Thursday, April 15, 2021

Keen Charles

This has probably been the strangest springtime for me as a rider since I started documenting our various escapades here on ye olde blog. 
literally the saddest most tortuous photograph known to horse-kind
Typically, in years past, we've been bitten by the "Gung Ho!" bug sometime around January-February-ish. By which I mean, we get serious about fitness and preparing for the season ahead: clinics, schooling, and even our first few outings are frequently logged well before April.

desperate for the merest pitiful green shoots amid the dirt
This year has been completely different, tho, for fairly mundane reasons. Our lesson routine fizzled out completely by the end of last summer / fall, and has been sporadic at best ever since.... I injured my ankle in October.... Charlie came due for his hocks but we decided to hold off til spring.... Then I injured my ankle again in February*....

(*Fun fact: you can actually see the lone singular pole on the ground in a photo posted at that link, hidden behind Charlie's ear. The ONLY pole on the floor, and *that's* where I decided to dismount. Stupid stupid stupid lol....)

don't worry, sir, your time with the grass will come!
So it's been a slower start. Tho.... that's honestly been not altogether a bad thing. Like basically everyone else in the world right now, it's kinda been a process unpacking all the emotional turmoil that's apparently a natural byproduct of a global friggin pandemic

Simultaneously, feeling unfit after months of injury could be seen as a disadvantage or possible contributing factor to any confidence issues... But, eh, I'm choosing to see it differently. Instead: Mentally, I don't really feel prepared to push or challenge myself. But!, physically, we're not exactly ready for it anyway -- so it's a built-in excuse for taking our time!

legit thought Mikey was comin with us
And we're taking that time by having lots of fun, and logging lots of miles. Poor Charlie, LOL! I watched some random video Boyd Martin posted about one of his horses, in which he mentioned the horse is 'galloping every four days' in preparation for Kentucky. 

Obvi Charlie isn't going to Kentucky. And, let's be real, 'gallop sets' aren't a necessary component of Charlie's fitness routine either. But I've always loved easily digestible metrics like "Every 4 Days!" and have since adapted that idea into our combined fitness schedule. 

I also revisited older posts on wellness plans for Charlie, like this one informed by a vet who reminded me that Charlie needs to be conditioned to high impact in the same exact way he needs to be conditioned to long slow miles. It's not just one or the other -- it's both, judiciously. 

trying to enjoy the last few weeks of 'open gate season' before the horses switch to summer pasture
Now that the weather and ground has been consistently improved by spring growth, it's easier than ever to get out and about in all the woods and fields. Which is great bc... Damn, 4min of trotting on rolling uneven terrain is apparently a LOT different than 4min of trotting circles on groomed arena surfaces haha....

ooooh playing with lesson kiddos at the schoolin show!
Lessons have been cancelled more often than not in the last couple weeks, but I'm also trying to be better at fitting in undirected jump schools. Bc realistically.... The only way to improve my fitness AND confidence is to just.... do more

We need to jump more -- like, MORE more. And right now I'm aiming at ~2x weekly. Nothing crazy, nothing big scary or complicated. Not even really caring about height or whatever. Just... going through the motions, especially when it comes to stringing multiple things together. 

artsy? LOL
Luckily the course is still set up from the little schooling show a couple weeks ago, and actually there was another little in-house lesson show this past weekend too. Charlie and I weren't participants in the lesson classes, but we did ride around with a couple groups during their hack classes, with the ring surrounded by parents and siblings and camp chairs etc. 

Which... Was fascinating bc Charlie actually clicked into that spooky reactive *amped* gear of his that is so elusive in our normal schooling but often crops up at horse shows. Basically, the side of him I have to compete but never get to practice on. So.... This was PERFECT lol. 

aaaaand tick season, boo :( at least this one seemed more normal...
Homeboy was LIT, but we got to just work through it and go through the motions. And then repeat again when one lesson group finished and the next started haha. Muahaha. Poor Charles. 

Finally after flatting around with the show groups for the better part of 2hrs, the classes finished up (with jumps set around 2'3) and Charlie and I got our own turn at the fences. Sure the jumps were small, but again, that didn't really matter, right?

always gotta say hi to the little bebes! 
What *did* matter was the feeling. Which... Again, Charlie was clicked into that same gear that normally crops up only at shows, so it was great practice. But we still kinda started off a little sluggish with me wanting to add extra strides to every fence. But the longer we went, the more strung out we got. Hence... the need for practice. 

Actually, hilariously, there was a 36' two-stride line set up that I was pretty uncertain about, bc we almost always school shorter distances at home and it's been FOREVER since we've done a proper 36' in-and-out. Somewhat absurdly, I worried we wouldn't get down the line in 2. Haha. Hahaha...

Yea... Charles did one. Ahem. Whoops?

charlie loves the magnolias (even if he hates that friggin rock)
Basically that whole little process repeated itself again later in the week, when I was back up in the same ring with the same jumps (mostly, some had been taken down, including the in-and-out) with another friend. And this time the jumps were a little bigger - around 2'6.

Same exact process: Lengthy lengthy warm up (turns out, maybe Charlie really does need to trot 15min straight before I even consider trying anything else?), then cruising around and around and around, catching all the jumps. 

Naturally starting by being a little chippy and wanting to add strides everywhere... Then somehow letting the pendulum swing entirely the other way by getting strung out gappy and sliiiightly frantic. But then, finishing by smoothing things out, more or less.

seriously the actual prettiest <3
THIS is the practice we need. Lots of repetition while the stakes are laughably low. Lots of opportunities for us to both get our strength and feel back. And, along the way, get a better idea for the preparation Charlie needs to click into gear faster and more reliably.

Which.... Is all useful bc I'm kinda starting to feel our late start to the 'season' now, as so many fun and exciting outings are rapidly approaching on a jam-packed events calendar. It's good to get that feeling again of "wanting" to get out and do things. But first we need to do our homework and put in the prep so I don't arrive at an event and "nope out" like we did at Loch Moy LOL.

Hopefully tho, we're getting closer haha. 


  1. I am in a similar boat in the, not lack of motivation per se but no strong desire to push. But that is true in many parts of my life now.

    1. for real.... right now, it's enough to just *want* to be out doing things, even if it's not super extreme haha

  2. SAME! I mean, I do want to get to showing. But neither of the boys are anywhere near ready. Eros is a legit torpedo when jumping right now. I'm happy to take my time and wait until the pieces get put together. Sounds like you're on the right track though!

    1. lolol @ 'torpedo'.... sounds about right! and yea i think i'll be a lot more eager to try bigger harder stuff when i feel like the little things are more reliable and predictable haha

  3. The elusive "enough pace but not strung out." I too am constantly searching for it. We do get there, but not without a few "oh yeah, that's not it" jumps first. You're right, just takes more practice getting used to the correct pace with impulsion feel.

    1. definitely -- just trying to do more course work more often is such a big help!

  4. Sounds like exactly what you needed

  5. This year feels differently for me, too. I don't have that desire to push either - but still want to chip away at things and be better at them. There isn't that ferocious insatiable urge though, bc there are no time constraints this time around. Which... kinda feels nice?

    1. yea it's definitely nice to not feel under pressure. it's funny bc i *DO* have these urges to get out and do things, but also feel crazy unprepared and anxious haha... it's not a great mix but we're working on it!

  6. Pretty cool to be able to replicate the "show charlie" at home to work on things, even if unintentional!


Thanks for leaving a comment! If you have trouble with this form, please email: fraidycat.eventing at gmail.