Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MDHT Spring Starter #1: Intro Combined Test

Ok folks - let's get on with recapping Charlie's official eventing debut! I've got absolute mountains of media, but made the executive decision to pull everything into a single mega post. Bc let's be real. It's a walk-trot dressage test and itsy bitsy stadium jumps. That's not an awful lot of content to spread over two days haha.

But PICTURES!!!!! SQUEEEEE!!!

all my gratitude goes to Liz, who captured this shot of pure, unadulterated 12yo girlhood joy after we finished stadium 
Seriously, thank you so much, Liz for taking so many excellent photographs, and for taking video of our stadium round! And thanks Austen for shooting our dressage test too! The difference in quality from my standard fare is quite apparent in this post haha (watermarked photos = quality; non watermarked = crappy video stills haha), so hopefully you readers will get to enjoy the added quality in resolution too lol.

<3 this horse. also the homemade stock tie held it's own!! 
Anyway tho. Let's talk details. Like I wrote yesterday, we arrived on the show grounds with just enough time to immediately start tacking and hustle over to warm up. Alas this meant Charlie's mane went unbrushed (Brita went after his body, hooves, legs and tail while I dressed, and I didn't notice the mane until I saw the photographs, sadface) but otherwise I felt like he pulled together for a very nice picture.

(except I'm honestly quite ashamed of how thin he is and wish I could run up to anybody who noticed and grab them by the shoulders, saying "I Promise We're Working On It!"... but oh well. it is what it is for now.)

yup. dis how we trot. i'm cool with it.
My plan for warm up was basically to walk forever. And this got an immediate boost from the steward who let me know things were running about 10min behind schedule. Yas.

Charlie had been fine getting off the trailer (tho I hand walked a couple laps anyway). Fine to tie and tack up. Fine to mount up over by the office. And fine to navigate the bustling path between the two giant arenas filled with five dressage courts and seas of horses. So naturally he was also fine in the warm up ring traffic. Good boy.

not bothered at all by traffic in warm up
A couple other horses in the ring were acting up a bit (spring sillies, no doubt) and Charlie was a little distracted with looking every which way. But as the minutes wore on, I slowly picked up my reins and started explaining to him that looking outside the arena would be increasingly discouraged. He complied. Gooood boy.

So we walked and walked. Then eventually trotted. Then transitions between walk and trot. Then canter, then trot, then canter. Then walk. Then halt. Then trot. Then halt. Etc etc etc. You know the deal. And the horse was fine. So fine that I volunteered to go early. We were ready.

dis how we trot inside the ring too. points for consistency?
I didn't push him quite as forward as I do in lessons with dressage trainer C bc the judge at our last dressage show called me out for speeding. So instead I worked on pushing him out with my inside leg and trying to create engagement that way. And I think this approach produced a nicer trot for the purposes of a show, and we'll save the rest for schooling.

he's got the 'stretch' part of the freewalk down pat. now to add swing and overstep. 
Honestly I think the judge really liked what she saw. The scores are quite generous in places but the whole test flowed so smoothly. No shining moments of brilliance, but also no movements that stuck out like a sore thumb. 

And therefore our movements were all scored 6s and 7s, except for the aces up our sleeve: the centerline turns and halts we had just practiced with trainer C last week. The first got an 8 and the second got a 9. Yassssss. Thank you C!!

pictured: riding the snot out of that centerline turn on a giant horse who struggles turning right.
boom. fucking NINE.
Our collective scores were more of a mixed bag. Again, I think this judge liked the test itself - but she also identified two major areas of weakness and dinged us hard for them in the collectives, tho not at all unfairly. We scored 5s on submission (the x2 coefficient at this level, ouch) and accuracy. She noted: Charlie "objects to rider picking up contact" and my circles were too small (again, ugh).

"very straight, lovely halt"
I think the accuracy thing is actually a symptom of the contact issue. Charlie does not accept the bit yet, nor yield or give to that pressure. And bc he doesn't give to the bit, I struggle with pushing him fully into the outside rein to bend around my inside leg - so we fall inward if I try for anything that approximates inside bend. Thus the too-small circles and too-shallow turns.

It's happening tho. I was actually thrilled with this test bc while he doesn't give to the bit, he was neither leaning heavily or fully braced against my hand (relatively speaking). He had a consistent softness to the bit that may be an intermediary step between the 'lean against' and the 'give to.'

video here, complete with notated movements, scores and comments

We left the arena feeling like I couldn't possibly have asked for any better of Charlie at this point in his training. He just... ya know.... did the thing. Even nitpicking my own riding, I can identify some weak spots but generally feel like I also did the thing, did what I set out to do.

Oh. And Charlie scored an 8 on his gaits. An EIGHT. Considering he's a fairly high-mileage horse who had varying degrees of lamenesses in various legs when I bought him, that feels GOOD.

The test put us in 3rd after dressage with a score of 34.4%, just 2 percentage points and change between us and first place. I didn't see the score until after jumping but was just thrilled. While it means Charlie lost his "undefeated" status (lol) - it's still our best yet score for this test, which we've now ridden five times.

warming up on uneven ground as if he hadn't struggled with going down hills just three months ago
And the judge's feedback is helpful. The submission thing really is our next big issue, I think (if we were full time students of Stephen Birchall, it would have been issue #1, instead of coming second after trainer C's focus on forward and hind end activity). Bc it crops up in our jumping too - especially in steering haha.

Anyway tho, no rest for the weary. We had an hour and a half before stadium that went by in a flash - then it was off to warm up over fences! The warm up area for intro & elem (which have their own jump and xc courses separate from the rest of the divisions so that they can run simultaneously) was actually located in a roped off area of the xc course instead of in a ring.

careful pony left me in the dust in warm up. i can live with it!
This felt.... challenging to me haha, seeing as Charlie has very limited experience actually working on terrain (vs hacking around, which even then we've only done a little bit). And we've never jumped on uneven ground before. No time like the present, I guess!

"look ma, i can canter on a hillside!!" - best pony ever
Charlie warmed up like a star tho. Found a reasonable balance trotting and cantering up and down the hillside, tho it took a couple tries to get the correct lead (in both directions, embarrassing lol). And he wasn't at all distracted by horses outside our area after taking a couple looksies during our first laps spent walking.

aaaand a little more unity between horse and rider haha, but still givin that jump plenty of space!
And the jumping? Honestly? Perfect. Trainer P wasn't on hand to coach (her ride times were much later in the day), but she had advised me to keep it short but purposeful. Probably a little more than what I did for Isabel, but not much.

tidy tidy! all i gotta do is basically hang on and stay with him lol
So we trotted each jump once (often coming back to walk after, to help Charlie continue landing quietly). Trotted the oxer a second time bc we knocked it down once - just an honest mistake. Charlie was kinda launching up over the fences, I think bc it felt so unfamiliar jumping on grass. But he was super honest and SUPER game. We chilled for a bit longer, then cantered the vertical before following another rider over to the arena.

jump 1 and it is ON
also that's only one of three massive trailer parking areas. twas a big show!
Charlie got to watch one rider go (during which I learned my course and made a plan for striding in the one related distance) then it was our turn!

the quintessential Loch Moy picture, with Sugarloaf Mountain and a writhing sea of dressage riders as a backdrop
It's a bit unfair publishing this post before writing about our jump lesson the day before the show (coming soon!) bc my strategy was totally informed by how he had jumped in the lesson. But I can fill you in: we practiced our first ever jump course in the lesson and Charlie did great, but showed that he can get strong if I goose him.

we match the jump!
So I planned to trot most of the fences to help him understand that we can stay steady through 8 fences. And he was fine. Totally fine.

basically just an exaggerated canter stride over the maryland jump
Walked into the ring, walked down the fence line shared with dressage warm up, let Charlie see everything while we waited for the bell. Then picked up the trot for a short approach to jump 1.

"lemme at it!!" - gung ho pony!
Came back to trot for fence 2 too, then cantered on to 3. Landed on the wrong lead so came back to trot into the only line on course, cantering out in an easy seven strides. Landed on the wrong lead again and Charlie felt maybe a touch strong (tho he doesn't look it at all in the video) so I opted to trot the next fence too.

"wheeeeeee!! turning right is hard but who cares!!!!" - every ottb ever lol
Then cantered right on around to the last two - kinda hilariously failing a little bit at steering (turning right is hard, yo!). But it's funny to watch bc even as Charlie's body was drifting left he's still totally locked on to the fences. Like, there was never any question or naughtiness to the wiggles - it's literally just how his body goes even when his mind was fully focused on the fences haha.

#soproud through the finish flags
also you can tell the right turn was hard bc this might be the first picture since before breaking my leg where i'm actually sitting more left than right... crazy
The jumps themselves tho..... ahhhh so fun! This course felt like a million bucks. Every single fence felt perfect! And who doesn't love finishing on their dressage score??

Watching the video was actually a little bit of a disappointment bc it doesn't look as good as it felt.... But they're all <2' fences, with a 17h awkward greenbean bombing around like a boss without even having to try. And a rider who is basically just clinging on, trying to keep the horse pointed in more or less the right direction. It's obviously not gonna look like the grand prix haha.


I still love it tho! Especially compared to Charlie's earliest jumping efforts, it's clear how far he's come in his footwork, awareness, form, and general understanding of what this whole 'jumping' game is all about. And I think he likes it!!!!

have i mentioned lately that i <3 this horse?
He certainly likes it well enough to be forgiving of my rusty position and nerve-induced tight style of riding. Which is great bc it's probably going to take me a little while and lots of practice to loosen up and get my jumping strength back again.

brita & bella absolutely dominated the jumping phases too, and damn liz can take a nice picture!
And in the meantime I'm just having SO MUCH FUN jumping this horse (scroll back up to photograph #1 to see my exact face after finishing this course). After walking the xc course, I feel like we probably could have done a little better than just survive had I entered the full three-phase this time around, but I have no regrets sticking to the CT instead.

pictured: the visual representation of why we event. brita's and bella's expressions say it all
Emotionally, I really REALLY needed this outing and this experience. I needed to go through the motions again at a level that felt relatively easy to me and the horse (even if I still got super nervous about it all haha). Needed to feel like I knew exactly what to expect.

also pictured: someone whose inner 12yo has been let loose to play ponies with basically the best behemoth ever
Because every time Charlie blows my expectations out of the water, my confidence grows a little more. It becomes a little easier to imagine what this horse might be like when he's more trained. And I get a little more excited, and a little less guarded, about the future.

Charlie is officially assuming the mantle of being my new eventing partner! Now to actually get him properly introduced to cross country :D

84 comments:

  1. That was a perfect read for my morning coffee. My inner 12 year old was squealing along with you.

    I love watching him go around the stadium round I swear he was saying to the horses in the warm up "LOOK AT ME GUYS I'M JUMPING!'
    :D :D

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    1. ha i think you're right!! he's very aware and communicative with the horses around him (in quiet subtle ways) and apparently in his race training always needed to have a buddy to follow. and now it really feels like he's ready to be like 'look guys i'm doin it all on my own!'

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  2. Have I mentioned enough how happy I am for you? Because I'm so happy for you. Emma and Mt. Charlie, the kindest behemoth horse there ever was. He clearly loves his job with you. Teresa captured it perfectly above with the, "LOOK AT ME GUYS, I"M JUMPING." quote. Yes. So much.

    Congratulations again <3

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    1. lol Mt Charlie - i love it! thanks so much for the pictures, Liz - they are so perfect and just make me so happy. it feels like a really promising start for the big guy!

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  3. You guys are going to have such a blast this season! Already on the way to eventing greatness!!

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  4. Oh my gosh yay! So many feels. This entire post made me grin ear to ear. Because THIS is what it's about.

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    1. what can we say but that we love having fun playing with ponies around here!

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  5. I love this recap! But not as much as I love Charlie's ears in every single jumping photo! He's having SO much fun (as are you) and you can tell. In the two warm-up fences in particular - there is something about him and his style that reminds me of Duke <3 I can't wait to see this boy on XC. I think he's going to find his new favorite thing.

    Also, I love your jump pad and Brita's! What are you gals using?

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    1. believe it or not - i actually immediately thought of Duke watching these videos and looking at these pictures too!! and if charlie ends up being half the horse Duke is, i will be a VERY HAPPY CAMPER lol.

      i love that saddle pad shape too - mine is a le mieux pad. i'm not 100% positive but am pretty sure brita's is a PRI quilted eventing pad. i actually searched high and low for a pad like this but really struggled to find one that didn't have a built-in half pad (which the PRI does, but it's thin and would likely compress if fit is an issue). the le mieux is really nice, tho it was surprisingly difficult to order it haha. i love it now that i have it tho!

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    2. Thanks! I'm looking for some new jump pads for myself and a few others this year. Both of yours caught my eye :)

      And Charlie is well on his way! :)

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    3. thanks! i bought the le mieux here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/361860157701?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

      and the PRi pad is available a lot of places, but i most often see it at VTO saddlery. the nice thing about the PRI is that there are WAY more colors: http://www.vtosaddlery.com/product/PQESP.htm

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  6. Gus and I have never gotten a 9! Great job! He looks alert and happy and that's perfect for his first show.

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    1. thanks - i honestly couldn't have asked for any better of him! the 9 was definitely a little generous, but my dressage trainer is really REALLY good at teaching centerlines and halts, and makes a point of teaching us to make those movements COUNT. actually, isabel and i got a 9 on the same movement (but in a different test) after coaching from C too. it's definitely worth the practice!

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  7. Awwww, congratulations! I love everything about this!

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  8. I'm so glad you had an amazing first outing back!!!!!!! You guys are the cutest <3

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    1. d'awww, we're basically unapologetically like children around here.

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  9. EEEEEE this is so, so, fantastically wonderful!!! I am just thrilled for you guys!! I'm so so excited that he seems to love the show horse life, and is a champ at this whole jumping thing. Your face says it all! YAY!!!! :D :D :D

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    1. i was just so so so happy with him! such a good feeling! i think he'll like this whole horse show job too, and can't wait til we can all get together at a show soon - maybe fair hill?

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  10. Love everything about this. You are becoming my new horse hero :) Love Charlie, love the venue and love how much fun you both had.

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    1. thanks haha - charlie is seriously making it so easy to just enjoy the ride. and this venue is the actual best. i think it's my favorite. we try to get up there a couple times a year and i'm actually gonna try my best to make it to every one this year!

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  11. omg what great pictures. he looks sooo happy and hes jumping fantastically!!! im so jealous of how cool he was through all of it. i'm so so so proud and happy for you guys. go charlie and emma!!! <3333

    (also he doesnt look that bad skinnywise. soon spring grass will be in - hang in there!!!)

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    1. thanks, i keep trying to tell myself that the skinny is more obvious to me bc i'm so sensitive about it.... but i also keep looking at all these lovely hi-res photos from liz, comparing the lovely hi-res comparison of rider and horse asses lol and wishing there was some sort of transfer or transplantation process LOL. poor charlie. i can't wait for the spring grass too. hopefully he'll be smooth and sleek and filled in soon!

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    2. I really really hope it happens for him soon. I identify so hard... I was really paranoid and kept upping and upping runkles grain all last winter and then when spring hit he got ... so fucking fat. Like cellulite on his shoulders fat. I wished I had been more patient!! I feel you, so hard.

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    3. yea i mean, logically i know it's just part of the process. and some of how he looks right now really truly is bc of his build and conformation. we'll see. there's plenty of time to keep adjusting as needed (and i'll actually be adding an oil to his diet this week) without hopefully going overboard.

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  12. Wow, Charlie is a unicorn! <3 Such a great debut and I can't wait to see you guys do xc.

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    1. oh man i'm FINALLY getting excited about xc haha. for a while i've been a bit apprehensive, esp when he was tripping all over himself and face planting all the time. but he really rose to the occasion, esp warming up out on the grass. i'm starting to hope that he'll really take well to it!

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  13. I love that top picture. It is everything

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    1. haha thanks me too - that's the absolute exact visual representation of how i basically feel all the time about my giant new pony :D

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  14. So happy for you guys! He sounds like exactly what you need right now. <3 #allthefeels

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    1. thanks - he's EXACTLY what i need right now in a horse. thank god haha

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  15. That first picture is everything!!! Liz takes phenomenal photos. I'm so excited for you and Chuckles, what a great start into this whole eventing madness.

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    1. oh we're descending into the madness alright, no doubt about that. and i'm so freakin excited about it lol :D

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  16. Aw you guys! The FEELS!!!! I'm so happy for you and Charlie. His jumping efforts in warm up are awesome! He's got a lovely jump in there!

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    1. thanks! i am quite pleased with the glimpses i get of his form when he actually deigns to put forth an effort!

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  17. Sooo... I feel bad admitting this but I kinda just looked at the pictures BECAUSE SO MANY FEELS. So happy for you guys :D :D GO CHARLIE!

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    1. HA - don't feel bad, that's exactly why all the pictures are here in the first place! it's a w-t dressage test and tiny fences, it's easy enough to fill in the blanks there. the pics tho <3 <3 <3

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  18. I LOVE his form in some of those watermarked photos! He looks like such a seasoned pro. Tons of trailers, horses, action? No big deal for Charlie! Yay for such a fun outing for you both!

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    1. definitely nbd for him at all! i was thoroughly impressed with him <3

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  19. That was too easy. BN next time? ;)

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    1. ha, seriously! probably not next time, but sooner than i expect...

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  20. That was freaking adorable. I loved how he was like, hey back end, come on! We are going over the jump. It was so obvious that it was just hard for him and not a single bit of naughtiness. Looking forward to your next triumphs.

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    1. lol that's EXACTLY what it felt like! his body just.... goes left. basically always. it's a constant struggle haha, but his brain stays straight and that's what counts!!

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  21. I feel your joy!! in every word (Tho seriously i am still freezing seeing you in short sleeves) HA...and the photos! LOVE!

    I love love love Charlie's expression over fences. WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE me jump big. me jump strong me perfect pony! YAY

    Great job!! AND YES bigger jumps may be needed (was that elem)? It blows my mind how teeny the jumps are in elem and then when you move up they look huge (TO ME LOL) VERY PROUD of you all!

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    1. ha yea these jumps were tiny. definitely not even 18", i don't think (the level was 18"-2'). honestly i think that oxer in warm up was bigger than anything on the actual course, and not just bc there weren't even any oxers on course.

      the next level up is 2'3, which is still basically just a speed bump for charles. but i like slow steady and gradual progression so we'll probably just bump up the height at a snail's pace lol

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    2. ha i am still going 2.3 2 years later cause 2.7 is too big for me :) SO join us in the shallow end for a bit :) I am really excited how nice he was about it all. Lucky you :)

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    3. oh man, 2'3 was my happy place with isabel for a LONG time. the jump up to bn honestly always felt kinda daunting haha. my best guess is that charlie's gonna be begging for bigger jumps WELL BEFORE i'm emotionally or mentally prepared lol

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  22. So much to love about this post, congrats to you both.

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  23. Yay I am glad that you have had a successful horse trial and you and Charlie begin to blossom more and more together <3

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    1. thanks! i hope you're right and am seriously looking forward to seeing how this partnership continues to grow and develop!

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  24. Ecstatic to hear the outing went so well and sounds like you came away with lots of good food for thought to work on for the future. Charlie is seriously one in a million (:

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    1. ahh i just freakin love this horse :D

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  25. Your attitude is just awesome <3 This post is definitely one of my favorites - we do this because we love to do it. I am so glad Charlie is showing you that again. I LOVE the big smile after your jumping phase. Well done to you both.

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    1. thank you! it was just a really REALLY good day for basically everyone involved. it always helps when everyone else is having good rides too, and then we can all be happy and excited together lol. it's gonna be a good season!

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  26. Awesome awesome job! Looks like SO much fun! So proud of Charlie and for being such a gentleman. You guys have a great future together!!

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    1. thanks - i really am so proud of this horse. it's easy for me to let my nerves get the best of me, or to overthink things or get stuck inside my own head.... but charlie has been so steady and easy so far despite my crazy!

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  27. So dang cute! That Charlie, such a good egg. Great job, you guys!!

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  28. Congratulations!! He looks so happy & relaxed in all those pics, it's super!

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    1. thanks - he's just so quiet. it's definitely an asset!

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  29. I LOVE that first pic, it says it all :)

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  30. Everything is awesome!! So happy you and Charlie had a blast. Congrats on the nine!!!

    I don't know how you feel about training aids, but one thing that really helped me with my OTTB and our contact issues was a European Training System, on very loose, when lunging. He struggled going left (the track he worked on when racing was a right-working track) and it helped with that too. It lets them figure things out themselves and there's instant reward as soon as they soften. Very simple and straightforward, which is great!

    Of course, not everyone likes them or finds them useful so definitely just a suggestion :D

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    1. thanks - we definitely had a blast!

      re: the training aids, i'm definitely not strongly anti anything when it comes to horses. we haven't explored much in the way of that with charlie yet tho bc my trainer has identified his longitudinal balance as a higher priority than developing his contact. meaning - his tendency to get heavy and downhill up front, lean into the bit and be too long in his body. so we want to avoid anything that could even possibly potentially amplify that habit while we help him develop a more active hind end. and since i personally lack extensive experience with a lot of various training tools and their potential pros / cons, i'm relying on my trainer's advice in this area.

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  31. First off, congrats on a great experience for both of you!! I'm so happy it was so positive and you are getting your groove back and Charlie is getting into his.
    Secondly, I LOVE that color blue jacket you have on. It's perfect on Charlie and looks GREAT with the stock tie you made. Kudos on the crafts, btw.

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  32. Yay on your successful outing! You guys look great! I'm not sure why it struck me now rather than a few months ago, but watching your dressage video - I'm thinking "dammmmmmn he's tall". :)

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  33. All the congrats. This show looks like a lot of fun. I like the warm up area on grass, it's sort of like xc practice. Charlie looks like a happy jumper pony.

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  34. Awwwh, I love this!! Congratulations!

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  35. Love the first pictures and WAHOO FOR YOU TWO! Great job on all of it - you guys look like pros already!

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  36. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!! Look at you guys go!! I love all of this.

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  37. !!!!!!!!!! You guys are such a great pair!!!!!

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  38. I see you in your photos jumping around like it's NBD and I can't imagine you're not confident! Totally cool. Really glad it was such a great event for you and Charlie.

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  39. Yay!!! Charlie is officially the coolest.

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  40. Congrats on the great outing! He's so cute, and looks so confident going around those jumps!

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  41. Congrats on the show, look at him go! How awesome! He looks so dapper and handsome, like a grown up horse!

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  42. Super late on this, but congrats on a stellar outing!!

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