Wednesday, November 8, 2017

returning from whence we came

Or, in other words, returning to a sense of normalcy. 'Tis the season for shifts in routine anyway: the clocks, the weather, and now the barn's turnout schedule. Horses are now out during the day and in over night.

So in a way it's a new routine for us, tho it's nbd considering Charlie hasn't really had anything like a 'routine' beyond "just still sitting in his stall" for quite a few weeks now. And actually, it's maybe kinda nice. Am I the only one who somewhat resignedly appreciates the clock change bc now I can finally just accept the darkness instead of rushing to try to beat it? lol....

excuse the grid lines -- i was trying (and still failing) to true the horizon without actually chopping off his cutey pie ears or toes. so. you get a screen shot of my efforts with the grid lines lol
Anyway, I thought this period of adjustment might serve as a check in on where Charlie is in his life and wellness. He is emerging from his cocoon of stall rest and hopefully easing back into the life of a sport-horse-in-training, with all of winter ahead of us to regroup.

During his first taste of freedom, he struck the above pose -- not exactly a classic conformation shot, but maybe close. Close enough for me, anyway. So naturally I took a screen shot and tried to make it more level-ish, sorta, for the purposes of evaluating.

eye spy with my little eye.... somebody (who shall remain nameless) walkin the fence during turnout
Safe to say: this a FAR CRY from the race horse I met last September who had just run a race four weeks prior. Charlie's now rocking what I fondly refer to as his "Dad Bod."

And? I actually really like it haha!

see that star face staring out from between the boards????
While he lacks any real muscle, most notably along the full length of his topline and that hay beer belly, this is maybe the best he's looked weight-wise since I've owned him.

The angles of that hind end are still just flat planes instead of rounded features, sure. But there's so much more fullness now. No more jutting points, esp in the hips.

clearly he needs more action haha - as he expressively nods his head here as if to say, "Yes plz! I would also like to run and jump like Bella again!"
And hopefully with the reintroduction of "real" work, we'll be able to lift his back up again, tighten up the belly, and generally add muscling in all those hollow places along his topline.

The last few days have been tricky for making the "work" happen, but I've been trying. Charlie got to hack out with Brita and Bella and some other barn mates a couple times this past week - one ride during which I legitimately thought he might really finally kill me (it's just that same sassy move he pulls all the time, but it's a lot of horse to be that sassy!).

bc yea, brita and bella are killin it
And another ride where he was actually pretty freakin good, tho I could feel the sass coursing beneath the surface as Brita and our other companion flitted hither and thither schooling some of the xc fences.

I legitimately cannot wait to get back out there with Charlie - to just be allowed to let him go and RUN! Hopefully the ground is still good by the time he's cleared for takeoff!!!

charlie gets to .... play in his own way tho. back in le dressage tack
For now, tho, we walk. And finally (finally): a little bit of trotting too. Basically reintroducing trotting as if we were rehabbing a soft tissue injury. We won't stay on that same timeline for very long, but the name of this game is "gradual."

So we walk and walk and walk and walk.

And we either do so hacking out all over the property in Charlie's hackamore and jump saddle, in which I care not how he goes so long as he's being generally respectful of any direction I might give. Or we dress all up in dressage tack (complete with snaffle instead of hackamore) and I ask that Charlie goes to work at the walk.

making eyes at himself in the mirror, natch haha
What does "work at the walk" mean, you might ask?

In an ideal world, this would mean working on things like: Schooling three distinct walks - free, collected, and working - and transitions between. Practicing lateral work at the walk, including leg yields, shoulder fore, and maybe even turns on haunches or forehand. Perfecting general figures such as circles of various sizes, spirals, and serpentines. Ya know. Fanceh stuff.

new concept for a shoulder guard for us, instead of his "muscle shirt" from last year that i always worried was maybe also problematic in its own way
The reality is playing out a lot simpler than that tho. Like, sure, those are the ideas that bump around in my head. But. Ya know. Charlie's still green, and now has been off for weeks and has no strength. Plus. Also. Haha, I'm still the same rider I've always been.

So the rides play out a little bit more like: Emma thinks really deeply about her own position and focuses first and foremost on getting Charlie supple and giving to the bit. We don't have three distinct walks at all - we have "Dis How Charlie Go" and "Ok We Can Slow Tempo A Little. But Only Bc You Won't Shut Up About It."

this is just a silky loose bib by Snuggy Hoods
And I still only really have one rein, my right rein. Idk why. It was a major problem with Isabel too, tho both Bali and Velvet were opposite sided so I dunno. Chicken or the egg, it hardly matters at this point. All that matters is: we do not track left the same as we track right.

Since we're limited to the walk tho, we've got the perfect opportunity to really dissect that further, to explore and experiment. It's not like I've got anything else to work on, right?

little loop to keep it fixed in place
Actually, just in general, I'm trying to be really disciplined with myself to take time to focus on all those little nagging imbalances and issues in our combined way of going that I always kinda just rushed past previously.

Practicing counter canter is so much sexier than exploring why we're so uneven from side to side.... But that lateral imbalance won't go away just bc I ignore it. So. No time like the present!

like so
This discipline extends to being super explicit to Charlie about what I want in the walk too. Historically the walk was our "take a break" gait. Typically I would take time to pick him up a few strides before a transition, and ask him to hold himself a few strides in walk after transitioning down... But beyond that, the walk was kinda a.... go-between, an intermediary. It's never a focus in and of itself.

Rehabbing tho? I'm pretty sure Charlie has spent more time walking on the bit in the last week than he has in the entire year I've owned him lol.

also charlie needed a whole new sheet after i wrecked his last one, oops
The amazing thing is how quickly he got on board with this. Like, at first it was really hard. But if I was quick enough with my praise he just.... kept doing it. And now he just knows that I want him on the bit, that pressure on the reins means something and he's developing this whole new softness even at the walk that he never had before.

this is a bigger size than the last one, fits him better too, phew!
The most obvious, yet somehow still unexpected, outcome of all this is that when we do trot? He.... just stays on the bit. Right now we're only really trotting a single lap of the ring at a time. And only a very few laps total for a full ride. And in the interest of full disclosure: Charlie isn't really very correct in his carriage while trotting -- he's much too deep and overbent right now.

Mostly tho I see that as a sign of A) weakness (duh); and B) Charlie knows I want him to put his head down. He doesn't really have the game figured out fully beyond that -- except that he also knows I don't want him leaning on me.

so the charlie monster is free to move about the cabin!
I already know from pre-surgery that this is Charlie's interim step before I can put my leg on and push him out across his back (if we can ever get those shoulders out of the way). We're just.... not there yet. And that's ok. Obviously haha.

But I'm hoping that by taking the time to be super disciplined in my walk work while he rehabs, that we might find ourselves either exactly where we left off training-wise. Or, maybe if we're lucky, Charlie will actually have himself a fuller education on expectations and carriage and lateral balance from all this rehab at the walk and we'll end up not having missed a beat.

while hopefully that shoulder bib will keep things nice and frictionless!
A girl can dream, right? And anyway you might be reading this feeling like, "uh but yea walking forever is still boring as fuck" lol, and.... you're not exactly wrong.

But I can still honestly say that getting back to even some semblance of work is just so refreshing and exciting to me! And those first few trot steps (well, ok, after those first few where he was like "omg but i have so many body parts tho and they're all moving!") were just the freakin BEST.

anything for that goon <3
So yea, winter is coming and it's dark and chilly now when I get there after work. And that's kinda a bummer.  BUT. That's completely outweighed by relief and excitement at Charlie's continued return to regular programming.

This time last year I was getting all excited about even just the possibilities of how Charlie might handle his introduction to the sport. We had only just had our very first jump lesson on Nov. 5th, after all. Now I have the advantage of already knowing that he's basically everything I could hope for as my event horse. Just gotta keep on keepin' on.

What about you? Do you feel winter closing in? Are you already turning your sights inward toward bootcamp for all those little details that get overlooked when there's other fun stuff to do instead? Do you have any big objectives or plans for your down time this winter? Or do you just basically treat it as vacation for the horse during the worst of the weather? Or maybe you're still hoping to squeeze a bit more out of this year before calling it?


  1. First of all I love that blanket- it's a great colour and looks good on him. Second, I have learned to love the walk work. You can really play with suppleness and bend and lateral work. Winter is closing in and our work is slowing down. I'm wondering if I can access an indoor this winter to do some riding. We shall see.

    1. thanks - i'm super excited about the blanket! i had bought my last smartpak turnout sheet understanding that all their blankets were covered by a 10yr guarantee. turned out tho, when i went to take advantage of that deal after i shredded that sheet, it turns out that guarantee ONLY applies to blankets from smartpak's "Ultimate" line. luckily they still gave me like... $50 for the shredded sheet, but i deemed it prudent to go ahead and invest in this one even tho it was more than i anticipated spending. we'll see!

      also yea, walk work really is useful. i've always known this but i also admit to not being able to force myself to do it justice without being in exactly this type of situation. we'll see if i can keep the discipline up even when charlie's cleared for more work!

      also also - yes you should definitely seek out an indoor for the winter! brita and i did that two or three winters ago and it was SO WORTH IT

  2. he looks GREAT! Like i like the extra weight and filling out going on as once you are back in total work it will firm up quickly. but he just looks more like a total package now (if that makes sense) rather than all angles etc. YAY. And i think all of us could use a time where we were NOT allowed to do more than walk once in a while. I know Remus walk has gotten amazing lately with Emily help and I do think as his walk gets better it pays off on the trot and so on (HOPEFULLY DEAR GOD ONE DAY TO HIS CANTER) HA! Love the new Smart Pak blanket/sheet too. Color is great! And yes WINTER IS COMING. I have a lesson today and a cc schooling on Sat which it wil be a high of 40. YES 40 and then a paper chase on Sunday. And that might be it for the outdoorsy things for awhile.

    Cant wait for CHARLES in CHARGE to be back doing all the things!! Keep up the good work. AND LOOK at Brita go! YAY!

    1. ha i kinda love all that extra weight too and agree completely with your "total package" idea. i'm just hoping i can keep the extra fullness ON even as he gets back into turnout and full work. probably some of it will come off over the winter no matter what i do, but we'll see!

      also i'm so freakin jealous of your weekend plans!! we had been hoping and praying that charlie would be ready for a little baby fox hunt on sunday, but alas that's just too soon for him. so sad :( i hope you have so much fun on the paper chase and please remember to take pictures so i can live vicariously!

  3. Welcome back to work, Charlie! LOVE your new blanket - perfect colors. You're lucky to have such a fashion-minded momma.

    Winter... Yes. Bootcamp of ground poles and gymnastics has begun. Grif even hopped over his first ever barrel the other day. We'll be doing lots of ground poles and grids with the occasional unique single jump here and there. Q will participate in the ground pole bootcamp also, and perhaps Staniel, too. They'll also have a bit of a vacation through the winter because it's just simpler on us all to do that. My goal is 2 workouts of 20+ min per week for Q and Grif and 1 workout for Stan. This will begin in December. It's the most achieveable goal I've ever set going into winter, so hopefully I can accomplish it. I foresee much lunging of the beasties on cold dark nights because it's simple to do, keeps us out of the elements, and provides some physical and mental stimulation.

    1. haha "fashion-minded" -- pretty sure NOBODY has ever called me that before lol. not complaining tho! mostly it's the correct size and from the 10yr guarantee line of smartpak blankets. that it was navy was a bonus!

      love all your focus on ground poles and grids too (and yay for Grif jumping barrels!! they're so fun and versatile!). charlie will hopefully be joining the ranks of ground pole fun soon, esp since i still have all those diagrams that you sent me ages and ages ago.

      good luck sticking with the winter goal for each horses. definitely sounds achievable, but then again winter always has a way of futzing even our best intentions.

  4. Yay! Those first few trot steps always felt so awesome when I was rehabbing. Only to be topped by the first canter :) He looks fantastic, which is the only redeeming quality of stall rest, as far as I can tell.

    Winter is definitely here, and I'm still trying to figure out how to cope. We'll probably be doing a whole lot of walking and basics and playing in the snow, and I need to grow a pair and call up the lady who offered me some time in her indoor and go "u serious? Cuz yeah." and hopefully she will let me come play. If I can keep the girls ridden 3 days a week, even at the walk, I think I can hold off any feral regressions. Hopefully we come out of the winter not totally flabby, and hopefully Arya will have a much fuller trust bank, and some brakes and such. I miss having a road safe, school buses be damned horse I could put an easy 4 miles on out on the gravel roads, but perhaps this winter Bailey can start stepping up into those more safe and sane shoes.

    1. omg i CAN.NOT.WAIT to canter charlie again. his canter is basically my favorite thing in the whole wide world (well, ok, his jump too haha) and i may or may not be fantasizing about how fun it's going to be... tho realistically it might more likely be a bit of a hot mess at first, but that's ok too.

      anyway, yea getting to an indoor even just a couple times is totally worth it. it can be a hassle and a pain in the ass to do that much hauling... but on the plus side it makes hauling out for anything easy and routine. good luck with the road safe thing too... maybe your friend who moved to your barn would want to go on rides too? bailey might be better with company!

  5. lol dad bod... this is a great post. all put together much better than I ever did when I was rehabbing le splintzilla. winter is good and bad - its so boring being stuck inside with no competitions. but it's the time to really dig into the stuff that needs to be worked on that you dont have 'time' to do between show preps.

    mostly commenting that that shoulder bib looks awesome and i might have to invest once i shave half of indys hair off.

    1. ugh yea i'm so sad to not have any competitions to look forward to until next year... so so sad. it's ok tho. hopefully we won't be relegated to the indoor all winter long since both the outdoor dressage court and jump ring have lights. not great lights, but good enough. we just need the ground to stay ok.

      also yea you should totally try the bib. the one linked above is $5 on amazon prime.

  6. Yay for Charlie easing back into work! And I LOVE those shoulder bibs so much. Cheap but so effective!! I am slightly less sad about the time change this year now that I have lights up at home -- we'll see if I actually *use* them 😂 but at least they're there!

    1. cheap and effective are basically my favorite words when used together haha. also yea your new lights are great -- i actually mentioned your system to the barn owners since they're considering redoing lights in a couple of the rings and are trying to figure out how to get the best bang for their buck. LEDs are the answer, i think.

    2. Obviously I can't make any sweeping generalizations about the longevity yet, but I'm pretty pleased with them! And even though I haven't ridden under them much, I use them almost daily to help me see doing chores at o'dark thirty, so they've already been super useful ☺️

    3. just generally speaking i think LEDs are known for having pretty excellent lifespans compared to incandescent style bulbs. idk how they compare to halogen or whatever tho. at least in that regard tho it's nice that they turn out pretty quickly instead of needing to warm up. that's awesome that they've been so useful already at your place and i'm sure you'll find yourself riding under them throughout the season now that the days have gotten so much shorter

  7. He looks great! And fluffy!! My two have their winter coats in full force right now!

    Glad he is taking kindly to the rehab and you are finding some "fun" with the walk work. I've always liked doing walk work, esp out when hacking. Annie and I practice a lot with slowing down with just my seat aids and leg yielding across the road.

    1. that's awesome! gotta work with what ya got, right?

  8. Omg. The darkness is here, and it is distressing. The other night I had to walk alone all the way from field board to the main barn in the pitch black windy night, complete with lightning flashes and everything. It was... terrifying. Somehow having the horse with me makes it less ...scary.

    1. yea last night was charlie's first night walking up the long, unlit driveway from his barn to the indoor, in the rain no less. i was admittedly a little nervous but he was fine fortunately. still tho, it's a far cry from the last barn where his stall was legitimately INSIDE the indoor lol

  9. Yes Emma.. Join us, accept the darkness into your heartttttt!

    1. hahaha i have resigned myself to the darkness!!! it is here, it is staying. i'm getting used to it ;)

  10. I got that same hoodie thing from Amazon! I figured it was worth a try at $5 vs. the 20-30 something the typical shoulder guard. I have to admit though that I had no idea what to do with that loop! Learn something new every day :)

  11. I'm doing the full-on ammy gig with set hours and no wiggling out early and DAMN.



  12. After the time change is my least-favorite time of year. I ride outdoors, no lights, so I'm limited in what I can do. Horse is unclipped and fuzzy, so no serious sweating but I will let the neck/girth get lightly damp. We do a lot of walk/trot/lateral work in the winter. This year I have Zipper the green project horse. I was planning on having Punch, the rehab (child-spoiled) project, but she's done quite well in the rehabbing and has been leased out to a (sensible) lesson barn owner for two years, HOORAY, so I don't have her to work on anymore. Bird is on the DL until January (he's getting chubby), the nasty old mare is preggers (keep an eye out for baby pix next year), and so it's just Zipper for now.

  13. True, there is so much you can school at the walk. Doesn't make it feel any less like just walking around though! So happy you are getting small bits of trot and hopefully not too long until canter! btw, wow--Brita and Bella are basically flying in that jump pic.

  14. I'm so excited to see how his musce develops! I think that this time off (while a huge bummer, duh) plus all this walk work are going to make him a muscle bound machine!!! It's so exciting!!!


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