Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fair Hill: Intro XC

Cross Country Time!!! Yay!!!!!

Ahem, lol.

Anyway - running this cross country course was something I've been looking forward to for a while. My first BN at Fair Hill (way back in 2015) was my penultimate BN trip before moving up to novice, and yet I found myself a little impressed by some of the jumps. Then when I went back the following spring for a confidence-building BN trip, the N course looked totally doable.

the view through the ears at the starting gates is a very special view. this is the moment.
Since then, so much has changed. Because now we have Charlie. Obvi. And he's real fucking green haha. So his first outing at Fair Hill saw us tackle the elementary division.

The underlying assumption being: Fair Hill's Intro XC course is the biggest and baddest Intro around town. It's got all the stuff you're going to see at BN, just with smaller fences and more generous distances. But the fences still give you something to jump. For folks who are big fans of low level eventing (like yours truly), this is a GREAT course.

nice log to start
Charlie wasn't ready for this Intro course a month ago, but he was ready on this day. Good boy!

Given our slightly poor showing in stadium, I opted to continue my habit of trotting Charlie out of the starting gates to the first jump. We're reeeeeeally close to cantering out... but he's still just a little too hair-trigger about the gas pedal right now, while simultaneously being dull to the brakes. I want to hold off on him learning to bolt out of the starting box for as long as possible**!!

So he trotted right on out and got a little underneath the log but jumped it fine.

(**preferably, until he's no longer a bolt risk lol...)

because fair hill refuses to call a coop a coop, this is called the 'dog house'
Had a nice tidy distance to the dog house tho - up and over no problem, with only a little of our signature left drift.

i forget what they called this coop, but.... yea. it's a coop.
Surprisingly, he actually stood off a little bit from jump 3 - the plainest of the plain coops. He got quite crooked to it too. But the nice thing about when he's a little impressed by a jump is that he doesn't climb all over it, so we got over from a reasonable spot.

spooooky hay wagon!
Given his reaction to jump 3, I knew jump 4 would be spooky. Remember he had a little trouble with the elem version of this jump last month?  And sorry Michele - I totally lied when I promised that this jump rode super well and wasn't spooky at all haha, bc yea it can be spooky as fuck for some horses. (That National Show Horse you love got E'd here back in 2015!)

All's well that ends well tho. Charlie took some extra leg and actually a couple clucks. Plus he gave it plenty of room. But he jumped it. Good boy!

disappointed they didn't give us the bank option. we just got the log 
He only got slightly squirrely coming around the turn to this log. I was legitimately disappointed that Intro didn't have the option to do the bank too, as has been the case in past events. The bank was the only thing missing from this course, imo.

As it was tho, we got this log. And... er.... Charlie didn't show it much respect and kinda super-manned over it, landing VERY low up front. Not my favorite feeling!
hay feeder! glad charlie's recovered from his spookiness over hay haha
He cruised around the gentle downward slope across the field pretty well tho - the same slope he bombed down during our last outing here. Maybe he's learning! Jumped the feeder just fine too.
biggest jump on course: the red table. as gallopy a fence as intro has to offer!
He continued cruising pretty pleasantly along through the next field toward the table. I gotta say - the BN version of this jump scared the piss outta me at my first Fair Hill outing. And then last month, this Intro version was one of the reasons I was glad we were doing Elem.

This time tho? We were ready.

pictured: gallopy
And Charlie nailed it. Good boy!

pictured: even more gallopy dear god where are my brakes
They set the jump up nicely too - leading into a thin line of trees in passage to the next field, where we had a long, wide, straight runway of jumps. Which... to Charlie, resembled nothing so much as it resembled a race track. Charlie fucking TOOK OFF GALLOPING.

Like, I'm talking: standing up in my stirrups pulling the reins and wrenching shoulders as leverage and everything. Homeboy was GOING.

hey-o, it's another coop
It was.... beyond a doubt the fastest I've ever ridden this horse haha...uh... yea. It's almost hard to tell in the video... except you can totally fucking tell. Christ, Charlie.

We got some semblance of rhythm back ahead of the next jump, tho we were very very crooked.

log pile!! skinny but.... logs!!!
Our organization continued to improve tho and we met this last jump of the 'runway' in more or less one piece.

aaaaand hahahaha the water is the A-B combo on course. bc of fucking course it is. also that's an Alli sighting!!
Next up came the water - naturally flagged as an AB combo from the water entry to a jump out. Fair Hill almost always has AB combos on BN and Intro - and more often than not the combos include the ditch bank or water. One of the reasons it's such a great course!

But obviously this was not what I had hoped for on course haha, given our recent elimination at the water.

but look who's in the water!!
I talked to the jump judge during our course walk to make sure he'd be on board with me schooling the unflagged entrances to the water in advance. We agreed that I'd yell "schooling" on approach, and that I wouldn't cross the plane of the flagged water entry. And that I'd move out of the way should another horse over take me, but that otherwise I could take as much time as I wanted.

another log pile out
So I finally did what I've been neglecting to do: I took my goddamn time. Charlie actually walked right on in no problem. But I still made myself take a couple trips back and forth across the two unflagged entry points to the water - walking in and trotting out, then turning around and repeating. We did this a few times before finally approaching the flags themselves. 

And Charlie did it, no problem. Gooooooood boy! Super-manned a little over the B element but that's ok, we can fix that later!

aaaaand there's that gallopy again haha. sorry charlie, but we reeeally don't need to go that fast at intro, bro
Tho he had his second moment of wanting to run for the hills after jumping that fence lol....

Poor guy. I really need to fix our training bc he definitely didn't love getting hauled on... but he also doesn't really understand that cross country isn't a race, ya know? And that it's reeeeeally inappropriate and borderline dangerous to jump fences this size from such a speed.

nice hay bales going down hill
Anyway tho, that was the end of his bolt-y tendencies bc he turned the corner to the downhill approach to this hay bale jump and a switch flipped: Charlie realized that, actually? He was REALLY tired.

He jumped this hay bale so ridiculously politely, I think my jaw dropped.

most adorable ditch EVAR
Then he just loped right on down the hill to the ditch, which he reached at a very pleasant distance and actually gave a little shape to his hop over. Good boy!

this is basically hunter jump fill, right?
Then right on up the hill, still loping, to a simple black box - something that would be right at home as jump fill in our hj barn's arena.

bump on a hill!! (they lowered the log to ground level for intro for... reasons, i guess)
He must have known he was on the home stretch bc he just kept cruisin. Got to the bump on a log a bit awkwardly, but no real problem. Just lofted our landing a little (it actually rode like a drop haha). Naturally, to the sound of cheering from Michele et al. <3

roll top for the train
Then cruised on along to the finish line train where I made a bit of a mistake, not realizing the vastness of difference in the horse from the middle of the course to the horse I had under me. I saw a going and forward distance and pushed him up to it, only to miss it and have him chip and clunk his hind end all over the roll top. Sorry buddy!!!! :(

choo choooo!! i've now jumped the whole middle of this train, but will get those ends one day!
Aside from that small oopsie, it felt like a really strong finish to the course. Actually it was a strong beginning to the course too - just the middle section that was seriously out of control.

It had the distinct feeling of a green horse who has been competing a lot, running a lot of courses, but maybe not actually schooling. Like maybe Charlie is having trouble distinguishing cross country from a race - he's still in the mindset that speed is part of our goal here.

So I see a lot of schooling on our list of "What Needs Work" this summer. Jumping a jump, then stopping. Jumping another, then stopping again. He's got an entirely new rhythm to learn about jumping - something that isn't as easily learned through competitions alone.

happy campers on the way back down the hill ;)
Really tho, I'm very happy with how he did for this event. He's not exactly "rideable" in the truest sense of the word... But he is so goddamn honest that even when he's blasting off at speeds previously unknown to Emma, it doesn't feel bad except in the sense that it's definitely not correct for jumping. 

And obviously we have a lot of options for how we can deal with that speed factor going forward - including trying different bitting scenarios. I'm going to start tho with just plain old schooling tho, and see where that gets us. Call me old school if you want lol.

In the meantime tho, that's a wrap on Fair Hill and on our 'mini mid summer season.' The walk down to the trailers with Allison and Michele (who we caught up with!) was just so lovely, really reaffirming why showing is SO FUN, but that showing with friends is even MOAR FUNNER! 

Hopefully we can have similar repeats in the future!


  1. OH YEAH! (see i am loud in person and I apologize but I am loud online too! HA). Charlie was amazing on that CC. And a wee bit out of control (HA after that red table thru that little section of woods. MAN he was CRUISING!! SO glad you defeated the water monster. :) Great job.... and you guys caught up with me cause Remus was slower than an inchworm going up that trail. HA I told Alli you guys would lap me and you did. Great fun time!! I can see you doing BN very soon there if you get your brakes installed :)

    1. Thanks!! Actually the BN helped a little bit with our brakes bc he was more respectful of the fences. That obvi isn't a permanent solution (I'd rather have him trained than just keep putting bigger and bigger jumps in front of him) - but this was probably our last outing at intro. Anyway tho it was so fun and I loved hearing the cheering as we flew by ! :)

  2. Charlie GO! Charlie GO FAST!

    Congrats on a great run!!

    1. Ha Charlie go VERY FAST!!! ;)

      Thanks tho it was a lot of fun!!

  3. Way to go!!! That course really covered everything! What a great horse Charlie is just jumping all the things <3

    1. thanks - i think he likes it! this course was definitely a great test to see how he would do with seeing a lot of variation and a lot of 'questions' but in a friendly enough way to set him up for success. i'm super happy with him!

  4. NEEERRRMMMM. That's Racecar Charlie's noise.

    I love the "school first" approach and think bitting is a great accompaniment to the schooling process. I'm really interested to follow along and see what options you pursue with schooling to address things, too. I always pick up new tools when bloggers school through things. I schooled Grif for awhile before eventually doing a bit change. The combo of schooling with better communication helped us both, but I always wonder if I'd had a different toolset would the outcome have been different? I enjoy the puzzle and its various different solutions.

    1. yea "puzzle" is definitely the right word for it. bc there are sorta two main pieces - the rider aspect and the horse aspect. as a rider, my go-to bad habit is pulling. if i'm nervous, i pull. if i don't see a distance, i pull. meanwhile, charlie is more than happy to lean on a bit. and my half halts only really work if i'm "taking" from a place of "give." ie: if i'm already pulling, just plain old pulling harder isn't enough bc he just leans into it.

      so my ideas re: bitting is be able to "cruise" in a place of softness on the bit, where i don't feel so out of control that i need to pull every single step, so that when i *do* activate the reins, charlie listens. and that i can immediately give back what i take, instead of feeling like i need to keep pulling and pulling. the trick will be forcing myself as a rider to NOT pull constantly for no reason; and to be sure that i don't end creatinng bigger problems or mistakes if i *do* end up getting to handsy. we'll see how it goes!

  5. Dang. This post makes me want to jump. Stop toying with my sanity, woman.
    I could really grasp your excitement about the course. I'm glad Charley did well through the water!!! His throttle might be a little sensitive but sounds like it's because he's also having fun.

    I'd recommend that you run him until he's tired and then run him some more to teach him to slow down but you might end up in the next county. XD

    1. awww he's having so much fun!!!! he really likes this jumping thing, and he's a lot of fun to ride during it, even when he's going way too fast.

      actually tho i disagree pretty strongly with the idea of running him until he's tired to teach him to slow down. that actually is very much the opposite of what i want him to learn.

      possibly my perspective is coming from the land of riding an arabian who did not get tired, so i had to learn how to channel her in different ways. also i have exactly ZERO interest in getting charlie that fit lol. no. thankyouverymuch haha. i would much rather teach him a half halt instead, and teach him to whoa without needing to be exhausted (also bc jumping when exhausted is also very much not recommended, just ask elisa wallace) ;)

  6. Yay Charlie!! You could definitely tell the speed difference in the video...whew!

  7. youre doing so well with him, he's great. and also hilarious in his exuberance.

    1. aw thanks :D he really IS great, i luff him so much!! and yes, his, er, *exuberance* is quite nice, all things considered!

  8. WOOHOO!!!! HE IS GO CHARLIE GO-ING!!! What fun to relive that course via helmet cam! Homeboy definitely seems more than ready for a permanent move up to BN! Well ridden! :D Can't wait for the next outing with y'all, that day was TOO FUN!

    1. thanks girl, he definitely goes, that's for sure!!! and i think you're right - this will more than likely be his last trip at intro. we'll see how it goes!!! looking forward to riding with you more in the near future!!

  9. Looking forward to seeing how summer schooling translates to your fall endeavors!

  10. Charlie the Steeplechase Horse! I thoroughly enjoyed that ride (I don't knw if I'll ever do an event course but I loved the ride along). He'll figure out how to rate himself. It's a bit of greenness and 'whee' this stuff is FUN!

    And yay for the water.

    1. thanks! glad you like the ride - helmet cam videos are my not-so-secret obsession haha. and agreed that he's just green. like. he spent 4 years being taught to run - that speed is the right answer. and he's a clever boy, he wants to be a good boy, and he thinks this job is pretty fun. so he's like, "Ooh Oooh i know the answer!!! it's to go FAST, right?? yas i am so good at this going fast thing, let me show you!!!" lol... he'll figure it out tho ;)

  11. "speeds previously unknown to Emma" BWHAHA!!! Ah this made me laugh. I totally agree with the schooling before bitting theory, one I employ myself. By focusing so much on the training, Mia is much more adjustable now. What a good course though, kudos to that jump judge for working with you over the water too. Great show!

    1. lol glad you enjoyed that haha - that's exactly how it felt! and yea this jump judge was pretty cool. tho i've seen folks talk to them about this exact subject at prior events and they've been pretty consistently open to the whole 'you're not timed and this is a schooling show' type attitude. tho i guess that's par for the course with a venue that's experienced both at holding events of the highest level along with the most casual schooling shows.

  12. I love these updates, that sounds like a seriously positive experience for you both..even if it was a bit 'festive' in the middle :)

    1. lol festive is a GREAT word for it! and definitely a positive experience. i just freakin love horse showing, ya know? and am so happy to have a horse that wants to participate again

  13. I love how it almost looks like Charlie is smiling when he's telling you to please stop telling him to slow down. So glad, and a little jealous, of your awesome adventure + blogger meetup!

    1. you just have to come visit!!!! i'm sure we could drum up a horse for you too ;)

  14. WHOO HOOO!!! GO CHARLIE AND EMMA!!! I actually could totally see him just go WHEEEEEE in parts of the video and I was giggling. It was super cute. Probably not cool to be riding it, but it was super cute. He looked so positive through the water as well!! Definitely a super win for you two! <3

    1. aw he's definitely fun, even when things aren't going to plan

  15. OTTBs are tough with the pulling... to them,pull = gallop, so the more you pull the faster they want to go (we see it quite a bit when showing them to people). It's a tough balance to figure out the whoa when you need it and I hope you guys figure it out:) He's so keen and fun though! I love seeing your videos! Such an inspiration you guys!

    1. lol yea that's basically OTTB 101 right there for sure!

  16. Charlie is awesome! And I really appreciate that Fair Hill calls their lowest levels Elementary and Intro. I absolutely hate divisions called Amoeba, Green as Grass, etc. Those names seem so demeaning to adult amateurs, in my opinion. Can't wait to hear about your schooling progress this summer!


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