Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Jenny Camp '18: Cross Country!

We walked our courses after our lesson on Saturday. And I had a couple impressions from it. First of all: it would not be a slouch of a course.

Highlights from the map included: three A-B combinations, one we had struggled with in schooling, one with a ditch, and one with a bending line. Lots of big fences, some we had jumped before and some we hadn't. A galloping downhill line to the water. And a track that looked like it could possibly test Charlie's commitment to the task vs his near-magnetic draw back to the barn.

wish i had more hq pro photos to share with you today, but the few i have make me happy :D
I knew in my heart that there was nothing on this course that Charlie couldn't do. It looked fun. In reviewing my pictures from the walk, I could very clearly visualize us accomplishing each and every single obstacle.

But..... I could also see that we'd need to be fully in the zone in order to make it happen. If Charlie came out as the same horse I had at Plantation, we weren't gonna make it. And I figured I'd know pretty quickly whether that was the case.

nice long course. charlie's barn is in the cluster of trees and buildings in the bottom right hand corner, and i wasn't sure how he would feel about turning back away from that section
Step one was getting out of the gate haha. There were two back to back issues at the ditch combination necessitating a partial jump rebuild, so we were a little stacked up at the start gate. Once the course hold was lifted tho, I did a little "start box practice" with Charlie as the horse before us left the box. Then it was our turn!

simple hanging log to get started
Charlie left the box the best he ever has, including his reasonable departure from Plantation. Just up and into that gear we practiced at the pace clinic (remembering that the first 30sec were our most important!) and right over the log out of stride.

he always seems to have feelings going up the hill after the log
Just like at Plantation tho, immediately after jump 1 Charlie started sucking back. He had FEELINGS. It was a DISCUSSION, and a very loud one at that. Oooh but I growled and yelled at him. Half the farm definitely heard me. It's in the video.

The discussion was prolonged as Charlie swung his brontosaurus neck all over the place, propping up slightly in the canter and threatening to break to trot. Facing the tantrum head on definitely intensified it, as I knew it would (which is why I've kinda tacitly tried to avoid it in the past). But I was resolute: Sir, We Are Going.

I thought about circling, wondered if we'd have a refusal, tried to calculate how close I could get to the next fence before it would be considered "presenting" to it.... But eventually was basically like, "Fuck it. We are schooling and this is issue #1. I am driving this horse to the fence (visible in the background of the pic above) and there will be no ifs ands or buts about it."

we've jumped this ramp before
And? Well. About three strides from the ramp, Charlie suddenly seemed to notice it was there. Pricked his ears, locked on, jumped it right out of stride, and carried on as if nothing had ever happened. The dinosaur was apparently left behind us. Fucking BOOM.

new-to-us fence. option for all levels, and i really wasn't sure which section to choose.... all were about equally wide at the base (providing a safe ground line for the otherwise quite upright stile fences
The ground immediately after the ramp drops in a downhill arc to the corner where two pastures share a fence line (that we would be jumping through). I was worried about this section bc Charlie has historically always landed very unbalanced on this downhill turning section, usually thinking about returning back to the barn by exiting stage right. Plus we've never jumped these brush fences before.

The height options had given me some pause on our walk, bc I wasn't sure if they would be spooky or if the upright nature of the fences would be dicey if Charlie was very unbalanced. But color me shocked, Charlie actually landed very well and was firmly in front of my leg. Tho I opted to go for the far left side anyway, just in case the dinosaur reappeared there would be fewer options to run out since that section was set back into the fence line.

It was nbd tho, Charlie hopped over. And it dawned on me: maybe this would be ok after all?

this is me doing my best andrew nicholson impression lol.....
After our heated discussion between jumps 1 and 2, Charlie was GOING, YES MA'AM, and I opted to just cruise right along with him. Just stood up in the tack and let him fly up the hillside to our next jump, a galloping table we've seen before.

this log table is not small. we've jumped it before tho.
Much to my surprise, Charlie relatively easily steadied for me as we made the turn to the fence and I sat up a bit more upright in the saddle. Good boy! We took a little bit of an angled approach to the table to fit in our last stride to it, and Charlie popped over no problem.

the approach to these roll tops was extremely challenging imo
The next set of jumps on course were definitely going to be our most challenging (second to getting out of the start box, obvi, haha). You may remember that Charlie and I had some refusals here in schooling a couple weeks ago, which prompted getting him drilled and tapped for studs.

The picture above does a nice job of demonstrating the downhill 90* turn approach to these jumps, which were most definitely set on a forward two stride distance (tho we repeatedly fit in 3 during schooling....).

we struggled schooling them a couple weeks ago, and even once we got through, kept chopping in an extra stride
I really really really wanted to get through this line on the first try. But then again, if we were gonna have problems on course, this was probably where they would be.

So I just tried to do the best I could. We hugged the fence line for as long as possible, and I tried to really hold Charlie to the left on approach, hoping to close the door to a right side fly by like we had in schooling.

bless his heart tho, charlie picked up and made. it. happen. good boy!
Charlie was a star tho. The studs I think really made a difference for the horse, and he was much more comfortable keeping his pace up even as he went down the hill. He still felt somewhat noncommittal on approach to the fence and I honestly wasn't sure what he was going to do when we got to a bit of a gappy distance.

But he picked up. Jumped in there, powered through in two, hit another slightly gappy distance to the B element, but picked up again and carried us right on through. GOOD BOY CHARLIE!!!

this jump seems unassuming, but it's actually 100% not my favorite
I can't even explain the relief I felt haha. Like. It was around here that I started feeling like things would be ok.

austen correctly observed that you can basically see right through charlie's nostrils directly into his brain in this pic lol. and his brain says "WE R RUN DIS R FUN RUN RUN OMG!" lol. but believe it or not, this half halt DID actually go through and he practically show jumped the log vertical. GOOD BOY!
That feeling was amplified further when, even tho we were galloping straight back toward the barn (Charlie's favorite place to run!), our next jump was a deceptively tricksy upright vertical with a downhill landing. It's a jump that would like a little respect, thankyouvermuch, rather than a headlong galloping approach.

yup, atta boy, chuck!
Charlie flung his head around a little bit when I tried to get him more organized, but.... then, ya know, he actually DID steady. Literally came right back to me, got on a more balanced stride, and basically just show jumped the vertical like the easiest thing in the world.

That adjustability is NOT something I'm used to from this horse on cross country lol, but it's finally starting to happen!

water was numbered separately from the red boat house coop thingy. but this was our chance to really slay the direct route, finally
But then naturally we flew down the hill, aimed at the water, CANNONBALLED into the water, skated across in probably the biggest four strides I've ever ridden in my LIFE, then super-manned out over the coop haha.

aaaand.... charlie LEAPT into the water haha
Seriously. It was insane. But like, that addictive thrilling kind of insane.

seriously tho, check out our wake omg
Like. There was no question here. No hesitation. I honestly was barely even steering. I think my brain might have even still been trailing somewhere back up on the hill behind us.....

he was a heat seeking missile to the coop!
But Charlie knew where he was going. Knew what he was doing. He was JOMPING OMG YAS WE R JOMPING!!!

this jump is also not small. at all. and we had never jumped it before.
Haha I barely even got my ass in gear well enough to steer him through the break in the fence line, lest Charlie run us head long into some chicken wire....

Once through the gate tho he was still ALL SYSTEMS GO and charged the above relatively giant fucking log oxer thingy. So gung ho tho, omg. We got a fairly snug distance here bc ya know, we were perhaps just a titch strung out lol, but Charlie didn't care. He was eating it up.

Brita happened to catch almost all of this mid section of the course on video and it's definitely worth a quick watch lol. Bc it was basically classic Charlie, except homeboy is growing up these days <3

we've jumped this house.... but it was definitely positioned to be spooky
Anyway, after the oxer we navigated a rutted stream crossing into the next field (which Charlie jumped, natch) then galloped up the hill to this house. The house itself is nbd - it's too big for a BN course, but is definitely on the friendly side of N.

But the positioning was tough. Like jumping into a dark wooded jungle tunnel. Not just like, a little wooded, but dark. This was another area on the course where I felt we might have trouble. And Charlie did stand off it a little bit - but nothing crazy. I was ready for it and he never actually got behind my leg. Just seemed to measure it up a little bit, but jumped fine and then cruised through the tunnel.

emerging through the tunnel took us to combo #2
Actually, he flew through the tunnel - definitely looking for his next target haha.

big ditch to rails!
Which happened to be the ditch combination that had apparently caused some grief on course. Charlie schooled this line a couple times last year, tho we haven't touched it since.

rails too sma tho, compared to everything else on course
But aside from the blip at Windurra, Charlie's never been a ditchy horse. I assumed he would lock on to the B element jump and never look back.

pictured: "what ditch tho?"
Which Charlie happily set out to do. If anything, I wish the B element had been a little bigger bc Charlie kinda just ran it over lol.

then a nice ramp through the fence line. not tall, but wider than it appears. very friendly.
Anyway. The course continued to its furthest point before the turnaround - the field right next to Charlie's barn. He tackled this simple ramp through the fence line with gusto. Proving yet again why he would be such an awesome horse to fox hunt...

charlie was basically in cruise control <3
Then we had a long swooping turnaround on mowed grass. Charlie actually slipped behind pretty badly on this turn, which made me a litttttle bit nervous. Except he hardly seemed to notice. If anything, it reminded him to keep his hind end coming up underneath himself.

biggest fence on course. probably biggest xc fence charlie has jumped. and oh but he flew <3
Which was perfect bc we had our biggest galloping fence yet to tackle next: a big old table shared with Training. I'm honestly not even convinced this thing is technically within N dimensions. Like, maybe on a perfectly flat surface haha, maybe. It's big tho. In every dimension.

And Charlie locked on, measured it up, and powered right over. Yesssss!

then a long downhill cruise to a helpful turn back up to this very small steeplechase (there was brush in it when we saw it on course)
Obvi I was over the moon (ha, literally), knowing we just had a few more jumps. Next on the list wasn't much to look at in and of itself, but it was another test of whether Charlie really has learned something about adjustability.

already locking on to the bench on a bending line
After the table we galloped straight down hill before a short turn back up to a small steeplechase. And guys. Charlie did it! Came back to me, balanced, and again basically show jumped the thing.

apparently they ran out of A-B flags haha, bc this bench (which is beefier than the picture does justice) was supposed to be the B element in a bending line. we jumped it anyway ;)
Which was perfect bc even tho the bending line had been taken off course, I still wanted a shot at it. Which Charlie acquiesced to, with a very measured steady bending five to the bench.

the bench is not a small fence, but charlie didn't care
It was almost like Charlie had read the course map ahead of time too.

charlie's first trakehner! 
Then off we cantered to the last couple fences on course: a trakehner that's always made me a little nervous even tho it's kinda innocuous.

it's a real ditch, and not insubstantially wide... but the grassy appearance makes it quite inviting
Charlie didn't care tho - jumped it from a great forward stride.

"yea, i still don't see what the big deal is about ditches tho"
I know I sound like a broken record, but it felt good.

previously the largest fence charlie had seen - from when we schooled at Shawan
We had another little stream crossing (which Charlie also jumped, obvi) then a quick approach to this brush table we had schooled at Shawan. Again, this is not a small fence. But again, Charlie didn't care. Soared over.

final fence, another nice beefy bench
Then kept right on cruising to the big green bench right out of stride for our final effort. Then zooooomed through the finish line and all the way back up to stadium before I could get him stopped haha.

smiling the whole way through <3 <3 <3
So. Uh. I think it's safe to say the horse had fun. Lol. And I am thrilled with him.

It's not easy, we made mistakes, and there are still so many holes in our training. But damn, when the pieces click together this horse is one hell of a machine.

This post has already been ridiculously long, so virtual cookies if you've read this far - I appreciate it! But I hope you'll watch the helmet cam footage too bc it's a good one.

I'm trying to remember but this might actually be the first real cross country course where I didn't come back down to trot or walk for any of it. No little schooling diversions. Just all the direct routes, all at cruising speed haha. The course was great too - it felt like a lot of action, lots of jumps in close proximity, even as we had some real room to gallop.

yup i've been waiting for this picture for a long time <3
It's exciting to me, ya know? Like I don't think I'll ever be more than a low level event rider. It's not clear if I'll ever even do anything recognized. But Charlie feels like exactly the kind of horse that I can have a LOT of fun with - like a horse who will take me wherever I feel brave enough to go.

I'm glad that he challenges me too tho. As much as I hate to admit it, I think we needed that rough ride at Plantation to help keep things in perspective for me. Help me be disciplined to push him through the tar pits, and then appreciate him that much more when he rockets me around a big course like this like an angel-dust-fueled dynamo.

Bc this is the high we live for, right? ;)


  1. I think the HUGE leap into the water is my favorite part. In the helmet cam it seems even bigger, and so much fun!!

    1. Lol totally - it was crazy fun to ride bc Charlie was just straight up partying his face off haha. Literally all I had to worry about was not getting pitched off the side in the melee !!

  2. OMG the leap into the water and then those HUGE strides to launch the coop. Holy moly Charlie! Who dat? The sky is definitely the limit for y'all!!! So glad you had such a fun run. I can only imagine the big grin on your face that you still must have days later. =)

    1. Yup definitely still grinning lol! I also loved it how after the big table shared with T, it was like Charlie switched on his “scopey” button and jumped me out of the tack at the next two (much smaller) fences lol

  3. OMG!! He was game on having the time of his life and from the smile on your face in a lot of the pics I’m guessing you did too.

    1. Definitely :D I tend to be pretty serious when I’m riding (tension and all that lol) so sometimes my facial expressions are... special. Actually the photographer captured one beauty that you better believe will make it to the outtakes post haha. But yes, I had a ton of fun - enough so that I could actually recognize even while riding haha

  4. oh my god some of those fences were ENORMOUS. the double log fandango - well done charlie! i haven't watched the helmet cam yet but I'm excited to bc he looked like once he got over his bronto impression he finally realized you were off to do something fun and exciting.

    also his face over that brush combo slayed me.

    1. That oxer was no freakin joke. I had never even really gotten that close to it before my course walk and... yea. That sucker is big. Chuck loved it tho! Even from an imperfect distance he handled it well!!

      And yea as soon as we were past the dinosaur situation he was 100% on board and loving every second ! Now to just get there a little faster with less bronto action haha ...

  5. Awesome job! You guys look fantastic!

  6. Yesssss! GO CHARLIE CHEEZ-ITS! Seriously tho, this looks more like a Training course with a few smaller jumps thrown in than a true Novice one. Great job!

    1. thanks!! it was definitely *not* a small course, but everything rode super well. i really liked that there was a lot of "action" even between the jumps - turns, terrain, breaks in the fence line, stream crossings.... it really felt like there was always something just ahead to draw the horse forward. and charlie was definitely drawn haha - it felt like he was on rails!

  7. GOOD BOY CHARLIE! That is a solid course, and you guys make it look like cake. You guys are doing fantastic! Its all coming together for you two!

    1. thanks!!! it definitely hasn't felt easy in schooling - we've had a lot of struggles in the last two months. but i'll take that in exchange for a great easy breezy competition course any day!! :D

  8. Awesome! What a great show and you guys tackled the courses well! :-) It is nice to hear Charlie is back to his happy self!

    1. that's for sure - nobody is more relieved than me to get him back out on course feeling like a happy rock star ;)

  9. So happy for you guys!!! All your hard work has certainly paid off :)

  10. There aren't enough words for how much I love this update! Good boy Charlie, and nicely done, Emma!

    1. aw thanks ;) this is the stuff that makes all the hard, low moments worth it!

  11. I love that he jumps those stream crossings right out of stride. So clever, Charlie! :P What a good boy and a great round! There's no better feeling than just being able to enjoy the ride.

    1. ha yea he's so funny, basically everything becomes a JOMPIE! when he's in the zone like that lol.... i like it!

  12. Yay yay yay yay. I can't even tell you how HAPPY this makes me!!!!! He looks amazing. And you both look so happy!
    I know plenty of horses that test to the first couple fences, like they can't get "in the xc mode" and then just sail the rest of the way. Getting Charlie over those fences and having such a good run afterwards will reward you in the future. YAY!!!!!!

    1. yea definitely - charlie definitely has a moment when he "clicks" and then it's smooth sailing after that. which is part of why i never really got after him for the stickiness before. but... at plantation he just never really clicked on, and that's simply not the type of ride i can be very successful with, so from now on i guess i gotta be a little more firm about the rules lol. but that's fine - so long as he does actually get in gear, bc once he's there he's AMAZING! :D

  13. Woohoo!!! So happy that you guys had such a good go! Charlie is a machine and will only get better.

    As someone who shows in hand only, and rides western a bit, watching the videos/looking at pics of xc gives me heart palpitations! LOL And the pro pics are pretty decent - mine from my last show are my horse set up in hand, my legs and torso. My head is cut off (by the horse) in every one! Needless to say I won't be buying any!

    1. ha honestly xc gives me heart palpitations too, i'm just lucky enough to ride a very brave horse!

      and what a bummer about the pro pics being... not great. ugh. i'm such a picture junkie that i always want to by ALL OF THEM THANKS but yea it sucks when they're kinda bleh. luckily i have a lot of friends with nice cameras who often like to come around too. this particular photog actually boards at my barn too so i know her well. she caught some pretty amazing moments (of the outtake variety) that i'll also be sharing soon too ;)

  14. So much happy!! Wonderful to see you and Charlie killing it

    1. thanks :D it definitely makes me so happy, considering how difficult it's been this year to actually get out and do things!! (i refuse to calculate just how many show entries i've lost for various reasons... but it's a lot). but i'm cool with it if this is how it's gonna be!

  15. When all the little things get ironed out he's going to be a XC machine! (not saying he isn't already a beast of course because he is!)

    1. definitely agreed! i was especially blown away on this course with how adjustable he has become. the fact that he was agreeable to steadying a few strides from the fence made it so much easier for me to just trust him and let him cruise forward in his own self carriage rather than having a constant wrestling match with him about pace. it's nice to know our recent schooling has paid off!

  16. What a great boy he is. I started with the video of the middle part and my first thought was 'damn he looks good'. I laughed at the cannonball into the water.He looked like he was saying YAHOOO! I'm so happy for this great success! Well done.
    I also love your 'holy shit' comment at the end. I am sure that I would have fallen off at the end in exhaustion!

    1. haha he FELT like he was saying "Yahoooo!!" too, or maybe "Bombs Awayyyyy!!" lolol..... and it's funny, i didn't even remember saying "holy shit" at the end but.... there it is haha.

      really tho, he's such a good boy and i'm so glad that he seems to enjoy the game :D

  17. What an exciting course. Congrats on having a fun ride!

    1. thanks - it was a super fun course!!! definitely a good mix of challenging and "we can do this!"


    You guys look SUPER! The course looks like so much fun!!! Way to own it all! YAY CHARLIE for growing up!

    1. it was omg super super fun!!! and even tho some of it looked a little intimidating to me personally, it rode really well and charlie seemed to really just want to attack everything!

  19. Yay! Congratulations for everything going well! :)

  20. Wow, Charlie makes it look so easy, and you can see how adjustable he is being too. Well done on an amazing round!

    1. i am legitimately so proud of how adjustable he's gotten haha - he's been a superstar in our lessons, but can still be super green when out actually running a course. he's really figuring it out tho! i think the big jumps help tho too - he pays more attention to them and is more respectful of them, vs the smaller stuff that he basically just mows over lol

  21. Woo!!! Charlie was on FIRE!! That is sooooo fantastic, Emma; I'm so happy for you! What an amazing round you two put in. He certainly was going for it in the water! So adorable haha! Congrats on SUCCESS!!!

  22. I was reading this and just kept thinking "YAYYAYYAY" I feel like you really put in the time and hours and the results were so great! Congrats lady!

  23. I love fence 15! Ya'll look like you're flying. And please remind me where you got your brown boots. I love them and need new boots lol

  24. ahhhh This whole thing is so fantastical and joyous and just YAY! This is why we ride, yo! Congrats on a wonderful run!


Thanks for leaving a comment! You may need to enable third party cookies in your browser settings if you have trouble using this form.