Thursday, April 18, 2019

MDHT 4/19: Finally, XC!

Finally, we get to the best part of the weekend, right? For all you helmet cam junkies out there, you may have noticed a new video widget* in my sidebar, and the XC video has been uploaded for a few days now. If not tho, well, uh, now you know? Haha...

Those of you just here for the helmet cam, you can find it either in the sidebar or at the bottom of the post, or right here. Enjoy!

(*FYI: the sidebar doesn't appear on the mobile version of the blog, but if you scroll to the bottom on any page, there's a link to "View web version." From there you'll be able to see all my side bar stuff, including the video widget, blog list, archives, etc...)

we love the maryland horse trials!!! 
For the rest of y'all, per usual there's a bit of a story to go along with that video. The details, nitty gritties, highlights and oopsie moments to be recounted lol.

Tho in a departure from my normal style, I'm not posting the full course walk. Mostly bc.... Well... We've pretty much seen it before, right? None of the jumps were new to us, and the course followed a similar path to last year. So you're not missing much, I promise. And it'll help keep this post from dragging on eternally haha (but only a little!).

it's possible that i do this more for my own peace of mind than anything else haha. but it feels worth it! pc Austen Gage
Anyway. The day before our show, I scribed the jumping phase at Loch Moy's YEH/NEH qualifier (just like last year). Which conveniently meant extra time at the venue to walk my courses etc.

The advantages were: 1- walking the day before gives me more time to mentally prepare for my ride (including any last minute schooling if needed). And 2 - it frees up the gap between the dressage and jumping phases so that I can relax and be calm without running all over the place.

track ran clockwise and included two major downhill sections before finishing with a steady climb
I really like using my Altitude Profile hiking app to track my course walks, but for some reason don't think I actually looked at the elevation chart this time. Which.... I should have, bc it made a pretty big difference in how I rode this course.

Particularly, I fixated too much on the concerning downhill bits without taking advantage of allowing the horse to carry his own balance in the up hill parts. More to come on that.

i actually quite strongly disliked the designated warm up space, so we were quick about it haha. pc Austen Gage
Anyway, the warm up area kinda sucked hard. It was narrowly pear-shaped set on seriously sloping ground, with just a few unimpressive log type jumps offered. To canter or gallop anything, you'd have to be really cruising downhill, then make a sharp uphill turn to the fences on soft chewed up ground. No thanks, pass.

We trotted a single fence (like civilized beings, for the most part!) then just high tailed it over to the start box to wait for the count down. Charlie didn't need no long drawn out warm up anyway!

lol this may not be the most convincing moment but i swear he left the box great! pc Austen Gage
He was actually quite pleasantly patient circling the box too. Like, very alert and definitely on his toe with anticipation. But not jigging or trying to drag me back to the trailers. Not that "fragile" sort of feeling that unnerves me so much.

And then? As the starter counted us down from 10, Charlie just walked into the box, waited for my signal, then picked up a perfect canter carrying us easily forward to jump 1. Yessss, atta boy, Chuck!

quite possibly one of my favorite pics of the weekend, over jump 1 <3 pc Austen Gage
Loch Moy is nice in their course design in that they often point the start box and jump 1 in the direction of the trailers, which helps draw the horse out onto course. Tho at some point you *do* have to turn away from "home" and carry on.

On this course, that happened with a gently sweeping turn to the feeders at 2. I honestly expected Charlie to drift or maybe slip behind my leg, but he didn't at all. Just went for it!

gosh i love his face tho!! landing off the feeder at 2
Same story to jump 3, which was just the log roll top that Charlie's seen at every level from Intro to Training. He actually didn't feel totally locked on to it, but not for really any reason. Maybe he was just kinda feeling a little casual and the jump was kinda small?

It didn't matter, a few strides out, he was just like, "Oh that? Sure, cool." and jumped it extremely politely.

such a good boy cantering away from the trailers!
This is where things got interesting tho haha. You may remember from my Open Intermediate Compilation video here last summer, but there are two giant earthen mounds built into either side of the water combination for upper level courses. We were approaching the water from behind one of these mounds, so the water was completely hidden.

Plus, BN had a table option that was set dead ahead on our path, that we were meant to turn before to go into the water. Charlie honestly wasn't really looking at the water - he was kinda looking at the BN table. But then we were turning, and then there was the water. And... I mean, he DID go for it haha.

lol and then this happened at the water....
Gotta at least appreciate the enthusiasm?!? LOL.... But seriously tho, long time readers will remember that I almost always try to school the water on xc courses - whether that means walking or trotting through it first, before putting Charlie on whatever line we're intended to run.

But at some point, we gotta just go for it, right? Charlie's a big boy now. He's brave, he's got a fair amount of experience for this level, and the line was a very fair one (with plenty of time for us to pull out or circle if something bad happened). And so we went for it haha.

y'all already saw the shenanigans in the water, but look how well he recovered! 
And it definitely caught Charlie a bit by surprise haha. But god damn isn't he the most honest willing bravest brontosaurus ever?!? He just CATAPULTED into the water lol. And before I could even really understand what was happening, he was already locked onto this boat on the far side, charging forward like a beast. Gooooood boy, Charlie!!

another favorite photo of the weekend <3
Tho, um, ahem, cough cough, we mayyyyy have landed in just a teensy weensy little bit of a bolt after the jump, with Charlie just running headlong toward.... something. So I opted to make a circle. Nbd, these starter trials aren't timed and I honestly am not really worried about time at this point anyway (there's too much other low hanging fruit still lol).

such a hunk tho
It took a hot minute to actually get Charlie turned, but once I did, he just clicked right back into "normal" gear again. Straight up recovered immediately, and practically show jumped the palisade and carried on as if we were just out for a pleasant afternoon canter. You could have knocked me over with a feather!

quite polite over this sorta ugly upright palisade. i'd honestly prefer the larger but more ramped version next to it...
But the jarring moment at the water plus the following runaway episode definitely snapped me into a more defensive riding style. This is probably a case where Charlie is adapting and evolving faster than I am. He was perfectly recovered, but I was slow to figure that out. Ah well.

Next up was a downhill run that I honestly really did not like when I walked it, esp considering it was approaching one of the main "questions" offered by this course. Charlie was totally fine and I probably could have let go more during the approach, but as it was, I basically kept him in a show jumping canter this whole way around.

half coffin option!! either way it's a bending line to the skinny
The combination was pretty cool, tho - a bending line half coffin, but numbered separately for N and with an option for what to jump at the first element. What made it really interesting tho was the second element, a skinny-ish house.

I honestly don't really know if one of these sides is meaningfully harder than the other. The ditch was small and Charlie's jumped it (and the larger version just outside of frame) before without issue. But while N had the option, T was required to do the ditch. So I chose to do that too.

not big. but skinny, and kinda a spooky color. 
I was a little worried about how it would go, but I shouldn't have been. Charlie was foot perfect. Honestly, again I should have allowed more forward and done one fewer strides (we did 6 when a 5 probably would have been more on-pace).

It didn't matter tho, it rode quite nicely and Charlie executed the bending line like the easiest thing in the world. Quite possibly bc we *do* school stuff like this in stadium lessons all the freakin time, so it should be easy. But for whatever reason I always expect it to ride differently on xc.

eyes on the bank!!
After that, we carried on up a little hill over another variation of the same blue house (this time the BN version tho, so quite small even tho it was still a little narrow) and on toward a small raised log. There was another T fence along the way here that I had planned to jump too, but volunteers had apparently been lightning quick with taking down the T flags before N got started, so the jump was no longer flagged.

I usually have no problems with jumping extra fences on course, but usually those extra fences are flagged. Unflagged stuff I think is a bit more taboo, tho probably it would have been fine. Idk. You can kinda see me aiming Charlie at it in the helmet cam, but then changing my mind and cruising past. Charlie didn't care either way. He would have jumped it (has before) but didn't really mind one way or another.

he was actually way more bold to the bank than i expected!
He was just cruisin, ya know? Tho actually we jumped the next raised log pretty fucking weirdly. I'm not sure why - our distance was a little gappy and like I said, I was riding him a bit under pace.... But also the jump kinda didn't really look like anything to him so he sorta just farted over it, landing extremely flat footed and out of balance.

Which was a bit disconcerting since we had an immediate turn to an up bank haha. Charlie has jumped this exact bank before, tho last time I schooled him first over a smaller bank and even still he was a bit noncommittal to the real thing. But this time? Charlie actually attacked it, and left a stride earlier than I expected. Uh, good boy??

just loping right on along haha
Again, part of me was still feeling a bit defensive, esp after two jumps in a row that were a little funny. Charlie didn't care in the least, tho. He jumped the next little coop easily, and began the next downhill segment of our course.

this jump had a long down hill approach and worried me well beyond reason. clearly charlie did not care tho haha
Idk why I was so worried about this downhill section. But I was. Maybe bc the only downhills Charlie and I have at home are heading toward the barn and he often barrels down them semi-uncontrollably? Who knows.

Regardless, I expected a wild ride to this brush table half way down the slope. And it totally was NOT haha. At all. Charlie just kept lopin right on along in that tiny little show canter I had him packaged into. Jumped it lazily, and kept plodding right on along. He's a saint, y'all.

big boy makes the jumps look sma!
I was honestly a bit amazed, to be perfectly honest. Tho this was also where I started to realize just how very differently the ride was going in reality than what I had expected in my head. And that, where I had expected to be getting run away with, we were actually way too fucking slow haha.

These are the kinda problems I like to have tho!! And, luckily, per the elevation chart, the rest of our course would be a nice uphill climb. Perfect for remembering to LET GO and allow Charlie to carry his own self forward. Which he happily did straight up the hill and over a nice N table right out of stride. Ditto the next little raised flower log thingy too. Atta boy, Sir!

sorry for the weird colors but my original photo was way too dark. through the woods our penultimate fence on course was this option between corner or table
Penultimate fence on course was the last real "question," another option. Again, I'm not sure one side is actually harder than the other. We've jumped both these fences repeatedly in the past. On one hand, T tables still make me nervous... but this N version really doesn't so idk if additional mileage over the N table makes any difference for how I feel about T tables.

On the other hand, that corner is positioned very similarly to Morven's T corner that gave me heebie jeebies. Sure, at Morven it was the B element of a bending line. But it also had that same sorta open angle off to the left, Charlie's and my favorite direction to drift. This N corner was positioned basically exactly the same, so that made my choice for me.

so fun galloping around, esp knowing we've got friends out there cheering us on too ;)
And? Obviously Charlie was fine. At this point we were finally starting to get more of that "running flat" feeling that I had expected much earlier on course, since it really is a difficult balance in allowing Charlie to go forward but still maintain an uphill carriage. Plus, ya know, he knew we were heading back toward the trailers haha.

So we ran a little past our distance to the corner, but nothing terrible. Charlie sure as shit didn't care haha, and actually kinda did the same thing to the final jump too, a nice roll top. And then that was it, we were finished!!

Such a good boy <3 Again, I feel so lucky with this horse. He's got that magical "click" that gives me confidence. Charlie is so brave, so invincible. Tho obviously I still have a bit more work to do in figuring out how to be better as a rider. More forward is needed haha, as always.

Walking away from this course, I just feel hungry for more. But like, more schooling. There's a lot about Novice that feels easy for Charlie right now, but we also still have a lot of rough edges. And a lot of gaps when it comes to more technical stuff. But more than ever, I feel really really eager to give it all a shot. I guess we'll see what happens ;)


  1. Your position looks SO great in that new saddle! Well done!

    1. Thanks ;) I’m so in love with that saddle lol too

  2. GOOD BOY CHUCKASAURUS! <3 An XC monster.

  3. Lookit Chuck go! Man, he really attacked that course, but stayed right there with you the entire time. What an awesome ride!!

    1. Thanks!! I was so freakin pleased with how rideable he was!! Like almost so surprised that I even kinda forgot to do the riding at times! He’s such a good boy tho, such a good feeling <3

  4. Sounds like a fun, clear round for your first event of the season!

    Quick question out of total stud ignorance, May is barefoot right now, but I have been debating getting her drilled and tapped for studs if we do end up shoeing further into the season. Is there a reason you chose to forgo bell boots when you have studs in? I've never thought about the pros and cons of not using them.

    1. Definitely super fun! Re bell boots, it’s not so much that I’ve chosen to forgo them as it is I just don’t own a pair that doesn’t rub him. FWIW I evented Isabel thru N barefoot behind and she was pretty much fine

  5. Hunk! lol But srsly, his weight and muscle tone are really nice - he looks super fit, even though he's been off a bit earlier this spring.

    Glad you had a good ride overall, with some points to think on for further training rides!

    1. Thanks! I’m mostly pretty satisfied with his condition right now from a general perspective but am feeling a little greedy and want MOAR lol. But yes it was such a good ride and he was more than capable physically of crushing all the things !!! :D

  6. He is such a giant brontosaurus he makes those jumps look smaller than they really are! What a brave and honest boy - esp at the ditch and water elements!! Congratulations on a great ride.

    1. thanks ;) and he really does make the jumps look small haha, esp considering he could barely be bothered to do much more than just canter a little larger over them instead of jumping all cute haha! tho i also kinda felt like some of the biggest N fences weren't out on course tho (like the massive double brush tables etc) so idk. he's so brave tho, it hardly matters ;)

  7. Sounds like the best way to really get yourself super charged for the year ahead. Good boyo Charlie!

    1. definitely!!! it's always so weirdly reassuring to be able to get out there and remind myself that, actually yes we can do this stuff haha!

  8. Awesome job! From the helmet cam, that looks like it was so much fun!

    1. thank you!! it was the *most* fun haha, honestly almost kinda surprisingly fun considering my anxiety monsters LOL

  9. You guys looked like total pros out there, honestly. He was so rateable and happy about being rated. How very grown up of him! Haha!

    1. aw he's so grown up tho <3 i think he's finally figured out that it's not a race and that he doesn't need to get everywhere as quickly as possible ;)

  10. Wait, you can jump extra fences out there? There's no penalty for that?! (Sorry I know nothing of evening except for what I've learned reading blogs...)
    You guys look like you're having THE BEST TIME EVER! Congrats on such a great day!

    1. thank you! such a great day, and i honestly believe charlie enjoyed himself too!!

      re: jumping the extra fences, basically the rules for cross country are pretty simple - you must pass between your designated flags in the appropriate order in a forward fashion. anything else that happens other than that kinda doesn't matter, esp at unrecognized events where you could literally dismount to retie your shoes haha.

      personally i tend to take the "schooling" part of schooling shows pretty seriously, and will often look for opportunities to add in extra stuff to my own designated courses. like if my course just has a ditch, but a different level might have a related jump before or after the ditch, i might do them both -- bc bonus schooling, right?

      there are some limitations to this, tho, esp at recognized shows. first up is the time -- obviously if you're riding for time, you don't want to waste precious seconds by deviating very farm from your determined track. the other limitation is difference in height -- i don't think you're allowed to jump anything that's two levels above what you're currently competing. so if i was doing Novice but also added on a Modified jump, that would get me in trouble. other than that, tho? really in some ways it's kinda whatever you want to make it haha

    2. oooh, i should add about the unflagged stuff -- i believe in most cases you are specifically *not* allowed to jump things that are not flagged. or at least, that was my concern in the course above. my guess is this has to do with whether the obstacle has been properly inspected to ensure safety (like, there are no gopher holes etc).

      in the instance above i'm about 95% sure it wouldn't have mattered (esp bc it was a schooling show and the jump HAD been flagged for the earlier course... but they were just already taking stuff down), but decided not to risk it.

    3. Thanks for the info! That's so interesting!

  11. Looks like you two had an excellent day! :D

  12. Those pictures are awesome. I love how well this worked out for you both.

    1. I’m so grateful for all the pictures haha, such a junkie for that digital photo album ;) and thanks yea it really did all work out pretty smoothly!

  13. Love reading how rateable he was since that seemed like a concern of yours from past shows where he got rolling along. He has matured so much!!!!

    1. He’s definitely matured, and having the right equipment helped too haha. Charlie was a career race horse so his whole life has been about hitting thah top gear, so it’s taken a while for him to figure out how to be more adjustable when the adrenaline is pumping. Just takes practice !!

  14. He looks like so much fun to ride xc!

    1. omgosh he is the MOST FUN EVER!!!! such a good boy <3

  15. You two look fantastic! Love the helmet cam video! He looked so polite and generally badass and I love love love the pictures Austen got. You two look like you're having an absolute blast out there <3 Congrats again!

    1. thank you!!! he really was such a polite badass haha, that's he perfect way to put it haha. like, "excuse me mademoiselle, but would you care to teareth this shit uppeth??" hahaha....

  16. I’m finally catching up and am so so so so excited for you two!! What a great outing! That water pic is incredible!


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