Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Jenny Camp 2017: XC

Ok so I went a little lighter than usual on photographs yesterday, recapping our dressage and stadium phases. Today will not be quite as light. Sorry but the compulsion to document literally everything is strong with me lol.

At least I've got a couple actual nice hq photos from a volunteer jump judge who also brought along her camera. Thanks Lydia Truitt - beautiful shots and I'm so grateful to have them! And hopefully you all will forgive my inclusion of grainy video stills along with the nicer pics haha.

and they're off!!
Anyway. Onto the course. For the first time since picking up eventing in late 2014, I actually stopped by the venue the night before to walk my course. Mostly bc it's so close by Charlie's barn (10min yas!) and other friends were going too.

I'm glad I did tho. The course did not at all meet my expectations, and I don't mean that in a good way. I was... taken by surprise by how large so many of the fences were. I expected a couple "big" ones, but was unprepared especially for the earliest portions of this course.

Luckily, by walking the night before, I was able to familiarize myself with my photos of each jump and reconcile my uneasy mind to the task ahead of us. Oh. It also gave me the impetus to load up on ranitidine. #breakfastofchampions

So by the time I walked my course a second time after dressage with Brita, I already had a fairly well established plan in my head for each jump. Yess.

intro had the option of jumping the bn house to the right too, but we stuck to trotting in over these rails
Jump 1 suited me perfectly - and was actually what I expected the vast majority of the fences to look like. Alas, my expectations were wrong save for this example lol. But that's ok. This was sufficient for me to at least start my course the way I had hoped: moseying out of the start box at an unhurried walk, then trotting on along to the jump and catching our canter on landing.

Mission accomplished - Charlie was right on board with this.

looks a lot like our last jump from loch moy last month. also, for whatever reason, BN's numbers were white on green at this event. Intro was white on blue.
You'll be able to tell in the helmet cam video, but this course was reeeeeally spread out - especially at the beginning. Ain't no other way to get 13 fences in 1,800m than to spread them out, so I guess it makes sense. But these earliest jumps really were quite far apart and invited the horse to hit the accelerator quickly.

My plan to was shoot for an easy breezy canter through the park - no rushing, no revving. So far so good, and Charlie more or less went along with my ideas up to fence two. He got nice and close to this fence, taking stock of it as he went. Perfect

this puppy was wiiiide. also the half-brush look is weird lol
Fence 3 was the first real fence to give me pause on this course. It's just.... Idk. Kinda a strange looking fence. Height wise it's a little anemic for BN (unless you jump the brush, which reached about 3'), but the width is absolutely there. Trainer P advised just going for the non-brush side, since horses would naturally be looking at that gap anyway.

My thoughts were that this fence would tell me what I needed to know about how Charlie would handle the rest of the course. If he backed off it like he had at some of the fences at Loch Moy, I felt it would be possible that we would struggle with the rest of the course. But if he kept coming to it? Well. We'd probably be fine.

Naturally, he kept coming. Jumped it great. Good Boy!

another option with bn. after fence 3, this choice felt obvious
Given fence 3, this option at 4 surprised me. In case it's not super obvious - BN (green number) must jump the house, but Intro (blue number) had the option of either. That left hand jump had a reasonably significant width to it... but still, compared to 3 it was nothing. The only way we were going near that fence was if 3 knocked any wind from our sails.

big-as-a-house horse jumping a house!
Tho naturally I had to remind myself of that as we cruised toward it. Little pep talks, ya know? Like, Emma. You know you need to jump that house. Just jump it. Charlie wants to jump the house. Doooo it. So we did.

Charlie was very honest to the house - and again got in nice and close to figure his own stride out, then jumped it great.

do y'all recognize that pheasant feeder? both of these jumps are from tranquility and i've jumped that feeder approximately 18 thousand times with izzy
It was right about this moment where it "clicked" for Charlie. He knew what we were doing. Felt like he basically understood. And like maybe he could do this whole jumping thing on his own haha. My own influence was.... minimal, to say the least.

I could still steer tho. Which was really all Charlie needed - he just wanted me to tell him where to go, especially if I told him to take the high option, as we did again here.

not sure isabel ever quite cleared it like charlie did this time tho. dear god, horse. haha
Charlie kinda launched at this fence - we were getting a bit strung out and I wasn't thrilled with my lack of brakes.... but at the same time, I'm finally starting to figure out how to stay enough down in my legs such that I don't get totally tossed around in the saddle when he lands.

And it's obviously near impossible to tell from the photo, but when he gets long to the fence like that I can basically just slip my reins out and let him go. He's just so freakin honest. I can't bring myself to lean at the jumps when he goes like this (baggage, yo, I gots it), but at least I'm getting a much better feel for how he goes when he goes like this.

faux ditch - it's just a frame of poles surrounding mulch, no dug out section at all.
The reality, tho, is that he should not go like that haha. Every flyer like that is an indication of our poor quality canter. Actually I recently audited another David O'Conor clinic and took massive amounts of notes bc even tho it was legitimately identical lecture and exercises to last year, I heard it all with fresh ears now that Charlie's in my life. More to come on that soon!

charlie dutifully picked his clod hoppers up, but otherwise ignored it. pc Lydia Truitt
Anyway tho, I just kinda worked with what I had on this course. Including piloting him up to the faux ditch, which he skipped over nbd.

another house! this time not an option, but like. knowing this was on course, why would you take any of the smaller options earlier?
Then off to the next fence - the first actual fence that was not an option with BN. Which like, again. If you know that this cabin is assigned to your course and you must jump it, why would anyone futz with the smaller option fences earlier on course? Idk. The design here was confusing to me.

charlie obvi nailed it. pc Lydia Truitt - jump judge and volunteer photographer extraordinaire!
It didn't matter for our purposes tho. Charlie wasn't about to be slowed down by no house haha! His canter was continuing to get a little more and more strung out with each jump, but this one went more or less ok.

this was the only option that honestly gave me pause. but. emma. high options. dooo eeet. 
This next jump tho proved to me why I really need to work harder on our flat work. Charlie got long and flat and low to this jump too - another option - and actually knocked the fence a little bit too. Nothing terrible, and he didn't land particularly badly. But that long flat jump is reeeeeally not the right answer on cross country. Like, ever.

It's cool tho. In a way, I'm happy with myself for learning to get a little comfortable with Charlie's way of going right now. And hopefully I'll be able to use that new-found comfort to fully address correcting the canter instead of being flustered by nerves or whatever.

charlie likes dem high options haha. but.... it'd maybe be a little nicer if he was more interested in rider feedback or influence. just sayin! pc Lydia Truitt
Anyway, after the triple bar, we finally made the turn back for home. And Charlie DEFINITELY thought this meant making the turn around the backstretch for the finish line. Nine months post-track and homeboy still has it lol.

easy jump, but the approach here promised a challenge: short right hand turn going downhill
We had a tricksy downhill right turn to this hay bale jump that I expected to be way more challenging than it was. I had actually anticipated needing to come back to trot for this particular jump.

#nailedit! pc Lydia Truitt
Ultimately tho the jump rode fine. But in a way, I'm glad that I took it so seriously bc it made me actually sit the horse back a little bit instead of letting him continue to drag me to fences.

this might have been spooky two months ago. now? relegated to speed bump status
He still landed quite strong from it tho, and I actually had to kinda stand up in my stirrups and really give a big strong pull to sit him up a little bit before our next (and second) intro-only jump. I expected this jump to ride either spooky (if the course had not been going well) or to ride like a way-too-small speed bump for the locomotive known as Charlie Murray.

not even gonna apologize for my monkey-on-his-back rider status lol
Hint: the second case proved more true, lol. I shouldn't fuss to much tho, honestly the horse was doing a really nice job of finding his fences. I could really feel him thinking and setting himself up on approach to each and every fence. 

That's not to say that he didn't make mistakes or whatever bc he totally did (you can tell in the video lol), but he was very actively participating in the ride and I appreciated that. Even if it was a touch wild around the edges, he honestly gave me a pretty solid, honest feeling about each and every jump. It felt safe.

water basin! filled undoubtedly with horse-eating snakes!
The issue at the water was really probably my fault. There are a number of ways that I could have ridden it differently that would have not resulted in a 20 even with him having the same reaction.

I brought him up to the backside of the pool first (after wrestling him down to walk, a feat unto itself lol) and got him in to get his feet wet before heading toward the flags. He was spooky and unsettled tho, and I should have taken more time in the water.

top: charlie definitely sees snakes
bottom: "ok, probably no snakes here." (not the splashes haha)
Then when I went around to the flagged side, he immediately ran sideways. And then backwards. Le sigh. I knew I was getting at least one, possibly two, penalties. That's fine tho - bc Charlie certainly did not know. The flags were set such that you could skirt around the water on dry ground while still making it through, so I guided him through that way just to at least avoid further penalties before finally easing him back into the water and moving on.

Perhaps I should have taken him through that "cheat" route of dry ground right off the bat, and then schooled the water with no pressure about penalties. But that's ok. Bc again, from the horse's perspective, the outcomes are the same anyway. He simply does not know what 20pts means, and I'm ok with that.

isabel absolutely dominated this bank each and every time she met it. i had high expectations for charlie to do the same.
Anyway once he was calmly in the water, we carried on with the course - picking up a purposeful trot ("eeeeeasy, charlie!") to the up bank.

and charlie did not disappoint
Good boy took his time getting there, and took a little leg too, but in such a way that felt quite nice. Popped right on up and cantered on along to the final fence on course. Tho naturally he had to add in once lovely stumble through his lead change, bc you just can't be a Charlie and not have at least one stumble per phase haha.

closing the course with a little bench! the 10th of our 13 efforts either shared with bn or with a bn option for intro.
Last fence was an intimidating-to-me bench shared with BN that had a stupid line through uneven ground and around large trees. But I also knew that if Charlie made it to this point on course, the bench wouldn't faze him in the slightest. Spoiler: it totally didn't haha.

Charlie got right on up to a nice cozy spot (good boy!) and popped over. And even came back down to walk pretty easily so I could love on him and hop off and watch him basically pass the fuck out before I could even get his saddle off. 



God I just freakin love this horse. I know we have so much to work on. I know that there are problems with how this course went, and that Charlie's training is nowhere near confirmed or complete or whatever yet. And that I have a lot to fix in my own ride.

But damn, rides like this just go so far in melting away so much of the anxiety and worry that has been weighing me down since last year. Bc guys. We're really doing it. He's really ready, and really fine. And really actually a LOT of fun, omg, to ride.

And most importantly? It is so goddamn easy to just believe in this horse. It's a good feeling, and one I'm savoring for all it's worth. So. Ya know. Thanks for reading along and putting up with my gushing ramblings and grainy video stills lol.

50 comments:

  1. Yay team! I loved the read. I know what you mean by the 'I'm actually doing it!'. It feels great. Charlie is loving his job- except for dressage maybe- probably it's like the 'paperwork' portion of work. :D :D

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    1. Yea it really does feel great haha - thanks! I'm thrilled that he seems to like it too. And I definitely wouldn't say that he dislikes dressage either, since he shows his dislike in the form of those "dinosaur stuck in tar pit" moments. Rather he just doesn't understand yet or know really how to do the job. He'll figure it out tho!

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  2. yay great job and great read! I love it i felt like i was right there with you! Great photos from the jump judge extraordinaire too!! YAY YAY YAY (and honestly i would rather have the water issue than any issues at the jump. That water stuff will come. OH AND GULP on that intro course.Yikes. :)

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    1. That jump judge was so nice to take pictures!! And agreed about the water issue. Honestly I'm kinda seriously hoping it isn't an issue for him like it was for Isabel. Rather I'm hoping we just need more schooling. We shall see!!

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    2. I am sure after you school a few more times no issues. Remus didnt like it at first now it is his fave part to splash thru (More splashing gets more points HE THINKS) Again at least he jumps!! the water we can get thru!! YAY all over again! Great job!

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  3. Hell yeah taking the high options!

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    1. Lol and Charlie hardly noticed lol. Like, "oh we are jumping that? Cool."

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  4. I loved that course and how you and Charlie handled it! So many bigger questions (although that roll top with half brush would have me losing some breakfast). Btw, Charlie is looking amazing now--so filled out!

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    1. That roll top was definitely not my favorite haha. But it actually rode fine all day, go figure! And thanks, Charlie has put on a ton of weight and muscle with all the fresh luscious spring grass. Finally!

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  5. Charlie Murray and Emma dominating those high options!! So fun to watch your partnership continue to grow and develop. Even if it wasn't a totally flawless round, it seems to be exactly what you guys needed. Those flawless rounds and ribbons are in your future, because you're putting in all of the foundations! WTG!

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    1. Thanks and I definitely agree - it was exactly what I hoped for and definitely what I needed. It really feels like I'm figuring out how to ride him and get the hang of him. That can only mean good things lol (I hope haha)!

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  6. Gush away because you've got a LOT to be proud about! Can't wait to see how the rest of the season goes for you two (:

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    1. thanks i'm really excited too!

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  7. Ugh I have a massive horse crush on Charles.

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    1. he's pretty freakin easy to love <3

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  8. All the high jumps! Great job! Besides some freight-trainey moments, your ride looked like so much fun!

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    1. it was all so fun - strong moments and all! he just doesn't really know any better yet about getting so strong, but at least you can still really feel him thinking about each jump and setting up for it, even if his technique isn't exactly masterful yet lol

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    2. Yay for enjoying every single moment! I'm so happy for ya.

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  9. I think you've got yourself a cross country specialist in the making, and trust me when I say that those are absolutely the best kind!

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    1. thanks i'm really looking forward to seeing how he continues to develop. we've got some pretty clear areas that need work, but he's such a quick learner i'm optimistic he'll get it sorted!

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  10. Wahoo high options! That course confuses me too- esp with the low options and then you had to jump the house. I'd have jumped the high options too so I didn't panic later. The hay with pine on it made me laugh, such a speed bump fence on a beefier pre-BN course (I don't remember what it was called since intro/starter means something different to everyone!). Charlie is really figuring it out!

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    1. ha right?? the design... was strange. like, i could understand taking a small option after fence 3 if fence 3 hadn't gone well, but then with that house coming up you really probably shouldn't dally over too-small options. idk. it was strange lol. then again, tho, i've definitely had courses with isabel where i took every single small option available. so i guess it just depends on where the horse and rider are as a team. charlie was happy to go high tho!

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  11. Wow congrats on taking all of the high options and OWNING it! Charlie looks like he is really enjoying himself, which is awesome for his new career. Give it just a little more time and the baggage you carry will go away and be replaced by new baggage :D Congrats to him figuring it all out and you making it such a positive experience for him!

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    1. thanks he really seems to be liking this new job!! which obviously thrills me to no end. each ride with him lately just makes me feel better and better!

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  12. !!!!!! Emma, I'm so thrilled for you! He's such a cool horse! I love the photo of him jumping up the bank and his expression throughout the course is so keen. That course design would be a bit of a bummer for some just moving up and being a bit worried, but not for you guys!

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    1. ha thanks! i was legit worried going into the course bc i had been hoping for something a little softer... but then again we finished the course feeling like it had been well within hand the whole time, and who doesn't love that feeling?!?

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  13. I'm so impressed with how far you guys have come!! You guys both look like you are having a blast out there on the XC!

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    1. thank you! it feels SO GOOD to be out there really running an actual xc course again. finally!

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  14. What a good boy. He's so big, he makes all the jumps look so tiny. I think I need a bigger horse. His ears are just so intent in the video; he clearly likes his job.

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    1. ha yea his ears are my favorite - they're different from izzy's but still focused like a laser! and yea there's something to be said about a bigger horse. these jumps are EASY for him. but... then again, so is burning through my brakes lol

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  15. wow he looks great over these! he's really kickin butt.

    the course design makes 0 sense and some of those are HUGE for intro but w/e makes them happy seeing kids splatted all over jumps.

    at st augustine the BN was white on red and the intro was black on yellow which was SUPREMELY CONFUSING for me.

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    1. ugh yea the weird colored numbers confused the hell out of me - if i saw BN as either blue or red i'd definitely get lost. definitely. and yea this course design was really not my favorite, neither for stadium nor xc. but it honestly seemed to work out for most riders. go figure!

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  16. He's such a legit event horse now!

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  17. Great job!! Charlie looks enthusiastic!

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    1. thanks! he was super enthusiastic, i think he likes it!!!

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  18. Oh man! Look at those knees! What a cute jumper! Going xc on a horse that knows and loves his job, there's nothing in the world that can compare and methinks Charlie will be that horse, and all the more special that you'll have been his partner from the very beginning.

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    1. thanks - i definitely agree that he'll hopefully grow into that horse. so far he's showing a lot of aptitude!

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  19. GO TEAM GO!! I can't express how much I love reading you talk about these big fences with such confidence. How AMAZING is it that you went into this course feeling so apprehensive, and then TOTALLY FREAKING NAILED IT?! So excited for you and Charlie!!

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    1. thanks girl <3 it is taking me so so so long to get a grip on my nerves and build myself back up to believing in my own riding education and ability. it's happening tho, finally :)

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  20. YAY! This is SO awesome!! The play by play was awesome and Charlie is getting so grown up! You got him through the water so good on you, and now you know there is one thing you need to school a bit more. How FUN!!!

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    1. ha yea we have a lot of schooling ahead of us still, i think. definitely water. but also basically everything. he really is growing up tho!

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  21. Yes! Anything to squash the anxiety!

    Don't you hate it when your horse insists death by monster is imminent and then decides that actually it's not as bad as they thought? Lol

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  22. Loved reading this! I'm so glad he is doing so well for you and most importantly you are having FUN with him!

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