Thursday, August 15, 2019

wild hearts can't be broken

Some days I wake up and want to pinch myself. Is it really true? Is this real life? Are we really doing this??

I know it can be easy to forget, esp for the casual or newer reader. But horses just weren't a given in my life growing up. I begged and - when I was old enough - worked for any and every chance to be around horses. And those experiences I had from childhood through high school were not particularly worldly, although obviously they meant the world to me.

It wasn't until college that I started actually jumping full courses, and learned to be a bit more independent and self directed in my riding. And then it wasn't until the completely serendipitous and unexpected lease opportunity with Isabel, already into my mid 20s, that I finally got my first taste of what horse ownership and serious training could be like. And fun fact: I jumped my first 3' fence less than 5 years ago, with Isabel.

this face tho <3
It's so easy to get sucked into the tunnel vision of day to day training. All those granular details, the shifting grains of sand.... And it's easy to be discouraged when despite our best efforts, today's ride seems to go worse than yesterday's, or last week's, or a ride the month before.

Riders everywhere have probably had periods where they felt "stuck." Wondering why they keep rolling this same rock up this same hill again and again, day after day, when it doesn't feel like we're actually getting anywhere.

And I'm definitely predisposed to this way of thinking. Brooding, overly analytical, and generally picking myself apart inside and out... But... Sometimes it's so important to take a step back and look with fresh eyes: Jesus Christ, I have an amazing horse and we are today doing things that I literally never ever believed I could actually do. And.... I'm just... so grateful.

I don't know what I did to get so lucky with Charlie. But he's my horse of a lifetime. I'm so grateful that I have our journey from the beginning fully documented and chronicled. And that I continue to have exciting stories and developments to share <3

The latest of which was another cross country lesson with Sally, this time at our very own farm!! Score for not having to travel or pay a facility fee haha. Double score, bc the extremely talented photographer Amy Flemming Waters was on hand to shoot the clinic.

If that name sounds familiar, it's because you may have seen her work on Eventing Nation -- where she's covered major events like Fair Hill International, Jersey Fresh, and many more.

She caught so many excellent moments from our ride - and y'all know I'm a sucker for media, so obviously I bought the full album. All photos are credited to Amy unless otherwise noted.

according to Sally, this is our warm up fence now
So. The details! My group was the last to go, but I showed up a few hours early to audit the other groups (including watching my friends go!!). Mostly just to get a sense for the rhythms of how these lessons would go, and familiarize myself with what to expect.

Bc let's be real... Even tho it was home turf, and even tho Charlie and I had just successfully navigated the 3'3 jumper courses the day before, I was still pretty nervous.

charlie likey! just look at that tail flip <3
It turned out tho that most of the earlier groups were BN / N, with a few horses working up to the occasional T fence. Meanwhile, my group consisted of a Prelim rider and horse, and another rider who has taken multiple horses up the levels over the years (many of which were homebreds), and whose newest equine partner happens to be one of Sally's former Advanced horses.

So. Uhhh... Yea, these were pretty seriously accomplished and experienced riders and horses. Then, ya know, me and Charlie haha. Tho obviously nobody told Charlie that. As far as he was concerned, we were right where we belonged.

the progression in my facial expressions is priceless. here we see cool calm confident over the log that serves as Jump 1 on the T course
He warmed up sharp as a tack -- slipping easily and immediately into what felt like a damn good canter gear. I had expected Sally to work us progressively through the warm up fences like she had with the other groups, but turned out to be way off base there.

By warm up jump #2 we were at height - that stack of logs above. And from there, we moved immediately onto the T course from our farm's recognized horse trials last week.

jump 2 on course is a familiar ramp
Had I been schooling myself, I probably would have started a little lower and done more progression but... Honestly Charlie definitely seemed 100% A-OK with getting right down to business. Homeboy was in gear and going forward.

easy peasy!
If anything, these first few fences were almost too easy haha. Not that I'm complaining lol!! And realistically, they should be easy bc I've schooled them all myself previously and they're all well on the inviting side of T.

charlie was aces over this upright brush fence after a downhill approach
The only one that was slightly nerve wracking was the brush jump set in the pasture fence line. Without the brush, these are not big fences (actually we routinely pop over the lower end when we're doing conditioning work and want to switch fields without dealing with gates). And they have very good ground lines.

But... They are fairly upright and have a downhill approach (tho it flattens as it gets closer to the jump). Didn't matter, tho, Charlie handled it comfortably. Good boy!

if you watch the video for no other reason, let it be to watch charlie SOAR over this giant table -- we even got cell phone footage of it!
Sally kept us moving along pretty quickly (she was in a kubota) and next up was the line of log tables. These guys have a long sweeping uphill approach and always seem to jump great. Charlie's jumped them all except for the Modified, and every time is perfect. This day was no different. Yassss son!

Actually, true story: I ran the show jumping in gate at our event last week, and one N/T rider formally withdrew so that she could jump some of the T cross country while out on course. I asked what her plan was, and brought up this very same table. But she demurred, said tables scare her and this one is kinda big. I insisted that this was definitely the one to do, and she ended up finding me again after her round to say that she DID IT and it was GREAT. Heck yes!

So. Yea. Anyway. These tables are flipping fantastic, and there's a seriously awesome shot of Charlie flying over it in the video ;)

our second worst fence of the day, wasn't even really that bad. just a bit deep.
Anyway, tho. Things were basically going perfectly. Charlie was jumping everything out of stride and felt like a finely tuned machine. And yet.... I was honestly still feeling kinda sick. It's just my way, I guess.

And for the next set of jumps on course - the first combination - I was actually totally positive that Sally would start us over the N line. But NOPE, she told me to go straight to the T line. Tho, she was nice and let me jump it backwards (both jumps were symmetrical rolltops) going uphill instead of the downhill as intended.

I ended up coming in a bit quiet to the first and we got suuuper close, but Charlie didn't care, and picked up to move forward to the next without missing a beat. Good boy! This is another one where we have both helmet cam AND cell phone footage. So you get to hear Sally hollering at me to "Press!" twice lol.

Being totally honest, it was actually reassuring to me to have that little mistake there. In a weird way, when everything is too perfect it almost makes me more nervous. Vs when we have little blips here and there, it reminds me that we can deal just fine with imperfection too. In other words, it reminds me that we're not that fragile, we can take a few hits. Our margin of error is growing.

this picture is bananas -- the only video still in the bunch, but what an angle!! it's insane. never in a million years did i ever expect to be able to experience this sensation of flying. god bless, charlie <3 <3
Which. Ya know, haha, is useful bc eventing is NOTHING if not a contact sport. Lololol....

Anyway. From there we moved down to the water. There's an identical green rolltop positioned next to the water - y'all have seen me jump it a bunch of times now. So Sally had us do that, except this time going from the water to the rolltop, instead of rolltop down to water.

Which like, I get her point that in some ways this was easier bc the horses wouldn't see the water through the cutout... But, uh, it's also kinda a steep little uphill to the base of the fence. I shouldn't have worried tho - Charlie fucking JUMPED THE SHIT OUT OF IT OMG. Like, that is the one fence I don't have any external footage of besides my helmet cam and I am SO SAD about that lol.... Bc jesus, he fucking cleared it, wow.

Then, naturally we turned it right around to ride the line going the other way -- tho again, Sally was nice to us and told us to do the N red coop into water then directly to T's B element, the little blue and white half roll you see above. The jump itself is only BN, but it's basically positioned as a drop into water, making it solidly T.

of course, what goes up must also come down. i love the progression of charlie's face as he is like "I AM LEGEND THIS WILL BE MY FINEST MOME--- wait, bish are you seriously about to fall off right now?!?"
I've wanted to do this for a long time, but have always been too scared. Today was the day tho!! And omg Charlie never hesitated for a second. He locked on and just flew over the thing. What a feeling haha!

Tho... Uh, with the drop and slightly deep water, we landed extremely steeply haha. I know it doesn't look like much in the gif, but it felt like I did a handstand on his neck omg. Possibly a more conservative jump over the half roll would've been just a tad more appropriate LOL.

Jesus Charlie.... Nobody can accuse him of lacking enthusiasm!! Tho I kinda love his cranky / annoyed expression when I totally lose my balance and start monkeying around on his back....

no scope no hope!! 
Anyway, ahem, haha. After that there wasn't a whole lot left to do for the lesson. We jumped a few more big new-to-us T singles, like the above blue ramp and a bright white cabin nestled in some shaded woods. Both of which Charlie handled beautifully and easily, good boy!

Then moved over to the N half coffin, where Charlie and I actually had some very wonky moments. My best guess is that Charlie was starting to run a little low on reserves. He's SUCH a good boy, but he doesn't like to be drilled.

Esp with all the start/stop of schooling, after he keeps answering the questions perfectly again and again, he'll resent it when you keep asking. This is part of why I like to do lots of shorter sessions, vs trying for the "everything every time" approach. Plus, it turned out his boots had slipped and were bugging him. Kinda a superficial issue, but I think it compounded his feelings of tiredness.

Sally had thought that maybe we could have also done the full T coffin that's back there, that I've never tackled before... But, eh, I wasn't sure it would be worth it on this particular day. So instead we just fixed the half coffin going from ditch to fence, then turned it around fence to ditch for good measure. Then ended there.

this horse, he is just so special <3 <3
All told, we jumped approximately 16 efforts with about 11 minutes of footage recorded on my helmet cam, about 4 minutes of which involved the active jumping that made it into the final video. That's a LOT of action packed into a fairly short amount of time haha.

Overall I didn't have any major big breakthroughs or new takeaways from the ride. Rather, the ride served as almost a proof of concept: Affirmation that Charlie is doing great right now. He's confident, bold, and happy. And scopey, haha. Very very scopey...

Since my first xc lesson with Sally two months ago, I've been working really hard on improving our xc gallop. And it's working. Aside from getting a little nervous going into the rolltop combination, and then being a bit complacent about the N half coffin, we arrived to every fence from a comfortably jumpable distance.

And actually, there were a few times when I felt like we were getting too close to the jumps, but Sally told me that wasn't the case at all. That esp as the jumps get bigger in height and width, you don't really want to be jumping flatly from a long way off. Luckily, Charlie seems to have a pretty reliable eye in this regard.

So... Yea. Obviously I'm just so thrilled for this horse, and so excited for the future <3 And also so freakin pleased with how much fun we're having right now (even if I'm kinda a nervous mess the whole time lol). Here's hoping that our next show (at novice) will feel like a breeze, relatively speaking!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

jumper rounds at a dressage barn??

It's been a while since I've had a chance to get over to dressage trainer C's farm. Not for any real reason other than scheduling can be seriously tough sometimes, ya know? For instance, last year her farm started hosting a small series of combined tests. And I've been dying to go to one ever since!

the chariot awaits!!
But ya know. Life and stuff. So I missed all of them last year, and have already missed a few this year. BUT. Finally! This weekend it worked out. Actually, it was extra awesome bc a couple barn mates were going, as were other riding friends including some of my buds from Isabel's farm. It was gonna be a regular old reunion lol!

a charlie in his native habitat. also, heck ya for parking in shade!
This event is super SUPER inviting. Casual, low key, and inexpensive. It costs $65 for the full CT (dressage + show jump round). But you could also mix and match, $45 per dressage test and $20 per jump round. No limit to being able to do the same tests or jump levels repeatedly. Like I said -- very friendly.

every.single.jump is freakin adorable. the poles are all pvc tho which kinda sucks but oh well
And actually, I planned to skip the dressage entirely. At this particular point I don't need to spend $45 on a shitty dressage test when I can haul up to Hilltop for just $5 more, and get my ass handed to me for an hour LOL. Like... I already know we kinda suck. We'll deal with that later.

lots of camaraderie among competitors!
Honestly, at this particular point in my never ending journey to maybe at some point eventually if ever move up a level.... Honestly, I just need to break each phase down. Esp after falling in the show jumping at Full Moon, I wanted a couple smooth focused rounds with no other distractions.

No other warm ups to worry about. No juggling about "saving enough horse" from one phase to the next. Just one item on the to-do list: survive a 3'3 course in a competition(ish) setting.

behold, our seriousness
I signed up for two rounds: one at 3' and one at 3'3. Perfect, right? Charlie is perfectly comfortable at either height, but I can get a little excitable (and not in a good way) when the cups go up a hole.

Except, uh, small snag in the plan. Turns out the CT was running just like most other events in this area: Starting with the highest levels and dropping through the day. Which meant that my 3' time would be after my 3'3 round. So, uh, not exactly serving the "warm up" function I had imagined. Womp.

is this jump field not the absolute most delightful?
I fully admit to feeling seriously squeamish about this. But... Ya know. That's how it'll be at an event. That's how it was at Full Moon too. No warm up rounds at a lower height. Just get in there and lay down your at-height round. Plus, I expected the courses to be friendly and inviting.

just a little bit of terrain, with natural barriers
Obviously you never really know what you're going to get with a jumper course designed by dressage riders who may or may not plan on ever even jumping it haha. Especially when their primary competitors are mostly at the 2'6 and below levels....

But.... it turned out they did a seriously fabulous job. I was actually a little skeptical of one of the outside line distances -- for me it walked in EXACTLY 5.5 on the dot. Which, it's kinda hard to know what to plan for in that sorta situation. Tho trainer C pointed out to me that the line was going slightly uphill, making that distance appropriate.

guys my horse is a saint. also, we match the jump lol
And actually, after I kinda seriously buried Charlie at the in jump, forcing him to corkscrew over it, we ended up doing SEVEN in that line anyway so.... Ha, obviously it was fine.

I'm getting ahead of myself tho. Basically, everything looked really good and really inviting. There weren't even any in-and-outs on course. So I felt like this would be a really good way for us to just get a little more mileage in the show ring at this height.

when i talk about needing to work on our straightness in turns LOL.....
Warm up was a little challenging bc Charlie was ever so slightly LIT. Plus he was being extreeeeemely barn sour, something I hate. But ya know. My one job for the day was to execute. Ride my horse. Don't wait for a big mistake before I get serious. Establish connection, establish canter.

Ya know. All the good things we work on in our lessons, but that I sometimes will let slide when I'm nervous at a show. On this day, I wanted to do my friggin job in the saddle. Mistakes are ok, making the wrong choice is ok. I just wanted active not passive riding.

wheeeeee charlieeeee!!!
And so I actually spent more time warming up than I normally would at a show. Because again, we were just here for two courses. I wasn't gonna run out of horse, ya know? But I *did* want to take the edge off and really establish ourselves in a rhythm. I wanted to feel like we were improving as we warmed up, vs barely holding it together or even falling apart.

Finally tho, it was time. And? Honestly? Our first round was pretty much fine. I was a little tentative and some of our distances weren't great. The feeling I'm looking for is a more forward canter, feeling like I can ride Charlie's hind legs up into the bridle. It's just a bit tricky when he already sorta feels like he's running, and there are a lot of tight turns.

he's a good boy <3
But I think I did a reasonably good job of keeping my leg on. So even tho we messed up a few distances, Charlie never got to a spot that he felt was completely unjumpable.

So I opted to just go immediately back in for my second round at 3'3 too, since it seemed silly to wait for the course reset for 3'. I really really wanted the second round to fix some of the mistakes I made in the first round. And, in some ways it did. Mostly tho, the two rounds were pretty much comparable in efforts.

these end jumps came up fast!
Our first outside line, for instance, was better the second time. The turns were still kinda tricky tho. Especially because Charlie's gate sourness was still extremely prevalent. Turning away from the gate was a bit of a challenge.

Charlie really delivered, tho. Almost all of his jumping efforts were very very good, even tho I didn't have him as straight as I should have, and even tho I still missed a few distances.

nbd tho, charlie was all aces
We had rails in both classes (more in the second than the first, womp), but again -- the rails were all PVC. Which means that not only do they fall more easily, but they don't really feel like anything to the horse, so the horse might become a little less careful as he goes.

And anyway, the day was never supposed to be about rails. Mostly I just wanted to execute without any major errors. Like refusing or falling off LOL. Annoyingly tho, one of our worst fences was the last fence of the second round (below, lol). But like, honestly? I'm ok with it.

well, ahem, we did have a few bloopers in each round obvi lol.... can you believe he still jumped this? good boy, chuck!
In some ways, I actually find it reassuring to make mistakes and have things still basically be ok. Obviously I'd rather not haha. But mistakes are inevitable, and I shouldn't let my fear of them prevent me from continuing to try. So overall it was a net positive, even with experiencing some of the mistakes in these rounds, yet walking away feeling like we more or less survived.

It was also really useful experience for me in terms of information gathering for other things. I love horse showing. I want to go to a horse show. But have been conflicted about what sort of choices to make regarding which divisions to enter.

you're my #1 for sure <3
We've been working really really hard lately. We've been challenging ourselves, and pushing our limits. There are people who I trust completely who think we're ready. But.... Emotionally, even just getting out there to do these simple jumper rounds was very consuming for me.

So.... At least for the immediate future, while I'm excited at the prospect of continuing to challenge ourselves in lessons and schoolings etc, I think we're also due for maybe an easier run. Something that isn't going to give me so much anxiety, or make me lose sleep at night.

happy to chill back at the trailer with a buddy!
We'll get to that later, tho. For now I'm just thrilled that Charlie continues to be a horse who wants to grow with me, ready to tackle each new adventure. Small local stuff like this is so great too, bc so many more of my friends were also able to come and ride. And since obviously the best part of any show is the tailgate afterward, the more the merrier, right?? Lol...

So. Part 1 of my epic weekend plans concluded in a pretty positive fashion. That wasn't all we signed up for tho -- next up is Part 2, another cross country lesson with Sally. This time, with a couple riders and horses far more experienced and advanced than me and Charlie. Would we be able to keep up?? Find out soon lol...

Monday, August 12, 2019

Charlie's Progression: The DROP

Happy Monday, everyone!! For the first time in.... what feels like ages and ages, I set out for this past weekend with a somewhat ambitious agenda. And... Everything worked out. Yasss!!

The plans would test and challenge me as a rider, but I truly felt they were well within scope -- some rounds at a low key jumper show, and another cross country lesson with Sally.

doesn't charlie have such a sweet kind expression?? <3
I'll write about all the things, in conjunction with literally ALL THE MEDIA OMG, in due time. But right now I'm a little beat up, a little tired, and still a little shell shocked haha.

So instead, let's take a wider look at Charlie's progression. Because this weekend I feel like... We FINALLY had the big moment we've been training for. Haha. Hahahahahaha....

practicing our DROP into the head of the lake - the early days
See, Charlie's a stylish sorta horse, ya know? He's got that certain je ne sais quoi about him. This striking ability to literally fling himself across the face of the earth, traversing space and time with reckless abandon.

No obstacle is too small for Charlie. Oh no. There were times I felt like maybe showing my bronto behemoth in the 2' classes was a little silly, and that it wasn't going to help us get to our goals of the ULTIMATE DROP.

so stylish
But yet, we persisted. Because I knew.... I just knew Charlie had it in him. I wasn't so much teaching him the DROP, as he was honing his natural born skills. Sharpening his technique and timing for maximum effect.

precursor to the DROP is the LAUNCH
Simultaneously, we've been slowly but carefully working on all the other component pieces. Slowly ticking off all the boxes of preparing for our eventual Head of the Lake debut. And again - size is of no concern to Charlie. Even the most humble BN pheasant feeders are worthy of Charlie's cornucopia of abundance.

Of course, I've had to practice my style too. It takes two to tango, right? And we all know that a critical element of optimal droppage is the rider's position, obvi. This means: a shocked expression and the appearance of free fall are paramount.

Recently, we've been able to take this skill back to actual water obstacles. Because it can't be Head Of The Lake Drop without water, right????

Finally, tho. Finally this weekend: we did it! It may not be Kentucky, but damn if we didn't drop the fuck out of that lake haha. Hahahaha. Nothing else matters any more. It is done, yo.

Just, uh.... Don't ask how the landing worked out lol ;)

Hope y'all had a great weekend too. Looking forward to catching up on everything. And obviously stay tuned for more to come on all the above too!

Friday, August 9, 2019

what are we doing about it?

Yesterday, the cross-city portion of my daily barn commute was noticeably crawling with cops. They were fucking everywhere. I texted a friend about it, saying that if Baltimore was the next ICE raid target, I was just going to lay down and go to sleep and never ever wake back up again.

Turned out, tho, it wasn't ICE. Just a plain-clothes police sergeant shot in an apparent robbery.

Ya know, because this is Baltimore. Didn't you read?? It's a war zone here. Nobody in their right mind would choose to live here. Never mind that I've called the city home my whole life. That my father called the city home his whole life. And that I drive 200 miles a week to see my horse because I can't imagine living anywhere else but the city. Never mind that.

Fortunately, early reports sound promising that this sergeant will survive his injuries.

Some other stuff happened this week across the US too. Perhaps you read? Unfathomable violence. A precious few minutes that changed the trajectories of countless lives. In some cases, ending them entirely.

There were other things that happened recently too. Across the entire spectrum. If you spend enough time online you'll be able to read all of it. And actually, even if you're not on all the forums or social media platforms, it's probable that some friends will text you screenshots of the absurdity.

The absurdity of fucking petty bickering. People saying outrageous things, words intended to hurt. People shouting digitally at each other. People reveling in stirring up a hornet's nest. People looking for their viral moment, at any cost. Relentlessly hurling insults, taking sides, drawing lines. You can't be right, because that would make me wrong. And I can't be wrong, so you must be the enemy.

It's almost honestly amazing. People don't talk in real life the way they do online.

But these online conversations.... Jesus. They're intense.

In a previous life I was a professional researcher of individuals. I'd scour the internet - any and all publicly available resources - to compile data on my target individual. Their life, their family, their assets. What they had done with their career and how they spent their time. Their interests. Etc. And I'd write a report on them. This is Joe Smith, according to the internet.

Time and time again, I'd come across public information that.... was abundantly obvious the publisher of said info never ever ever expected somebody like *me* to read it. Best examples? Wedding websites. Hoooo boy, those puppies are veritable treasure troves of personal information not findable anywhere else. People writing about the stories of how they met, funny family anecdotes. Pictures and full names of the whole family. Possibly compromising, at that. And hey, maybe even some addresses, bc why not, right?

My point being.... On the internet, your target audience is often only a fraction of your true audience. Because shit lives forever and links are forged in strange and unpredictable ways.

I think about my own audiences often. Obviously, I create content for the internet. My traffic is small in the grand scheme of things. We are a fairly tight knit, insular community here. Honestly, this space is so unlike the rest of the internet and I'm eternally grateful for that. When I write -- I'm writing for YOU. Specifically, those of you who also write and comment, it is your thoughts and commentary that influence me the most in how I write.

There are others, tho, who I know less well. Especially, young people. I don't know about reader age ranges here on the blog, but I know that at least half of my regular audience on YouTube are young people. And I don't mean 16 or 17 years old. I mean YOUNG. I know this bc I watch their videos and cheer them on too.

And it makes me wonder.... Do they see the same sides of the rest of the internet that I see? Do they also experience the crazy awful shit that goes down in some of these forums, and on some of these platforms?

Maybe I'm just getting old, but.... young people today seem different from when I was their age. Being 13 is fucking hard, there are no two ways about it. And I had peers when I was that age who were in therapy. Who were on meds. Who struggled to adjust. But today... God it just seems like there are so many more.

A former barn rat I knew from approximately age 9, who is now 13, tried to kill herself recently by overdosing on her prescription anxiety meds. Another I know who is on the cusp of adulthood... most days she can't get out of bed.

It makes me want to scream. I don't know what to do. How are we failing these kids so badly?

I can't help but think that the state of our online discourse is a major contributing factor for these digital natives. Sure, there are other systemic factors -- major industries, like what are we even feeding these kids??? But that acute anxiety... What example are we showing? How is this huge gaping chasm between how we talk to each other online compared to how we talk to each other in real life contributing to this sense of urgent anxiety??

More importantly, what on earth can I do to help? What possible difference can I make?

I don't think the answer is clicking "publish" on some scathing screed on the forums. Honestly, it's probably more important to Stand UP, and Step AWAY from the screen. And look at the kids around me at the farm. And try to remember what it was like when I was their age.

Maybe if I paid more attention, I'd see more. More opportunities to be nice. Ask how things are going, whether they had a nice ride.

So often, I'm distracted by my own needs. I am as petty, gossipy, jealous and selfish as the next person. And these feelings often cloud my own perception of how those around me are feeling. Even my closest friends and loved ones.

But... I'm going to try harder. Because I don't think it's going to get any easier any time soon.
And if there are any readers out there who want to talk, email me at fraidycat.eventing at gmail.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

last jumps of july

Possibly the biggest issue I'm confronting at the moment is that.... Well, everything always seems to feel like sunshine and rainbows and soft fuzzy kittens when Charlie and I are schooling or doing lessons. But then when the rubber meets the road at a horse show, for instance, we kinda come apart a little bit.

gosh i love this horse tho <3
I feel like I'm working really hard, like we're doing our homework. We're putting in the time, I'm consulting with all the various professionals and trainers and practitioners etc. But then I'm not delivering when it really counts. I'm pretty sure this is a "me" problem, more than anything else, but it's something I'm thinking about a lot lately.

meanwhile we've kinda had some crazy weather - which rachael captured in this perfectly timed shot haha. summer thunderstorms, y'all!
Probably it's mostly in my head, tho. I mean, we've completed exactly two horse trials this year (both of which were AWESOME), and one dressage show (decidedly NOT awesome lol). Then had to withdraw from Seneca at the last possible moment bc Charlie was footsore. And, of course, y'all already know what happened at Full Moon (tho there's a reminder in the video below anyway haha... hahaha).

So... Ya know, that's probably more a reflection of bad luck and unfortunate circumstances than anything else. Still, tho, I think about this stuff.

turns out that staring at his neck doesn't make it any less bronto-y
On the other hand, tho, things have really really come together for us on the "training" front. One of my goals this year was to invest in my skill set as a rider, and to broaden our horizons with "extracurricular" educational experiences outside of my normal lesson program.

To this end, we're starting to get something approaching a "regular routine" with Sally lessons. And even the serious butt-kicking from our last Hilltop dressage lesson wasn't quite enough to discourage me from signing up for more.

takin my pone for a quick flight
And the lessons feel like they're sticking. Like I wrote last week, none of the takeaways are "news" exactly, none of it is groundbreaking new information. But the fresh perspectives, fresh voices and approaches, have really helped me improve my feel and understanding of what I need to do, how, when and why, etc.

Which theoretically should make reproducing those good results easier even when I don't have a coach in my ear. Like, say, at competitions.

so proud of his effort here - got him in a bit deep and he jumped the SHIT out of it!
This, combined with my vet's feedback last month about shaking up Charlie's fitness and conditioning schedule, have helped me feel more empowered about really testing our training. Especially since I still have to keep reminding myself to not let too much time slip away between jump schools, per the vet's recommendation.

Like when I realized that it had already been a week since my last lesson with Sally and that we'd just been puttering around in the dressage ring or doing trot sets out in the field. So. What better time to head back up to the jump ring one night after work and bump up some fences to see if I couldn't recreate the same feelings from that lesson?

i love his face tho <3
This session wasn't so much about maximizing intensity or impact -- actually it was pretty short (well, aside from the ages we spent hanging around chatting with our friends lol). What I really wanted was to focus on correctness and style over appropriately sized fences. Could I put the jumps up, develop my appropriate canter, and control our straightness through the turns?

wheeee charlie go flyin!
And the answer? Mostly, yes. Mostly. Haha. It was SUPER helpful tho having a couple friends in the ring with me, esp bc it meant getting video. In the video, it's a lot more clear how we kinda lose some balance on the back side of fences - esp in the turns. Charlie hollows out and then I take a pull with my leg off.

Tho on the flip side, I'm getting better about correcting this in the turn to the next fence and being more forward to the base. I'm also getting more conscious about squaring Charlie's shoulders to the fence, tho obvi ideally I shouldn't lose the shoulders in the first place haha. #goals, yo.

good boy, sir
Obviously the jumps in the course we did were pretty simple. Mostly plain singles (I took out some other related distances bc they were set at lesson pony strides, bleh) just crisscrossing the ring. But that's fine, right? Perfect for testing out whether we could maintain the canter over that distance.

And it felt really good, too. Really reassuring. And you'll see in the video, but Charlie just cruises around happily and easily. Even when we got to the fences at not-quite-perfect distances, we still had options bc our canter was better.

footage from this ride starts at around the minute mark if you wanna skip the talking parts haha

Also, regarding the video -- I've noticed over time that there are two distinct audiences for the riding videos I make. One group includes the folks on youtube who don't read the blog (like my mom! and my cousin!) and thus don't get all the backstory or context to the video. And then there's you all, who probably sometimes feel like you get too much detail and backstory haha.

It's kinda tough to edit a single video for both these audiences, but I tried with this one. The first minute has sorta more narrative for those folks who don't read up on the story here. Then I tried to get the talking finished up around the 1min mark so that y'all could watch the fresh footage in peace (tho, ya know, I suppose you could also just mute if you don't want the talking too...).

So, uh, maybe lmk how that works out for you, or if you actually like more narrative style in the videos too, vs just having them be visual accompaniments to these written posts. Or if you're one of those who never watches the videos anyway, plz disregard!! ;)

getting in our conditioning miles out in the fields. everything looked so good leading up to this past weekend's big event!!
So anyway. For me, it's just so so so critical to feel like I can reproduce results while riding on my own. Obviously a low key schooling at home is a different can of worms than laying down a solid stadium round in the atmosphere of a horse show. But you know what I mean. Gotta start somewhere, right?

It's so easy to look back at things we've accomplished and wonder if maybe it was a fluke, or if we just got lucky. Or if really it's my amazing horse who is getting all this shit done while I kinda just hang on for the ride... (Ok, let's be real, that's totally true LOL!)

i love the pretty dusk lighting haha
But ya know. Maybe that's ok haha. Because hey, even tho it's true that the work I'm putting into my ride right now revolves in large part around future goals, it's also true that this work is itself fun and rewarding.

Like, what's not to love about finishing up a long day of work in order to ride around with a bunch of friends, having a fun relaxing time jumping our horses?? For me, it's so so important to remember that haha. Even if I never win another ribbon, or move up, or even ever horse show again... I'll still be doing this <3