Sunday, August 22, 2021

can't win 'em all -- thornridge edition

This past weekend was the third combined test at Thornridge Manor of their summer series -- one being cancelled outright due to rain. Go figure, this one almost ended up cancelled too after 3" in the last day or so... but luckily the weeks of prior drought meant the ground could take it....

gotta admit, i don't love getting up before the sun...
This summer series has been wonderful for me and Charlie, as far as I'm concerned. The first of the season was basically all about just surviving a competition completion. And the second saw us swing kinda wildly in the opposite direction, with flagrant disregard for the outcome (as evidenced by my lack of preparation and disheveled hungover state lol). 

Tho, go figure, Charlie ended up winning his classes at both of those events, good boy <3

but the dawn does occasionally make for some lovely scenes
As seems fitting, this third time around I had an even newer set of objectives and goals. Basically, it was going to be a slightly bigger class than what we'd seen before, and I figured --- ehh, let's give the dressage a real try for once, maybe?

it's always critical to have your barn manager sign off before shipping out!
Maybe this is just me, but I often end up wanting to "save" my horse for the jumping at these one day events, and don't really push for much in the dressage test. 

The result is usually a reasonably nice test -- obedient and steady, but lacking any sort of forward sparkle. For this week, I figured -- eh, what the hell, let's try to actually light the horse up for the judge! 

first to arrive on the show grounds!
And actually -- it sorta kinda worked! You might remember, back in April I wrote about discovering how counter canter was enormously helpful for getting Charlie forward, engaged, and up in front of my leg. I actually fondly refer to the horse as a "counter canter savant," and therefore opted to employ the exercise fairly liberally in our warm up. 

sad to not have video... also, LOL @ the "rider" comment in the collectives.... siiiigh
Basically, my aim was to ride much more forward in our test than we typically do. It's such a delicate balance with him, bc Charlie can go around pleasantly enough -- softly doing the things etc -- but in a shuffle-y sorta way that judges don't love. But -- rev his engine too much and he's likely to stiffen his topline and plow through the bridle, losing power steering in the process. 
marching down to our destiny in the jump ring
Somehow tho we managed to strike the right balance for the test. Charlie's got like 4 really good minutes in him, and for once we actually got those good minutes when it counted. I'm sad not to have video from the test, but Bethany P Photography was there again so hopefully we'll get some good still shots. 

so pretty it's almost easy to imagine this rail *not* falling
Overall, the score ended up being our second-best at this level! Kiiinda exciting, considering we've been riding the test literally since it was published in 2018 (and yet I still manage to routinely go off course, whoops)... So it was a cool proof-of-concept that Charlie's got the capacity for better scores when we push for them. 

lolz my darling counter-canter-savant thought our new trick should be doing an entire round on the wrong lead
Tho.... Uh.... There's a "but" to that, lol. After about an hour break, where we tinkered around at the trailer and I got the studs in, Charlie kinda deflated into dozing off. Even when we got down to warm up for the jumping, while Charlie's body felt good and like he had plenty in the tank -- emotionally, he was maybe a bit used up. 

sweet thing <3
Combined with the absurd humidity.... Yea. It felt like I didn't have a whole lotta horse to work with. Charlie was good, and moving up to the fences, and pulling me along just the way I like.... But he wasn't exactly bursting off the ground like he's capable of doing. 

if the front end looks reasonable enough, we can ignore the hind, yes? 
Also... Somewhat hilariously, my clever little pattern- and puzzle-oriented pony has maybe learned the 'counter canter trick' a little too well. I swear to god, it felt like we did the entire friggin course on the wrong lead. Maybe I should have ridden it more like a schooling round -- and insisted on the simple changes etc. But... Eh, sometimes for actual shows I like to just get out there and ride what the horse gives. 

And to be honest, the counter canter wasn't really the issue. Rather, Charlie was jumping a bit flat. Like we had good distances to both of the first two jumps -- but had those rails anyway. Ah well. The turn to fence 3 was sketchy esp with the soft ground, so after dropping the first two rails I opted to circle for a nicer approach (and therefore nicer effort) rather than careen around. And it worked out fine. 

Per usual, Charlie super-charged his way up the outside lines heading back toward the gate, covering the uphill distance like it was the easiest thing in the world -- good boy! Tho we did drop one more rail on our final little tour around, womp. So all told -- 3 rails and 1 circle definitely undermined what was otherwise a competitive dressage score, whoops lol.

heck yes for our second-best ever score on this test! 
Honestly tho... I hardly cared. At last month's CT we had three heavy rubs but no rails despite the lightweight PVC poles. Luck can be fickle, ya know? 

As it was, I felt like it was a useful overall experience. It was nice seeing that we *can* push for the better dressage scores when we want, but that it *will* use up more of my horse in the process. Charlie's always had a somewhat limited emotional capacity -- and I've always tried to get him over-fit physically to compensate for his emotional willingness to throw in the towel lol. 

one day we'll learn how to selfie lol
But we've stepped down fitness and conditioning work in a big way so far this summer, partly bc I haven't really felt interested in doing a full 3-phase, and partly bc I've been working hard on the margins of Charlie's overall soundness. It's always going to be a balancing act with this horse, I guess. 

Anyway, it was tempting to try a second round to clean it up, but I opted not to. Charlie was tired and sweaty, and honestly did quite nicely considering we aren't taking lessons or even doing any proper schooling lately. We'll get back to all that eventually, but things just are what they are right now lol, so I'm happy to just get out and enjoy the horse as he is. 

Tho. Lol.... We miiiiight start practicing more simple changes again, since Sir apparently forgot about those haha. Eh, details details!


  1. It's hard when the humidity is super hight too. Sounds like a positive day overall though! And yay for a great score in dressage!

    1. oh man this humidity has been merciless around here... even when temps *look* reasonable -- like mid 70s or low 80s -- the humidity is right there for that real feel of 95+.... i think we're all pretty tired of it LOL!

      and thanks -- definitely a super positive day ;)

  2. Humidity is a killer. It's hard to have motivation to do anything. You should be proud of that dressage score!

    1. definitely very pleased with the pony ;)

  3. Nice job on that dressage test! And way to get him around the jump course even tho he wasn't really feeling into it. Ride the horse you have! Glad to see you guys are out and about!

    1. honestly the horse felt good and happy, just not really trying as hard as he can. nbd, still fun :)

  4. Congrats on the super dressage test!

  5. I've spent many years competing in heat but not humidity, so my hat is continuously tipped to you for doing it because I would probably just throw in the towel (earlier than Charlie does lol). Congrats on the ribbon and the good score!

    1. lol we're always excited about ribbons around here haha

  6. That's my favorite game: fix one thing to break another one lol. At least you got to go, that ground does look wet!

    1. ain't that the truth lol! and yea the ground was definitely wet -- i was grateful to be the first out there so didn't have to deal with it being super cut up yet....

  7. Ugh, yeah that humidity sounds like a bear. That's a great dressage test tho! Way to go!

  8. As always, I love your attitude and your willingness to put Charlie's needs over your competitive goals. Sounds like the dressage test was lovely and even on your "eh" days, your jumping is my goalz. Lucy also seems to have a limited emotional capacity that I overcompensate for with physical conditioning.


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