Friday, August 18, 2017

a day out west!

Last week I delved into the idea of "collective intelligence" as one of the many benefits of this wonderful equestrian blogging community. Another huge benefit tho is the friends I've made through blogging. There are a lot of really cool people out there and it's been amazing to connect just by virtue of shared interests.

So as hinted at yesterday, I knew the moment work decided to send me to Sunny San Diego that I'd try to meet up with the SoCal blogger contingent.

familiar bay face to kick this thing off
Luckily everything worked out surprisingly well - I was able to tack a full day on to the end of my trip and catch the red eye home. Meanwhile, L Williams (whom I've now had the pleasure of meeting a few times in various cities on both coasts) was able to mostly free herself from work to act as activities coordinator for the day. Yay!

Thule dog is a good dog. also i've been mispronouncing her name in my head all along. whoops.
First up on the docket after my birdie-filled breakfast (as posted yesterday lol) was riding along with L over to Carey's house to pick her up and head out to the barn. Naturally this involved spending some quality time with Carey's lovely pups Thule and Reef too. Such good dogs!

Thule and Reef. gooood pups, also very handsome!
You may recall Carey recently blogged about a riding accident that left her with a pretty nasty broken leg. Bleh. No fun at all :( Having been there myself within recent memory (despite all efforts to block it out haha), I could definitely sympathize with the sheer exhaustion and overwhelming nature that comes with even the simplest tasks while on crutches.

speaking of handsome!!! it's Cosmo!!
Somewhat amazingly tho, Carey has a pretty awesome attitude about the injury. And was still in bright enough spirits to hang out for the day, yay! We first headed out to the barn where she keeps Cosmo. Who, by the way, this horse guys. He is such a character haha!

Big, gentle and friendly. But with a very definite sense about him like he knows how things are supposed to be done and expects everyone to do their jobs just so. lol.

and Dante! i love the progression of his expression here as L shuffles around that plastic cup, eventually grabbing it with her teeth. Dante was.... not so sure about that haha
Also I'm always basically fascinated by west coast barns. The horses live so differently from the typical arrangements here on the east coast. And yet they all seem to be happy, healthy and thriving all the same. Talk about an argument for the horse's general versatility haha!

reminded me of being back at charlie's old h/j barn with all the white pads and monograms
 After hanging out for a while with Cosmo and Carey and some of the other riders around the barn (including casually observing while two recent imports went through their paces), we dropped Carey off at Mary's Tack Store to move on to phase 2 of our "Get Emma Her Horsey Fix" agenda: meeting Dante!!

they had fancy machinery at the horse park too!
Naturally this also included a tour of the horse park where Dante lives - all the various arenas, buildings, show facilities, etc. It's a pretty cool place! The stalls look a little more similar to what you might find on the east coast - just everything is much more open to the elements (since, uh, it's San Diego. they don't really have elements lol).

giant baby pony crossing!
Dante is also just freakin adorable. It's been a long time since I've interacted with such a baby horse too. Most of my experience (tho not quite all) with younger horses is with ottbs. And let's face it, there's a HUGE difference between a ~4yo ottb who has had a job and has developed more physically, and a ~4yo wb who is still growing and learning what it means to work.

turns out Dante is quite the snuggler. my efforts to capture funny expressions were rewarded more than i expected haha
It was cool watching how L went about her work with Dante tho. Very methodical. Very systematic. Very focused on showing the horse what was expected while exposing him to all kinds of activity. And of course, lots of pets and rewards when he was a good boy.

told ya i had to get my fix somehow!
He's such a lovely horse to watch, beautiful mover and everything, that it can be easy to forget he's just a green broke baby. He's a clever pone tho. Seems like a quick learner who likes to please. I'll be excited to see how he continues to develop!

still learning how to "look of eagles." but he'll get it one day!
After Dante finished his little workout we went on a meandering tour of the horse park, with L showing me all the coolest fixtures. Like the grass grand prix arenas.

shiny pony
Obviously it's kinda comical for me to think of the grass arenas as being somehow very special or unusual or reserved for select competitions and classes. Because everything here on the east coast is grass. I can ride on grass every day if I want.

he's not.... what you would call an elegant eater lol
But that's really not the case out west. There really isn't any grass anywhere it seems lol. So it actually is somewhat of a novelty lol.

Anyway obviously L and I had to hit up Mary's tack shop too for a little casual browsing. Tho I did actually end up buying something - might write more about that later. Mostly tho it was just your typical adventure of ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the absolutely bizarre (and borderline hideous) shit ppl will spend tons of money on for their horses. Like. Uh. This.... bridle.

shopping time!! itsy bitsy saddles and blinged out bridles. for which obvi some sheep sacrificed its existence. 
Final stop of the evening was actually maybe one of the most highly anticipated: L set up dinner with a whole group of local bloggers! Carey met back up with us, and Alex and Karen both joined in as well! We all met up at La Perla for tacos (omgsogoodtho) and lots and lots of pony chat.

wheeeeeee blogger fun!!!!
L to R: Alex, Karen, L Williams, me, and Carey
It's always so cool getting to meet other bloggers in person and hear them describe their horses in ways that don't always come across as well on the internet. And get to hear what everybody is working on, what's new, and what's coming next.

Tho we definitely decided that next time I had to plan a longer visit so I could meet the rest of the ponies too - including Scarlet (who is undoubtedly very similar to Isabel in some ways) and the new baby Catalina!! Next time guys, for sure!! Thanks y'all for making the end of an otherwise boring work trip so much more fun!!

Anyway - for the readers out there, have you had any opportunities to meet up with horsey folk you met from the blogs? Or gotten to tack on fun horse-filled activities to an otherwise unrelated trip?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

bird brain

Happy Thursday everyone! Brace yo'selves for another picture-heavy recounting of a work trip that tries to make it look like I didn't spend the whole time freezing my lady balls off in an overly air-conditioned conference center lol.

it's a ship!
Bc it turns out that work trips aren't really all that glamorous, even when they take me to cool places.

kites kites kites
San Diego is a very pretty place tho. The harbor definitely lends itself to some very pleasant sightseeing even on the briefest of walks.
i'm more than a little bit obsessed with west coast trees
It's good to be home tho. I miss my pony and would legit rather be posting pictures of him right now. This is, after all, a dedicated horse blog. Not a work travel blog lol. But all in good time, right?

srsly. these trees. they are cool.
Hopefully I'll see Charlie this evening for a nice long hack (if the weather cooperates lol). In the meantime tho, I'll just satisfy myself with recovering from the jet lag and red eye flight while trying to catch up on what everyone has been up to for the past couple days.

oooh look, it's another ship!
I'm looking forward to a little more stability in my schedule soon hopefully too. For whatever reason, I've been heading out to the west coast fairly often lately. It's a cool place to go but that's a lot of travel!

kinda wish i had made it for a tour
And it's hard to give Charlie the consistency I want for him with all that back and forth. Considering in the past 7 days he's been ridden once. Not ideal. But again, hopefully that's it for time off for a little while.

more treeeees!! these palms being decidedly more natural and normal looking than the overly preened palms of anaheim
Really tho, if Charlie has shown anything over the course of time I've had him, it's that he's pretty much always fine. Always the same horse. I always know what I'm getting with him, and it's always pretty wonderful.

so pretty tho!
And that's a reassuring feeling, right? To know that we can put something down, walk away for a moment, and still have everything right where we left it when we return.

even the little weedy mossy plants are pretty cool looking
As much as I joke about Charlie being the King of the Dings and a sensitive soul, he really has been Mr Reliability.

marina in the bay
Obvi it's tempting fate a little to write that out lol... But so far, so good.

they almost don't look real, right?
So I'm looking forward to getting back out there again soon, getting my pony fix and hopefully having some exciting stuff coming up to write about too!

can't stop, won't stop
There are a couple topics I want to write about soon too, in addition to our standard content following the training progress of everyone's favorite goofy big bay TB.

another notable difference from anaheim: birdies!!!! they wanted to share my breakfast orts lol
Not least of which, the most major of silver linings from this most recent trip!!

oooooh except we got some drama goin down!
San Diego, as you know, being home to actually quite a few wonderful equestrian bloggers - so naturally we had to find a way to weave a fun meet up into the regularly scheduled work shenanigans!!

angry birdie doesn't wanna play nice with everyone else! chill out birdie!!
And even more to my great relief - this included getting to meet a couple very special and internet-famous ponies!!!! More to come on that later!

oh snap! i love the shocked expressions of those other two trying to figure out wtf is up with crazy pants over there lol
For now, tho, wish me luck in recovering from the jet lag and getting to see Sir Charles this evening (I miss the big guy!!).

'Tis the season anyway, right? I know a lot of you have been on vacations lately, or travel for work too, or have other circumstances interfering with a consistent summer riding schedule. How have you made that work for you? Is your horse cool with down time? Or do you always have to make arrangements to keep the horse in work when you're away? Does it depend?

Monday, August 14, 2017

keepin' him

An unfortunately timed rain storm blew in Friday night, meaning our highly anticipated cross country schooling lesson was postponed for some other weekend. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. Probably. lol...

finding more and more pleasant and soft moments these days
We had spent most of the week prior trying to be a little more disciplined in schooling our flat work. Specifically in the black tack and accompanying loose ring snaffle. Charlie's been going very well lately - but I need to be careful to not end up complacent about the feeling I can get from him with double reins on the elevator bit, complete with curb strap.

I don't have quite the same stopping power in the regular loose ring - meaning, at this point in Charlie's training, I don't have quite the same 'half halt' either. Not a big deal, I just need to stay aware and keep practicing in both bits!

and moments of excitement!
He then got some days off while I was in DC for mucho worko stuff. The timing was nerve-wracking bc it coincided with Charlie's introduction to the full gelding herd. I turned him out Wednesday night and watched his first interactions (he's bold but unassuming with new horses, maybe a good combination) knowing I wouldn't lay eyes or hands on him again until Saturday.

liverpool aint no thang
Luckily Brita was able to check in on him for a quick count of his legs (4), shoes (4, phew!), eyes (2) and any new wounds (0, hell yes!). So that reassured me a little bit haha.

i love how he's learning to shift his balance around through the grids!
And then when I finally arrived back at the barn for our lesson, Charlie looked actually pretty damn good. I think he may have lost a little weight from the move (sensitive soul that he is) so we'll just keep throwing hay and food and grass at him. But mentally and emotionally, he seems fully settled, very relaxed, and legitimately quite happy at the new farm. I like it!

wheeee more grids!
And I actually thought he might be a bit of a lollygag for our lesson. Our first lap of trotting was so indifferent and blah that I just immediately put him up into canter to stretch out a bit before trying again at trot. That woke him up and loosened him up nicely, but with the humidity I still maybe kinda expected him to be a little meh for the lesson.

and more trotting. it ain't perfect but it's surprisingly nice to still find these gears even after we start jumping
Turns out tho, Charlie can still surprise me. In a good way. From our very first warm up cross rails, he was eagerly arriving very nicely at the jumps and popping over like this is his favorite thing in the world. Which, honestly, maybe it is!

horse loves to jump
We started working over the same grids from last week, slowly building up in a slightly different fashion this time. We started with the 1st and 4th of the line of one strides - fitting an easy 5 between them. Then repeating until all four were built again. Charlie very clearly remembered this lesson and was legitimately foot perfect. Actually perfect. God I just love him <3

fan jump is old news these days too
Next we schooled a bending line from the fan jump to a vertical, looping around to the liverpool. Then the same triple combination of 2-to-2 (set at very compressed 30' distances) from last week. And finally put it all together for a little course, as seen in the video below.

It's kinda funny bc many of the jumps had been raised for this course (particularly through the grids) and Charlie kinda didn't notice at first, so he dropped some of them. But I honestly don't care. He'll figure it out eventually.

The thing I loved so much about this ride is just how.... easy Charlie felt about it all. The final two jumps in the grid of one strides are 2'9 oxers. Sure he tapped one out of the cups with a lazy hind leg.... but like. It's clearly not much of an exertion or effort for him.

Even the bigger single jumps just feel so easy for him too. He's not even trying. I like it! I especially like that all this practice over grids, and esp trotting into so many lines, has gotten him feeling very soft and ratable to the fences, instead of blasting off and running. His eye is getting better every ride, as is his ability to find the jumps out of stride and rebalance again on landing.

it's apparently a little too easy for him haha
Good boy, Charlie. I'm definitely itching to get out schooling cross country soon. But even so, we're feeling pretty good about gearing back up for the second half of our competition season. As evidenced by the two entries I just sent in for events in September :D

I'm sure I'll feel more nervous and anxious as the events draw closer (isn't that always the way??). But right now, it's really exciting daydreaming what Charlie's future could look like. Even just three months from now, considering this past week marked exactly one year since Charlie's final race. You've come a long way, baby!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

seeing sky

I'm not normally one to snap a zillion pictures from plane windows bc.... well.... honestly at a certain point all those pictures kinda look the same, right?

morning skies after a rain storm
But the skies this morning just seemed, idk. Too pretty to pass up. And seeing as I don't have one of those new-fangled instagram machines or whatever, the pics are getting posted here. #dealwithit lol

there be rolling mountains down there
More pony content will be coming shortly - this is, after all, a dedicated horse blog. And I did manage to make it to a pretty fun lesson yesterday (details pics and video coming tomorrow). Mostly tho, Charlie's laying low for most of the upcoming week while I'm away.

looking above from below, and below from above
Hopefully, tho, I'll find my way to fit seeing some fun ponies (and pony people!!) in to this work trip. There are plans afoot!!! Gotta get my fix however I can, right??

Anyway, hope you are having a great weekend too. Anyone else enjoying a recent break in the weather? Or got any big plans on the docket? Or maybe even small plans of the relaxing variety? Literally anything I could live vicariously through while I'm stuck on this trip?!? lol....

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

oh hai, fren!!

Charlie finally has a turnout friend at his new barn! Much excitement!

contented grazing
They have a reasonably conservative introduction period of solo turnout that we extended a little bit bc of Charlie's aggravated splint, but he's finally graduated to step two: getting a buddy added to his small paddock.

fireworks!! or uh, ya know, polite greetings
The OTTB adoption facility had told me that Charlie was a pretty easy going dude in the field, and he was able to easily mix in with a couple different groups while at the h/j place for the past eleven-ish months.

Plus he's always been super friendly and interested in meeting new horses while in the cross ties or under saddle or in the barn or whatever.

Loki samples Charlie's butt for taste haha
So I expected Charlie to be pretty good for his first turnout with a friend at OF.

The reality, tho, is that I actually haven't been able to spend much time observing Charlie in the field with a herd. Mostly bc that's a sad side effect of not working at the barn - I don't get to see as much of the dynamics bc I'm not there all the time.

call me biased but i think they're stinkin adorable
Therefore getting to watch this latest introduction was pretty cool for me. The buddy horse apparently is OF's go-to for introducing new geldings, and had actually just played babysitter for another new horse last week. Poor guy is probably missing his own normal turnout, but he was the perfect choice for Charlie.

He's actually kinda a cheeky little pony lol - taking lots of little nibbles and chews on Charlie. Playful stuff, ya know? But Charlie maybe doesn't actually know how to play haha. At one point the pony grabbed Charlie's hock and Charlie tried to squeal.... but, ya know, wind surgery, so.... it came out more like this pathetic heave-y wheeze haha. Poor Charlie.

nose sniffies!!!
They've been getting along pretty well so far, sharing hay piles and spending lots of time chatting with each other. But also not like... obsessively attached or anything either.

Next steps will be for Loki to be Charlie's chaperone/wingman/body guard for his introduction to the full herd in the big turnout. Something that will probably happen in the next couple of days.

It's definitely exciting for me that Charlie's getting friends now - he's a pretty social horse in that he seems happier with company, even if he doesn't interact much with the other horses. When he's out by himself he stays near the fence lines closest to other horses. But when he has a horse sharing the field with him? He's content to just go do his own thing (even if he ends up farther away from that horse than he would stray from neighboring horses when he was "alone").

It's always nerve wracking too tho lol. I don't want anybody to pick on him or bully him, but definitely don't want him dishing out any rudeness either! So far so good tho!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

grid your loins!

It's no secret that trainer P from OF loves some grid work. Especially one stride lines set at 18' distances. She's pretty great at finding ways to incorporate them into most courses and exercises, and over the years has often even used them as a warm up for jumping.

puppy in a pony shadow!
The idea with these grids, as best I can understand it, is to kinda set the horse up to figure out his own footwork and own body. The rider is responsible for coming into the grid with the right pace (whether trotting or cantering in) and for keeping the horse straight.

calm down charlie!
Then the horse just kinda does whatever he's going to do, with the jumps themselves providing the education. With such a short compressed distance for one stride (18'), the horse must really compress his body and figure out how to rock back on his hind end and use himself more properly over the out jump. The distance makes it a lot harder to just blast through flatly.

starting work over the one strides
Charlie's had very limited exposure to grids before now - with just two lessons dedicated to the task. Like this one back in February when he was still learning what this whole jumping thing was all about (and actually that grid work helped Charlie have a few breakthroughs). And this one from June when he had a more thorough introduction to one stride grids.

built up to the full four fences
And actually - in most of the first introductions to grid work with Charlie, we've had a run out or attempted run outs. Which I totally get - it can be kinda overwhelming to look down a line and see nothing but a sea of poles and standards. Plus. Ya know. Squirrely green horses are squirrely.

dem knees tho!
Then, in more recent weeks, it's just been plain old too hot to really ask the horses to do that much gymnastic work. Combined with trainer P's limited mobility with a bum knee, the idea got put on the back burner.

i love his expression! 
But we definitely wanted to address it sooner rather than later. Charlie's really figuring out this jumping thing. He's gotten quite comfortable with it. Maybe even too comfortable - he doesn't even bother looking at jumps below 2'6 and can be too casual about it, but is not yet quite educated enough to bail himself out if he (or I, let's be real) ends up making a mistake.

and he actually did shockingly well in the 18' distances
Plus his tendency is to kinda leap at the fences, using his size and speed to get over, instead of really using his body to its full ability. This is naturally not quite ideal, and certainly not something I want cemented as habit.

too easy over the final haha
So to set up the exercise, we started by building up to three verticals in a row, set at 30' distances (so again, a compressed two stride). Trainer P left a pile of poles where the first jump would be, but only set up the second and third jumps of the line.

Charlie had to trot in, figuring out his footwork over that little pole pile before trotting the next two jumps. Then the pole pile turned into a jump and he did all three in a row, with two strides between. My biggest aim here was for straightness, given our history with run outs. This sometimes meant I wasn't as giving with my hands as I needed to be, a constant struggle. But we stayed quite straight!

and bc i like media overkill, here's his final effort
We didn't spend a lot of time with the two stride grid tho, moving quickly over to the one stride line. Which again started with only the 3rd and 4th jumps set up, and the first staying as a pole pile. Charlie had to trot in, figure out his footwork over that confounding pole pile, then continue moving forward to the single one stride.

Then we built up the second jump in the line. Rinse repeat. And then the first jump in the line - so four jumps in a row, 18' distances between them.

one day i'll be more trusting with my position, which will only make charlie's life easier. he seems to be making pretty good work of things despite me tho!
A few more repetitions and all four were set as oxers. Then continue with the rinse repeat nature of the exercise, with me working to enter the grid with the appropriate pace, maintain our straightness, but otherwise stay out of the goddamn way and let the grid do its job.

Obviously that last part (staying out of the way) is a real struggle for me haha, esp when we'd get into the grid a little dodgy... But actually I was quite pleased both with Charlie's willingness to stay straight. And especially with how soft he stayed through the whole exercise.

Unlike the last time we practiced grids in June, he did not start getting strong and racey on reapproaching the line again and again. He stayed soft to the bridle, trotted quite nicely, and seemed to be very very focused on the job. I liked it!

also, here's Goose the pig. bc why not
By the end too, he was actually almost slow through the grid - like breaking each movement into its own unit of time and space. Sit lift jump. Land step wait. Sit lift jump. Land step wait.

I remember from auditing Boyd Martin a while back that he was very insistent on getting the horses to jump "slower." Not necessarily meaning pace, per se, but actually in the act of jumping itself. He didn't want to see horses racing off the ground or riders rushing or moving too quickly with their upper bodies. Saying instead that horses jump the best when they leave the ground and move through the air slower.

I'm not totally certain that Charlie's work through that last grid was exactly what Boyd meant or wanted. But it felt worlds different from racing at and leaping over the fences.

It was also a really cool feeling to see Charlie be so focused in on the job - thinking so deeply about each step, while also seeming to really enjoy the puzzle. The sense I get from this horse is that he will tackle just about any problem so long as he thinks he can get the answer right. And the more stuff he sees, the more confident he feels in figuring out what's expected of him.