Wednesday, March 28, 2018

2018 MDHT Opener: Cross Country!

Buckle up, guys! It's cross country time!! And definitely the kind of ride where a seat belt is strongly advised lol. Charlie was... Hm. Going, I think, would be the most appropriate term.

I knew from the end of our stadium round that Charlie was growing increasingly strong, but I didn't really realize just how true that would be.

The warm up area was small and on a slope, with all the fences pointed away from the trailers. I didn't really love the BN jump (a carved hanging log thing) so I opted for the N coop instead. We kinda ate it the first time, then slipped in the corner after.... which made me nervous about the ground out on course. But the second time was better so off we went to the start gate.

things started innocently enough
Charlie was antsy circling the start box, and we had a bit of a delay while the rider ahead of us had some difficulties. I could tell that Charlie's draw toward the trailers was maybe going to be an issue, although I saw it as a potential advantage in pulling him out of the start box and into a rhythm - vs the last time we ran xc when Charlie was nappy and sucking back out of the gate.

cantering toward the trailers like a very happy horse
Luckily this did indeed prove to be true, and Charlie finally was able to strike off into a canter out of the gate and reached this first jump - the "tootsie roll" - quite nicely.

That nice feeling would not last, however. Haha. Hahaha.

apologies for the shitty jump pics - early morning light was a little severe. this is just a plain brown pheasant feeder that charlie jumped last january
Basically right off the bat, Charlie was PULLING ME. I've spent a lot of time in lessons this winter working on getting comfortable riding Charlie in a more forward canter, and getting that feeling of pushing him up in front of my leg instead of riding backwards to fences.

aaaaaaaaand then we almost died haha
We've made a lot of progress, but all those good feelings went out the window when Charlie was essentially running away with me. I couldn't push him in front of my leg bc I had exactly ZERO success in shutting the front door to recycle that energy to Charlie's hind end.

In other words, he was running right through the bridle and I had nothing to push forward to. Plus he was flattening and dropping his shoulders, making it impossible to see a distance. He would lengthen and lengthen his stride to the base of the fence and rush right past his distance. At jump 2, he, tried to pat down a front leg then thought better of it, and then split his legs over the fence. I thought we might die. But somehow we got lucky.

the truck runs parallel to the trailer parking. this gave charlie FEELINGS
So. Uh. Ya know, that kinda set the tone for the ride lol. All my lovely ideas of a soft horse pushed up in front of me and taking leg to the base (as in our recent xc schooling!) flew past us in a blur, and we were galloping alongside the trailers with Charlie not entirely sure what in the fresh hell was going on.

must remember: the horse is still pretty new to this job. pc Steve Long
Luckily I took the hint and got more organized with my reins and position. And Charlie, for his part, was more civilized to this hanging log. Not the best distance in the world (it's kinda hard with the horse running behind the leg...) but sufficient for the task at hand.

the jump was placed almost identically the last time i jumped it with izzy - right into the woods. charlie agreed with izzy that this makes it spooky
We had a long-ish cruise to the above coop, and Charlie definitely gave it a hard look. It was finally jumping away from the trailers and he became less certain that this was where he wanted to go. He wiggled a bit to the left, but jumped it anyway.

It's funny tho, there's a bunch of sand or stone dust spread on the landing side to combat mud, and Charlie definitely wasn't expecting that haha. He took a GOOD LOOK craning his neck down while jumping lol.

charlie, looking gorgeous. me, looking like i'm trying like hell (and failing) to organize my reins.
The ground fortunately was not proving to be as slippery as I was afraid, tho you can totally see patches of snow all through the woods. It was interesting how they designed the course too bc I figured they'd avoid the woods altogether. But instead almost our entire course was out there - including on some newly cleared areas. It worked out quite well, and was nice for me to see a new part of the course!

jump too sma for charlie
Anyway, next up we weaved through some trees and between some higher level jumps to this little roll top that Charlie actually jumped quite well.

we saw this one in january too. it's a nicely substantial log pile. but still not big enough, apparently
Then a quick canter to the log oxer. While walking the course I had half a mind to add in the N log jump seen in the background here, but considering we ate shit and nearly died over this oxer.... I nixed that idea. Lol...

wherein charlie tries to kill us for the second time. he's got #norespect
Again, our recipe for disaster at this fence was a too-fast horse that I wasn't successfully able to slow down, so I resorted to riding backwards without leg. Ooh we had a left drift too. Ya know. Real good riding and stuff haha.

For his part, tho, Charlie wasn't slowed down at all by these crappy jumps. They didn't scare him or worry him or bust his confidence. Tho I think they could - as he really didn't feel as confident as I would have liked, and seemed to be a little too intrigued by the idea of exiting stage left.

down a small gravel hill to another little roll top....
Considering we were nearly dying over 1 of every 3 jumping efforts by this point, I opted to bring Charlie back to trot for this little downhill path section. Honestly mostly just to see if I could. And... it took a little effort lol.

He then trotted right on up to the roll top, spooked at the footing spread around the take off and landing sides, almost kinda sorta ran out, but jumped reasonably well enough anyway.

then a nicely pleasant uphill approach to Mr Course Creep, the skinny rolltop wedge
I'd probably never forgive myself if I let Charlie have a stupid run out for lack of steering, so since the next jump was an actual skinny fence, I got my shit together and rode that goddamn horse. And he jumped this wedge dead center and quite nicely. Gooooo figure haha, things go better when I actually ride the horse!

turning back around at the top of a hill, a simple nicely sized roll top
We cantered up the hill and around a u-turn to come back to this jump. The approach suited us well bc the turn gave me more brakes, and Charlie was too busy trying to lock on to all the other jumps to rush at this fence. We still fumbled the distance a little bit, but it felt marginally more settled. Maybe?

charlie's jumped the intro version of this jump
There were a couple really nasty sections of ground in this area that I had made note of during our walk, but that seemed like they would be easily avoided. In focusing on this and working on choosing my line with care, we ended up with a more balanced and measured approach to the fence, which Charlie tackled handily.

finally, a reasonable picture where death doesn't appear imminent haha
So if you're noticing a theme here, it's that "When Emma is able to put her leg on the horse, everything is better." Ground breaking thoughts here, guys. Haha.

coop going downhill back to the trailers. i predicted this to be.... challenging lol. 
Tho our problems on the landing side continued, as Charlie was most definitely not landing in the same canter he jumped from haha. And he basically landed running from the gate, got wind of the fact that we were headed back to the trailers, dragged me over the coop, then bolted straight down the hill. Nevermind that our track was supposed to turn left.

It quickly became apparent that we were headed directly towards a bank complex at the bottom of a hill - which was exactly the opposite of where I wanted to be haha - so I managed to get Charlie back to a trot and turn him back onto our path without skidding out in the mud. Phew! Tho there may have been some profanity involved.... lol

another small fence but i appreciated that it was going up hill
We started trotting back up the hill to this little guy which I was kinda worried would be too small for Charlie's attention. But Charlie actually did pretty well - picked his canter back up on approach and jumped it politely.

water looked fantastic (aside from the icy rim) - the water itself was not flagged with a simple roll top on the other side (middle element)
Then I brought him immediately back to walk at the water for a quick pause. Primarily bc I wanted to school the water first before riding the line as intended. But also because I was hoping to reset a little bit. Charlie wandered around the water for a second looking unsure about taking a sip. I knew he would want to tho so I waited him out and he finally stopped long enough to take a drink.

charlie handled this very well, after a brief pause to school the water (and take a drink lol)
It's unconventional, I know, but it seems to work for Charlie. I had hoped the drink would chill him out a little bit too, and also admittedly kinda wanted to demonstrate to the jump judges and officials that I *could* in fact stop the horse, in case they were getting nervous about our lack of control and risky jumps.

Which like.... You know that if you're thinking about proving to the jump judges that you're not as dangerous as you look.... You know if that's going through your mind, things probably aren't going super well.

yay another nice picture!!! legit one of my goals for the day was to end up with a high-quality picture of us over fences that i didn't 100% totally hate haha
C'est la vie, tho. I was already pretty exhausted by this point and literally could not believe we still had a whole 'nother section to the course, but onward we went. Charlie actually handled the water to roll top really really really nicely. THIS is the horse I know he can be on cross country.

he's a good boy tho, even if sometimes i can't control him <3
And we will get there. It's not unreasonable that we'd be a little rough around the edges this early in the season, but I was happy that Charlie really truly felt more educated on the whole, even as he made quite a few bad mistakes.

i was so convinced that bn wouldn't share anything with n for the sake of saving ground that i didn't even realize the ditch was an option here. so i jumped the table
Anyway tho, we made one last turn away from the trailers toward the table, and Charlie eased into a more settled canter. Our distance to the table was a little deep, but it was a very nice effort. Even strides all the way to the base. Much better, Charlie!

this boat was the only thing we missed in january that i had wanted to try
That flew right out the window again tho when we turned back toward the trailers and the finish line. Sigh. It's a work in progress, I guess.

lol. well. i guess we finally got our shot at it! we are grace. we are beauty. we are somehow still not dead yet.
pc Austen Gage
Because yea we jumped this boat verrrry baddddly and I briefly wondered if I would fall off...

lol let's see that from a different angle.... his face tho, omg. pc Steve Long
I did not fall off, however, and resolved in that instance that, dammit, we were gonna finish this course in once piece and NOT die trying.

at least he landed straight and in balance while i got my shit together?? lol.... pc Austen Gage
Because, ya know, we really do know better. I really can actually sorta kinda ride this horse if I try hard enough. Usually.

charlie: galloping like it's a 3*
emma: "but sir! it's only BN!! for fucks sake, we're circling dammit!"
Considering our close proximity to the final jump and Charlie's extremely strung out gallop, I opted to circle lol. And it proved to be just the ticket - breaking up Charlie's ability to brace against the bridle.

last fence, fucking finally
He came back to a civilized canter and handily completed the circle without mowing down Austen and Lyra (who you can see silently contemplating their mortality in the helmet cam video haha), and then approached the final jump reasonably well.

this picture pretty much looks exactly how it felt
Then one final little run away through the finish flags wherein I circled again to get him stopped, and we were done! I hopped off basically immediately lest he continue trying to take off into the sunset, and he dropped alllll the way down the excitement levels to his normal quiet self. Looking honestly quite pleased with himself for his exertions haha.

dis how you pet the horse while not really wanting to let go of the reins yet either haha
I, on the other hand, was exhausted. Omg. Literally could not breathe. My arms felt stretched out beyond limit. My lungs were burning. My back was tingling. And I was just so so drained. But happy. Honest to god happy.

This ride wasn't what you would call classically "Fun." Because.... wow it was a lot of work and some of those jumps were seriously fucking uncomfortable and could have easily become actual accidents. But there were also a lot of really good and reaffirming moments too.


And the video is pretty fun to watch, IMO, even tho I kinda get sore all over again just seeing it haha. So I hope you enjoy it.

Positive takeaways include the fact that this level is easy for us. I felt great about the course, and while Charlie had some issues with confidence, they were more about the overall experience vs any individual jump. And Charlie did in fact grow in confidence throughout the course, which is the whole point anyway.

and yup, i'm definitely still obsessed with this big sweet bay <3. pc Austen Gage
We're not ready to face bigger fences yet, tho. At least not until we can get through a course without 20% of our jumps terrifying nearby spectators. Bc.... yea. And I need to find a solution to our brakes problem. Charlie's face is crisscrossed with 8 thousand straps holding that big leverage bit in place. But he just runs right through it with zero regard. So I'll be experimenting with that soon too.

he's a good egg. even if i'm somewhat shocked that we lived to tell the tale. lol. pc Austen Gage
All of that is still ahead of us tho. It's all for a later date. For this particular day, I was satisfied to have gotten out and done the thing, imperfections and all. It felt good to remind myself that I can do it, and that Charlie can do it. And that, actually, I have the ability to handle the going when it gets tough - even if sometimes I need a kick in the pants to remember to do so.

we did it tho! <3 pc Austen Gage
So. The first event of the year is in the books. Complete with quite a few takeaways and lessons learned. Hopefully. And I look forward to our next outing, confident that we have the skills to do this, and resolute in putting those skills to work.

54 comments:

  1. YOUR FACE OVER THAT BOAT!! Oh my word. Classic. Glad you survived that hair-raising experience and that Charlie is.. erhm... enthusiastic about the season starting!

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    1. lol i particularly like that my face is like... purple haha. but yes we survived, and YES charlie is enthusiastic! all the rest of the pieces will come eventually haha

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    2. I tried to edit the purple out of your faces some, but like, there was lots of purple. Lol!

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    3. i am become the purple, apparently. might actually still be purple as of this writing....

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  2. I LOVE that galloping photo. Charlie looks SO good and really strong! And, uh, clearly from his power-hour course lol! At least he loves the job and is enthusiastic!

    Congrats on getting out there with your best guy and having a clear round, even with those bumps along the way. And uh, I guess yay survival? lol But seriously, great job managing what sound like some really hair raising, adrenaline-rushing moments at times. It really sounds like you handled it all so well!

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    1. ha yea he's definitely strong! and feels like he's got a pretty solid idea about what this whole thing is all about, even if his idea is... kinda wrong lol.

      and thanks - i am grateful that i did, for the most part, feel like i had a least a fleeting grip on the situation. even if it was a lot more work than i had bargained for. hopefully next time i can be better prepared to help keep things a little more smooth lol

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  3. yay Charlie yay Emma for hanging on for dear life! :) Yeah might want to work on some brakes for Sir Charles before the next one :) LOL....i love his expressions though. Classic and boy has he put on weight compared to last year. He is beefy (and i mean that as a commpliment!!) YAY

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    1. uh yea, brakes are #1 on the priority list before the next event lol! but it does make my heart so happy to see his gung-ho expression and big strong healthy body out there doing the thing!

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  4. Oh Charlie... that's all I can say hahaha. He cracks me up. (probably should not have read this one in the office lol) I used to have a horse that was a lot more athletic and sensitive than Ms. May. He was always best when I changed things up. Pelham to Dr. Bristol to 3 ring gag to waterford etc etc. The difference in the action got his attention more than the severity of the bit. Might not be the ticket, but I figured i would throw it out there!

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    1. lol yea he's funny, that's for sure!! we're definitely going to experiment a little bit with different bitting situations, tho luckily he's not a particularly complicated horse. i'm relatively confident that once we find something that can get through to him so that he understands what i want, then he'll just respond accordingly. he just doesn't really get it yet, ya know? like you can see in stadium after the two stride, he was in fact able to sit down and rebalance bc he knows that's a thing i want while jumping. now we need to translate that same ability to xc too lol... in time i hope!

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  5. I looked at Charlie's front end at the log oxer picture and thought what is she talking about - he looks so cute? Then I saw that back foot. Whoops! But you got around - and got satin! - and next time can only get better!

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    1. haha "whoops" sums it up pretty nicely!! and yea that hind end.... it doesn't look like much but he's basically skipping over the jump, which feels... unsettling. plus it means that since he's not stepping up underneath himself and pushing off evenly behind, he's therefore not getting any lift up front and is instead kinda just launching his shoulders at the jump. these jumps are small enough to him where it's not an issue but.... yea. it's an issue haha.

      but yes he's super cute anyway <3 and next time will be better!

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  6. Yay for living! It felt questionable at times... Especially for Lyra and I. 😉

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    1. ha yea we really gotta be a little more careful of the poor unsuspecting bystanders!! ;)

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  7. But you got a bunch of awesome photos! And you had some really nice jumps in there :D

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    1. sooooooo many awesome photos, i'm so so so in love with them lol. and yes, plenty of good happy jumps in between the relatively few ugly ones!

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  8. charlie....... there is NO NEED to go hell bent for leather around the first BN of the season???!!! GOODNESS.

    i think a horse running off behind your leg is the worst feeling in the world. actually the only way it could've been worse was if he was curled behind the bridle too. thats the shit that makes me want to bail.

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    1. yea i definitely hate that feeling too. isabel didn't really run away in this same sense, but she would get very fast and flat while also lagging behind my leg and ducking behind the bridle. no likey! charlie at least doesn't really curl, but he does drop in his shoulders and the base of his neck, which makes it really really hard to get him to a good distance. we'll figure it out tho!

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  9. Those pictures are priceless :) Yay for surviving and yay for Charlie feeling so enthusiastic about the day.

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    1. yes, priceless is the perfect word lol! and i'm super happy with how enthusiastic charlie was about the job, and about how it all finished up. already looking forward to next time!

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  10. These photos are awesome (well the ones that don't involve almost dying anyways!). Lack of brakes can be a really frightening feeling, hopefully you get Charlie figured out really quick on that front! Glad the first event of the year is in the books for you two!!

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    1. thanks i'm so so happy to have so many great pictures even if they're intermixed with some... others lol.

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  11. Congrats on surviving! Some of those pictures made me laugh soooo hard.

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  12. That roll top pic after the water is gorgeous! Great effort out there. You handled Charlie's enthusiasm really well! :)

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    1. thanks, i was really really REALLY happy with how well that particular combination went. like, obvi it helped that we had come to a halt before hand, and that the jump was going up hill... but yea, that's the feeling i want. now to just achieve that with a *half* halt instead of, ya know, a full halt, lol ;)

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  13. So, good news, he CAN be forward, lol. Oh man. That's not a fun feeling. I've had it before and it's actually kinda scary. But you did an awesome job and the fact that you rode better as the course went on speaks volumes. Yay! First event of the season is conquered!

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    1. lololol oh yes indeed, he can do forward. luckily the fact that he's so honest and i trust him so so so much makes it not actually feel scary. the only real worry is that he'll make a careless but costly mistake, not that he'll be naughty, thankfully. still obvi a real worry, but it makes it easier to buckle down and ride him. and easier to feel confident in addressing the issues for next time!

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  14. At least you know he’s clever enough to get his legs out of the way!!! That’s always helpful in the not dying scenario 😂 But awesome job with a powerful beasty!!! As you said so many positives about the round and the other stuff can be fixed 😁 Way to go Charlie and Emma!!!!

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    1. so many positives and i'm so friggin proud of him for cruisin around like the easiest thing in the world, even if i wish he'd be just sliiiiiightly more respectful of the jumps haha

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  15. Charlie is just letting you know he's happy to be back out there! LOL! Good for you for doing a great job despite his speedy steamroller approach.

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    1. aaaaaaaaaand now i'm visualizing him as having an actual steamroller instead of legs lol... gotta admit, the look suits him!! ;)

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  16. That rolltop picture! <3 <3 <3
    Just simmer down Charlie. Who knew we'd be saying that?

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    1. ha, oh i knew. i definitely knew. in fact, i called out this exact thing in his first ever little baby xc outing last march, and i quote: "Actually, if anything, I think he'll eventually trend in the direction of getting pretty strong. Not out of naughtiness - but just plain enthusiasm haha"

      he's still a good boy tho <3

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  17. Haha he was certainly zooming! And those pictures of how wonky his legs were.... OMG I was laughing so hard, because his expression is just like "this is Sparta!" even as he's like "oh crap my legs" haha! But I love your smiling face at the end! <3 Congrats :D

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    1. omggggg THIS IS SPARTA hahaha, now i reeeeeally need someone to photoshop charlie as gerard butler leaping into battle lololol

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    2. Hahahaha omg you totally should do a photoshop of that! That'd be hilarious LOLOL

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  18. Looks like (slightly scary) fun to me! I'll be interested to see if a bit change is in order, or what you'll end up doing to enhance his brakes in the future :D

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    1. thanks! and yea a bit change is definitely #1 on the list of THINGS to ADDRESS post-event haha. it's possible that i could keep using what i have now, but replace the leather curb strap with a curb chain (which i bought a while back but haven't used yet). there are other bit types that i want to experiment with too, and my trainers are already brainstorming and checking their bit boxes for something that might be suitable. i'm also toying with the idea of a hackamore/snaffle combo as well. we shall see!!

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  19. Charlie. You're getting your Elegant AF card revoked and replaced with a Racehorse AF card. YAY for doing the things again finally tho!!!

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    1. what's that they say about "you can take the horse off the track"??? lol ;) but yea. so so so many YAYs for doing the things!! it felt like a million dollars to go out there and at least feel like we can get through it, even if obvi there's still a lot more work to do!!

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  20. Well at least you have confirmed evidence he loves his job?

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    1. definitely <3 a little enthusiasm can go a long way too!

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  21. Despite trying to send you both to an early grave.. look at that horse's ears! That's a horse that loves what he's doing!

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    1. it really feels that way! he's not always entirely certain what we're doing, why we're doing it, or what the rules are.... but damn if he isn't pretty freakin gung ho to just go ahead and do the thing anyway!

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  22. We had a run that started out like this once, at Novice. Boy was Henry mad when we spent the remaining 3/4 of the round checking in on his ability to HALF HALT from my GD SEAT every 20 strides or so. It was the only time he ever had time penalties at N, because that's what happens when you're rude. Then we went home and spent a couple months re-iterating the fact that a half halt comes the body, not the hand, and it means rebalance NOW, not when he feels like it. I even did a lot of those rides in a side pull, to make sure I wasn't cheating and going to the hand. It did work though, we never had another run like that again (knock on wood), but he did earn himself another half season at that level until he could prove the rideability was there. Mostly it was just kind of an eyeopener for me that we had a hole I didn't really realize had formed. Seems to be a pretty common phase in the making of an event horse, though. The trick is realizing it and fixing it before they do something bad and scare themselves, turning it into a confidence problem. Sounds like a good learning experience! Coming away with some homework is a good thing, it means you know where the priorities are.

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    1. lol a half halt from the body? sounds nice. we have like, a one-rein e-brake halt. that's basically the same thing, right? ;P

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  23. That looks like a pretty stiff BN course - good job!

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  24. Looks very turbo charged! Coolie and I spent many years jumping and halting in training. Then we would compete and he would have his own ideas about speed. He has FINALLY realised (after about 6 years!) the joys of not running and listening to my seat and body, and backing himself off a fence. We worked on the flat, in SJ and on XC to get to where we are now!

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  25. From Abscess to hauling A$$... though I bet you are a little sore that seems like a pretty awesome change!

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  26. I love how your position just remains quiet and solid no matter what he is doing underneath you! He is just the cutest but yes get those brakes figured out before your arms fall off!

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  27. I was at a Jimmy Wofford clinic yesterday and a girl was describing her horse's issue xc. Essentially she tunes out the rider and GOES, while dropping her shoulders. She had her in a new bit that she was trying that involved leverage, which she could evade easily by just pulling down into the gallop. Jimmy said you can break down bitting into three categories...1. horses that pull and invert = curb/leverage to bring their head back down 2. pull and run = corregated surface like a waterford or twist and 3. pull and drop shoulders = gag works best to get them off their forehand and gain control. Anyway, it stuck a chord with me and thought it might be helpful to pass along.

    Good luck!

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  28. OMG I love that last photo of the two of you- you look so happy to be alive and Charlie looks like he's a bit tired. :) Congratulations

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  29. He's like I FINALLY GET TO DO THE JOMPING! Let me know what ends up working with him, bit wise. We're using a gag because of how awful she's been after the jump but I'm hoping we can transition out of that soon. I love your face over the boat. I swear my face does the same thing over fences, esp when she pops up in the air

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