Monday, April 2, 2018

checking in: the plan

April is finally here, guys! Meaning, the season is heating up and it's time to get serious. And also, coincidentally, time to check in on my ambitious 2018 hopes and dreams.

Things didn't go exactly as I had hoped this first quarter of the year, mostly bc we lost about ~6 weeks after Charlie stepped on a nail in early February. All's well that ends well, however, and we still managed to close out the month with a promising season debut.

pics today are completely unrelated haha. i went to a point-to-point race day at Shawan Downs this weekend and got to see a lot of fun stuff, like a side saddle steeplechase race!! this pair won the award for best turnout in the class

So, let's see how each specific goal shook out:

  • Sketch out the bones of a competition plan for the year. Likewise, consider timing for clinic options - on the flat or over fences. Competition plan is sketched for the first half of the year. In pencil, obvi. It's a very flexible plan. Clinic options haven't materialized yet - lots of our favorite trainers are still in Aiken and haven't gotten organized yet.
  • Research membership details for USEA/USEF. Likely won't do anything recognized.
  • Stay focused with twice weekly lessons with trainers P & K, schedules allowing. Should have written "if the horse is sound."
  • Aim for at least monthly lessons with dressage trainer C, traveling to her farm if needed. See also: "if the horse is sound."
  • Keep myself accountable while schooling between lessons. This doesn't mean grinding ourselves down - we want freshness and variety - but I gotta at least show up. The schooling rides we managed this quarter have been wonderful. We've made huge progress in balancing pressure and release in our training, and Charlie has been able to stay happy and fresh in his work.

it was a big field too - one of the largest we saw racing all day!
  • Balance it all out with lots of low intensity hacking and conditioning - no more excuses about fitness, either horse or rider! Ideally, Charlie should be fit enough by the end of Q1 to not immediately pass out after crossing the xc finish line. You're a thoroughbred, dammit. Act like one! We've hacked a ton. A TON. So much hacking. Tho, alas it was less about fitness for competitions, and more about legging up again after repeated lamenesses. Horse is definitely not fit. Sigh. We'll get there, tho!
  • Use cold winter indoor rides and hack rides to improve rider fitness: no stirrups work, 2pt work, double posting, the rider strengthening exercise DOC described here, etc etc etc. Ideally at least a little bit every ride. No excuses! I'm happy with our work, but lack of saddle time overall has been an issue. Tho oddly I've felt solid in the saddle while jumping/galloping despite it all. Perhaps it's more of a function of confidence vs just strength?
  • Kick season off with a Cross Derby (weather permitting). No pressure on placing or time, just focusing on riding with a little more polish and a little less green than we finished last year. Ideally, make it to a full three phase by end of quarter as well. Weather / schooling permitting. Well.... we entered three cross derbies. One each month. The first was AWESOME, tho I skipped the timed ride to focus on schooling.And then we were lame for the next two. Womp. The full three phase tho? Yasss this happened as planned and was thrilling haha, tho we still gotta work on that whole "polish" thing. In time!

can you even imagine a flat out gallop while side saddle??? they were jumping at a gallop too!!
  • Charlie: Stay sound. Seriously buddy! Plz??? Stepping on that nail was not part of the plan :(
  • Charlie: Also stay happy in your work. Evaluate entire ensemble for all three phases to make sure each piece satisfies Charlie's delicate sensibilities. When the rides did happen? They've been wonderful. Just wonderful. I love this horse. He loves his new dressage saddle, which has eliminated some of the extremely sour behavior we saw at the end of last year. And the myler bit continues to be our bit of choice right now for flat work. We need more experimentation with bitting for jumping, tho, haha. Ahem.
  • Stay ahead of the game for what's gonna happen to Charlie's hooves when the spring grass comes up. Keratex: prepare yo'self! This has been a tough quarter for Charlie's tootsies.... So. Uh. Yea, I'm on it. Keratex and thrush buster are in full circulation!

it was damn impressive for sure haha
As for the overall 2018 goals, honestly while I've got some anxiety after falling off the map in the middle of Q1, I still think these goals are still about right for the year.

I'll know more by the end of Q2 how realistic some of this is, methinks. But checking the temperature right now, things look.... maybe ok:

  • Move up to Novice by Q2-Q3. There's no reason this can't happen if Charlie can stay sound. **knocking on wood**
  • Do a recognized show, level not important - timing of this depends on schedule of friends who need recognized shows for qualifications purposes for their own goals. Not a priority.

these grays were GIANT omg haha. and fast!
  • School some of training by Q3, ideally full height elements but smaller sized technical questions are acceptable. Feel good about schooling most, if not all of level by Q4. 
  • Research options for an "adult event camp." I have some exciting ideas :D
  • Schedule a clinic(s) with Dan at OF. 
  • Keep the horse on a regular massage and/or chiro schedule as needed. So far, so good.
  • School the bejesus out of our cross country course at home. No excuses! Also make trips to other venues - Windurra, I'm looking at you! Down banks in particular need attention. We've been haunting our home xc course like ghosts! Ditches banks and water are our bitches, and the BN course is familiar and easy!

hey wait a second, how did Charlie end up on the field?!? lol this outrider's horse was literally the spitting image of charlie, looked and moved exactly like him. it was uncanny lol. i even ended up asking the rider about the horse's breeding, but apparently he's locally bred (whereas charlie is from Kentucky).
  • Continue developing flatwork. Would like to be passably schooling all of first level by Q3. Would like to finish at least one event on my dressage score, and would like the dressage scores to be competitive. Finished on our dressage score at our season opener! The score wasn't competitive tho, but we're working on it.
  • Trail ride at Fair Hill!! Ideally with other bloggers! Michele, you're not allowed to move until we do this! :(
  • Volunteer. A lot. Look for opportunities monthly, and aim for doing some type of event volunteering in 7 of 12 months. Yessssssss. Thanks again, Sara, for the motivation!
  • Try to maintain at least some microscopic degree of poise if there are setbacks. No matter what, have fun! ......Debatable. I admittedly struggle a bit when my horse is out.

wheeeeee steeplechase!!!! the fences in these particular races really weren't even that big either, tho the track was quite long and obviously the jumps were taken from a gallop. still tho, it actually looked kinda accessible
  • Be the type of competitor my friends enjoy being around at shows. And be my friends' biggest cheerleader. Nothing has revolutionized my horse habit quite like having great friends to share it with - don't take this for granted! Trying!!
  • Keep the blog going: this space has been so meaningful to me, both as a means of documenting all of my horsey escapades but also as a way to participate in the wonderful equine bloglandia. Y'all are great! It's been a real challenge to keep writing through repeated lamenesses. My words well runs a little dry. Hopefully tho there will be plenty of exciting things coming our way to keep me inspired!

seriously tho these horses are so badass, and were absolutely FLYING! tho you can see the bay broke the top rail of the jump. the rails are actual notched specifically so that they break easily on impact. 
Phew. Ok. Having reflected on our first quarter of the year, I've got a couple ideas for how I'd like to see the next three months go. Knowing, obviously, that it's horses and anything can happen at any time. But specifically, I've got the following goals/plans/hopes for the next quarter:

  • The schedule I sketched for the first half of the competition season is intense. And possibly over-ambitious. There are 7 potential events on my wish list, one of which is penciled in as our N move up. This is my biggest goal.
  • Simultaneously, however, it's critical that I remain flexible in the plan and receptive to feedback from Charlie. He's my #1 in all this, so he gets a say in everything we do.
  • Fitness and conditioning stay on the list as major priorities. The lion's share of our ridden work should be focused on getting the horse really fit and strong in his body.
  • This includes spending a lot of time in our barn's cross country fields. There's a lot of good stuff out there that we haven't done yet - particularly the biggest ditch and banks, and some jumps near the water. Introducing Charlie to these elements will be part of prepping him for N.
  • Also a part of prepping for N? Uh.... brakes haha. Obviously I'm working hard on developing a better half halt in the horse so I can slow him down while keeping him in front of my leg. We also need a bitting solution here too, tho. And soon.

i thought it was clever how all the rest of the jockeys aimed their horses at the lower broken section where possible lol
  • Meanwhile, stay vigilant about Charlie's overall well-being. Particularly, keep an eye on his hooves and body condition as the grass comes up and the horses transition back to pasture. Get him started back on electrolytes early.
  • Keep him on a regular bodywork schedule too.
  • Evaluate lesson schedule in light of events schedule as well. I want to avoid over-jumping the horse, and focus on limiting the reps while making each school count. 
  • Likewise, I want to be more disciplined in working on our dressage. Consistency is key for Charlie to really understand my expectations.
  • Overall, it'll be important that I keep the big picture in mind and don't get too caught up in my plans that I miss the forest for the trees. Horse showing is literally one of my favorite things, but it can be stressful too. Remember to always put horsemanship first, and always have fun!

jumping from field to field!!! so thrilling to hear the thundering hooves as they flew by!

So there ya have it! Big ambitious plans written out to tempt fate going into spring and early summer. I'm sure something unexpected will happen, some wrench will get thrown into the works to set me back on my heels. It's horses, that's just how it goes.

I'm also sure that I'm missing something obvious from the above list.... But then again, maybe it's best to keep things pretty focused. Really, moving up is the #1 goal and everything else is designed to be a supporting part of that process. It feels pretty attainable too, honestly.

We'll see, tho. The cool thing with Charlie is that it's so easy to just take each day as it comes with him. Easy to just take one step at a time. Bc eventually all those steps will lead to somewhere, right? ;)

Do you have any big "Top of Mind" goals for this quarter? Or month? Or year? Anything that's really high on your list that you're working toward? Or maybe you're kinda in place right now where it's less about goal-centric focus, and more about the big picture? 


  1. Aahhh, I was at Shawan Downs, too! That sidesaddle race was crazy! I've never seen one before but I hope they do it again. We were all laughing that the field for that was bigger than some of the timber races :)

    1. Ooooh that's awesome that you were there! I've been dying to go to one of those races forever and was so excited to finally get the chance! What a nice day too, tho just a tad too windy. Hope you all had fun!

  2. Galloping and jumping side saddle. Remarkable. Though admittedly my stomach clenched with nerves just imagining riding with my balance all askew from what I consider the norm! Still, so cool!

    Goals. Well, it would be damned awesome if we could move past mud season. It's hard to do much of anything right now with the ground in the condition it's in.

    Honestly, my biggest goal for the year would be to find property to get the horses closer to home, but that is a very, very tricky thing that depends on so much.

    Competition-wise? Stuff. Things. Loose plans. Hopefully twilight events with Grif through the summer. Maybe a cow sorting. And lots of trail conditioning with Q and Stan.

    1. Yea it's definitely difficult to make many plans when literally nothing is ready for much riding anyway. Hopefully your ground dries soon, and even more hope that you can find a reasonable solution to keeping your horses in a convenient location. Also I hope to see you at some twilights too - lmk your plans! I'm signed up to volunteer at some but would also be happy to come hang out at the others too!

  3. I really admire how you develop goals and adjust to circumstances without losing sight of where you want to go.

    1. Thanks - sometimes I think I'm a little too focused lol but. Ya know. I want it. And I think Charlie is a good match for my own personal purposes.

  4. I will not move till we trail ride at Fair Hill! Let's go (if this weather ever gets normal again, sleeting now and supposed to snow later today WTF). I am going to Memphis next weekend and the following weekend Mark moves but let's think about toward the end of April. Also CC schooling is starting up soon at FH too!! YAY.

    Great layout of plans with some caveats throughout. You guys got this! (And I LOVE the sidesaddle photos!! WOW I would be on the grass at a trot let alone galloping)! HA!

    1. Lol the saddle seat riders were intense. End of April could work well too! I'll be in Kentucky at the very end but hope to have some flexibility! Esp now that the weather is getting so much better!! (Except today obvi lol)

  5. Good luck! Finding the right bit is almost as frustrating as finding the right saddle. And no thanks to jumping and galloping in a side saddle.

    1. yea i've got a couple ideas to write about, and a couple things i've tried, but the trick is having something that i can warm up in - so something that's dressage-friendly - but that can also handle charlie when he's fully engaged in racehorse mode lol

  6. I love your goal list! Mine is simple and easy and currently in progress: rideable fat bay mare. :)

  7. Agree with what TeresaA said. I don't think you come across as too focused because the name of like, all the games is adjusting and you're having to do that plenty haha.

    Right now I'm a mix of keeping things in perspective and also breaking down goals to basically things I can accomplish day-by-day. Not exactly fun, but better than setting myself up for failure!

    Also it looks so fun sunny and warm-ish there! We got 3 inches of snow last night >.<

    1. ugh boo snow!! we had a little bit this morning and today is just gray and overcast, but spring is coming!! i hear ya on keeping things in perspective. it's hard to do, but makes a big difference!

  8. Overall not a shabby first quarter. derailed slightly because #horses, but I'm sure the rest of the year will make up!

    1. yea i mean, realistically we were still on track with basically everything and the quarter ended on a very high note. it was just that middle part that kinda sucked haha.... like you say tho. #horses

  9. I'm amazed at how much you've done so far especially considering...horses. And weather. I mean, I haven't ridden Batt yet this year! I mean, I could have but I haven't. There is no reason why I haven't hauled him out for a trail ride (other than the whole truck with a broken gas tank thing for a while). I definitely am up for a Fair Hill trail ride! Especially before Michele leaves...

  10. Whoo. That's alot but you two are getting there! OMG Charlie STAY SOUND. *Furiously knocking on wood for you guys lol* And uh.....get Amber sound haha.

  11. unrelated (ish) but how close is shawan downs to you?? the guy I gallop for had a bunch racing there and I really want to get out and see them before the meet is over. i love ze hurdles!

  12. "Or maybe you're kinda in place right now where it's less about goal-centric focus, and more about the big picture?"

    Yup, that's me right now. Just trying to keep our head above water (I mean... snow lol) and wait for Spring to truly start.


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