Monday, March 23, 2020

Another F-a-T!!

Happy Monday, everyone! Did you have a nice weekend? Did you go outside? Go ride?? Or sit on the couch staring slack jawed at the wall, wondering what the ever loving fuck is going on right now? And whether that itch in your throat is just allergies or an early indication of your impending demise??

Ahem. Cough cough. Moving on.

there's more than coronavirus in the air right now tho!! like.... POLLEN!!
It obviously continues to be a little bit of a nightmare situation right now. For a lot of folks. Tho, it seems like it's going in waves.

Most of the people I know who work conventional office or 9-5 jobs have been "disrupted" for at least a week, if not more, at this point. And are coming to terms with their "new normal." Working remotely, dealing with kids in the house, etc.

forsythia is my favorite springtime shrub. i can't help but smile when i see those bright yellow sprigs shooting every which way. imo, the wilder the hedge, the better!
Others, tho, esp those in the service industry or with jobs that don't translate virtually... Well. Most I know are still trying to figure out what that next step looks like - where the adjustment point is. Unfortunately, it's looking like a lot of layoffs within my own local small business community. Which... sucks.

this willow smacks me in the face constantly, but i don't care because it's beee-a-yoo-ti-full
So ya know. It's kinda a strange feeling in the air. I continue to be grateful that my own day to day hasn't seen too many changes so far. It feels weird, tho. Like a sorta constant vibrating tension. Just enough to distract me from all the "non essentials," as it were.

But routine is and always has been my happy place. I'm a creature of habit, and being consistent is part of what keeps me ticking. So we roll with it, right?

also they finally murdered that giant shrub encroaching on A!! time will tell what effect this has on charlie's near-magnetic draw toward the gate....
Which, coincidentally, going out on horsey adventures is was a big part of my routine. All the way back two weeks ago, in more innocent times, we were looking forward to our first horse trial of the season.

Like so many other riders out there, we'd spent all winter dialing it in. Smoothing out any issues from the previous year, building strength, getting fit, and refining our skills in all three phases. This included local schooling jumper shows and xc derbies, at-home xc schooling, and a couple dressage Fix-a-Test clinics.

All carefully marked out on the calendar well in advance to dovetail perfectly into preparation for that sweet sweet first event. Sigh.

some enterprising soul set up a wonderfully well marked and squared up small court!!!
We already knew that event was cancelled when we rolled up for this second Fix-a-Test clinic, at least. Which, in some ways took the pressure off for it to be a "perfect" ride. But it also made it feel like... Eh, what does it even matter anyway?

Except that it was a beautiful day, and we had some happy healthy horses with us who remain blissfully unaware that anything else in the world has changed. And so, hey, why not, right? Let's go get 'em and have a good time while we're at it!

heck yes, corners + geometry, yo! and moar blooming willows!!!
Charlie and I have been practicing the Training Test A a lot more lately. I actually really like the flow of this test for Charlie, but for whatever reason keep forgetting where to transition. And it's kinda a weird test bc there's literally only a single full trot circle, and it's stretchy trot too.

The entry, for me, had been the biggest concern. You open the test with a two loop serpentine of 10m half circles from E to B -- basically a very round S shape. And like... Wow guys, with how long Charlie is, and how disengaged we often go, it's reeeeally easy to ride him a little rein lame through that movement.

the halt and salute feels a lot nicer when nobody's there judging you LOL
He's a clever horse, tho, and learns patterns well. And somehow in the last 2-3 months, he's figured these turns out. Like, almost without me noticing. Those turns went from my #1 worry to.... Ya know, probably nbd. Crazy how practice does that LOL.

So all in all I was excited to take this test out in public again after our last FaT. Plus, one goal was to use this clinic to better plan our warm up strategy. Charlie really does not need a lengthy warm up, he's got a fairly limited (tho growing!) strike zone, honestly.

But now that we're doing lengthenings, tighter turns, and canter transitions in less forgiving locations.... Ya know, it's time to figure out how to get him sharper faster in warm up, all without using him up unnecessarily.

good boy charlie, just doin his part to keep the aisles clean!
The clinic worked for that too. My original warm up was honestly insufficient, but I was still sorta paying attention through the first run of the test, then the lesson portion, then the second test run, to see what was changing in Charlie's body. All in all, was a useful info gathering session in that regard haha.

But!!! Let's talk about the tests themselves, yes?

scores from our january clinic, then the 1st and 2nd test runs at this march clinic
also. 2 in 5 of the movements above scored the same in all three tests haha. hahaha. #consistent
Due to the tighter schedule, the conversation was really a lot more targeted. But was telling in what was omitted. Judge P seemed overall a little more satisfied with our trot energy (tho the impulsion is still blah) compared to last time, when she really worked us for much more than I had been asking.

She also didn't work us at all on those 10m half turns, which had taken up a good bit of the previous lesson. I was actually pleased with this bc... ya know, we've been practicing. And Charlie seems to get it now. There's still room to refine (notes asked for more straightness over X) and it's not a "WOW" score. But... Also probably not getting us rung out of the ring either haha.

this is our a new barn cat Mikey!! finally one that isn't feral!!!
That first right lead canter transition comes up early in this test - and is exactly where I'll pay the price for a subpar warm up. Charlie can be.... sluggish haha. But he can also be very sharp and elegant in stepping into canter. The difference is in how he's prepared -- not just in the test, but in the warm up ring. Must. Not. Forget. This.

Similarly to last time, Judge P is still not happy with our working canter. This to me is just a small piece in the larger puzzle we've been working on over fences too. For this particular application, I think I straight up just ride Charlie differently in canter when there isn't a jump in front of us.

But..... Maybe.... jusssssst maybe, I should consider changing that haha. Maybe I should *always* ride the canter. lol.... #food4thought

gosh i heart this tabby tho. isn't he pretty?
Our bad working canter means we also have bad lengthen canters. And Judge P still thinks I'm doing too much to "show a difference" at the end of a lengthening. She would rather I just let the canter fade slightly back to working, rather than try to half halt or anything.

The point being: the lengthen isn't that great, so if I sacrifice the working to try and "show a difference," now I just have two blah scores, instead of one blah for the lengthen, and one good for the working.

pretty sure he's my new spirit animal, tbh
The other thing we worked on in the lesson portion was the stretchy trot. Which, I'm going to be totally honestly with you here, Judge P basically said, "yea we're going to have to make YOU a little prettier. The horse is fine."

My habit is to lean forward, collapse my core, and send my hands out wide like a midfielder scurrying to catch a ground ball. It's.... not cute haha.

She wanted me sitting taller, with hands "handcuffed" together. Releasing the reins and trusting Charlie will be his honest genuine self in the stretchy trot. Which, obvi he was.

for reference: Doug Payne scored a 32.9% with Quiberon on this test
i am 100% aware that the scores in my table above are liberally (and artificially) inflated haha

A funny thing happened, tho, when we rode the test a second time.

Obvi Charlie was more warmed up now. But, the first canter comes early, right? Per the mini lesson, I rode it better and more forward this time. Which meant that we had a better trot transition, and so a better trot, and thus a better stretchy circle (improved by my more correct position). Which led directly to a better free walk.

Then after that change of rein, we immediately canter again and the whole process repeats. My better canter meant that we got another better trot transition, and a more balanced lengthened trot because of it.

I say "better" when you can clearly see from the scores tabled above that.... the numbers don't necessarily reflect that feeling. But the feeling must come first, right? And the feeling gave us flow, which keeps things smooth.

Smoothness for a horse like Charlie can make a half point difference. Which really matters for us since he's still building the strength for true lengthenings.

We're still kinda working on "faking" our way through the test in a way ---- figuring out the ring craft and strategy for the individual test rather than necessarily breaking everything down to its fundamental pieces. But for a horse like Charlie who learns by repetition and patterns, it seems to work for him.

So. All in all, a really productive ride. Targeted, concise (even if my summary isn't LOL), and to the point. Considering it might be our last for a while.... I'm happy to have the homework!


  1. Mikey's 2020 mood is so spot on.

    1. every time he fluffs up at some unusual noise or whatever, all i can think is, "me too, Mikey. me too."

  2. allergies are horrible in TN But so is the virus. UGH. stay safe and glad you got to ride!! At least high up in the air in your apt you may be safer? :)

    1. ha oh man, idk if the elevation of my apartment outweighs the fact that it's a pretty high density living situation. ten floors of multiple apartments all using the same two elevators, same mail room, and same four doors in and out of the building. we have some elderly residents too, mixed with college students who are apparently less concerned or careful. it's unsettling to think about, but mgmt is working hard to keep surfaces sanitized!

  3. I'm totally feeling Mikey and his 2020 mood... (and love tabbies)

    Good that you got another test in with some homework. And, I'm totes jealous of your flowering things! We are about a month or so away from that, but it is coming...I think? lol If spring gets cancelled on top of everything else, I might lose it!!! ;-) lolz

    1. ha spring is 100% NOT cancelled, if maryland is any early indication. it's been friggin glorious around here, tho i gotta admit that's been an eerie juxtaposition to the anxiety and tension gripping everyone. at least it means there have been a lot of people out in green spaces and parks walking their dogs and playing with their kids or working in their gardens. at a distance, of course. here's hoping the warm weather makes it up your way soon!

  4. I am not sure at this point if there will be any horse events until August. Sigh.

    But more time to school, right?

    As for Mikey, I feel you bro.

    1. lol Mikey's just sayin what the rest of us are feeling!!

      and yea i think you might be right about starting to look as far as august. which... is disappointing. for all of us, i think. but them's the breaks, i guess.

  5. Our local schooling show group is doing virtual combined tests. Each barn is setting up the same jump course and doing the dressage tests. Then it all gets video taped and sent in for a small fee. A dressage judge is scoring the dressage tests and a judge is scoring and giving feedback for the SJ portion. I actually thougth it was a pretty smart solution!

    Buuuuuuuut still not the same as a real horse trial.

    1. not the same, but pretty awesome anyway! that's part of why my barn mate set up the temporary arena above -- she had entered a virtual dressage test. got dressed up in a pretty show shirt and white breeches and everything, and that's exactly the sort of spirit we all need right now haha <3

  6. Your new barn cat is super cute. Glad that you were still able to find a positive schooling opportunity amidst all the chaos currently raining down on us.

    1. thanks and yea i'm glad we sneaked that outing in under the wire too. tho.... yea i'm not sure we'd do it again now just for precautionary measures. i think the craziest thing is how quickly things have changed!!

  7. Chimi memorizes the tests too :) Though it's not a good thing b/c he starts anticipating and trying to do the movements to soon hahaha

    Glad you had a great FaT before the lockdown!

    1. thanks me too!! and yea anticipation is kinda a double edged sword. i like it for some stuff -- like teaching walk-canter-walk, it's helpful when the horse already sorta knows what you're about to ask and start connecting that anticipation with the actual aids.

      charlie actually doesn't memorize full tests, or even full movements, bc we don't necessarily string them all together often enough. but he *does* learn that sometimes when i ask him to turn in off the rail, we're going to be staying on a pretty tight bend to either teardrop right back, or stay on a small circle, or immediately change rein while staying on a small bend. he doesn't necessarily care which of those options we choose, but bc he knows any could happen, he's quicker to adjust his balance. which i appreciate!!

  8. I love these formats, it's so useful to have test specific advice! It sounds like a useful and productive session, and homework is my favourite.


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