Monday, June 11, 2018

a lesson to learn, a day to forget

Today's show recap is going to be a departure from what you might normally expect over here at 'Fraidy Cat Eventing.

That was virtually guaranteed going into this event anyway, since I wasn't with my normal group (ie my friends who are the best at all things video/picture taking haha). Plus my trailer mate's dressage times were right on top of my jumping, so she wouldn't be around for pics anyway. Nbd tho, right? I can't have literally 8,000 metric tons of media for every single show, right?? Lol...

he's still pretty tho
Tho. Haha. It turns out I'm maybe grateful for the lack of pictures. Our day at Plantation Field was.... well, bad. It was a bad day. Not one for dwelling on or dragging out over the course of individual posts for each day, that's for damn sure.

lookin like a 100% goon ahead of dressage. already off to a good start! lol
It's a shame too, bc the horse has been feeling so so so good lately. Really really good. But then we had a shockingly bad ride the day before our show. In what was supposed to just be a straight forward flat school with maybe a trip or two through a grid for final prep.

It didn't work out that way tho. First we got caught up in a downpour that Charlie 100% noped out of. Then once finally out of the rain in the indoor, it was like I was riding a shell of a horse. Nothing garnered any type of response from him. The go button? Nope. The whoa? Double nope. Like nothing I did had any influence on him, but he was still kinda emotional about it.

i'm pleased with that free walk score
I tried to shrug it off, tell myself that one bad ride shouldn't be a deal breaker. That he's a good boy and he's been slaying lately. Plus I had already seen the course and pictures of all the jumps. Before that lesson, I was freakin pumped. This course looked like everything I could hope for.

After the lesson tho? Possibly some cracks started emerging in my mental game. Perhaps I may have let those sinking feelings of dread come sneaking in the back door. I.... had doubts.

finally got an 8 on his canter! that whole "nice attitude" part made me lol tho...
Dressage was not particularly inspiring, don't let those scores fool you. I was not at all very happy with the feeling I was getting from Charlie -- it was more of the same "shell" type feeling in the horse, like he wasn't really there. No try, no effort, no presence.

But I didn't really mess with it, didn't really rock the boat. I wasn't here for the dressage test on this day. So I guess we looked relaxed and steady enough to an outside perspective to squeak through with Charlie's new personal record in the dressage ring: a 30%.

Which is kinda ironic, imo. The judges were definitely a bit generous, and this score left us sitting in 5th place going into the jumping.

charlie was basically obsessed with his spicy little nugget of a trailer mate
We had a long wait before then, and even so I still ended up arriving in warm up a little early. Charlie was.... Not very emotionally at peace with the warm up area.

Plantation is a fairly unique venue: it's one giant hill, upon which all the main arenas are placed. Trailers and the dressage rings are down beneath one side of the hill, with cross country on the other. So the arenas right up on top have what almost amounts to a view of the whole world.

This was a tad overwhelming for Charlie and he felt pretty strongly that he belonged back down below, on the side of the hill with the trailers.

course meta data. the elevation profile is so bumpy bc almost all the jumps were situated on terrain
Warm up was sticky, but with a couple good enough efforts. The jump course itself was kinda more of the same.

It started off fine, tho we had a cheap rail at the first. But trying to get Charlie past the gate to jump 2 was a real challenge and we kinda biffed it and ended up adding both in the bending line and subsequent related distance.


Another jump in a roll back was apparently very spooky and we had a hard time getting over that.... Cruised down a line back towards the in gate just fine, but again got real sticky to finish on a 2 stride going away. In which.... bleh, Charlie added, taking that rail in the process.

Honestly it's kinda amazing we only had the two down.

this..... this is not a promising start, charlie...
I didn't love the selection of warm up jumps available for xc, but luckily with the help of trainer P (who had come out for my trailer mate but managed to scoot up the hill asap after her dressage test was done) we had a bit of a CTJ about going forward, and produced two really nice jumps from Chuck.

And he actually left the start box ok too. The course ahead of us looked really fantastic - the jumps were basically all smaller than we saw at Loch Moy last time, but the technicality was ratcheted up. Lots and lots of terrain. Three AB combinations (up bank, ditch, and bending line on a mound) plus a jump out of the water.

My biggest qualm with the course honestly was that the biggest jump was positioned at fence 2. Considering Charlie's kinda notorious for being sticky out of the gates, this felt like it could be a problem. But there was a fairly lengthy cruise to it, all going downhill, so I hoped I'd be able to get him past his grouchiness in time to push him up to the fence.

Alas, that was not to be. You'll see it in the helmet cam, but he was very very very sticky. Just cantering down the hill away from everything else. Not even aimed at a jump. Just straight up didn't wanna go in that general direction.

it wasn't all bad tho!
This did not improve on presenting to the fence and he just barely climbed over it. Kinda biffed the next jump too for good measure, tho it was on the small side at least. Then sucked back big time to the next jump. In his defense it wasn't tiny... but... it also wasn't large. And.... despite my full body efforts (the helmet cam is shaky, to say the least), bam. Refusal.

Represented and jumped it fine. Then same fucking thing at the next jump, except this time he ran out instead. And again jumped it just fine on second attempt. I was a bit flabbergasted, but was really hoping the next couple fences would help us get into more of a rhythm.

Next up was the up bank combination which wasn't really ideal, but somehow we made it through that ok enough. We added a third stride, but I kinda thought we might after walking it anyway.

i was so excited for this too.... oh well. some other day!
We had another craptastic distance to the brush table - bc, ya know, it's kinda hard finding distances when the horse is sucked back against your leg, and then got high centered on the most innocuous looking coop in the world.

Tho, I guess in Charlie's defense, the terrain was not totally innocuous -- the ground fell away rapidly down a steep hill immediately after the coop and I think Charlie took one look at that (half way over the coop) and noped right the fuck on out of that. I managed to not fall off in his mad scramble backwards over the coop, and.... Yea. That was definitely that.

I might be stubborn, but even I could see that our day was over. And that if I didn't walk away with an "R" we'd surely be ending up with an "E," or worse, a hurt horse. 


So.... Yea. Not a very inspiring day. Honestly I debated even uploading these videos but... well, the urge to document is strong with me haha. And there's usually something to be learned from the really really shitty rides, even if it's not really the lesson I thought I signed up for.

There are a couple initial thoughts here. On one hand, this was a pretty uncharacteristic day with Charlie. He's green and he's changeable and I never really know what I'm going to get leaving the start gate with him... but this didn't feel like my horse. Something I find deeply concerning.

charlie's favorite part is hangin at the trailers
On the other hand tho... This side of him has been present since day 1. He's been gate sour since the very beginning. Is always barn sour. We've had epic throwdowns about that. He's notorious for not accepting the pressure of being driven forward. I learned that about him in my second week of ownership.

A couple months into ownership, I wrote about how this side of him could easily turn into an issue of getting eliminated in dressage for disobedience, or of not being able to get him out the start gate on cross country. In short: it's a familiar demon.

sorry bud. we didn't come here for the tailgate. back up to the rings you go to exist etc while trailermate did her thang
While obviously step 1 in the fallout of a really shitty ride is always a comprehensive wellness check, I'm also trying to take stock of my approach to training Charlie.

My biggest focus has been keeping him happy in his work, keeping him fit and fresh with a lot of variety. Especially lately since he's been doing so well, I really haven't been pushing too hard into anything. Very brief, focused schooling sessions intermixed with lengthy hacks or woodsy trot sets. Honestly I've wanted to avoid anything that might make the horse more sour.

charlie by this point thought existence was some bull shit tho. he was what you might call a glass case of emotions. or a dumpster fire. honestly, homeboy was a hot mess.
I wonder if this has worked against me in some ways tho. That, by avoiding work that could lead to that sort of argument, I've actually been tacitly allowing Charlie to become a little more dull, a little more recalcitrant.

Maybe I thought that since he's generally such a good boy, and so reliable, I could just kinda avoid rocking the boat and cruise on through on the strength of his ability and eagerness. Except... Ha, turns out if the horse doesn't supply that eagerness himself and if I haven't actually instilled a certain degree of discipline in the training... Turns out shit falls apart real fast.

Here I was thinking if I just l left the horse alone and didn't pick any fights, he'd be able to cruise through this new level all on his own. Which... actually, uh, yea no. That's apparently not how horse training goes. Uh, my bad?

So ya know. That kinda sucked. Wasn't really the weekend I had hoped for. But maybe some important lessons were learned. Hopefully haha. The way I see it, just about every horse hits a pretty rough patch (or five) when learning to jump. Maybe I should actually be amazed it's taken this long for Charlie to figure out how to say "No!" in the first place? Idk. We'll figure it out tho.

59 comments:

  1. I don't think there is anything more frustrating than a horse that just says NOPE like that! Especially when it's a horse that leads a charmed life and is set up for success. I don't have any great advice but im sorry you had such a rotten day :(

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    1. thanks, it was definitely incredibly frustrated - especially for being so so unexpected. like i expected the course to challenge us and i knew each fence would take riding, and that i couldn't get complacent with the jumps. i just didn't expect the whole "hey we canter cross country, yes?" thing to be what did us in...

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  2. Ugh girl you know more than anyone how much I sympathize with a crappy, terrible day at Plantation! I'm sorry it wasn't the great show day you hoped for, but you have a great team behind you and I know you'll get Charlie back on track soon enough. <3

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    1. aw thanks, i was thinking about you too!!! the jump in stadium that charlie found so offensive was the same one Dino took exception to, and all those memories came flooding back. definitely a tough break :( thanks tho - i'm sure the horse will be fine after working through this.

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  3. Definitely a disappointing day, but I don’t think you need to read too much into it. Everyone, even horses, are allowed bad days and yesterday was clearly that day for C.

    It’ll be alright- you guys will get back out there and kill it next time!

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    1. yup that's the hope! and that was definitely the feeling he gave me - it was just NOT his day, definitely 100%. the key will be figuring out how to avoid similar melt downs in the future...

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  4. It can be so hard to over think the bad days. It's so easy to focus on all the bad stuff and pick apart the riding... and it is SO frustrating!

    I am all for avoiding confronting horsey issues, but sometimes you just have to push that little bit extra and ask for that little bit more at home so they (and you !) learn that whatever the issue is isn't the correct answer. One of my coaches always says that a horse doesn't learn from always doing the right thing, they learn by doing the wrong thing and being corrected. Pushing for that bit extra can be REAL hard though! Henry and I have had a few discussions. Never much fun.

    It's tough having a bad day. So sorry :(

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    1. thanks! and don't get me wrong - i really don't like to dwell on the bad at the expense of appreciating the good. rather, the entire point of this blog is for me to document as objectively as possible what happened, what i felt about it, and how it might be changed in the future so that i can hopefully not repeat the bad parts of our history lol.

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  5. Plantation is a tough venue, and I can see why he would have picked there to Nope out of the whole day. Your thought process makes complete sense, so hopefully with a new game plan he'll be back in business--the forward business--in no time!

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    1. ugh man, that forward business. who knew it could be so tough in a racehorse??? we'll work on it tho. just that constant balance of being fair to the horse while laying down clear consistent expectations...

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  6. Ugh, that sucks! Sorry you had such a bad day.

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    1. thanks, it definitely did indeed suck haha!

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  7. Sorry it was a cruddy day. Though I'm glad you're taking a good perspective from it, as a learning opportunity.

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    1. thanks -- and i mean, that's really the only option moving forward, right? like other than throwing the world's biggest pity party and blaming my horse for being a chump, neither of which are particularly productive or inspiring or likely to help make next time better....

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  8. I totally get that struggle to balance good training with keeping the horse happy and interested. I am definitely on the too soft side of things but have also been on the other side seeing how demanding too much can shut down a horse. And then there is that ambiguous, immeasurable quality of your horse's experience and wanting them to enjoy their job. But you're right, sometimes bad rides can show us perhaps the bar needs adjusting. :)

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    1. yea it's such a tough balance. i'm constantly worrying about making the horse dull or sour, but am maybe forgetting that being effective is the most important piece of the puzzle. and that horses are happiest and most successful when they have a clear understanding of the rules and what to expect. so.... yea. i also am wondering if i'm too susceptible (as i was with izzy) about falling into the trap of riding the horse as he exists in my memory vs riding the horse as he is in the moment. which, considering charlie has been a wildly different horse in each of his three xc runs this year, i really need to focus on riding him as he is... maybe next time lol!

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  9. So sorry y'all had such an off day. I'm glad you're both healthy though so you can get back out and make the next one better.

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  10. I'm so sorry the weekend didn't go as you'd hoped :( Sounds like you have some good ideas for homework. Don't be too hard on yourself though, sometimes ponies just have an off day.

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    1. yup, definitely not beating myself up here - just documenting what happened and how to move forward, while acknowledging that... ya know... sometimes riding is hard and bad things happen.

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  11. OMG, that half jump over the coop and then flying backwards over it. I would have peed myself. Sorry the outing wasn't great. You attack the bad rides just like you do the good though - analyzing what happened and making a new plan going forward. I'm sure it is just a speed bump and you two will be back at it again in style.

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    1. yea that coop jump was pretty unfortunate. and i definitely had to scramble for my neck strap to hang on.... but like, it's a coop. he's jumped approximately eight thousand of them. so i'm pretty sure what happened was less about the jumps themselves and more about charlie's emotional state about the whole thing. he was *not* feelin it, and probably for real reasons. so yea. needs a new plan haha, always with the planning over here. we'll work it out tho!

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  12. Sorry to hear it wasn't a great day for you and Sir Charles! I'm you two will be back to K-I-L-L-I-N-G it in no time tho!

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    1. thanks i hope so!! he's a clever boy, if i can just be clear enough about the rules and whatnot hopefully he'll stay in line and remember that the jumping is supposed to be the fun part!

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  13. Ugh, I had a day that went JUST like this last fall at a mini trial and I 100% know how you felt/are feeling. It sucks, completely messes with your head and makes you question everything even though you know intellectually everything is probably fine. An extra day off and lots of hacks in the following days helped me feel a little better.. I'm sure you guys will be good to go next time.

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    1. thanks! obviously i'm very disappointed but it just felt like a bad (couple) day(s) for the horse. he's such a good boy and so very capable, we'll figure it out. tho my trainer suggested that maybe i hack less and gallop more. which, let's be real, doesn't sound like the worst homework to be assigned LOL

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  14. Whisper has been a good teacher for me because that line really is ambiguous about too much versus not enough. She's always on the side of less is more, but there have been days where I've had to push her until the right answer is given. It's SUCH a hard line and many times I feel bad when I've had to do it because we love our horses haha. But I feel you on those bad days. It already feels horrible and posting videos doesn't help you feel much better, but there are always those downs that come with the highs. I think in a little while though you two will be back at it better than ever <3

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    1. thanks! and yup riding is definitely all about working through the low moments so that the highs feel even that much better ;)

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  15. Aww man, that really stinks you had such an off day. I hope everything is OK and nothing physically is bothering him to make him act like that. :-( Here's hoping it was just a fluke.

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    1. yea you and me both -- it's never a good sign when a horse has such an out-of-character day. it happens, well all have bad days, and there are potential training issues at hand here too for sure. but i'm definitely doing a wellness check first!

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  16. Sorry the day didn't go quite as according to plan 🙁 hopefully it's just a minor speed bump!

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    1. thanks! we'll figure it out for sure, it's just not really my favorite kind of surprise....

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  17. Horses have a way of humbling us, don't they. -.- Sorry you had a rough day. I hope you figure out how to get Mr. Chuckles back on track quickly!

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    1. lol maybe charlie read my last post about how meaningful moving up was after such a hard fought couple of years. so maybe he thought he'd make it even more special by keeping the struggle bus rolling ;)

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  18. Ugh. Well that just sucks -- I'm sorry you had such a rough time! I know though that you have tons of people in your corner to help you through this... it's the part of riding that SUCKS but when you get to the other side (and I know you will!) you'll be so proud of having worked through it. Nothing worth having comes easy and all that

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    1. thanks, that is what they say, isn't it haha ;)

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  19. A couple of years ago at an event Riley and I had a day like this. He was just not himself. I wound up scratching him before jumping and it turns out he had been mildly colicing. I hope you guys get to the bottom of what was bothering Charlie, the helmet cam at the coop is scary!

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    1. yea i remember you writing about that - that was scary! it's pretty safe to say that charlie wasn't colicking haha, he was definitely totally 100% fine in that regard. other than not wanting to go forward away from the trailers, his behavior, attitude, vitals, all that were totally normal. now whether he's sore somewhere? or made himself sore with the awkward and clunky jumps? we're definitely looking into that.

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    2. Yea all good possibilities. I will share that we took Scout to the open schooling there on Tuesday and he had a very tough time also. He was really "stuck" and my trainer gave her best effort at getting him forward. He stopped a bunch of times for no apparent reason except that he was just not paying attention. When he was going he was jumping brilliantly. So frustrating because you're wondering if heir brain or their body (or both) saying no.

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  20. Oh that is so hard! Especially when it feels like your horse does a 180 the day before a show - it can take a huge toll on your mental state. Sounds like you made the best of a crappy day, and you both will live to fight another day. Hopefully Charlie gets back to a happy kid and decides he wants to play again very soon!

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    1. thanks i'm sure he will! and in the meantime we might be redrawing some parameters about how sometimes ponies have to go to work even when they don't feel like it. it's supposed to be fun and i need it to be fun, but.... it's also not really cool to be like, "eh, nope, not today!"

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  21. Man, sorry about your no good, very bad show day. You are a badass for posting about it honestly and completely. I hate the feeling when I know I'm not connecting with my guy, and not knowing which way to go (push more, or retreat a little). You're a very thoughtful owner and rider, so I have no doubt you'll come back even better from this.

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    1. thanks ;) and yea i mean, i did honestly consider not posting as much detail, or as much media but.... ya know. i've always posted my low moments along with the good, even when it kinda sucks and makes me feel bad. bc there's real value in there for me, and i do look back on those posts to try to keep those lessons learned. i'm sure charlie will be fine going forward, it's just a shame that sometimes it's like i need to figure things out the hard way...

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  22. I feels ya on the WTF this is not my “normal” horse… oh wait, it’s just all the bad parts coming out on the same day. This is exactly how I felt at FENCE with Chimi!!!! But the good news is he’s been a rockstar leading up to this so I think you’ll figure out the best course of action moving forward and get the good Charlie back for future events. Just sucks when the bad version of your horse shows up to play at a horse show!!!! But I guess horses keep us humble sooooo yeah. Hope Charlie’s back to his good self soon!!

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    1. ugh yea, "all the bad parts coming out on the same day" --> YUP that sounds like it haha. definitely sucks, but in a way it's a good reminder that it *is* possible and the horses *aren't* actually unicorns and i need to not ever get complacent.

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  23. I'm so sorry, days like this royally suck. I just had my first few rides back and on the third one, mine decided he no longer walks. So we had an entire lesson learning how to walk again this weekend.

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    1. oh man, that's never any fun either :(

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  24. I love how horses give you a glimmer of how awesome they can be... and then make you work your ass off to get it when you want it. This was just another blip on the horse training journey! (Sadly it probably won't be the last!)

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    1. yup! at least with charlie, he's kinda been the opposite of what you say: he's been awesome the vast majority of the time but has shown glimmers of how things can be when he's not feeling quite so awesome. he's generally a pretty reliable guy but i still need to be prepared to pick up the slack (and get a response!) from him when he's not all there.

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  25. Such a crappy day. Love your attitude about it, and it sounds like you've got a plan to work on the struggle parts. Honestly, though, I'm just impressed Mr. managed to stop himself mid jump. Like, you'd think the momentum of that big body would just not be denied. 😂

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    1. ugh yea, sadly we've been kinda using that momentum as a crutch already in sticky times, but it only really works when we either have a canter with some speed, or some impulsion. if we've got the impulsion, the spots don't even end up sticky so.... yea. but lacking either, it turns out it's a lot easier for him to put on the brakes than i expected!

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  26. I'm late to this post (sorry). Once you rule out the physical (and hopefully it is ruled out) then it's down to mental. I am not going to give advice because Charlie and Carmen are very different and plus it's not my place.

    All that said, I'm going to talk about Carmen and I in case anything resonates (and it may not). In many ways, when I started with Carmen I was not clear enough with her and she figured that she got to decide how the day would go. I'm working through that now (and it popped up in day 2 of the show which i will write about soon). All the emotional stuff aside about partnerships etc, there are times when the horse has to listen to the rider despite their feels. This will keep everyone safe. So maybe he was tired, or would rather be home, or lonely going away from the gate. That behaviour can be fixed and I know you can do it. There are times I don't feel like working either. It seems that Charlie's go to is to get stuck in the mud. Carmen's is to spook and tantrum. It seems that both behaviours come from the same place.

    Again, likely not useful or new. The good news is that Charlie is still a great horse and this is a blip in the road.

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    1. yea i mean, charlie and i have worked through this in the past. there was a period where every single ride he would plant his feet and swing his head up in his best "dinosaur stuck in tar pit" routine and refuse to go forward. every. single. ride. sometimes on multiple occasions! and i had to learn to be very very disciplined with him that YES i would do everything in my power to be fair and consistent with him, and ensure that there wasn't anything physical going on. but that there was also a clear firm line on what is not considered acceptable behavior from him. and refusing to go forward was absolutely in that category. we got past that point tho, and things have been so good that i've possibly gotten a little slack in correcting the littlest indiscretions that inevitably lead up to the more extreme events. my bad... vigilance is the name of the game, i suppose.

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    2. I know you have- sometimes I am like 'how many times are we going to deal with this f-ing spooking at grass thing?'

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    3. ugh seriously. and it's like, the moment we allow even the littlest slide or regression, suddenly they're thinking the rules have changed and they're free again to do as they please. it can be exhausting!

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  27. Aww man. I'm sorry. The good looked good though! And it's always a process and a challenge and hopefully will get better and better with time. He's a good boy, he maybe just doesn't understand his second career fully yet!

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  28. I missed this, I am so sorry the show went so badly but good for you for taking the R instead of getting eliminated or Charlie getting hurt. I had actually hoped to be at that show but didn't realize the entries closed 3 weeks early, and then it worked out for the best anyway. It will get better, Charlie will be much better for your next outing!

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