Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MDHT #2: Cross Country!!

I'd like to take a moment to recognize that this is 'Fraidy Cat Eventing's first cross country recap since Fair Hill last May, when Isabel and I were eliminated in stadium on a technicality but went on to run xc anyway.

It's been almost a full year. And it's hard to really explain what that means for me. But suffice it to say.... it's meaningful.

Running this elementary cross country course, small and inviting as it is, on a horse I restarted myself over the past 7 months... Well. From a big picture perspective, it feels like coming full circle. The cycle continues, the process has begun anew. And Charlie shows every indication of being everything I could have hoped for in a new standard bearer.

this picture: one year in the making
Of course, you probably want the details too, right? I mean, the mushy sentimental stuff is nice and all.... but we want MEDIA!! So. Here it is haha. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the AWESOME of Charlie's first true run across country!

start box with jump 1 right there
Brita had finished her rides in time to see mine and rode up the hill with me to the separate intro/elem xc field. On the way, I realized I had skipped the xc warm up area (which had a single microscopic telephone pole for the intro/elem group, then only BN+ jumps). We talked it over tho and decided to continue on anyway. The first jump was a log and Charlie would probably be fine.

This ended up being the absolute right decision too, bc all the chaos of the stadium warm up had migrated to the xc warm up - all those juniors with their screeching coaches and darting ponies.... Meaning the xc course itself was a ghost town, totally empty except for the photographer, jump judges, and steward.

The steward told me to begin at will, so we basically just walked up the hill, through the start gate, picked up a trot, and thus begun Charlie's first xc course!

yup that's a log!
If Charlie was a little confused by this new development, he hid it well. Just jiggity jogged right on up and over this little raised telephone pole thingy.

go charlie go!
The course was kinda warped from it's normal "loop" shape to involve a left turn in addition to the rest of the right turns... which was nice, but kinda made for a very sharp (and kinda stupid, imo) turn from jump one to jump two.

dis charlie's surprised face
So as soon as we got over the first, I aimed charlie deep in the corner and brought him back down to trot so we could kinda turn back again to the left over the next jump, a raised rail road tie.

not very different from the first
We approached this from a trot, and Charlie was a little surprisingly backed off. Nothing crazy, not like he wasn't going to jump - but he took leg and then jumped it kinda big.

dis emma's happy face
The wiggles continued on the way to fence 3, which was fairly hot on 2's heels (since the whole course was 10 jumps spread across roughly 600m, everything was pretty close together).

log roll!! isabel has jumped the BN and N versions of this jump
Charlie apparently did not care for the appearance of this jump and was a little hesitant. Again - not like he wasn't going to jump it, but also not dragging me to it.

originally a vertical picture, but cropped to conform to my "style guide" for photos haha.... kinda ridiculous but it is what it is. so enjoy this close up of charlie's face and knees, and me trying like hell to slip my reins
He jumped it tho. Kinda a giant effort relative to the fence's size haha (yes you can actually see his knees in the helmet cam) and left me a bit in the dust. Luckily I was able to at least partially slip my reins a bit.... which you can also see me trying to get them reorganized on the way to jump 4 - which I expected to be the spookiest on course.

garden gate! i've also jumped the BN and N of this too... as is the case with almost everything on course, actually...
The approach to this jump got better as you got closer.... but from a distance it appeared to be on the crest of the hill (you can only just see the flags in the background of the fence 3 picture), with all those trees and far distance visible between the gate's pickets.

It was looky. And I expected Charlie to look. Which he totally did - breaking down to trot on approach. Mostly actually it felt like he wanted to slow down and better look at it and understand it. Bc it never felt like he wasn't going to jump. And he jumped it just fine.

tootsie roll!!
We then had a nice little canter after the gate to skirt around the edge of the hill to the tree line. Tho this moment to cruise was slightly marred by Charlie cross cantering. You can hear me tell him in the video to "fix it" - but maybe I should have helped him out with it.

As it was, he opted to come back down to trot for this little jump too. Jumped it fine tho!

roll top / feeder type thing was surprisingly beefy!
He repeated the same pattern of slowing back down to trot on approach to the above fence 6. This was easily the widest jump on course, but not very tall. I didn't expect it to look like much to Charlie, but he actually looked quite a bit.

no touchy!
And he gave it LOTS of space haha. It's kinda funny to see the progression pics (since there are multiple shots of each fence) - where he starts to jump, and then really lifts his shoulders WAY UP and blasts off with the hind end. Honestly I don't mind the technique but it's a bit hard to sit!

stick horse - too cute!
After that, we had a nice little jaunt through a trail cut in the woods. I opted to bring Charlie back to trot on my own - since he had broken to trot in front of the last three fences anyway. It felt like he needed a little extra processing time, and by letting him trot he was able to slow his thoughts down a bit too.

#easy
Plus, since the path took us through the woods and over more changeable footing, I wanted to make sure he felt like he could look around and really see where we were going. It worked well too - he understood perfectly that we would be jumping this stick horse thing and trotted right on up to it very nicely.

coop! we jumped that little one on the right during our first ever loch moy adventure
He landed in a lovely canter from the stick horse that we carried right on forward to the coop, which he saw early on and seemed to get a good read on. Charlie felt settled and easy and like he was starting to actually understand what was happening.

<3 him
And his effort over the coop showed how nicely he had settled. It was maybe the biggest jump on course and he loped right over it. Nbd. Yessss perfect!

cutest. brush fence. evar.
Then penultimate fence was basically a straight shot ahead of us too - the most adorable little brush log ever. And actually fairly small too - I usually think of brush fences as being on the larger side, but not this one!

Charlie didn't care tho - he had clearly decided this cross country thing was easy and cantered right on up to the base to pop over. Good boy!

log + sugar loaf mountain!! 
Then a quick turn back up the hill from whence we came - and over this awesome dugout log with potted flowers. Charlie was definitely cruising by this point haha - he had it figured out!

dis my new event horse. i think i'll keep him
He jumped right on over from a good clip, and then through the flags and easily back down to walk to reunite with Brita and Bella. Yay Charlie!!!!!

And just like that - our first baby cross country run is in the books! I REALLY liked the progression of this course too - which is pretty apparent in the video. Charlie started off a little unsure, a little uncertain. But his hesitation made him slow down, look more closely, think a little more deeply - yet he never once felt like he wasn't going. It just felt so honest.


Considering the latest trend in our jump lessons has been for him to speed up toward the fence, running past his distance in the process, it felt really reassuring that his default mode when uncertain was to slow down and think.

Of course I also don't think it'll take him very long to decide this is all easy and boring too haha. But that's fine - that's the whole reason we're running the 18" at Fair Hill next month instead of the 2'3. Obviously the height is no issue for the horse (just don't ask the rider lol), but the big guy still just plain old needs schooling. Needs mileage.

so proud of himself at the trailer lol
Gaining that experience and putting on those miles is what it's all about to me tho - that's the best part about this whole experience. I'm in no rush to "get there" with Charlie, there's no fixed finish line or goal to meet. Honestly all I had dared hope for was a horse that could be ready for all three phases by spring time. And here we are! This event's final score is almost meaningless in the face of that big picture.

The whole season is ahead of us and I'm so freakin excited to get back into the rhythm of showing with friends. I'm also really excited to continue tackling all things associated with restarting an OTTB as an event horse.

We've got a LOT of work ahead - continuing to develop and refine our flat work, and translating that flat work into better jumping. I've also got quite a bit to fix in my ride, and in adjusting myself to Charlie's way of going. I want to be able to do this great big plain-with-a-good-brain horse justice in all three phases, and eventually be able to show off to the judges exactly why I think he's so special.

In time tho - it's all ahead of us! And in the meantime we're just gonna keep chippin away at it the only way I know how :)

61 comments:

  1. Charlie has his game face on! I love how excited and happy he looks in every photo.

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    1. ha thanks! he felt better and better as he went!

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    1. such a good boy!! actually, also, this course was a little more fun than the one we walked when you were last here - still pretty small, obvi, but a few more fun fences to feel like you actually jumped something. can't wait to see you and Grif up here!

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  3. This post had me smiling from ear to ear! GOOD BOY CHARLIE! I love love LOVE his eager ears! Woooohoooooo!!!

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  4. this is just wonderful and a great recap. And what a GREAT course. this was intro there?? I love it. (Fair Hill Intro is a LOT BIGGER course)....I often trot during cross country to make Remus sit up and take notice (he tends to get sloppy if i let him canter nonstop as well as tired) and i also often never school cc in the warmup for the very reason you say (warm up craziness). Since i am usually straight from Stadium to CC i just shrug and say it is Remus we will be fine. We usually are :) I am so happy Charlie had such a good first outing (AND YOU TOO) YAY

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    1. loch moy calls the 2'3 level "elem" bc since it's unsanctioned they can basically call it whatever they want. i think sometimes by the third event of the series they move the 2'3 course out onto the main course so it follows a similar track as BN, but usually it's just up with the 2' level on its own small little loop filled with point and shoot jumps. i'm pretty familiar with FH's 2'3 level as well - which is why i chose to enter the 18". a couple of these jumps here at loch moy were the same size as FH, but the distance is smaller and there aren't any ditches, banks or water. in time tho!

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    2. when you walk the course at FH look at jump 15 in Intro (it is a BAT and i swear is not that high but is WIDE as shit).....2.3 can be so different depending on the type of jump (I love the water at FH :)

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    3. haha that's how i felt about the roll top / pheasant feeder thingy at jump 6 on the above course - it was almost BN width! i expected most of these loch moy fences to be narrow in front-to-back width, but actually the garden gate (4), the aforementioned roll top (6) and the coop (8) were all about as wide as you'll see on any intro course. i also felt like jumps 3 and 10 were pretty fair sized jumps for the level and am very happy with how charlie handled them.

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    4. i couldn't be happier with him :)

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  5. Look at him go! You've definitely got an event horse.

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    1. i'm so freakin excited about him

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  6. Awww I love how he got more and more confident as you went around. What a good pony! <3

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    1. thanks! it felt really great how well he settled into the course as we went - and i think our next event's 18" course will really help cement that feeling for him

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  7. Good boy Charlie! He looks so happy out there and relaxed by the end!

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    1. definitely super relaxed by the end! i think he'll figure it all out soon enough!

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    1. he's basically exactly what i need right now, and for that i'm grateful ;)

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  9. I am just bursting with happiness for you. How incredible what can happen in a year.

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    1. i know, right? i didn't write it in the post, but isabel and i used this event as our season opener last year - and dropped down to BN to build confidence and start out on the right foot. it was a great day with our personal best dressage and a killer xc - tho i almost fell off in stadium, perhaps a harbinger of what was to coming... while i'm still sad about how that all turned out, i couldn't be happier to have charlie now. so i guess all's well that ends well?

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  10. What a perfect unicorn of a baby event horse <3 I love him!

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    1. he's basically the best!!! tho i suspect a lot of his goodness and reliable nature comes from the fact that he's not at baby at all, he's 8 ;)

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    2. Charlie has far fewer eventing miles than my red horse... and he's already a much braver and bolder horse across country. I think he's found his calling! And I'm jealous. I want a logical, reliable 8 year old (vs the semi feral terrorist 8 year old I've got XD )

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    3. haha yea he's got a great mind for the sport, i think!! i definitely got lucky with him - altho i did shop specifically for disposition and bought him on the strength of his bath time behavior of all things lol, but even still, you can never really know what you're gonna get!

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  11. I can't lie, I have all the feels <3 <3 <3

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  12. What a good boy! I loved his happy ears in the video :)

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    1. thanks, me too! i love how plugged in and focused he gets!

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    2. I can't tell you how happy this made me to read! You've done a great job with Charlie and it shows in his happy little ears! Congrats on a successful first 3 phase...many more to come!

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    3. aww thanks :) he's been a great horse to work with!

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    1. me too - it's surprisingly easy to settle in for the ride with him!

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  14. I'm a so incredibly happy for you!! Charlie is perfect and braver and older than a lot of horses with way more experience. Yes, he has a great mind and natural tendency to slow and think but a lot of it has to do with your slow approach with me.

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    1. aw thanks! he's got a lot of naturally very good raw material, i'm just trying really hard to keep nurturing and fostering that!

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  15. Brantley and I are sooo excited for you guys and love that we are doing to right along side you ♡ Well... over the interweb. You guys look great and so happy! Can't wait to see more!

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  16. This post made me smile. I am so happy for you and all that you accomplished in less than a year. wow. And it's obvious that cross-country is where yours and Charlie's hearts are.

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    1. thanks! i'm THRILLED that he's showing such aptitude and ease out there - i love xc but need my partner to feel the same

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  17. I grinned while reading this whole entry - you guys did awesome and he's such a smart boy :)

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    1. he's so smart, definitely a thinking horse for sure

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  18. So, so impressed with you both. That coop would have likely been the end of Bridget lol - anything tiny house like and she's wondering when the mini trolls are popping out. Brave Charlie!

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    1. yea coops and houses can definitely be hard. i think once they figure out the shape it gets easier. charlie's been more careful with them ever since nearly falling down on his first xc haha

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  19. He looks so handsome! And it looks like he is filling out more too!! Way to go, both of you

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    1. the spring grass is definitely helping him out!

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  20. Yayy well done Charlie and Emma!

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  21. Yay Charlie!!!!! He'll be a pro before you know it!!!!!

    Charlie sounds a lot like how Chimi started out :) Our 1st xc Chim was hesitant and awkward over the first couple of jumps and then it just "clicked" and he was Bri's king cantering towards all the jumps saying "weeeeeee!!!!!!" And now he's a XC machine so I think Mr Charles will be beasty with more time/schooling :) you guys look great too!!!

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    1. Ugg bad typing skills and auto correct are not a good combo! I meant to say Chimi was briskly cantering not Bri's king!!!

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    2. LOL @ Bris King.... but yea, charlie just needed to figure out what was up - it was his first time actually stringing a couple jumps together, and especially jumps he's never seen in a whole new place. still felt quite keen tho!

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  22. I loved seeing his progression around the course! Nice and confident at the end!

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    1. thanks and agreed - he definitely settled in super nicely. i think the short simple course suited him very well, and our next outing over 18" at fair hill should really help reinforce the idea

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  23. What a fun XC course. They did a great job having a real variety of fences even at the low height. Congrats on the successful outing.

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  24. What a GREAT experience for you and Charlie! Yay Charlie!! Go Emma!

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  25. I love him!!! He looks very exuberant over jumps. Congrats on your first HT together!!!

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  26. Your face in the pics is priceless. SO happy!!

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  27. OMG I love your big happy smile!

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