extend its lifespan. And fwiw I'm pretty sure any brush would do the trick - including an old toothbrush or whatever.

imo the brush works better than the wax, but i use both in hopes the wax will help prevent build up.
also plz ignore my weird finger tip. it, uh, got bit off by a surly lesson pony 10+ yrs ago lol whoops
Similarly, last time I was at Dover (to take advantage of national helmet awareness weekend!) I spotted this little wax stick in a random rack for like $1 or $2 and instantly snapped it up.

It's basically like an over-sized soft crayon, and I kinda just run it up and down the zipper teeth after they've been brushed out. To be honest I'm not sure it makes as much of a difference as the brush... Bc yea, the brush WORKS, yo, but it does seem to help.

I definitely spend a little extra time on the zipper before shows too, since we all know that on show days zippers don't zip, buttons don't button, and nothing works as it's supposed to work. Any insurance against that is just peace of mind, right?

i recently switched to using a thin towel instead of a sponge to clean and condition most of my leather. seems like more of the product gets where i want it to go!
I've watched a couple of those "Madden Method" videos on youtube recently too, and in their tack cleaning one she said she preferred using towels for applying soap and conditioner to leather. Which is something I've wondered about after feeling like so much product just kinda gets absorbed into sponges rather than transferring to my leather lol.

So I've been doing that lately, and using this Ariat boot conditioner. It's definitely a different type of conditioner than I'd use for anything else leather (like a saddle or bridle) since it has that water repellent additive. But I actually really like it for the boots.

They seem to get less dirty over time the longer I use this product. Which like, ya know, that's nice haha. Tho it doesn't do much in the way of "polishing," at least not for these brown boots. But that's ok, I kinda dig the patina look on the brown anyway.

So ya know. This routine is helping me feel like I'm doing my best to help these boots last. Without really having to slave over them, ya know?

Bc yea... My preferred method for tack and boot cleaning involves a fair amount of wine and attention split between the leather and whatever happens to be on youtube. Which, recently, has included binging the Event Rider Masters Cross Country Broadcasts haha.

If you're not familiar, the ERM is a championship CCI4*-S series over in the UK and Europe with something like 7 or 8 legs spread across the season. It offers substantial prize money to riders who earn the most points over the series, and thus attracts world class talent, like:

Piggy French, Gemma Tattersall, Michael Jung, Chris Burton, Jonelle and Tim Price, Oliver Townend, Julia Krajewski, Liz Halliday Sharp, Maxime Livio, Ingrid Klimke, and and and... so many more haha.

i have to arrange my screens to prevent my cat from more... active participation 
All the broadcasts since 2017 are available on ERM's website and youtube channel, including the dressage and show jumping broadcasts, plus all the additional promotional content they produce along the way.

For me, tho, my interest is generally in watching the cross country haha. And as such, I've pulled all those specific broadcasts into one binge-worthy play list. I've already watched most of them, but honestly they're fun enough to watch that I don't mind repeating them too.

Possibly the most interesting factor in the series is that they run dressage on Day 1 (duh), then first show jumping then cross country on Day 2. And cross country, the final phase deciding the winner, is run in reverse order of merit. So the top placed riders don't go until the very end, making for a lot of exciting tension haha.

Nicole Brown's commentary is really enjoyable, plus they always have a rep from EquiRatings too (usually Diarm Byrne) who's always going agog about the stats lol. And there's usually riders in the commentary box offering their perspective on the riders, horses and courses. In particular, listening to Ludwig Svennerstal's commentary makes me feel like I'd try to audit or ride with him if he ever did a clinic in my area. Jonelle Price too.

So yea. This is exactly the type of entertaining content that is great for watching over the off season haha. And my friends and I mayyyy or may not be planning to have occasional relaxing wine nights with these videos (each about 2hrs) playing in the background haha.

Hope everyone else is looking forward to a fun weekend too -- perhaps with some virtual spectatorship and/or boot cleaning? Maybe you have some other fun horsey series or videos you like to watch online too??

Thursday, November 14, 2019

show gear inventory + new bridle

With our formal show season officially wrapped, I thought it might be fun to update our inventory on show attire and tack. Especially since... Wowza it turns out I kinda bought a lot of stuff this past year. Yikes....

charles in all his glory
Long time readers will already know that I have somewhat miserly tendencies tho haha, and a lot of my stuff is used and second hand. But I also picked up a few new items (especially attire) on pretty good discounts from show vendors.

charles, in slightly less glory. also this clip grew out in less than a month wtf
So. Shall we go down the list of what I've been using? First up, dressage stuff!!

I mentioned recently that we did the last two dressage tests in jump tack. The reality is that... I just really really love my jump saddle, and also feel like maybe my dressage saddle is a bit wrong for my geometry too small for my butt. Womp lol. (for anyone interested, said Hulsebos dressage saddle may be for sale at some point!)

basically our outfit for everything with some adjustments to bridle depending on type of adventure
Using the same saddle for everything is actually kinda nice too. It's fitted with a luscious and reliably plush black Dover sheepskin half pad (consignment), whatever saddle pad happens to be clean, and a cheap no-name black fuzzy girth I picked up from consignment for $7 that Charlie likes above all else. And we're still using the Herm Sprenger KK Ultra loose ring snaffle for dressage (and jump lessons too).

dressage outfit!!
And in addition to changing Charlie's outfit from black to brown, I've changed up my own outfit too. My two main pairs of white breeches are Montars and FITS. Both of which I honestly pretty much love. They're comfortable and flattering, and have pockets. Boom.

rj classics show coat; kerrits sleeveless show shirt; equine couture long sleeve show shirt; usg belt
I picked up a new show coat at Kentucky this year, in what was undoubtedly a bit of a splurge. It's the RJ Classics mesh coat and I lufff it. It's comfortable, flattering (it has a zipper behind the buttons OMG!!), ventilated, and cleans up well. Hopefully I can keep it nice for a long time.

Ditto the Equine Couture long sleeve shirt I picked up from VTO's show tent this year. I'm not likely to wear this in very warm weather bc it's not a particularly cool material. But it's sturdy and also cleans up really nicely.

one k matte defender + bonus spider webs
The USG belt is new from Fair Hill, and I've been wearing it a lot. The colors are cute and it's flattering. Plus obvi it matches LOL.

My gloves for dressage are ancient Roeckls, and I recently replaced my helmet from a One K Defender in suede to a One K Defender in matte lol. I love how this helmet fits, and am hoping the matte finish holds up better than the suede. The suede was fine, but it started to look dingy by the end, ya know what I mean?

jompies outfit!!!
For jumping, it's not really too different. My shirt often changes depending on weather conditions. Especially in extreme heat I'm likely to stick with the lightest weight and lightest color shirt I can find. Otherwise, tho, I've gotten into the habit of wearing sunshirts like Kastel or, lately, the Equine Couture shirt.

Likewise, the breeches sometimes change too. I'm awful at laundry and want my whites to last... Tho again, when it's very hot or cold it's hard to fathom trying to peel one pair of pants off and another on haha. So the Montars and FITS have been my go-to, with my dark navy FITS pinch hitting when I feel like changing.

yep i decided to keep this black rodney powell beta 3 certified body protector
My pinny holder is from consignment, no idea what brand. Obnoxiously, tho, it's slightly too small to fit standard sized paper. It's not usually a big deal, but at Waredaca they printed rider numbers on heavier card stock so I actually had to trim them down with scissors to fit into the pinny.

My medical armband is from RoadID, won as a prize through Sara's volunteer challenge last year. And after polling the audience a few months ago, I've started wearing this black Rodney Powell body protector. I still have my navy Harry Hall (the lavender Rodney Powell sold) and find it useful to have two, but my go-to has been this black one lately. I like the front zipper so that it can come on and off even when I'm wearing my helmet.

charles owen helmet cover, with logo covered up by ebay patch for +100 badassery
Speaking of helmet, I continue to wear a One K skull cap with customized helmet cover. This helmet will presumably be replaced in the next couple years, at which point I'm going to try on a few different types since the One K skull cap fits differently from the Defender.

For now, tho, I hang on to it, and it has the mount for my Contour Roam helmet camera. Which, obvi, #priorities haha.

qhp sophia long boots
I wear the same tall boots for literally everything, and I LOVE them. These QHP Sophias are so much better than I had ever dared dream, and I am legitimately sad that I didn't buy a second pair to keep in the wings just in case. By the time I thought about it, all the browns were gone. So I got a second pair of blacks. But dumb me ordered the wrong size. Sigh.

For real, tho, these boots are wonderful and have broken in nicely. I'm trying really really hard to take care of them, including lovingly brushing out and waxing the zipper often. So far, so good, so we'll see I guess!

additional key players: leather bridle number tag; new jumping bat; $7 fuzzy girth; nunn finer neck strap
Alright. Moving on from attire, let's talk other gear. Also at Kentucky I picked up a leather bridle tag, which makes my plastic Dover version look hideous in comparison haha. Personally I think it looks much nicer than the paper bridle tags show organizers provide.

I picked up a new crop at Fair Hill that's the absolute maximum length allowable lol. The idea being, I could use it behind my leg without necessarily letting go of the reins. My one complaint is that the handle is actually kinda chunky and my hand has cramped up a bit after 5 minutes of clutching it in a death grip while on course lol.

full set of kentucky xc boots from ebay; tough 1 no-turn bell boots from consignment
Charlie's additional non-tack accessories include his boots and... That's basically it haha. I always imagined when I bought a thoroughbred that I'd finally be able to dress him or her up in all those cute bonnets. Compared to Isabel who didn't have bonnet-friendly sized head and ears. Unfortunately, tho, the reality is that any bonnet covers Charlie's big bright diamond-shaped star, and he just doesn't look like himself. So.... No bonnets. Le sigh!

same boots and bells over the final xc jump at waredaca, demonstrating that neither budged
The boots, tho. I picked up a full set of brown Kentuckys for my birthday a couple years ago after seeing some pros using them at events. I was having trouble finding boots that didn't rub Charlie, and figured they were worth a shot.

And? I like them well enough. They don't turn or hold dirt or water. And they've held up great to my abuse. The sizing is a little funny but they work for Charlie's dimensions (a horse with shorter legs might have trouble fitting the hinds). They're not particularly modern or technical.... But again, they seem to work well for Charlie so I haven't really found a reason to replace them.

More recently I picked up a pair of soft Tough 1 no-turn bell boots. Again, finding something that wouldn't rub Charlie has been a challenge. Plus I've had pretty terrible luck with "no-turn" bells in the past. These seem to work, tho! So we're keeping them.

handsome charlie <3 <3 mark todd bridle; dark jewel designs browband; road id medical bracelet
Phew, ok. Finally, let's talk tack. So much brown tack, wow. And actually, for the first time in 'Fraidy Cat History, I actually have a complete collection of tack that's.... all pretty nice, with not a frankenbridle to be seen!

Charlie has two brown jump bridles since we compete and school xc in a different bit than we use for dressage or normal jump lessons. It's the same mouthpiece: a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra in the Aurigan alloy. But with the gag Universal cheek pieces.

After years of fussing with double reins or curb straps and chains, I've simplified to just using a single rein on the curb. And? It works. Tho I also recently replaced the original bit with a slightly longer one that I think is less likely to accidentally pinch Charlie's lips.

same bridle; closer look at leather number tag; nunn finer reins + neck strap; herm sprenger KK ultra with universal cheek pieces
The bridle is a Mark Todd in the Dy'on style from Amanda, with extra long rubber Nunn Finer reins and a Dark Jewel Designs custom snap on browband with interchangeable bead strands. Ohhhh but how I love that snap on functionality! Ooooh, and as you know by now, I've started using a neck strap again, just a simple leather strap also by Nunn Finer.

one of my first DJD browbands - had it made for my black dressage bridles but quite like it on the brown bridle too!
The snap-on browband has actually been a fairly key player bc up until very recently, it passed back and forth between my show bridle and my schooling bridle that had the plain loose ring KK.

BUT!! Drum roll, please!! I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of the leather family, my new Dobert padded leather bridle!!

brand new Dobert brown dressage bridle!!
Gosh this thing is so pretty.... I'd been eyeing it in the VTO tent all season long (since obvi I can't go to a major event and not do at least a little shopping lol), and finally at the Waredaca Classic a couple weeks ago I begged pleaded and cajoled until we could work something out.

basically in love with it <3 and, ya know, that handsome pony face underneath
It's suuuuuper padded on the crown and noseband, with crank noseband. I love the shape and style of the noseband too, and the buckle closures on the cheeks. Plus, that browband, so pretty!

I got it without reins tho bc they wouldn't have been long enough for Charlie anyway. But the cheapo rubber reins I got from Maryland Saddlery earlier this summer continue to actually feel quite nice, so it all works out. So this is the bridle Charlie wears in our jump lessons, regular schooling, and now dressage tests at shows.

possibly my third favorite material possession (behind my truck and trailer): the l'apogee monoflap jump saddle
Finally, last but not least, the butt piece. My beloved L'Apogee monoflap jump saddle. This thing.... is my everything. I recently replaced the stirrup leathers with some free cheap things a barn mate was giving away (I think DaVincis?) but one day will have nicer leathers. Also recently added an "Oh Shit" strap after encouragement from Martin at that clinic lol...

Oooh, plus, my absolute favorite stirrup irons in the whole world: The Stubben Maxi Grips I picked up from Kentucky two years ago. These things are so grippy and comfortable on my feet, I can count on one hand the number of times I've lost an iron while using them.

Plus imo they're super attractive with the brushed aluminum. They don't show any signs of wear, and I appreciate that they're still very light weight.

So.... Yea, that about sums up our kit. I didn't think we'd shopped that much this year, but actually we're almost completely changed from even our last show of 2018. Funny how that happens haha. As it is tho, I'm pretty happy with our current set of gear and feel like it's pretty tuned in to what both Charlie and I like and need. Which hopefully means no more shopping for a while LOL!

What about you -- anyone else feeling like you've got all your stuff sorted? Or maybe you're in the opposite boat, still growing or collecting your kit? Or not quite satisfied with some of the key pieces? Or, lol, maybe you're hoping Santa will tick a few items off your wish list??

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

waredaca XC

I actually have a huge backlog of stuff I want to write about at the moment. Including quite a few experiences specifically relating to Waredaca outside of this past weekend's starter trial. Like recent volunteer and educational experiences at their annual Three Day Classic. And doing the course walk with Eric Smiley. And thoughts on recent course walk experiences more generally.

And it *is* important to me to get these posts out and written, bc honestly I really love having this blog as a repository for all my horsey experiences, learnings, thoughts, ideas, etc. For whatever reason it's been challenging lately to cough up all the words -- but I am determined to do so haha. And hopefully soon.

waredaca is an absolutely stunning farm with breathtaking vistas over their scenic pond. just imagine there's the pond in the background of this picture instead of dead grass ;)
It was especially relevant this past weekend tho, bc like I said -- I've been at Waredaca a lot recently for other events. And so I had some expectations about what my own course might look like based on what I'd seen over the previous season.

Mostly: I expected terrain. And more "classic" style questions and combinations. I didn't expect anything too too crazy tho. Actually, the N3DE course a few weeks ago had wildly underwhelming waters and just did the same up bank that Izzy and I did on the starter BN back in 2015. So I felt fairly confident that my own starter N course this weekend should be well within hand, while hopefully still providing some challenging bits.

jump 1 was quite a nice pheasant feeder to get us going toward home. you can see the line of logs at 2 in the background
Secretly, I was maybe hoping that they'd just recycle the same course they used for the recognized HT recently, which was just a tad watered down from the N3DE course. It didn't quite work out that way - the middle was completely different (and shorter), but the beginning and end were the same. So ya know. Still felt like a good test overall.

So to sorta briefly recap my last post - Charlie had just come off a pretty solid show jumping where he was jumping well and easily, and covering for my mistakes. We did a single warm up fence for xc, which went very smoothly, and I opted to proceed directly to the start box at the earliest moment.

it's a good sized log, but maybe not particularly eye catching
Charlie continued his trend of leaving the start box smoothly, to my massive relief. For so long I had so much anxiety about whether he'd turn into one of those horses who refused and balked and napped at the box... But honestly he hasn't done that since last year. So maybe he's over it now that he knows the game??

Anyway, the course started out heading directly toward home, which obvi always helps haha. Charlie started running almost immediately after 1 and honestly I kinda just let him. I maybe had this idea in my head that I should be able to let him pick his own pace to the fences, and adjust his own self.... Or, ya know, make the mistake or whatever.

heading up the huuuuuuuuge hill to jump 3
But idk in retrospect if that was the right choice. Bc he definitely kinda ate it over 2. Just ran at a nothing spot and ended up sorta skipping / skimming uncomfortably over the top. Whoops.... Not the greatest feeling to start the course...

This part of the course was similar to the previous recognized event where I was the warm up steward and watched horse after horse (esp on the BN course) balk and spook and back off going up the hill away from the gate to jump 3. It was just a set of logs, but positioned as it was, for whatever reason the lower level horses were reeeeally not having it.

there's that lake!! also these unimposing logs at 3 claimed a shocking number of victims over the last few shows - the BN log even more so
And maybe riders were a bit to complacent too, bc "it's just a log!" But for whatever reason, jump 3 claimed a substantial amount of victims a few weeks ago, and this weekend too. Luckily tho I'd seen the carnage with my own eyes and knew not to take the jump for granted.

Bc yea, Charlie backed off hard. But with a little firm encouragement he oozed over the top more or less fine.

It's a lot to look at, suddenly finding yourself on top of a massive hill overlooking the pond. And, naturally, what goes up must come down and our track took us straight down to the lake.

ahh the many face of charlie out on xc!! :D
Which is kinda funny thinking about, in terms of nostalgia. Bc I STILL remember the days where even the thought of trotting Charlie down a hill was terrifying haha. Gosh this horse has learned so much about how to handle himself on terrain tho!

He cantered down more or less reasonably smoothly, and then proceeded across this earthen bridge / dam thingy between the pond and another marshy section. Really, it's hard to describe just how beautiful Waredaca is - if for no other reason you should watch the helmet cam just for the scenery!

nice bench leading directly into a barely-there path cut through the woods
But ya know. The scenery was all VERY NEW to Charlie, and provided a whole new obstacle in his ability to focus. He wasn't spooky, per se, but definitely felt a bit unsettled and distracted. And like he wasn't really paying much attention to the jumps themselves.

If anything, the jumping part kinda felt a lot like our final BN last year, where he was preoccupied by everything BUT the fences, which apparently weren't impressive enough haha. Like this bench. It's not enormous, but it's solidly N. And Charlie kinda just... made it from one side to the other without much thought, style, or, er, ahem, technique.

jump 5 was just another log, cruising right past a water complex without even going thru. 
From there we had a little passage through a narrow wooded path (including jumping the itsy bitsy stream bc #obvi), then emerged into another tumultuously hilly zone next to the first water combination. Again, it's a lot to look at and a lot to process -- all completely separately from the fences.

Somewhat annoyingly tho, our course didn't really do anything in that zone except pass through. Didn't even get a line through the water. We just moved on to a little log in the tree line (above). During my course walk I was starting to worry that maybe the whole course would be just little logs... but luckily more was coming, and soon.

things started getting interesting tho!! bending line at 6
Amazingly, Charlie has never seen a proper bending line in competition on cross country yet. Which.... is weird, right? Like that's one of the key elements distinguishing N from BN, so you wouldn't think it'd be such a rarity even at starter trials.

Finally tho, we got our day haha. The line walked in a fairly direct 5, but we kinda got a steady in jump plus drifted a bit left, so the 6 ended up being very smooth for us.

a version of this question appeared on the T3DE course too
This was the section that had been so dramatically shortened from the recent recognized and N3DE. Those courses meandered out into a whole 'nother field for their bending line, mound, and ditch combinations, before coming back through the above area. Our course skipped all that entirely, tho, and we just turned right back from the bending line to this giant mound.

I really liked this question tho, bc it was nearly identical to something from the T3DE course, except in N form.

and our only nice picture from xc <3 <3 <3
The T course had their version of this same rolltop positioned right at the base of a different (but similarly sized) mound. The jump was far enough away from the mound that you still landed on flat ground, but it was sorta an imposing visual to jump into for the horse. Then the T course also had a jump on the far side of the mound.

Charlie's and my course tho just had the rolltop, which Charlie jumped quite nicely with a lot of leg haha, then up to the top of the mound, which was also flagged with a very steep descent.

simple rustic step up bank at 9
I half expected Charlie to trot down the far side of the mound but he actually maintained his canter. Still tho, we were going back directly to the lake and combined with the rapid fire nature of everything that was happening, Charlie felt like maybe he did want to trot after all.

Which, for my purposes was perfectly A-OK since I wanted him to have a nice comfortable step up the little bank at 9 next to the lake.

skirted around the lake and down an embankment to another log at 10
From there we eased back into canter again, on another little lakeside road, before dropping down the shoulder from the road to this log thing. Again, the jump itself is just a log, but the terrain and placement etc create an interesting question.

since the pickins were so slim from xc pictures, you're getting more from this jump haha #dealwithit
Charlie hardly noticed tho lol. And I can't for the life of me decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Like I wish he cared more about the fences bc maybe he'd jump them better... But in a way it's kinda nice feeling like he's gotten to a point now where he can cope with whatever.

there was a third photographer stationed here at the half coffin who somehow missed me. i looked at some of his shots of other riders tho and... yea he's still learning anyway lol so not much of a loss
Anyway, from there we proceeded directly to the half coffin. Or whatever they're calling it these days LOL. It was just a simple small ditch straight to a nice house. We did it in a steady 4 tho I bet it would also have been a good 3.
frustrated to have a second course in a row not do much with the water. also yes the water's surface is iced over in this pic haha. winter is coming, yo!
Obviously tho Charlie's internal GPS kicked in to tell him he were heading back toward HOME, so he zoomed into high gear heading toward the water. Just a plain crossing, sigh.

Again, I have other posts that I want to write on this topic... But it's extremely frustrating to me to see T courses have all manner of intense water combinations, with N courses at the same venue not doing literally anything at the water. Like... Where's the progression? How are N riders supposed to get competition experience building up to what's expected at T? That's a rant for another day, tho. On this day, we just cantered on thru.

these chevrons were great tho!! and in the background you can see the giant hill we climbed, with jump 3 poised right at the top. we had jumped 3 coming toward the camera in this shot
It was kinda funny bc where the beginning of the course was more or less all logs, the end of the course got pretty intense pretty fast haha. Charlie's only ever seen chevrons once before so I really had no concept of what he'd think of these. Go figure, tho, he locked on and jumped them beautifully. Good boy! Where's that picture, photographers?!?

yep, sorry not sorry. the colors are so pretty tho! (just pretend it's in focus, m'kay?)
Then we climbed back up that massive hill in the background, wherein I finally let Charlie gallop a little bit. Just three jumps from home, now, tho two of them were prettttty big.

after climbing the giant hill again we got to the second largest fence on course: a chunky corner
I honestly expected this corner to be fine tho. Charlie's got a fair amount of corner experience, thanks in large part to Loch Moy having a little baby BN version too. This one at Waredaca ain't small but... Ya know, even at it's widest it's still within the limits for what's considered jumpable at N.

Which is useful haha bc Charlie and I definitely jumped the widest part after sorta drifting and getting one too many strides in approach. Sigh. Sorry buddy.

then back down again to the actual biggest fence: a brush ramp. remember when the BN version of this jump scared the bejesus out of me back in 2015??
Same story to the brush fence. It's maybe a mercy that the photographer didn't shoot this fence lol. Bc again, Charlie just wasn't really respecting the fences. Wasn't sizing them up, adjusting to them. Just instead kinda going a bit pell-mell to them.

A tad disorderly, if ya know what I mean. Never not jumping them -- he's definitely going to the fence and definitely jumping it. Just... In his patented "Charlie don't care!" sorta way.

final fence was just a red barn to the finish flags!! go Charlie GO!
Luckily tho we got a good enough approach to the final fence (which the photographer DID shoot!), and voila! The course was successfully completed haha. Actually one of our fastest courses to date, too haha.

Tho... Now I'm regretting not paying more attention to the posted distance on the course map. Bc... It may have been a pretty short course.

Possibly the most interesting piece to me tho, in retrospect, is that while this course wasn't necessarily any smoother or more polished than Loch Moy... I felt worlds better about it after finishing. So much of the bumps in the road, the rough edges, I'm convinced have more to do with being rusty at actually running a full course.

Like... There's something about putting together 5 straight minutes of uninterrupted cross country that is kinda hard to replicate in a schooling environment. The hardest parts aren't even necessarily about the jumps themselves. Rather, it's about finding a rhythm, adapting as the course goes on, figuring out how to ride the horse under me at this exact moment vs the horse I had two fences or two minutes ago.

best part of waredaca is the onsite brewery lol, complete with little mini bar stationed in a repurposed trailer out by parking haha. coffee stouts are the best post-show beer :D
If anything, my feeling coming off this course was one of validation. That my decision to squeeze in two back to back events before the season ended was exactly what we needed.

I got more cross country lessons this past year than ever before in probably my entire riding life. My horse and I have schooled all manner of crazy new and interesting things. We've learned a LOT. And it was GOOD.

But that's still not really a replacement for actually getting out there and putting a full course together from start to finish. So here's hoping I can use what we learned these past two weekends to help make a more balanced plan for next year haha.

At the very least, it'll be nice to have these recent memories (and videos!!!) to look back on since winter is apparently arriving in no uncertain terms ;)