Monday, April 5, 2021

comfort zone XC schooling

Fun fact: My last cross country lesson was in October 2019, a clinic with Martin Douzant at Loch Moy. My last cross country lesson with long-time Trainer P was in...September 2018. In other words, eons ago.

Thankfully, that all changed this weekend.
my intrepid ottb looking ready to go, no?
Trainer P texted our lesson group with options for what to do, and consensus was: let's get out into the fields! Somewhat surprisingly, while I knew I'd become increasingly nervous as lesson time drew near, I was actually excited too. 

dusting off ye olde stud kit!! honestly pretty happy with it
I debated about whether to stud or not... The ground is basically perfect right now -- tho a bit wet + marshy in places. On one hand it's useful to use early season outings to let horses remember where their legs are without any additional help.

On the other hand, tho, Charlie and I have been trotting and cantering around in the woods over roots and logs and through swampy puddles and ditches etc... So, eh, we've got that covered. 

used a wire bristle brush to clean last year's dirt out of the threads
Plus. I figured: What I really really need right now is positive + confidence building mileage. Studs give Charlie confidence. Confident Charlie gives *me* confidence. So... It was a no brainer: we'd go with studs. 

We first drilled and tapped Charlie for studs in 2018, after moving up to Novice (yes lol we've been riding at this level that long, maybe we're novice lifers??). This is earlier than many choose to start, but honestly the studs make such a huge difference for Chuck in helping him keep all 4 legs active + engaged directly under his body that... We go with it. 

these little pointy nubs are essentially my go-to choice
At the time I asked for a lot of advice on best practices and such, and it was super funny bc as with all horse things, everyone has a million opinions. 

I've kinda fallen into my own habits by now tho. I use basically the same exact set of studs in just about every condition... And I basically never clean them. And ya know. It works out haha. 

in case you were wondering how many different boot types i can slap onto the horse at any one time
I was extra protective of Charlie's legs tho, just in case he didn't realize he was armed legged. I kinda love these Tough 1 bell boots too. They're soft, don't rub, and don't spin. Probably wouldn't keep him from ripping off a shoe, but they provide great protection to all the soft sensitive bits in the event of an overreach. 

I also busted out our old Professionals Choice pastern wraps. Charlie's chronically weak hind end means he sometimes interferes on the inside of his pasterns, which were already calloused up when I got him. The habit disappears when he's fit, tho with delaying hock injections over the winter we saw a bit of regression. So I figured it wouldn't hurt to play it safe with the studs. 

this configuration gives us ALL the adjustment choices for +/- braking power as needed
also. yes it IS tragic that i let charlie rub his face while bridled and thus the scuff on the leather :(
Finally, the last hardware prep was getting Charlie's bridle dialed . We spent years wearing this Sprenger KK universal bit with a single rein on the curb ring, and all was well in the world. 

Last year, tho, I got run the fuck away with at a very inopportune time. So we added flash and curb straps. But... This past winter, Charlie's been sluggish and at times reactive to the bridle. So... for this ride I kept the flash and curb, but left both very loose. The buckled rein converter can adjust how pressure is distributed to snaffle or curb ring by tightening or loosening the buckles. 

It looks like a shit ton of hardware but... I'm hoping it'll give us what we need for all of Charlie's moods. Can basically be a straight snaffle bridle, straight curb, or somewhere in between. 

anyway! onto jumpies!! small but fun related distance
Whew, ok, that's a lot of lead up to the lesson. For me, tho, taking care of these little details is a big part of how I impose some semblance of order on the chaos inside my mind. 

Bc let's be real.... I'm still feeling fairly fragile and protective after the bad experiences of last year, a very quiet fall and winter, and now still recovering from another ankle injury. So honestly I'm pretty focused on doing whatever it takes to just.... feel ok

our OG favorite red N boat house, sadly now positioned much farther from the water
Thus we get to a cross country lesson that was essentially chicken soup for the 'Fraidy Cat soul. I told trainer P that I didn't really care what we jumped, didn't expect to do anything big or complicated. But I *did* want to spend some time cruising -- stringing a couple things together, not just starting and stopping constantly.

splish-splashing back the other way!
And we did exactly that. Started by cycling through the warm up logs with me more or less just sittin chilly holding mane while Charlie made his own life choices (long here, tight there, etc). Then cruised up the hill to the BN ramp that's usually jump 2 on our course. And Charlie was perfect, natch <3

From there, we scooted around to the tiny little log / lattice combo you see above. There wasn't a great approach for this so we kinda crawled through it in like 6 strides (over what is probably close to a 60' distance, whoops), but it felt fine honestly.

super fun set of bending lines from rails to ditches!! this is the N line to middle ditch
The water is kinda our happy place tho, so we went there next and played around with going back and forth over the red coop. I friggin love this jump bc it's a solid novice height, but so inviting in profile and width, and always jumps great. It used to be much closer to the water tho, which I liked better. Either way, I always get a lot of confidence jumping it back and forth, so that's what we did. 

Then moved over to a new set of combinations near the schooling ditches (that are virtually never on the recognized courses). For as long as I've been here, these ditches have always kinda just stood alone. But finally someone decided to put in related jumps -- so there are three progressively sweeping bending lines for BN, N and T. 

Charlie and I did the N line and it was lovely, with Charlie finally starting to pull more forward. 

options were limited bc of boggy sections in the field, but this bn house kept us on dry ground
Sadly, tho, the there were slightly.... less fantastic choices made with placing the rest of the jumps in the big top field. There are a lot of natural springs in that field and they managed to put most of the jumps in the boggiest areas -- which we'd be avoiding this ride. 

for a nice cruise up the hill to this simple N house thingy
Many others were kinda just placed.... not great, with a lot of downhill approaches (not at all my favorite right now). So we didn't do much up there, but put together a nice long line from a BN to N house, wherein Charlie got a reminder that "Yes, sir, we DO canter away from home and the group without sucking behind the leg, thankyouverymuch!"

finishing strong with our favorite log tables -- this is the N, giving us a nice straight shot back to the red boat house and water, just visible in upper right corner
After that, trainer P had us do one more line, starting one of my favorite jumps on the property -- this N log table that is hefty AF but always jumps incredibly (same is true for the T version, which was one of the first T fences Charlie ever jumped, go figure lol).

Charlie was obviously perfect over the table, then cruised on along easily back to the red coop into the water. In retrospect, I should have done the white T house right next to it instead -- since it's another of Charlie's favorite fences. But eh, next time!

And that was it! Not very intense, not a ton of jumping. And, aside from the two related lines, exactly zero of it was new. But it was good. I felt good. We had good jumps. Practiced with a good feeling. And Charlie jumped in that effortlessly casual way of his that makes me watch the video and wonder why we didn't go bigger. THAT is the feeling I needed from this ride. 

Bc for real. Watch that video and just try to tell me this doesn't look like the best horse for riding around like this??

congratulations, your prize for reading this far is one (1) digital image of Goose the Pig <3
In the spirit of full disclosure, tho, it's also important to note that these rides are still 100% "Type II Fun." Meaning, generally speaking, that I'm not really experiencing the 'fun' until it's over -- I'm still kinda an anxious tense mess during the act itself. 

Like, true story: I was apparently clenching my jaw for the entire 2hr lesson bc the rest of the night literally my entire face just ached. So... ya know... It's gonna be a process to work through all that LOL.

Luckily tho, the remedy is just getting out and doing more of it!


  1. OMG... THIS: "these rides are still 100% "Type II Fun." Meaning, generally speaking, that I'm not really experiencing the 'fun' until it's over"
    This pretty much describes every lesson and horse show for me. But it really IS fun! When it goes well...

    1. dude for real..... i live for the feeling that comes after a good ride haha. the feeling *before* and even *during* that ride?? lol i guess it's all just a part of the thrill ride rollercoaster?

  2. I hear you on the fun after it’s over. I think it’s how I start every spring. This ride sounds like it was just what you and Chuck needed.

    1. it really was a good ride. we're probably going to need a lot more like it to sorta get back to feeling 'normal' but each step counts!

  3. Yay for awesome confidence building rides! I love his ears over the jumps, still listening to you but usually locking in on the jump a few strides out. I think it is way better to look back and wonder why you didn't do more/jump bigger etc than it is to push the envelope and have regrets or knocks to his or your confidence.

    1. yep -- that's exactly my philosophy too. i really never feel like we have to do "everything" in every ride... tho at times i'm definitely a little TOO conservative haha. that's why it's nice having the course at home tho!

  4. Glad you were able to get out for a very low pressure, FUN, and progressive lesson out on the XC course!

    1. thanks definitely so nice to get back out again

  5. That just sounds like a whole lot of confidence and fun. Awesome!

  6. Glad you had a great first time schooling in a while! Sounds like you just need to knock off a little rust and get some confidence going and you guys are picking up right where you left off!

  7. Glad you had a good schooling run with Charlie! I too seem to have fun when the ride/show etc. is over. LOL Also, the nerd in me loves the stud supplies in the toolbox! :-D

  8. Are you sure the reason your jaw was hurting wasn't from smiling so much? :)
    I've never seen a bit converter like that, very clever!

  9. I wonder what it would be like to ride with a mouthguard for those moments of 'clenching my teeth fun' lol. I need reminder to breath sometimes - glad you guys still got out and did the thing.

  10. I appreciate that you talk about the anxiety end of this stuff. I admire your grit so much, so to hear you admit you had your jaw clenched the whole time helps me feel more validated, y'know? Sounds like a great time regardless.


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