Sunday, September 22, 2019

sunday feel goods

Whew, happy weekend everyone. Hope it's been relaxing and fun!! I figured I'd take this chance to scroll through my recent pictures for all those sweet nice sorta in-between moments that have been happening in Charlieland lately.

the window into charlie's subterranean bank barn stall makes it perfect for introducing tiny kiddos to the big pony
I already mentioned I withdrew from Jenny Camp last month after the dressage, since I just wasn't feeling it for jumping. A friend was coming to watch with her young son, so we decided to just play ponies instead.

Which worked out well bc it was hot as blazes and I don't think the 5yo would have tolerated standing out in the oppressive midday sun while I stressed my way through the jumping phases lol.

so then said kiddos feel brave enough to pop up for a sit!!
Since I wasn't jumping tho, we got to hang around in the cooler barns introducing little R to all the horses! And obviously he wanted to climb aboard one of them too ;)

talk about a tall pony ride!!
Guys, Charlie is such a saint haha. He LOVES children - is honestly like a heat seeking missile whenever he sees the tiny little humans. It's adorable. Well, let's be real, it's adorable bc he's a horse. If he had a mustache and drove a van, you'd probably call the cops LOL. But he IS a horse, so it IS very cute.

charlie was concentrating so hard on his kiddo, he takes this job very seriously <3
The pony ride didn't really advance more than a step or two beyond the mounting block bc it is a pretty high seat up there lol, and the kid got a little nervous when Charlie shifted his weight to cock a hind leg. Still tho. So cute, omg. 

he's obsessed with ponies and kiddos
Sometimes I seriously believe Charlie was born into the wrong body haha. Like, he would LOVE to be a camp pony, having kids climbing all over him, body painting him and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over his mane and tail. Bc let's be real, this is Charlie's world and we're all just put here to entertain and adore him, right?? Lol.... <3

this is why we can't have nice things
Anyway. We've been checking off other fun little boxes lately. Like my beloved One-K defender turned 5 this year so I somewhat begrudgingly replaced it, taking advantage of the #mindyourmelon helmet awareness weekend sales recently. This time I opted for the matte finish instead of the suede, with the hope that it won't get to musty dusty looking.

what happens when you go careening through the woods spiderwebs 
Tho... uh, within like its first few rides I already messed up that "brand new" finish haha. Not even sure how I managed to get the spiderwebs from a recent trail ride to transfer to perfectly to the helmet. Maybe it's my secret superpower? Anyway, it looks like it should wipe off pretty easily but still.... womp womp lol.

charlie likes to stop to smell the flowers while i set our cavaletti exercises lol
Charlie, for his part, has been doing well. In my schooling rides lately I've been trying to do more ground pole and cavaletti work. For the last 3ish weeks I've had at least one ride per week where we set up loonnnngggg lines of trot and canter poles.

These exercises are so useful for Charlie bc he understands the poles well, and can tell if he got through them nicely or poorly without me needing to translate. So he tends to turn on his own engine and click into gear with way less nagging from me.

ground pole exercise from L Williams! blue = lines for trot AND canter, green = lines for just trot
Another bonus is that it's proving to be really useful to set the lines on diagonals or shorter turns, since it forces us to address our straightness issues.

Most recently, I set up a variation of something L Williams recently posted. It called for 10' poles so I had to overlap the edges of these 12' poles a little bit, but actually the distances still worked out just fine. Tho it meant I didn't take advantage of all the available lines.

And actually, it turned out that I placed the thing in a very poor location considering almost all of the most interesting approaches were blocked by other jumps set up in the arena. So it wasn't as versatile as I'd hoped. But was a good exercise!

where did the water go???
Mostly tho we've just kinda been chipping away at things. There's still a backlog of lessons I need to write about lol (like our latest Hilltop dressage lesson!) plus a few more coming up on the schedule. Charlie's still not feeling as keen as I'd like in the jumping tho.

Actually, part of me is starting to wonder if it's partly due to the cumulative effect of just how hard and dry the ground has been for months now. It's hard to tell, bc he's not lame in any obvious sort of way, but then again he's a big heavy horse to be pounding the ground all the time. So it's possible.

For now, tho, I'm not worrying about it (tho rain would be appreciated LOL) and instead am sorta shifting gears and expectations. We'll just cruise through the end of summer and hopefully regroup for a couple fun fall outings.

Or. Ya know. Maybe we'll just do pony rides and trail gallops instead haha. Sounds good to me, right? What about y'all, been up to anything fun and relaxing lately?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

how what why: Charlie + Ulcers

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that should you and your horse ever struggle in some inconsistent, hard-to-pin-down manner, the Greek chorus of internet horse forums will unfailingly reply with some sing-song variation of the following mantra:

Saddle fit!

Teeth or Dentist!!


Plus, frequent bonus armchair diagnosis:

Hoof angles and/or something to do with shoeing!!

Tho of course, depending on where you live, you're also just as likely to hear tell of various common tick-borne illnesses like Lyme! or Anaplasmosis!

it was recently brought to my attention that this property's owners permit riders on the driveway. helllll yesssss!!
On one hand, it's almost become a joke. Or like you could create some devilish sort of drinking game by guessing how long it takes before somebody suggests one of the above in response to anyone even so much as whispering about horse struggles.

On the other hand, tho, there are very real reasons for that, right? Like, there are reasons why these ailments often top the list of suggested pain points whenever owners run into problems.

Mostly, it's because these comprise most of the lowest hanging fruit. Common issues that can cause low grade but persistent nagging problems without the obvious acute indicator of a head bob or tree trunk leg. (Well, except anaplasmosis haha.... if your horse busts out with lethargy, a big fever, and four swollen legs outta nowhere, well... call a vet LOL).

And the symptoms are often easy to miss bc they can be as generic or general as "not wanting to go on the bit," or "won't go forward," or "kinda more pissy / spooky / grouchy / fussy than usual." Really, symptoms can be even minor deviations in behavior, soundness, or even general condition.

So.... I figured I'd talk a little more about one of those ailments - Ulcers.

This is by no means intended to be a substitute for talking to an expert or professional - I am (obviously) neither. Nor is this intended to be a thorough, comprehensive or definitive medical guide on the subject of gastric ulcers in equines. I am not offering advice here, or suggesting ways to diagnose your horse.

the passage through to the driveway is unbelievably softy and cushy despite our intense drought
Rather, I want to talk about my own approach -- the choices I've made, my experiences, and my plan for Charlie.

And, in the meantime, if anything I say here makes you feel unsure about your own horse's behavior (under saddle or otherwise), soundness, or general overall wellness, by all means - talk to someone about it. Your vet, coach, trainer, other vet, barn manager, riding buddy, working student, slightly scary but veteran older boarder, invisible friend, emotional support toaster, .... whoever, right? Ask around, phone a friend. See what people say.

Honestly, my experiences with horses have impressed upon me the idea that... there are many right ways to go about horse care and maintenance, and generally very few truly wrong ways.

Sure, there are some horse people who are blessed with knowing exactly the correct way of doing literally anything and everything. And who will judge you for deviating even slightly from their prescient prescriptions. It's true! I can tell you for a fact that there are regular readers here who check in for no reason other than to see if I've managed to murder, maim or otherwise mess Charlie up yet (shout out to my girl Denise!!).

And, ya know. To those folks, may you always feel smug and secure in your convictions. For the rest of y'all... Well. It turns out there are actually a shit ton of different options if you think your horse's particular woe stems from gastric ulcers.

tho ya know, there's a certain amount of charm to our normal pasture lanes <3
If y'all are worried about ulcers, again, best bet is to talk to somebody about it (even if that somebody is the google). When I'm thinking about horsey symptoms, my thoughts range across the following (in no particular order):

- has my horse's attitude or behavior changed?
- is he more spooky and/or grouchy? girthy?
- is he nervous or unsettled on the ground and/or under saddle?
- having trouble holding weight or coat looking dull?
- reactive and/or reluctant to go forward under saddle?

Which... Well. Charlie is a sleek glossy fatass dadbod panther on his post-lunch nap break. So.... Hm.

BUT! Beyond superficial symptoms, there are other indicators -- specifically revolving around lifestyle!! Any of the following lifestyles can make an otherwise sturdy horse vulnerable or prone to ulcers (in no particular order):

- not enough turnout
- not enough forage and/or grazing
- stall rest or prolonged confinement
- solo / individual turnout
- travel in the trailer
- competitions and/or intense training sessions

We're getting closer here. I'm more or less satisfied with Charlie's amount of turnout (would prefer more particularly in winter) and forage. And he's out in a big herd that he absolutely loves, but in a secure and confident way that doesn't leave him buddy sour.

this is charlie trying to look sad after i tubed him. tho ya know, try to ignore the giant grass stalks stuck up in his snackamore after what was an unabashedly indulgent gallop/graze through the woods lol
The travel tho? Yeeeaahhhhh that's kinda the biggie. I do everything in my power to try to always have two horses on board when I go places, bc I feel pretty strongly that being alone on the trailer is harder on Charlie than when he has a friend. But research shows that actually any amount of travel (esp if it involves crowded horse shows, even if the horse isn't actually competing at said show) can increase a horse's vulnerability to ulcers.

So.... Charlie travels, right? According to my budget workbook where I track lessons, clinics, shows, etc, we've averaged 2 trips/month this year. Realistically tho that number is higher in summer and lower in winter. Meaning we've been closer to 3x per month more recently. And actually, we had 3 trips in an 8 day period last week... So. Yea. The travel.

For this reason alone, knowing that any horse I manage - be it Charlie or Isabel - will travel frequently... My approach has been to just plan on treating for ulcers annually.

Obviously Charlie was fresh off the track when I bought him, so treatment was a priority and happened in the first ~2 months. A year later, he was coming off surgery and stall rest and it made sense for another dose. I'm about 90% sure I did a treatment last summer too after the whole Plantation fiasco, but I didn't tag it in any blog posts and can't find it in my paypal payments (thank god for modern vets LOL) so maybe I didn't.

Regardless, I'm pretty much all aboard the "treat first and ask questions later" train here.

apparently liquid fucking gold
Essentially, there are two different tracks you can take when it comes to ulcers: treatment and prevention / maintenance.

The most common treatment drug is omeprazole - an inhibitor. I'm pretty sure this is one of the only FDA approved treatments (tho sucralfate I believe is commonly used in instances where there are hind gut ulcers?? idk, see above "not an expert" comment LOL). As an inhibitor, this drug is not generally recommended for long term (daily) usage.

For prevention, there are loads more options. Generally, in this case we're talking about barriers or blockers, rather than inhibitors. Ranitidine (yes the same shit you can buy in bulk at Costco, your horse just eats like 15 at a time lol). Calcium. Magnesium oxide. Purina Outlast. Slippery elm bark. Aloe juice. Alfalfa. Tums haha.

The prevention stuff is good on a daily basis, especially in the period immediately following a treatment since the absolute last thing you want after inhibiting acid production for a month is to have a giant wave come splashing through when the drug suddenly vanishes from the horse's system (taper, yo!!!!).

There are a couple different varieties of omeprazole available on the market. For use in horses, the most common are the Gastrogard / Ulcergard tubes. They're also the most jesus-christ-this-shit-is-expensive option. Liquid fucking gold, apparently.

The Canadian company Abler has a really nice selection of omeprazole products too, including their unique "pop rocks." I ordered from them a few times for Isabel and was generally pretty happy with the service (they also threw in a few free packets of sucralfate).

MUCH more reasonably priced, dear god
I've also read of bloggers using Nexium, with the idea being: it's maybe easier/cheaper to get a hold of, and if the horse responds positively to it then that's a good indicator to invest more heavily in treatment.

I personally tend to do some combination of the above. One of my vets sells 30 day supply jars of generic omeprazole for $95. Compared to a 4 day tube of Ulcergard that sells for $37.... Well, that's a no fucking brainer haha.

Except.... I've been told by more than one vet that there's something about Ulcergard / Gastrogard's proprietary formula that seems more effective than the generic, including the Abler products. It's not really clear why.

So Charlie's plan involves a few days of the proprietary Ulcergard, half tube per day, at the same time we introduce the generic omeprazole to his 2x daily supplement cups. Then we'll downgrade the Ulcergard to a standard dose, while maintaining the full treatment dose of generic omeprazole powder for a couple days.

Then, when the Ulcergard is finished (I bought two total tubes that should last about 6ish days per my plan), Charlie will just be on 2x daily doses of the omeprazole powder. I measure out his supplement cups every 8 days so I have some options for fine-tuning the amount per day based on whether (or not) I see any changes in the horse. This will continue for about 30 days, at which point we'll taper off.

charlie's supplements are getting out of control these days. farriers formula per usual (forever and ever, amen), some electrolytes to finish out the year, and also a top line muscle supp, since multiple vets have said over the years that he's predominantly a muscular case vs joint case. right now we're doing this pro elite stuff, but i'm probably gonna switch back to purina's supersport once this is done. i felt like it made charlie run a little hotter, a definite advantage LOL
To be honest... I don't expect changes tho. Like. Charlie is just not an ulcery type TB. I've treated him multiple times before and it never made any iota of a difference. And generally speaking, he's the friggin King of the Dings -- stoic he is not.

But... We do it anyway. Maybe I'm just a little liberal with the drugs. Or a little risk averse. Or maybe this will be the time when Charlie says, "Actually, thanks - I needed that!" Whatever, right?

For some horses tho, this treatment is the actual literal manna from heaven, the silver bullet. It can be a life changing difference maker. In the off chance that Charlie shows big changes with treatment, I'd probably proceed to scoping his guts for actual confirmation of the existence of ulcers.

This is important for a few reasons, first bc it would tell us where the ulcers are located. For instance, hind gut ulcers require more involved treatment to actually fully heal than what I've described above - tho symptoms could be soothed at least in this plan.

Likewise, I believe if a horse is insured, diagnosis confirmation is required via scoping in order to get the cost of treatment reimbursed.

i've been using 1lb deli tubs for supplements as a way to assuage my first world environmental guilt. they're working out great and the barn staff are happy with them!!
Generally speaking, tho, the plan I've laid out for Charlie will tell me a few things. If he responds in a big way, I will know it's worth investing more to look more closely. If he doesn't really respond, I'll still feel like I've done my due diligence in ensuring he's thriving in the lifestyle I offer him.

In that same vein, it'll give me confidence in my training with him when things get tough. Which, let's be real, that's mostly what this is all about. Making sure that I've got all my i's dotted and t's crossed so that when push comes to shove, I'll do my goddamn job in the saddle haha. Riding is hard enough already, ain't none of us need to be preoccupied by wondering if our horses are actually uncomfortable or in pain.

So. That's the plan. I'll let you know how it goes LOL.

What do you think, tho? Have you wondered about your horse and ulcers? Or treated?

Charlie isn't particularly ulcery, tho Isabel was, but seemed easily managed. Maybe you have had similar experiences? Or maybe you have a horse that's way less easily managed? Or experiences that were completely different from what I described above? Anything you'd like to share with the community of horse people who are curious about how folks have approached this issue?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

when xc is way harder than expected....

Alternate title: "Turns out, Boyd doesn't stake down all the fences at Windurra.... Whoops!"

Ahem, cough cough. Anyway.

I wrote yesterday about feeling just overwhelmingly tired with life lately, and how that manifested in a somewhat insidious feeling of the "I don't wannas" when it came to all things high pressure with horses.

assembling the crew. that dog was charlie's spirit animal
But... Then, sorta out of nowhere, a barn mate told me she had impulsively signed up for a lesson with Sally at Windurra the following day, and did I want to tag along too? And much to my surprise, my knee jerk reaction was a totally refreshing "Heck yes, let's do it!"

Which like... If you've ever gone through a phase where you only want to say "No" to anything and everything, even the things that would normally top the list of exciting happenings.... Well. It's a very good feeling when something crops up that makes you definitely want to get out there again. And not just because you feel like you should do it, but bc you actually honest to god truly want to. Does that make sense?

as evidence of my own dysfunction during this ride, try to figure out which element was intended to be next in this line.... (hint, we were a little crooked lol)
So I didn't really think too deeply about it, or worry too much about our slightly sub-optimal preparation. Realistically, I figured it probably wouldn't be a mindblowingly phenomenal ride.

But I also more or less expected that the lesson format with Sally would provide a perfect recipe for getting my and Charlie's good juju flowing again.

got better coming back the other way down the little bank
Which... was accurate. And also basically exactly what the doctor ordered. Charlie and I were.... not on the same page. Even for our earliest warm up jumps, Charlie wasn't really taking me to the fences and had a bit of a non-committal feeling about things.

Unlike past rides at Windurra where we progressed relatively quickly through the warm up to full size training level fences, this time we just worked on repeating the first few lines trying to get a rhythm together.

a couple jumps charlie did very nicely
Sally observed that Charlie really needed me to be his rock, needed me to be really strong and stable in my position. I needed WAY more leg on, firmly. But also more firm contact. No wishy washy, no just sitting there expecting him to drag me to the fences.

Maybe some days that kind of ride works well enough with Charlie, but that was definitely not the ride we were having on this day, for whatever reason. Well. Ahem, not "whatever" reason -- it's the same old story I told yesterday.

And actually the same story as unfolded after Plantation last year: If I don't do my homework in schooling rides, if I don't stay consistently clear about the rules with Charlie -- that he must always be in front of the leg and going forward -- Charlie won't exactly police his own self on the matter. And then I can't just snap my fingers and expect Charlie to suddenly understand that "this ride is different" and that he has to listen now.

this line scared the ever loving shit out of me, even tho each individual jump is small
In a way, tho, I'm honestly kinda glad that this was the horse I had in the lesson. All summer long we've been working on getting a better canter to the fences, but that became even more important in this lesson where Charlie wasn't really participating as much as normal.

And Charlie is such an honest horse -- when I got my feeling right (way more leg and WAY more contact -- but forward contact -- than I expected) Charlie more or less responded in kind. Like he did through this crazy ass line haha.

bless him, tho, charlie is SUCH an honest horse
The wide angle lens of the helmet cam really does a disservice to any sort of terrain - everything is so much more flattened. But you can kinda sorta see Sally standing next to the mound in the gif above as evidence that.... the mound was TALL. And the skinny little jump on the back side was completely invisible until you were already jumping the pipe.

I've never ever ridden anything like that before, and honestly really biffed it the first time. Charlie would have been blameless for running out, but he jumped it - good boy! And then was even better the second time (above), even tho I thought we were tempting fate by trying it again.

these banks are our bitch now haha
So yea, I don't want to give the impression that Charlie was bad, per se, during this ride, because he wasn't lol. Obviously, he is the best boy, always and forever.

But.... He just wasn't particularly keen. Didn't have his normal zip or his typical gusto. Part of me thought that maybe it was bc we stuck with the small jumps that didn't inspire him to greatness... But then again, with the way he was jumping them (or, uh, clobbering them, as the case may be) it definitely did *not* seem prudent to size up, ya know??

this giant drop still scares me but charlie was aces
Plus, Charlie was getting kinda emotional. The kind of weird stuck feeling that he gets as a ride like this progresses, where he gets really fussy about the transition into canter, or only wants to pick up the incorrect lead but then is offended when you bring him back to ask again.

That's exactly the type of progressively escalating nonsense that I need to be quicker to end, vs sorta trying to tip toe around it. Bc.... Well. If you watch the helmet cam video you'll see why LOL.

nothing about this house into water should have caused an issue for us
Anyway, the ride was mostly a bit uneven. We had a few weird instances of Charlie just sorta failing to adjust and clobbering the fences. But we also had some really good moments - notably, the keyhole line above, the ditches, and actually every single bank we did, including that giant down bank that scares the pants off me.

All that to say... The meltdown at the water definitely took me by surprise.

and yet..... issues we had. charlie rolled the mother fucker completely over. excuse me, sir, wat?
In Charlie's defense, the little house into water was positioned on somewhat uneven ground and I think the last step caught Charlie a bit off guard. But.... Well. Charlie responded by literally climbing over the fence, rolling it over in the process (thus the alternate title about Boyd apparently not staking down his jumps.....).

This was obviously... very unexpected. I tried to talk through how I rode it, to see if I made a mistake, but Sally was legit incredulous, saying, "He shouldn't have done that. What the fuck."

Her point being, this is not a new exercise for Charlie. We've practiced it, actually in way harder configurations. He's got a good eye and knows how to adjust, but just.... didn't. Which like, I can't protect him from that. That's 100% his responsibility.

and then, naturally, he wanted nothing to do with it. much application of voice cues ensued.
Things..... Devolved from there. While Sally and a lesson mate fixed the jump, I got Charlie cantering through the water on its own. Then approached the house from the opposite direction - water to land. Which.... Arguably may have been harder, but Charlie cruised over easily.

Then went to approach again and Charlie went into full blown dinosaur-stuck-in-tar-pit mode like we haven't seen in ages. In that situation, the whip doesn't work. The spurs don't work. Basically the only solution is unleashing the full force of my lungs in a primal scream growl lol. Which, go figure, got Charlie unstuck pronto haha.

He still didn't want to go near the house tho, so we kept cantering and just went directly to the rolltop in the water instead. Again, a jump that is generally understood to be substantially harder (and, uh, objectively larger) than the house. And Charlie jumped it like aces.

the whole saga is recorded in the video below... but eventually we managed to put the line together. jusssst in time for boyd to pull up in his water truck, womp. 
At which point we came back to put the full line back together. It took substantially more scream growling -- and you'll note that Charlie wasn't even CLOSE to being straight upon reaching the house. But, good boy, he did in fact jump it. Then was an even better boy and covered the ground extremely nicely to jump the roll top too. Yessir. We will take it.

Holy shit tho, that was way harder than it needed to be. Christ almighty.

Oooh. Also, I didn't really notice that truck driving up until after I got over the last jump. But yea. Totes Boyd coming up to top off the water level I guess, or something. Just in time to witness me having to holler like a madwoman to get my horse over a BN house. Bc I am so gud at riding, guys. Sigh....

first jump in the water tho, and it was no issue!
So.... Yea haha. It was a little bit of a tough ride. But honestly I'm not sorry that it went the way it did. Charlie is an extremely good horse. He's generally very easy and uncomplicated, and beyond generous.

But ya know. He's a horse haha, not a machine. And the biggest uncertainty we have in pushing for bigger badder fences is whether I can pick up the slack when Charlie isn't operating at 110%. While that remains a big question mark, I feel like this lesson gave me a lot more tools and a much better feel for the type of ride I need to give.

Sally, for her part, was a little concerned since she'd never seen this side of Charlie. She's only ever really seen him on his A-Game, actually, and felt like I should do a little digging on the physical side of things to make sure he's ok.

Her recommendation was a Lyme test, which is basically always in the Top 3 boxes to check whenever a horse in this region seems a bit off kilter. I personally didn't feel that a positive result was likely, but since I pay the woman for her opinion I went ahead and did the test anyway. It was negative, as expected.

I'm also treating for ulcers. Again, I am not convinced that Charlie is actually in distress here, but it's a good box to check off. And if we see any major obvious changes during the course of treatment, that'll indicate whether we should scope too just to be sure.

To me, Charlie's behavior in this ride wasn't really beyond the pale in terms of what we've seen of his development over the last few years. But then again I've never regretted taking a few extra precautions. So we'll see.

In the meantime, it felt really valuable to be reminded of that post I wrote last year after a similar feeling from the horse at Plantation. It's funny how that works, tho, right? Like we're always going into these lessons hoping for some amazing magical experience. But actually, sometimes it's the rougher rides that give us more tools in moving forward lol. Have you ever felt that way too?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

repeating the cycle

So I'm coming to the conclusion that late summer is.... not really my peak season lol. A lot of people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder - a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. Typically, you hear about this in winter, when it's dark early and we feel deprived of vitamin D.

I'm not trying to say that I have Summer SAD tho, but maybe it's some variation characterized more by major burnout? Like the opposite of a lack of vitamin D -- instead it's these long days that we're always trying to pack to the brim, to fit everything in, make everything count. Couple that with unrelenting heat, and suddenly we're all just damn tired.

i tried parking charlie at a wheelbarrow with loose bits of hay for a pre-ride snack, but he kept wandering away. also, ew check out that nasty skin funk on his shoulder... so glad that's gone now!
It's almost a relief, then, to finally see signs of the seasonal change. Days getting shorter (omg tho, it's already dusk by quarter after 7pm...) and expectations cooling off literally and figuratively. Do you know what I mean? I feel like everyone I talk to lately has felt tired in a similar way this year haha.

putting him on cross ties kept him in place tho ;)
And naturally, this sort of cyclical systemic feeling of tired shows up in my riding too. All year long I've been pushing for more, trying to work harder, driving myself to be better. And objectively speaking, I'm really happy with the results of all that.

For instance, it felt really good to get a little bit of redemption after Full Moon by getting out to the jumper show for some 3'3 rounds. Those rounds weren't perfect, but we did them. And then obviously that awesome xc lesson with Sally at our home course, wherein we jumped a whole bunch of new-to-us training combinations. That was pretty sweet, right?

gotta tank up before the ride, right??? 
We also had another dressage lesson at Hilltop Farm right after that, where we focused on show prep since I was entered in the MCTA Jenny Camp starter trial, an annual tradition. I entered the Novice division, which somewhat confused both Sally and Trainer P. But... ya know... see the above references to just being tired. All I wanted was a good time, to feel happy and excited about the rides.

Idk tho. Once show day actually rolled around, I still didn't really feel all that excited about it. We got through our dressage test in a perfectly reasonably acceptable manner for Charlie (ie: middle of the pack mediocre), but even just walking out of the ring back down to the barn I had this overwhelming feeling of not wanting to do it.

he's not spoiled, you're spoiled !
So.... I didn't. I withdrew after dressage, and spent the rest of the day hangin out with other buddies who were showing. And didn't regret it for a second.

That whole next week I basically just took it easy. Relaxing hacks, low key low pressure flat rides. Just focusing on enjoying the ride, ya know? And our next jumping lesson was more of the same. Low key, nbd. Nothing crazy, just having a good time.

aw he's my favorite dressage brontosaurus tho
 And it all was a good time, focusing on adjustability between different exercises: here a line on an open stride, there a compressed distance. Back and forth, seeing how quickly you could adjust.

But the issue with Charlie is and always has been: when I'm not disciplined enough in my schooling, he gets rusty quickly. Charlie doesn't distinguish between my "relaxing, low key, no pressure" fun rides and the rides where we have to be serious about getting the job done. To him, they're all just rides, except I keep changing the rules from ride to ride.

he's so handsome it almost distracts from my questionable eq lol. but hey, you'd stare at that neck too!!
So if in one ride, I'm not enforcing the rules about being straight and in front of the leg, I shouldn't be surprised when in the next ride, the horse is not straight or in front of the leg. Right? So poor Charlie, I tried to ride him from an open stride over a triple bar in the short end of the arena, then make a tight turn to a grid of skinny fences set at one-stride distances.

But like, we've established that I can't really turn this horse, so here we are reaching the first element of this combination, while Charlie's outside shoulder is still basically in an entirely different zip code. Had it just been the single fence, we would have been fine. But it was a grid, so by the time he got to that second fence he was in a completely unjumpable position and came to a crashing stop, lawn darting me in the process. Sigh.

wheeee charlie go fly!
It really bugs me when the horse ends up paying the price for my mistake, ya know? So like, here I am feeling super burnt out and like I "just want to have fun!" But meanwhile my horse gets super confused, like, "Uh excuse me tho, I need a little support here!"

And so we end up having these major mistakes that don't really do anything to snap me out of my funk, but maybe actually reinforce the idea that probably I suck as a rider and should stop trying or whatever. Bc the mind can be a cruel place, right? We've all been there. Luckily tho those feelings never last.

easy peasy over the warm up fences
Because the answer is always the same - I just gotta keep trying. Charlie is such a good boy, he tries so hard. And he's so extremely capable. If I can just do my job and be consistent for him, consistent rules, consistent expectations, he will always rise to the occasion.

lol wat r straightness tho. also, a few weeks after this ride, this same jump turned into the first element of a triple combination. and my same lack of straightness turned into my second ever fall off charlie, womp....
So ya know. Burnout or no, we keep going. We've had a ton of lessons since that, including a couple more with Trainer P, another xc lesson with Sally at Windurra, and another dressage lesson at Hilltop. And - miracle of miracles!! - there's media from a lot of it!! Yessss haha.

Bc y'all know how much I love media, esp videos. There's just always so much to learn from them. Like the pictures in this post are from early August haha, nearly six weeks ago. But it's a great demonstration of the exact issues that are plaguing us right now.

You see - Charlie is, as I already mentioned, extremely capable. Homeboy can jump a fence. It's easy for him, and there really isn't a whole lot that impresses him. And now, three years into his retraining as a jumping horse, he's experienced virtually every mistake in the book and is generally educated enough on jumping in imperfect conditions.

aw guys he's such a good boy
All of this has led to some bad habits tho. If you read back through the archives, even from the earliest days I've talked about Charlie being hard to steer, and hard to turn. It's never really mattered too much tho bc jumps below 3' are easy enough for Charlie that there's never been much of a penalty for being crooked.

And honestly, even with bigger fences, being crooked just costs a rail most of the time. Except, ya know, when it doesn't haha. And then Charlie ends up in those unjumpable positions and we find ourselves in deeper trouble.

#keepinghim <3
Especially when the fences were smaller, I compensated a bit for the crookedness by taking away pace. But that leads to its own issues too - and possibly the biggest takeaway I've gotten from a few lessons with Sally is that we need more canter to the fences. I need to not shut the horse down as much, and instead really push him up and forward into the bridle.

So our new current holy grail is figuring out how to do that - how to keep the canter coming to the fence, through turns and corners and whatever, without losing our straightness in the process. Apparently, it's kinda hard haha. Who knew?!?

sweet pony
We'll see, tho. I've got a bit of a backlog of posts to write, but they all sort of revolve around this same topic. Just addressing it in different ways - including on the xc course and in the dressage court. Oooh ooh. And there's media, too. Yesssss. So ya know. Stay tuned for that.

And meanwhile, I'm also just trying to kick my butt into gear again and fix my attitude. I'm tired of being tired, ya know? Maybe galloping through the finish line on my amazing horse is actually exactly what I need haha. Esp now that we're finally getting some downright perfect weather :D

Is anyone else also feeling kinda glad / relieved to be saying goodbye to summer?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


If you thought I was holding out on you with these pictures... Well, you were only partially right. For whatever reason, the urge to sit down to type out some manner of content to share with y'all has been eluding me a bit lately. Maybe it's hiding behind some shrubbery or another?

It's not that I haven't wanted to -- bc I have -- but there's been this sorta weird barrier lately between my wanting to do something (literally, anything), and actually doing it. It's just one of those things, I guess, and I've kinda taken a "meh" approach to it, figuring it'd pass eventually.

yes we are adult women in our 30s, why do you ask??
(also, no that's a *unicorn horn* ahem haha)
In this instance, tho, it actually worked out for the best bc it turns out I was able to get a few more fun pictures as recently as yesterday!! Woot woot, unexpected windfalls!

charlie's face says it all: "superhero ottb, at your service!!"
Anyway, when last we heard of our intrepid bay hero, he was planning his outfit for our annual hunter pace tradition at Tranquility Manor Farms. The theme?? Superheroes fuck yes. 

special DIY bonnet just for the occasion <3
We had six riders in our group this year, and basically everyone went all in haha. Well, at least eventually. There was perhaps a smidgen of peer pressure involved in some quarters... But hey, the end picture justifies the means, right??

my tailgate may or may not have morphed into a pop up crafts store LOL
Basically everyone was clad in at least some small shred (uh, literally) of metallic spandex or vinyl. Plus capes, obvi.

And I crafted up a bunch of star-studded faux belts (just scraps of felt, more or less) to safety pin to the front of everyone's outfit, plus some stretchy gold wrist cuffs, to help tie the whole look together.

we #gohard
All in all, we figure the measure of our success can be described by the sheer volume of random strangers snapping pictures. Some were kinda apologetic, like, "I hope you don't mind I'm taking your picture!" But like.... Obvi if we dress up like Halloween came early, we're down with the photos lol.

And, all told, we only heard one or two snarky comments of "That's tacky!" by some poor souls or another who clearly deserve our sympathy and pity for their complete and utter lack of Fun.

we needed Austen there with her good camera to help take better pics lol, womp
The ride itself was basically awesome. In years past I've treated it as a sorta substitute for xc schooling, but not so much this year (tho we did jump a fair amount). The ground was really hard and slick, and I hadn't studded Charlie up for the ride. Considering his shoes were hanging on by a thread, I didn't feel like any extra torque on the nails was worth the risk of stepping on a clip lol.

these'll do, tho. and yes, katie is carrying a sword and it is epic lol
But after one notably harrowing slip in warm up at the starting gate, we all kinda conceded that it was probably a day for taking it easy rather than going for broke. Which suited some of our teammates to a T, actually, since we did have a few green horses and riders.

capes errywhere!!
It ended up being perfect, tho. It's not a very long course - roughly 2.5 miles weaving through the fields, pasture lines, and woods. But there are little logs and jumps literally everywhere, plus ample room to gallivant around.

thunderbolt ears were a massive success
Charlie still doesn't really understand this type of ride, bc it's sorta a hybrid between an actual dedicated schooling ride (either we stand/walk or we canter and jump!) and a trail ride. So there were a few times when he was a bit confused and particularly annoyed at being held back even as other horses passed him.

Particularly, some of the greener horses needed to be in the middle of the pack but Charlie sorta loathed bringing up the rear, womp. Too bad, big buy -- this is what being the adult horse is all about!

and the capes too, obvi :D
He was great tho, and naturally we managed to sneak in a few excellent gallop stretches too -- obviously just the ticket for taking the edge off haha! And Charlie was SUPER about the jumps we did actually do. Nothing crazy, and nothing we haven't really done before, but all just so so fun ;)

And actually everyone else had a really good time too!

For the riders with very green horses, it served as the perfect opportunity to get a little more comfortable at speed work in open fields, just slowly building that trust up but in a safe environment. And for other teammates, it was the perfect opportunity to get out there and enjoy the ride on their long term tried 'n true partners.

oooooh but there was a local photog on hand to catch a few moments!!
pc Emily Ballenger
No one fell off, nobody had a bad ride, every horse finished feeling happy, and there were no shenanigans at the trailers afterward other than some good ol' fashioned ice cold beers and fried chicken lol.

charlie is so extra sometimes <3
pc Emily Ballenger
What more could anybody ask for?? Plus, hey - at least I already got this year's halloween costume covered LOL!