Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fair Hill 2017: XC

Ready to recap some cross country riding??? To set the stage and summarize the earlier phases: Charlie had laid down what felt like a really nice test for his current level of training, tho I knew we had mistakes. So it was a bit of a gamble on what the score might be (hint: it was awful lol).

Stadium was clear with very reasonable jumping efforts but some messiness in between the fences - mostly surrounding an overly strong horse haha.

i <3 those pricked ears tho
Leading up to this event, I dabbled with the idea of purposefully eliminating myself (or withdrawing, I guess) by intentionally going off course to school some of the Intro jumps instead of my own Elementary course.

This plan depended in part on how the earlier phases had gone. Part of me felt like I should take advantage of the schooling opportunity while I had it, but I also felt like we would benefit from a smooth easy complete run - and maybe a ribbon too if things went well enough.

Ultimately I chose the latter. Walking both courses reaffirmed my impression that the Intro was slightly beyond Charlie's confirmed level of schooling right now. It's possible (or even likely) that he would have been fine. But I wanted a safer bet than that for his second ever event.

The bank was actually a moderately spooky log drop shared with BN. The water was very inviting but with a full size house a few strides out. And the ditch was actually maybe the most adorable ditch I'd ever seen - possibly the only of those three questions I actually kinda wanted a shot at lol. Oh well. All are saved for another day, bc on this day we stayed our course with Elementary.

if you can believe, i actually forgot to take pictures of the first few fences on our walk. so here's a still from the helmet cam video instead. jump 1 was a simple log
Which I honestly felt pretty good about - the same attitude that carried me through stadium held true for cross country too. I chose this "easy" level specifically to make good work out of it, to not end up in any kind of 'survival' mode or make poor choices bc of nerves.

So we jumped the Elem and Intro warm up fences (both fine) then headed off to the start box. Walked out of the start box, picked up an easy ambling trot for the first log jump, then never looked back.

cute little house for 2. and actually i kinda like these "between the ear" shots for the jumps!
At Loch Moy a couple weeks ago, Charlie was a little backed off from the first couple jumps and actually started dropping down to trot in front of fences for the entire mid-section of the course. It obviously wasn't bad or naughty - he just needed processing time.

tho it's fun having side shots too <3 yay for friends on course to snag pictures!
On this day at Fair Hill, tho?? There was NONE of that lol. Charlie landed in a canter from Fence 1 and proceeded to carry us on through the rest of the course in everything from a lovely hunter canter to a marginally nerve wracking strung out hand gallop haha.

little ramp coop thing for 3
Tho it was the same story as with stadium - he didn't really build in pace so much as he just kinda shifted gears occasionally. And if I could get my half halts (ha, such a gentle word for them) through to him - he would shift right back down again and hold steady.

just in case you got spoiled by all the HQ pics from loch moy, here's a stark reminder of 'Fraidy Cat Eventing's low low low standard for photo quality
The only real issue was..... it was kinda tricky getting through to him on occasion. Lol. Mostly tho he honestly found a pretty ok rhythm and jumped the first few fences either from right out of stride or from a tidy tho slightly deeper spot. If y'all know anything about me, it should be that I prefer that tidy little deep spot haha. So I was quite cool with it.

hay wagon!
Tho Charlie asked his first legitimate "Are You Sure?" question at fence 4, naturally from a short right handed approach (as turning right apparently became an Issue again haha). And this jump is honestly maybe visually reminiscent of that hay pile jump he stopped at during his first school.

cruisin pony <3
On this day tho, we were not having any stops. Another nice side effect of jumping jumps that even I, le 'Fraidy Cat, am not afraid of, is that so long as I'm not unseated or somehow thrown out of position, I'm gonna ride that damn horse to the fence and he can figure out the rest. Which he did. Good boy.

baby produce stand! the BN version of this scared the shit out of me back in 2015 with Izzy. fence 6 is downhill in the distance.
Then we had a nice little cruise to the tiny blue steps. Honestly? I kinda hated this course. I really wished there was something between this and the Intro bc these jumps felt a little bit like a waste of time, but I still felt like I made the right choice about not entering the Intro division. Oh well.

and even babier bench!
Charlie might not have learned much from these jumps themselves, but I'm hoping he learned a bit about the rest of all things cross country. Like, for instance, he kinda barreled down the hill towards the above "bench" and I really had no qualms sitting him back on his behind even tho it futzed our distance to this jump a bit.

lopin' through the woods
He figured it out tho. Nbd. Made that jump work just fine, and then landed in the loveliest of little lopes through the treeline and into the next field.

another box type thing!
I kind of appreciate that Fair Hill tried to make all their Elementary jumps unique and beautiful rather than all being just plain logs on the ground. The different colors and silhouettes are all quite nice. At the end of the day tho.... they all kinda look like the boxes that fill hunter fences.

wheee boxes!
Which I guess is cool. Charlie loves him some boxes and just continued to pop right on up and over them! I'm not sure I'd say he was "hunting" fences - but he definitely understood that we were out to Jump Things, and pretty easily locked on to whatever I lined us up for (while totally ignoring literally everything else on course, good boy!).

spooky black monster eyes? or..... just another box?
Jump 8 posed us some issues too tho, as it was another right hand turn approach (I guess they were all right hand turns since it was just a plain loop lol).

emma: "dear god, turn, horse, TURN!!"
charlie: "huh?"
And like. This is where it gets really frustrating when ppl say that the horse doesn't "look" strong, or "look" fast, or "look" like whatever I'm describing him as. Bc dammit. He's a lot of horse and handles like a freight train. And he's also quite adept at just flipping his nose and gaping his mouth instead of giving to pressure. As our esteemed dressage judge noted, he "runs through the aids."

phew, made it! and moves like that are why i wanted tiny jumps lol
Obviously tho he's still a very good boy. And skipped over the jump no problem from a fairly awkward and disheveled approach haha. But again, this is why I chose elementary. Bc the easiest choice for him even in a sloppy situation is to just do the right thing.

look seymour, it's another box!
From that, we kept cruisin right on around to our penultimate fence - this time orange and headed for home.

charlie: "nbd"
He jumped from a polite but tight distance (totes fine, bro!) and cantered right on along to the finish.

the fair hill train!!
Actually the best feeling about all of this was how quickly Charlie understood what we were about out there. Right hand turns notwithstanding, he picked up on the game and had very little difficulty in executing it.

charlie: "Choo CHOO mother fuckers!!"
Like, even his one honest spooky moment at Fence 4 felt like a great learning moment too - bc hopefully the learned response was : we jump the jumps, sir. And jump he did!!

surprisingly the video is only a little longer than loch moy's even tho the fair hill track was a much greater distance. methinks it's bc we basically ran through the whole thing this time lol


The reality is that my trainer is not wrong in saying Charlie's not learning anything from smaller jumps. That he needs and wants something to look at, to make him think. But it's also not wrong to say that there's more to learn about this sport than just the jumping. And Charlie at times during this event showed that he hasn't internalized all those other aspects yet (fucking duh bc it's only his second full 3-phase haha).

So my hope is that by "going through the motions" per se in this division, and allowing the horse to lay down some honestly pretty nice jumping efforts for his current level of training, that he'll understand the process better at our next events where we'll be back at the 2'3 level and can expect to start seeing ditches / banks / water on course.

fair hill fox jump!!
But anyway. Long story short, I'm happy we ran this full division and that I rode for the completion rather than any other alternative. I'm also quite pleased with the horse's performance in general and feel like I have a clearer idea of what needs work and how we'll need to continue developing.

Mostly, my sense is that Charlie is a genuine and honest horse. He's a good thinker and easily focuses on tasks or activities that interest him. Luckily for me, this whole jumping thing definitely piques his interest - even at speed bump height haha. Thank god for amateur friendly horses!

It just generally felt really good to get through this event in a fairly straight forward fashion. Charlie got through each phase with confidence, and fully demonstrated that he knows how to get the right answers even in unfamiliar and potentially stressful situations. That's exactly the kind of horse I want to be riding, especially as we start thinking about the situations that are likeliest to make *me* nervous too lol.

So. Event #2 is in the books. And Charlie's clear jumping moved him up from 6th to finish 4th for his efforts. Good boy :)

44 comments:

  1. Congratulations on moving up. I think that you made a good decision- this was a real confidence boosting outing for both of you. I like how you used the CC to school. I also agree that even though he's a laid back guy he is a lot of horse and I have no doubt that he can be strong.

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    1. Thanks - using it to school and build confidence really is what we both need at this point. There's nothing to prove, we are just slowly slowly building. But yea haha he can be a lot, but fortunately his instincts and attitude are good!

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  2. I'm not gonna lie - as a non-eventer, that looks like the best little course ever! I could do that and not be terrified :) But I can see where real eventers would find it less than challenging. But Charlie had a good trip, and the season is early. I think you made the right choice.

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    1. Haha honestly I agree and LOVE that there are so many courses like this in existence. It's a great introduction to the sport and makes it feel way more accessible to those who might be curious to try. And maybe I was wrong to say I "hated" it lol... But I am kinda still unbelievably coming to terms with the fact that I'm basically having to restart as a rider too, completely independent from the horse. So yea. In that sense thanks I agree it was the right choice for us too!

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  3. Lol @ the "turn right!" picture. I think we've all been on That Horse before. Hooooo boy... lol But srsly, he looks and sounds so game for this whole XC game. You've got a really good guy as your eventing partner and I'm so excited to see where you go together. What an honest, solid animal.

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    1. Thanks girl - he really is so game, and I'm thrilled with the idea of his potential to continue growing into a real partner. The turn right thing..... Is a little ridiculous haha. It all goes back to those uneven shoulders I think. He is basically always falling left. We will keep working on it!

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  4. I giggled out loud at the "choo CHOO mother fuckers" caption. Also, that fox jump is sort of creepy! But what a good boy Charles. I definitely think you're setting both of you up for long-term success by going out there even if its boring/easy for him, and continuing to build the confidence. WTG guys!!!

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    1. Lol Brita was scrolling thru my pics to send herself all the stuff I took of her and Bella, and she kinda yelped out loud when she saw that fox. Like, wtf where did you see that?!? Creepy indeed! Thanks tho - that's really my hope that by taking it easy now we will hopefully feel more prepared to face new challenges. We shall see!!

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  5. Congrats on 4th and a good confidence building outing. Those jumps look perfect to me, but I know you've got way more experience and a whole different perspective.

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    1. ha thanks! and honestly for what it is, it's a pretty great course. it covers a fair amount of ground and offers a lot of opportunity to settle in and cruise through the open fields between fences - which can often be a learning experience unto itself lol. and it still gave us opportunities to turn (or try), have shorter or longer approaches, go up and down hill, and a bunch of other good stuff that it maybe not super obvious but still a very important part of learning to go xc.

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  6. haha the jumps look like wee little speed bumps!
    Glad it was a good outing :)

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    1. lol no joke, i was honest to god worried that he'd trip over half of them! luckily he's a good sport and seemed to think they were perfectly fun anyway!

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  7. Congrats on a good outing! Sounds like a perfect confidence builder for Charlie!

    I ride western and would likely fall off in an English saddle, but man, I would loooove to try a course like that someday!

    And, I almost spit out my coffee reading the Charlie: "Choo CHOO mother fuckers!!" caption! lol

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    1. ha it was a fun course! you should definitely try one someday! and yea i mean, the train seemed fitting as a last jump since that's basically how charlie handles sometimes lol

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  8. yay i am so glad you and Charlie had fun. IS it not crazy how the diff between elem and Intro is at FH? CRAZY. Cause there were some big questions on Intro!! So i am glad you had a fun run with him and finished nicely! great job!

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    1. ha yea i love FH's intro course for the purposes of prepping a move up to BN, but i don't love it as a first time course for meeting the typical xc questions. it was fun tho!! thanks!

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  9. What a great confident round for Charlie, although watching the video my stomach actually started to flip as he picks up speed. Charlie can move! Great choice to do this level for him and congrats on satin!!

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    1. haha yea homeboy can GO, that's for sure! he's safe and honest about it, but that doesn't necessarily make me feel any better about it lol

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  10. Love it!! Well done Charlie & Emma! You are making great choices for this horse and his growing confidence proves it time and again. Now I'm getting pumped to run Intro there with y'all in July!

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    1. yay!! fingers crossed all goes well in both our respective journeys to get there!!

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  11. I totally feel you on the "strong horse" that doesn't look the way it rides! O was always super quiet--but that is NOT mean she couldn't get very strong at times. You and Charlie are killing it. From an outsiders perspective to eventing I agree there is so much more than just the jumping parts. Kudos to you for letting him really learn that!

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    1. thanks - and yea the "strong quiet" type is so real omg haha. and regarding learning all the other non-jumping stuff, it's kinda hard to remember but it's only been about 5 months since i was squarely in the "cantering this horse downhill is terrifying bc he is going to fall on his face and kill us all" mindset lol... oh how quickly they grow up!

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  12. If anything, you're giving him tons of confidence by sticking to smaller than he's capable of and that's never a bad thing!

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    1. honestly that's really my big goal here - and not just for him, but for me too. i need that confidence. i need to really *feel* him be so good and honest, even when he's strong, so that i can learn to chill out a little bit more, to let go a little bit more and allow him to do his thing. slowly but surely!

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  13. My Charlie (my first horse) was a big long horse like this and he too had the power of a goddamn freight train while looking like no big deal. Jesus, it was like maneuvering a cruise ship in a koi pond sometimes. And man could he get so heavy in my hand! No one understood it til they rode him themselves.

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    1. yea i'm basically surprised every time a watch a video and expect it to look totally different.... oh well.

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  14. All those little jumps are so cute. I love them. Congrats on 4th.

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  15. Congrats on moving up the rankings to get a ribbon! (though I guess they might ribbon to 6th?) The steering will come in time! I definitely noticed he's got a little drift in stadium that probably accounted for the rubs.

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    1. omg the drift is SO REAL! definitely not helping the rub situation, tho he's shown in lessons that he can pick his feetsies up when meaningfully impressed enough haha.

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  16. It was cool watching the video, I could really see some of the spots where he was freight training along, funny how you can relate when you ride it enough. I did notice he almost never flicked his ears back to you, he was all into it and was letting you simply pilot the course. I can confirm that in a few years, he SHOULD start looking to you as a partner instead of a passenger. Good job, congrats on 4th!!

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    1. lol yea... he was a very good boy and listened well, he went where i pointed him and did what i asked. he's still pretty sensitive to his environment tho. like - his ears in that video? the only time they started swiveling backward was when we turned back away from the direction of that trail through the woods. he's ... not a dumb horse haha, and pays pretty surprisingly close attention to his surroundings even as he goes on with whatever i'm asking. it's still just all so new for him tho, and i'm pretty satisfied with his current ability to focus on the task at hand.

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  17. Love it! And huge kudos to them for trying to make the baby courses interesting. Our small sized stuff here is predominantly just logs, which I guess makes finding your way around easy? ("House?" Nope can't possibly be for us. Ahh...there's the log ;).

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    1. ha yea i'm definitely grateful for the care they take around here in creating visually interesting and diverse courses even for the lowest levels. it definitely helps get used to seeing some weird stuff, ya know?

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  18. What a day, congrats to you both for completing another event together! And oh yes the head sideways gaping mouth game...BTDT :P

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    1. lol charlie is pretty sure it's an acceptable way to get where he's going however quickly he'd like to get there ;) methinks a flash will help (and perhaps a full cheek instead of a loose ring? lol)

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  19. Event #2 is in the books! I like that little course. It looks about my speed lol
    Congrats on a good run. Good experiences out shine good scores any day in my book.

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    1. yea definitely agreed! at this point in his training, charlie doesn't know what a 'score' is anyway - he doesn't know the difference between anything more nuanced than "did the thing" or "did not do the thing." so.... i'm glad he's doing the thing!

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  20. Congrats on a good event! I definitely think you made the right decision too. There's more to XC than just jumping, and when the jumps are well within your wheelhouse you both have the mental energy to devote to the other details. But y'know not that I'm an expert with a horse that failed out of eventing, hahaha. ;)

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    1. Ha yea... There's definitely a balance of just how much we can take at any given moment right? Like maybe I need to fix like, steering, maybe, before I start thinking about increasing the technicality (even if it's just height and ditch/bank/water)

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  21. Love it!! So glad you had the confidence boosting event you were looking for. Charlie looks like he's waaay into XC!

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    1. thanks! so far he thinks it's a pretty fun game!

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  22. I am glad it was such a positive outing!

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