Monday, January 4, 2021

new year, same us

Happy new year, folks. It's been a time. And tbh, nothing feels particularly different at this exact moment --- and same goes for just about every person I ask haha.  

But... Eh, I honestly feel generally, vaguely.. hopeful. For now, that's enough lol! 

today's photos focus heavily on the gorgeous dusk skies <3 <3 matches my outfit!
I'll also probably do a 2020 recap eventually. Maybe.... It's actually mostly written out, and I even picked out the pictures for it etc (which as far as I'm concerned, the pictures are half the battle of getting anything written these days haha...). Just gotta finalize it and hit 'publish.'

I did *not* do a year end compilation video this year, tho, a departure from past habits. Mostly bc.... To be perfectly honest with you, there was just such limited footage to work with, and none of it felt particularly representative, if that makes sense. Esp compared to last year (the 2019 compilation video is linked here for anybody interested). 

look at all dem TBs! 
All that's for some other time, tho. Because around these parts, we rang in the new year the best way we know how: a good ol' Saturday jump lesson with the squad. 

Which, being perfectly honest, feels very fitting. In a time when everyone is just dying* to get back to "normal," it felt really good to just be back into this well-oiled machine of a group, doin our thing with our very excellent horses. 

(*In some cases, much much too literally....)

husky chucky barely trying haha
It was a particular treat, as the day reached up into the 50s --- Charlie actually got to spend his whole morning and early afternoon turned out in this BIRTHDAY SUIT OMG! Lucky pony haha, hasn't been out without a blanket for weeks at this point. It was kinda gray and a touch windy -- but I think he overall enjoyed it (and had the muddy evidence as proof lol). 

trying a little more here tho! <3
Anyway, tho. About that lesson. Conditions were good enough for the big jump ring, even tho we had a ton of rain the day prior and light was fading fast. Trainer P had also reset the course to a bunch of different fun lines (some with two elements, others with three) crisscrossing the arena so that you could basically just figure-8 endlessly around. 

wheeeee charlieeeee! (also watch the vid to see him explain to me that he does in fact require a better release while wearing this bridle... sorry buddy!)
As you can tell from the photos tho..... The light was failing us prettttty quickly on this gray day, so we ended up not really getting to the full course. Instead we just systematically worked through each of the lines -- with most of the jumps set around 2'6 - 2'9ish I think. 

Tho... frankly I really can't assess the size of a jump any more unless I'm literally standing right up against it. After so much time off, everything looks big haha. Except..... Simultaneously, somehow, everything under 3' looks small-but-comfortable. But still big? Idk. It's hard to explain. I think my heart and my brain and my muscle memory are all playing games with my perception LOL. 

his tail tho omg... also who woulda ever thought charlie'd get an apple bottom like that??
And then in the pictures and video everything definitely looks small. Esp compared to Charlie's sheer mass omg. This big boy is entering his midlife with the #DadBod to to prove it haha. 

Charlie is an April baby, but per the Jockey Club he is now officially 12 years old. I admit, this gives me slight heart palpitations. I want this sweet thoroughbred to last forever, to be happy and healthy and dragging my ass around the arenas for years to come. So.... ya know. Hopefully we're on track for that haha. My moderate panic attacks this past fall notwithstanding, Charlie has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt in our recent schoolings that -- Yes Ma'am, He's Ready To Go

a lot has changed since this other post featuring "gorgeous skies" and blurry photos....
After experiencing Charlie In Charge -- literally charging across the arenas -- at Loch Moy last week, I decided to ride in our elevator bit for this lesson. The tricky thing with Charlie is that he.... hm, how to put this... can be a straight up kick ride of a slug in our jumping lessons at home (or at clinics). But then at a show or schooling or whatever, and he clicks into a different gear. 

It's really challenging having these two different sides to him -- one I ride in lessons, and another I only see when it matters the most. For this reason, I typically ride in less bit for our lessons, then upgrade for a show or whatever. But.... I also am a little curious if what I have for shows (the KK Ultra elevator / universal bit) is the right fit anyway. 

now the skies match trainer P haha
So we're gonna lesson in it for a while to see what we think. First things first, tho: It definitely did not back Charlie off -- something I had worried about. Charlie was his normal self, and took his normal levels of *encouragement* to get started for each turn.... (Notably, I wasn't wearing spurs on these mud boots either).

Tho, actually, all the horses were slightly on edge in the fading light about the deer moving around in the woods outside the arena, so that worked in my favor LOL!

big horse in a little grid
The other detail, tho, is that I think this bit might pinch him occasionally. Which..... sucks, bc it's an expensive bit and I already sized up once for this reason. Charlie has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the leverage this bit exerts is well within his tolerance. But every now and then, I think the loose ring catches him and surprises him (bc there's never any marks on his lips) and he has a big reaction. 

You can see it over one jump in the video below, and there's a more obvious example in the first xc jump from our derby cross at Loch Moy last winter (video linked). I've always been kinda a change-averse individual when it comes to equipment, but am growing more skeptical about this particular bit.* 

(*Because the good lord knows I can't be relied upon to ride with good hands, ugh, facepalm...)

definitely one way to get him jumping well over smaller fences! <3
So we'll wear it in lessons for a little while, to give every opportunity of figuring out what's working and what isn't. 

What is working: Charlie was lovely this ride. And the brakes were good -- esp when it came to stopping after a line (which, as you recall, our big issue at last week's xc schooling was that Charlie landed in a very different canter than he took off in). 

And, he wasn't any more sulky or sluggish than he normally is in these rides. Bc let's be real. Charlie is a seasoned veteran at this point and will very happily just 'phone it in' whenever possible. He doesn't get out of bed for anything less than $10K a day haha. 

So.... It's just that occasional "catch" that concerns me. OH, AND. The fact that he straight up blew through this bit at our show in August haha. Hahahaha. Tho... That was extenuated by my slippery-ass reins, and I'd apparently forgotten to even buckle (let alone tighten) the noseband. Add on a curb strap and maybe even a flash, and perhaps those issues are resolved. 

But... Still haha. It's a very distinct feeling when you don't have brakes on this horse... And it ain't great lol.

royal and punky looking majestic while charlie makes charlie faces haha
Maybe eventually we'll be able to recreate that feeling by doing coursework at bigger heights in a lesson (sorta like this gem from like a million years ago)... 

For now, tho, honestly this is good enough stuff haha. I enjoy the incremental rides that make all the pieces feel "normal" or "mundane." It's good practice working through various different constructions and jumping exercises, no matter the height, and obvi we're always game for a good grid. 

Charlie feels like he's in a really good place right now -- even physically, hallelujah haha -- so we're rollin with it. Happy new year indeed!


  1. Hooray for leaping into the new year! ;)

  2. Happy New Year Emma, a lesson is a great way to kick it off. I hope the new year brings you and 12yo Charles everything that you could hope for and more!

  3. Sounds like the perfect way to start the year! I can't see in the photos, but do you have bit guards on your bit? If not, that may fix your issue. Rio would get chapped face from them, so I don't always use them anymore, but they've worked well on other horses before him.

  4. I've been going through a similar bit exploration with Scout. He tends to get heavy and want to pull on his forehand as a default, or when he's a little tired, and he's also quite fit right now. We mostly needed something for xc where he has a tendency to really get rolling and strung out. We've tried various leverage type bits, waterfords, tom thumb with a curb chain, and we found that he did fairly well in the wonder bit. Then he realized he can lean on that too. Most recently we switched him into an eggbutt, slow twist and it's like a magic bit. I was a skeptic but damn if he doesn't feel so much more rateable. And his mouth is so quiet in it. He really doesn't love the busy feeling on a loose ring and also gets pinches! ps. Charlie's apple bottom<3


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