Wednesday, April 5, 2017

99 problems but a ditch ain't one

My riding buddies and I had massive plans this past weekend to go to an awesome local hunter pace - something we'd been looking forward to as a team for a while now. The track was posted online ahead of time and looked PERFECT. We were so pumped.

Except unfortunately the weather did not cooperate... Apparently the pace would go through some newly developed fields and that just wasn't going to be workable with lots of horses after a couple inches of rain. Booooo!

a little mud won't stop us tho!
We would not be deterred tho! The whole group (8 riders!) decided to make lemonade out of the cancellation and head over to nearby Tranquility for our own version of a hunter pace / xc school. Officially Charlie's first true xc outing!

Except honestly I kept it relatively light for him anyway. This was the day after his killer jump lesson at OF (written about yesterday) and while I was very happy with how he was jumping, I was also still very much inclined to focus on quiet and low key experiences (esp since we were sans trainer).

left: boots immediately before schooling.
right: boots immediately after schooling. splish splash!

In my mind, there are basically three main components to schooling cross country:

  1. Riding at speed out in the open on variable terrain and amid other horses, all of which may potentially be working independently
  2. Jumping solid jumps on said variable terrain
  3. Navigating the holy trinity of cross country: Ditches Banks & Water
I'm honestly not super duper concerned with how Charlie's going to handle #2 on that list.... But for my own personal reasons I'd very much like our first true schooling session over solid fences to be with Trainer P. 

So for this ride, that left items #1 and #3 as my primary focal points. Or, let's be real, they were my objectives after just plain old having a great time riding with so many friends that I haven't gotten to see or ride with since our last big paper chase. In fact - for most of the group this was their first time meeting Charlie too!

quiet in a big group!
And it was great - I basically kept Charlie walking while everyone else warmed up and started jumping fences. He didn't care in the slightest about what everyone else was up to and just kinda happily ambled along.

The group moved to the next big field and I started warming Charlie up at trot and canter - toward and away from the group. Again, no difference shown in the big guy. Tho in retrospect I could have done a better job of actually asking him to work as if we were in the arena. My tendency is to get a little complacent about things like bend and straightness and general quality when we're on uneven ground, but that's not the right approach at all. Must be consistent always!

Charlie dropped down a moderate sized bank to then follow the group into yet another field, where we spent more time trotting and cantering around while everyone else jumped. Charlie's met a baby bank before, but this one was definitely more substantial. Took a little convincing, but he did it. Good boy.

ditch!!!!
Then his first big test of the day: a nice and perfectly inviting ditch!! Honestly this was maybe the thing I most wanted to school, since Charlie's never seen a ditch before. I opted to get a lead over it first at the walk (he stepped in it, doof) and then the trot (above: he just bopped right over). And then we went back and forth over it a few more times on our own at walk and trot like nbd. Gooooood boy!

This was quite an inviting ditch so it's entirely possible that he'll have a different reaction when faced with something deeper or darker or more.... idk, horse-eating. But for this outing? Charlie could not have cared less. Yessssss.

bank!!!
After that we spent more time wandering around while everyone else schooled over fences (tho we went up and down every bank that presented itself!). Charlie was surprisingly sweaty for his own limited efforts already, which makes sense since he's honestly not fit at all for hills or cardio type work. Poor guy, we'll keep working on it!

The other biggie for me tho was the water - conveniently nice and full after all the rain. Charlie impressed me by walking directly into the water on his own without a lead on the first try. Yess!! We've needed leads into the water at both OF and Loch Moy, so this was definitely progress.

We walked in and out a few times, then walked in and trotted out, then trotted in and out. All was well, so I opted to add in the bank down into water. Alas, this blew Charlie's mind a bit. I should have been faster to ask for a lead but as it was, we spent a fair amount of time going sideways and backwards, and then struggled to even just get into the water at all again.

bank into water!!!
also notable here - charlie's extreme superman leap into the water haha. thus the aforementioned mud splatters everywhere
He's a good boy tho and stayed with me. We got back into the water on its own, and then got an effective lead down the bank. Which.... lol.... is pictured in the gif above. It's kinda hard to tell, and I REALLY wish we had video of what it looked like (not just the helmet cam) bc Charlie launched off the bank lol.

The key is to see how far ahead of us Little Foot is, and then compare that to where Charlie actually lands in the water haha. Also, watch his shadow. Twas.... dramatic lol. But surprisingly easy to sit, which was nice. We were covered in mud splatters tho - up to the pommel of my saddle haha.

freshly organized trailer rack! complete with picture of charlie's DIY sparkle hat + matching Dark Jewel Designs browband, since i forgot to take a picture of him wearing them together....
I asked him to go down the bank again by himself, which he did (tho still slightly too exuberantly) and then we moved on with the group. Part of me regrets that he kinda got upset about it and then couldn't just step down off the bank. But honestly? He's got a LONG time before he'll ever be asked to drop into water in competition. We'll keep practicing. And he'll be fine.

We dropped down another non-water bank again tho just to reaffirm that drops are nbd. He was more hesitant and reluctant to do this again, but did it and was a good boy. Methinks we'll practice more seriously with the baby bank at home tho.

see if you can count how many times i say "good boy" lol....

To finish off the ride, I did end up popping him over an itsy bitsy xc fence, mostly just to say we did it haha. Obvi he was fine. Part of me kinda feels foolish for not truly jumping around while we had the opportunity.... but then again I'm fairly resolved to wait until we can school with trainer P. Which should hopefully be soon!

The day felt like a giant win tho. I mean. It's obvious that the horse is fine. Nothing really bothers him. Not the other horses, not funny looking jumps, not terrain. He showed some trepidation with the banks and water but that's totally reasonable. He aced the ditch tho - quite pleased with that! So it all bodes well for his future!

we had made matching diy team stock ties for the hunter pace too, such a shame we didn't get to all dress up!
And he got more "show" practice while we were at it too haha. He had to hang out for a while longer at the trailer, since the group was still fully committed to going all out for the schooling as if it were the hunter pace, complete with a full tailgating spread haha. Between our 8 riders and horses (over five trailers) we made a tidy little party, with sandwiches and snack platters and cake and all varieties of adult beverages lol.

#tailgating. and yes obvi we had a tablecloth too. we're not heathens!
Honestly? Our little party lasted longer than the actual riding haha. Ain't that always the way? It had been a pretty successful schooling for all of the riders, tho still with plenty of funny fail moments to laugh about after (including an unfortunate ditch-related tumble for one rider, but you'll have to watch the full helmet cam video to see that).

Mostly tho it was great to all hang out as a group to really build up the anticipation and excitement for a full season of fun ahead of us. We all have different goals and ambitions, and horses at different levels... But we share the same enthusiasm. And that's what really matters.

Do you like to mix socializing with your riding? Or does your barn ever have parties? We're kinda all spread out at different barns so we gotta make do when we can.... But I know elsewhere it's more common to have big group gatherings. Or maybe your barn is very small and private?

54 comments:

  1. So much fun. How can you stand it?

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    1. lol we gotta have fun commensurate with all the other not-fun stuff, right?

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  2. I love those boots! And I think going XC schooling is a good replacement for your hunter pace. :)

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    1. it definitely was! we were super sorry not to do the pace tho, but this was a good alternative

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    2. looks like a great time was had by all (I love that pinto/paint with you!). I am jealous you have gotten to school cc even if you didnt jump that much (ditches and water yay though). AND I LOVE THOSE BOOTS TOO!! DISH! I NEED NEW SCHOOLING BOOTS!

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    3. they're mondoni kingstons from Divosa. they're quite comfortable and have held up admirably to a couple years of near-constant wear, and i'm not particularly kind to my footwear. they're beginning to show their age - lots of wear around the zipper, and one set of boot laces gave up the ghost a couple weeks ago. but i would absolutely buy again!

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  3. This is basically every horse girl's dream -- epic riding session and then even more epic hanging out session. My barn is pretty good about getting together at shows and events despite the fact that we're spread across a variety of disciplines, but nothing quite like this! I'm super jealous, that kind of camaraderie is amazing and I wish I had more of those kind of folks near me!

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    1. god i know, right? i wish we could do this all the time haha. alas we all only get to ride together as a group maybe 2-3 times a year, last time was way back in september. it's good to make it happen every now and then tho!

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  4. I'm glad you had a fun outing! It looks like an awesome day

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    1. definitely perfect weather and conditions for sure!

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  5. Oh my gosh HOW FUN!! Our barn is tiny with just the three of us, but we do try to make time for hanging out and just enjoying each other's company. Lawn chairs and beer make a pretty regular appearance at the barn in the summer!

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    1. lawn chairs and beer and good friends sounds pretty spectacular to me too!

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  6. What an awesome little cookie he was!!!

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  7. That looks like the perfect outing. That leap off the bank into water is impressive. I'd have come off for sure.

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    1. ha impressive is definitely one word for it! it honestly rode pretty smoothly tho, so that helped!

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  8. Nothing beats a day out with good friends and good horses (: This makes me really want to find local trail riding buddies to get Quest more exposed to riding in larger groups- we do everything 99.9% on our own and need the "chaos" for her brain training

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    1. it's definitely good for their brains to practice operating and working in a busy environment. charlie gets a lot of practice in that regard already since he lives at a lesson barn and a huge proportion of our rides happen amid lesson groups, but it's still good to practice in new and different venues too!

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  9. Our group is spread out at barns now but we generally get together a couple times of year at someones house for a get-together where we leave the SO's at home so we can talk nothing but ponies!

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    1. ha that's awesome - we need more parties like that too (esp so we can cut loose and relax without having to think about getting horses safely home in the trailers!)

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  10. Sounds like the perfect day! OMG Charlie did xc!!! Many of my trail riding friends partake in tailgaiting potlucks following their outings. I am looking forward to joining them this summer!

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    1. i'm so proud of the big guy! hopefully soon we can do more 'real' xc jumps too, but this felt like a really solid beginning for him! and yasss exciting about being able to join in with your friends in more outings this summer too!

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  11. I love how Charlie gets to go out and do so many different things! Our barn/area doesn't have a ton of adult riders, but I'm slowly meeting people. Maybe one day there will be enough of us for a group outing :)

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    1. that would be awesome! my barn is basically all kids too, and the one like-minded adult rider has been zealously maintaining her older gelding's soundness despite some nagging issues for a few years.... so she's quite reasonably cautious about anything involving questionable footing or excessive wear and tear on his legs. which means.... we haven't yet gotten her to join in on the fun. so generally i'm heading out from our barn solo to meet up with others elsewhere. it's worth it tho!

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  12. Such a fantastic, positive, low key outing. :-)

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    1. positive + low key = exactly what i need right now :)

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  13. So jealous you got to go xc schooling! Everything around here is still closed due to the very wet conditions. Look at him go, I really do need to make up shirts that say "Ditches, we make them our bitches!"

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  14. I love hunter paces at my barn because I basically just ride for an hour and then gorge myself on snacks the rest of the day.

    And you keep doing you, Charlie. You launch those banks like a mofo and proud of it! ;)

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    1. lolz he might take you up on that offer. also i want to go to a hunter pace at your barn BAD

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  15. I don't have any riding friends or buddies so I haven't been able to do this kind of stuff. *ugly crying* haha! I would totally mix rides with socializing. That's part of why I hit up the rodeo every year.
    Honestly, looks like tons of fun! Glad Charlie did so well (Superman included!).

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    1. ugh man i know that feeling, esp from when i first moved back to baltimore and started riding again. changing barns has been hard too bc i've had to get reestablished among a whole new group of ppl, ALL of whom think i'm certifiable. the rodeo sounds like an awesome answer to that tho!

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    2. The barn I ride at is kind of small, very far away, and the age demographic is either kids or much older adults. Not great for making riding/drinking buddies!
      Plus my trainers live in a really horse-people-are-crazy town. Haha...seriously, they make us all look sane.
      The rodeo is great. Lots of cowboys and cowgirls, no dressage queens or hunter princesses to be found though. Even western dressage is regarded as a sissy sport. lol

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    3. ha yea.... the crazies are legitimately not fun. like, no socializing can be better than the drama llama crazy of some folks... the rodeo does sound fun tho, but i hear ya about certain sports not being taken as seriously. that's a shame tho but what can you do?

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  16. You have to get a group fashion shot when you do do a team hunter pace tho. Yay ditch!!

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    1. i know, right??? it's quite possible that we were most upset by not getting to dress up in our outfits like we had planned!

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  17. Such funsies, congrats on a great day out and a fab dinner party with friends after. 👍

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  18. That looks and sounds like so much fun! Yay for a well behaved Charlie and good times with horsey friends!

    I've been trying to make riding more sociable lately. I'm the only english rider at my barn but I fairly regularly meet up with some other boarders for arena or trail rides together.

    I haven't done any fun outings to ride together with other dressage riders (yet), but I'm getting better at sticking around longer at clinics etc. to socialize and get to know people. I found it hard to start with but I'm really enjoying these conversations and connections now.

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    1. ugh it can be such hard work to start making those connections and bringing ppl together when there aren't naturally dense population groupings for each sport. we're definitely at an advantage here bc horse ppl abound. but i think it's awesome that you're working so hard to pull together these lessons and clinics and a SHOW!! if you build it, they will come, right?? :D

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    2. Thanks, one can only hope! :)

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  19. I'm so jealous of your proximity to XC courses (and of your totally calm horse)! I go out frequently with groups (the foxhunters and the people from the barn) on trail-ride sort of things, but never any real schooling. Charlie is such a good boy!

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    1. we're super spoiled in this area for having tons of options for all levels and price rangers all over the place. that's part of what lets me feel ok about letting an opportunity like the above go by without really jumping around as much as i could / should. soon tho!

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  20. Have I mentioned how much I love Charlie? He's seriously the coolest. And I'm pretty sure our horses are complete opposites. I'm super jealous of how you have people close by to ride with. There are close to zero eventers in my immediate area, and absolutely no one at my barn will ride outside of an arena!

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    1. yea charlie's home barn is filled with folks that are pretty chained to the arena too (esp the indoor - they've been riding outside bc it was kinda windy even tho it's gorgeous out and the indoor is tiny and dusty!)... it's definitely worth it to get out when we can tho!

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  21. What a fun day. really want to go XC schooling. I wish more people at my barn did jumping, but we have enjoyed going trail riding together.

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    1. it's definitely easier sometimes when everyone does the same thing, but also definitely not required!

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  22. That sounds like an absolutely perfect day!!

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  23. I love the little video of his leap into the water! Sounds like a great outing for you guys :) I wish I had a fun barn crew like that to hang out with!

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  24. Good job to the both of you guys! We have a tiny party at our barn post-trail ride (although it's been awhile). We haven't done a haul to go trail riding but hopefully I can convince my trainer this summer

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  25. Oh my gosh that looks like such a fun party. Yay for his first XC School!! He's such a pro. And don't feel bad about taking it too slow... it's always better to do that than take it too fast and overwhelm him I think :)

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  26. such a good boy and looks like a great time! You are blessed with such a guy. Loved his leap lol

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  27. i particularly love when everyone says good boy!

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  28. Oh my gosh I am DYING to socialize with horse people again.

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