Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Arena XC @ MDHT!!!

We got to squeeze in another cross country schooling this year!! And finally, finally, the pieces clicked together well enough that I was finally brave enough to really focus on Charlie's and my introduction to schooling Training level cross country fences!!

very few actual pictures of us, but the shadows speak volumes <3
Loch Moy is one of our favorite venues for many many many reasons. And Arena XC is just one of them haha. But damn, it's a good one!

i spy with my little eye, charlie's cute neighbor pony, and charlie looking majestically out his window lol
The gist is: Loch Moy Farm, home to the Maryland Horse Trials, has about 8 acres across three all-weather rings (check out the link for an aerial shot) that they transform into a cross schooling derby mecca during the winter months.

The lowest ring has a water complex, multiple bank complexes, and a couple ditches built in permanently. The three rings communicate with each other through various passageways (including a fun hill from the middle to the lowest). And all three are filled with full courses of portable cross country fences from Intro and Elementary all the way up to Modified.

this window is so neat bc it's basically at ground level. must be a very different view for tall charlie!
Schooling is available by appointment for the extremely reasonable, imo, fee of $50, tho I have vouchers from all the time I've spent volunteering here this past year. Charlie got his first ever taste of cross country here back in January 2017, and then repeated the effort with a baller BN school this past January.

obvi i don't expect anyone to recognize a random picture of a field.... but this is the big field at isabel's farm. we made a pit stop to pick up rachael and birdie, but ended up switching to her rig when my truck started running a little too hot....
Originally, I had thought to maybe do the upcoming Donation Derby there, but frankly.... I wanted the schooling more than a competition run. I wanted to really focus on working over Training level fences.

Meanwhile, the derby courses aren't the best for moving up: they often make up for the ease of running over a flat surface by ratcheting up the complexity. Which is awesome, don't get me wrong, but that's not something I would want at T right now, obvi haha.

our intrepid team!!!
So my friends and I decided to head out for our own schooling session instead of the derby. And I'm so so SO glad we did! It was awesome. Plus the best weather in recent memory: high 50s with good sun. Yessss!!

wheeeeee shadow jumper!!!
The weather actually worked out to my advantage, I think. Since our recent grids and gymnastics lesson, I'd schooled Charlie once over some ~N sized jumps on a chilly windy day. And homeboy was FRESH OMG. Attacking the jumps but landing very very strongly haha.

I hadn't wanted to shut down that feeling bc I knew I would need his forward bravery in order to feel brave enough myself for the bigger fences at the upcoming schooling.... But it was a touch wild haha. Turns out tho, with the warmer weather he was not quite so electric, tho still quite bold. And the overall effect was that I was very focused on adding leg instead of holding back. It was a good recipe!

kinda wish the jumps were flagged. one of these is T and one is M, not sure which is which. on the softer side since this was ring 1 for the course. we jumped the right side and charlie gave it a LOT of room OMG. you'll have to watch the video for a sense of the airtime!
I had gone back and reread my blog post from schooling at Shawan Downs earlier this year, ahead of my move up to N. That was one of our most successful schools of the year, I think, and I wanted to reread the post to see if I could figure out what contributed to that success.

ditch thru the driveway to ring two!
And it seemed to be two key pieces:

1) I had walked the course the week prior while everything was still flagged, so I knew exactly which jumps were N and therefore couldn't trick myself into believing otherwise.

2) I aimed Charlie at our first N fence very early in the ride (I think my third jump) to force my eye to adjust up to height asap. Bc once one jump looks "ok" then suddenly everything at that height looks better.

garden gates! left side is T, right side is N -- we jumped the right
While the jumps at Loch Moy aren't flagged yet for the Derby (and the courses aren't online yet either, I totally checked haha....), we've been riding at this farm's events for long enough to be pretty familiar with all of their jumps. Charlie's already jumped basically every. single. thing. from their intro, BN and N courses. So I figured I'd be able to recognize the T jumps.

T brush table!! left side is M roll top, right side is N pheasant feeder
And I followed the same pattern from Shawan Downs: aimed Charlie at a T jump almost immediately. We did a cursory warm up at trot and canter, during which I integrated some of the small 2' stadium jumps for lead changes, then immediately pointed to the first line of XC fences. Systematically circling through: first BN, then N, then T.

Naturally these were quite inviting fences, since they were very early on what will be the Derby course. Then after that first T jump, I looped right around to a line of log verticals for T and M. Honestly not sure which was which, but both were well within Charlie's abilities. And he actually jumped the SHIT out of it haha, maybe the little tree under it spooked him? Who knows haha, it felt GREAT!

T mushroom roll top table thingy!! we jumped this at the twilight event we did too, but i was happy to have a second shot to reaffirm that it wasn't a fluke
We then left that arena by cantering the path through the driveway, over the ditch, and into the giant middle arena that usually has the most awesome stuff. It was also currently occupied by a large lesson, so we opted to just cruise directly through to the lowest third ring, but not before catching the N log roll and N garden gate first.

While I was allowing a bit of a left drift (a common Emma problem), Charlie was jumping great. I kept reminding myself to let him canter more forward on an open stride, and keep my reins short with hands half way up the neck. Charlie took care of the rest <3

hint: it was not a fluke lol. look at dem shadow knees!!!!
Once in the lowest ring, we really started cruisin. Our giant T table friend from the Twilight event this summer was down here. And I knew I wanted a second shot at it. Recall I had kinda wimped out from schooling any T on that Twilight course, even tho it was right there.

But then by the last jump, I knew if I didn't jump at least one T thing I'd really regret it. And figured that since it was the last jump, nbd if we kinda biffed it haha. And we did kinda biff it haha, but it was fine. Better than fine - Charlie proved to me that he could easily jump a T table from a long spot. Which like, good to know, bro. Good to know.

left side BN corner, right side N corner
So for this ride, I did a little circuit from an N log coop, to the T brush box thingy that was honestly a last minute choice (I originally planned to aim at the N feeder but.... c'mon, big girl pants, Emma! Aim at the T stuff!!), then around to the table. Boom, Charlie fucking nailed it. Yesss!!

Another little loop around to the N corner and Charlie was in the freakin ZONE. You can see in the shadows but he was just happily carrying me forward to the jumps, taking leg and a loose curb rein, and feeling flippin fantastic!


T boat!!! charlie has now officially jumped the BN, N and T variations of this boat
This horse, he's just so incredible. He's so brave, he makes me feel brave. Brave enough to tackle the above T boat. Which like. Ya know. It's fucking giant. All of these jumps look giant to me, let's be real. I've never schooled T before. Just that table the one time at the Twilight, and a couple jumps shared between N and T.

lol and oh but he flew!! check out that shadow tail flick action!!
But this? This was the real deal. And Charlie ate it up! We got to a long spot and both just went for it. For me, that's something I'm really proud of. Even tho we were jumping the biggest cross country jumps of both of our lives, I never once got left behind or stayed totally in the back seat.

wheeee into the water!!!
As a rider notorious for my nervous, defensive habits, this was kinda a big deal. Going for the long spot? It just isn't my nature haha. But it *is* Charlie's nature. And ya know. I'm finally learning to go along for the ride lol.

T log roll, also quite inviting
Anyway, I was basically already on Cloud 9 at that point. Feeling like we'd accomplished everything I wanted, plus some. But lo! There was still that middle arena to revisit!!!

T roll top. one of my favorite pictures of isabel is over the N version of this jump <3
We kept it pretty simple up here tho. A quick trip over the most inviting of the T fences in this ring: a log roll top to the paneled roll top pictured above, with a nice long gallop in between. Then another little circuit over the T cut out table. Which.... we kinda chipped a little bit the first time so I repeated that one for a better effect (in the video!!).

Honestly that one looked pretty big to me too, so I was very proud of myself for going for it anyway.

just having so much fun galloping around on my giant thoroughbred <3
There were a few other things I could have tried on this day but opted not to. Idk why. I'm pretty sure Charlie would have jumped the moon if I aimed him at it. But ya know. We don't have to do *all the things* in just one day lol.

T cutout table (and evidence of our first effort on the left side baseboards haha)
It's actually kinda funny, in a way, bc when I laid out "schooling T" in my goals for the year, I had expected that we'd be working on the technical stuff (like combinations or whatever) at smaller heights first, before I worked on the actual height elements.

charlie was FLYING guys, what a star!! and uh, emma, maybe it's time to condition that slippery ass saddle haha
But that assumption was rooted in the idea that I'd be doing this in xc lessons. Which .... have been sparse to non existent. Meanwhile, I tend to be hesitant to ride combinations without having either walked them ahead of time, or having a trainer there for guidance.

The height, tho? Well we've been schooling 3'3+ stadium jumps in lessons for months now. The height is clearly no problem for Charlie, it was just a matter of pumping myself up enough to actually translate that to xc jumps. And esp in an arena setting, on a nice flat well groomed surface? It's that much easier haha.

up bank combination! up the hill to the little X, then a few strides to another jump
Tho I knew I'd regret it if I didn't practice at least a little complexity haha. So to finish up, we did the super fun line from the lowest ring, up the bank, up the hill to an X, five strides to the N roll top arc thing. Charlie was foot perfect!

final jump of the up bank line, N roll top on left, T coop on right
Like, so so so good. Even now, looking back on it, rewatching the video, I see all sorts of other things I could have tried. Or feel like maybe I *should* have been brave enough to do a few more jumps.


But. No, I'm 100% satisfied. I'm proud of myself for going for it. I have wanted this for a long time. Have been trying so hard to make the lessons happen, to create the opportunity to start working on T. And, ya know, there have been obstacles. We had to scratch at the last minute from TWO xc clinics this year, both of which I had entered for T. That's disappointing, ya know?

returning to the trailers feeling happy 
But I knew Charlie was ready. And he totally is, good boy <3

Obvi there's a lot more work to do. Moving up isn't just about bigger fences. There's a lot we have to learn about combinations, speed, different fence styles, and all on terrain to boot, bc eventing doesn't actually happen in an arena lol.

footing stained his tail gray haha
This felt like a great first step tho. And esp at this point in the season, it feels a little bit like planting a seed in Charlie that will hopefully have the entire off season to germinate and bloom. At least, that's the idea lol.

42 comments:

  1. Looooved watching the confidence in your video. Charlie is channeling your joy and you both feed off each other's best points in the best way. ❤️

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    1. Aw thanks girl <3 l really don’t know how I got so lucky with him but it’s like when he’s clicked on like this, he’s invincible and hides all my flaws

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  2. Gahh just look at you two, jumping TRAINING! I just freakin' love you and Charlie together!

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    1. Eeeeeh thanks! It’s crazy how easy he made it feel, tho being Size Large definitely helps!!! <3

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  3. OMGOMGOMG!! Look at you two go!! Gah, his ears! They are so happy and focused and ON! I'm so happy for you :) Let me know when the T becomes a thing and an entry is sent in, that would warrant a major road trip!!

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    1. Thanks a million!!! Obvi already texted you haha but that can definitely be arranged — eventually lol ;)

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  4. OMG OMG OMG OMG HES BEAUTIFUL!!!!!! look at you guys over that jump he looks amazing! and don't worry about the saddle conditioning I'll just send you saddle tite for xmas and then we'll have to pry your boots off the leather hahaha

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    1. Omg yes plz to the saddle tite hahaha! As I was jumping I could feel the cantle under my butt and was like, “hm that’s nqr!”

      Srsly tho isn’t he such a prince? I think he likes the bigger fences!

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  5. GO CHARLIE! He's like, "Finally, fences more my size!" lol. Love his happy ears throughout ❤️

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    1. ha for real, the only jump he handled somewhat questionably was the warm up BN fence lol. he's got #norespect!! definitely seemed eager to read and lock onto the bigger ones tho!

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  6. I love the shadow pictures! And way to focus on processg goals! Leg on- it's true for everything. You both look like you're having fun. And no dinosaur tar pit moments! Yay.

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    1. "moar leg" --> is the light and the truth of everything, forever and ever amen!! the bigger jumps definitely help with this tho bc charlie tends to be a bit careless with smaller fences and will just run at them, leading me to start hangin on him and riding backwards. with the bigger fences tho we both held on to that forward feel and it worked great! <3

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  7. Oh wow! What an amazing resource for schooling in the winter! I am super jealous!

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    1. this farm is amazing, they offer SO MANY fun activities!! from big serious international events, rated dressage shows, h/j shows, and all manner of schooling events.... plus extensive schooling grounds. it's a bit of a hike from our farm (1.5hrs but highly susceptible to traffic), but so so so worth it!

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  8. He is looking amazing!! I am soooo jealous of that schooling facility, omg. You two killed those courses!

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    1. thanks! he felt like a million bucks haha. and yea this schooling facility is seriously the best, and they're constantly working on improvements too!! wish we could get out here even MOAR often lol

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    1. aw thanks <3 all that credit goes to chuck ;)

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  10. Hooray! He and you look really good!

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  11. You two were on FIRE!! Woot!! So glad you were able to do that! You guys looked awesome :D

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    1. i'm so glad we were able to do it too!! it's always such a crap shoot trying to make plans with chuck haha...

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  12. Wonderful!! After everything that has happened (or not happened) this year, what a great experience for you both! :-)

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    1. thanks!! in a way, it's kinda awesome and reassuring to think about a lot of the delays and unplanned breaks we had this year, and yet here charlie is, doing this thing that seemed like a bit of an aggressive goal at the beginning of the year. the fact that he just keeps getting better no matter what really helps me stay a bit more relaxed when the inevitable dings and dents strike...

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  13. Look at him being all bold and professional!

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    1. omg he is SUCH a professional tho! and he 100% definitely knows it lol

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  14. You guys are killing it! I love how he constantly checks back in with you with his left ear throughout the clips. Congrats on a fantastic outing!

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    1. Thanks I noticed some of that too - which surprised me bc he never really used to do that, and definitely not the way Isabel always did. I talk to him *constantly* tho in most of my rides so I guess he’s starting to tune in?

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  15. K, I love his stable. It's so cool the window is at ground level.

    Also - so glad you had a wonderful XC school. You go girl!

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    1. Is barn is this awesome old bank barn, it almost looks like nothing from the outside but is giant inside. Kinda crazy lol. And thanks it was a super school !

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  16. This is just awesome! What a brave boy! Solo would likey murder me...

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  17. Dang girl, y'all are looking STRONG! How amazing to see so much progress at the same facility just a year apart!

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  18. You guys look amazing!! I love the helmet cam :)

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  19. Jumps sure look small from the back of Charlie! Well done, it sounds like an awesome day out

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  20. Dang guys - those are HUGE! Nice job all around

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  21. YAYAYAYAY! So happy for you guys! Man that sounds like the funnest outing ever!!!

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  22. I get so jealous every time I see someone post about Loch Moy's arena XC. What a cool set up and they have some GREAT jumps (most of which I'd never actually be brave enough to jump!)

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