Tuesday, April 23, 2019

savage studs

Ok so.... This is kinda a cautionary tale. A bit of a reminder that, with horses, nothing is guaranteed. Obviously we do everything we can to mitigate the risks associated with climbing aboard these giant animals and pointing them at fixed obstacles while traveling at speed. But... At the end of the day, it's still a dangerous sport. And things happen fast.

Also, consider yourself warned -- there are graphic images below, tho I blocked out the worst of it.

this mare is so freakin athletic tho. obvi it's hard to tell from a still image (tho there's a gif below) but the degree she rotated her shoulders and spine made it basically impossible to stick, tho obvi my friend tried her best!
Anyway I texted my friend last week about some upcoming fun opportunities, but she sent a somewhat shocking response, plus the image below.

It wasn't even really the fall that got her (tho yea she was a bit bruised and battered) -- honestly not really the worst fall by any measure. More than likely would have been perfectly fine to hop back on and continue the lesson. Except, the horse fucking stepped on her. While wearing studs.

it wasn't really the fall that got her anyway
Which like, dear god the moment she told me that, I instantly just assumed she'd be going in for surgery. Because every single story I've ever heard about riders getting stepped on with studs has ended with gnarly tales of splintered bone and shredded sinew.

Luckily that doesn't seem to be the case for my friend - she has some strange kind of luck in that, aside from the (massive) wound, it looks like her foot is going to be A-Ok.

horse people are so crazy, my friend was SO EXCITED to see this slo mo gif haha....
But like, it's crazy, right? Apparently the paramedics were kinda laughing about how insane horse people are, and about how they get called in to Windurra no fewer than a dozen times every month. And about how they knew they'd get yelled at if they didn't at least try to first get the boot off without cutting anything (thank god for zippers nowadays, amirite?).

My friend also said that even as she was just beginning her lesson, there were two different instances of rider falls and loose horses on the schooling grounds....

i'm sparing you the gif of her tendons visibly moving around while she wiggles her toes.... hard to believe, but none of the underlying structures were seriously damaged. just one helluva gash...
It just so happened that on this particular day, it was my friend's turn, I guess. Stuff like this blows my mind bc she had honestly done everything correctly up to this point:

She is an accomplished horsewoman with a well schooled and talented horse. She was using appropriate safety equipment. She was riding at a well-kept, well-designed schooling facility (Windurra), with an extremely respected and experienced 5* rider as her coach. Working on appropriate schooling exercises.

Like.... What more does the universe want?!? But all it takes is one moment. One iffy distance, one zig from the horse and zag from the rider, and one unfathomably unfortunate footfall. Then boom, stud to the foot.

stitches kept to a minimum so it could drain. also note the bruising a bit higher on her calf where the other stud dragged across her leg, luckily without ripping through the boot!
It happens all the time tho, ya know? We know the risks. We know what can happen. This isn't even that "bad" of a story in the grand scheme of things (and at least it's hella more badass than that time I broke my fucking leg stepping out of my trailer....).

But we as riders just don't think about it, I guess, or just don't let those thoughts crowd into our minds. Bc lord knows it's hard enough to keep our nerve and mentality without dwelling on all the potential disasters that can happen. That hammer that could fall at any time.

The best we can do is make good choices, ya know? Prepare accordingly -- through our practice, schooling, use of equipment, etc. Put ourselves in situations where we are likeliest to be successful, and at least have our bases covered if something does go wrong.

But then... ya know, we honestly are only ever just hoping for the best with horses. Trying our hardest and hoping it's enough. And also hopefully enjoying each and every good moment along the way too, haha. Because without that, what's even the point?

Like my friend above, who at least has the memories of what had otherwise been an awesome cross country lesson, right up until that one bad moment. And is already plotting her revenge on that damn bank/skinny bounce question haha. You'll get it next time, girl!!

And in the meantime we'll be over here doing everything we can to help our crippled friend out haha, esp with getting around Kentucky (talk about shitty timing...). Bc damn, being injured is the absolute pits. As always tho, at least it wasn't worse! It's a strange kind of luck....

Monday, April 22, 2019

Slug Lyfe

Ok. So. Ahem, *clears throat*..... I try to be pretty honest in this space. I try to show everything. There's no secrets about how this 'Fraidy Cat sausage is made, ya know? And that's kinda how I prefer it.

In my opinion, everything is always easier when it's "self evident." Like, the nice thing about copious riding media is that with a lot of video, there isn't necessarily the need to explain myself or my ride, right?

he might be lazy but at least he looks happy <3
But. Ya know haha. This is the internet. And while I may come off as brazenly shameless (which like, #truth), even *I* still have limits haha. And dear god but Charlie hit those limits in our jump lesson this week.

we had to work for it, but there's a good boy! this is what i want EVERY TIME hahaha....
I swear. This horse, he really is my best boy. I love him for his bravery, raw athleticism, and "no shits given" attitude. It's a major factor in why I have literally any shred of hope in our success together when it comes to all those ambitiously terrifying goals I laid out for our future.

pic is relevant for the below course map -- we had two diagonal one stride grids -- this one is shown in RED below
But..... Well. It can make the "day to day" stuff a little more challenging haha. Charlie is brave. Downright ferocious when on course. It's cool, right? But it also means that he's pretty unimpressed with the more "relaxed" type schooling scenarios.

Coincidentally, this is also a boon for me, bc again I really need jumping to feel normal and mundane and routine and not at all too exciting in order to keep all my anxieties at bay. But, uh. Yea. Charlie be taking that way too much to heart lately haha.

also relevant for the course diagram - these two jumps make up the center purple two stride line when ridden in a straight line -- obvi in this pic tho, charlie and i are just jumping the one as a single
So. Anyway. In an ideal world, your typical jumping horse doesn't need to do max height course work every single time he jumps. I'd actually guess that most horses competing at the higher levels only school competition height a fraction of the time.

Bc realistically you can school all the important questions and gymnastics etc perfectly well without all the wear and tear. 

dear god, could he try any less?!?! notice the crop hand already in motion haha
Charlie honestly barely jumps 4x a month mostly bc I can't seem to keep the fucker sound long enough haha. But even so, very often it's not to height. I'm not sure this has been really working for us tho, considering for this particular lesson homeboy was LAZY dear god.

Like the sole reason there isn't video is because I was sitting up there kicking and flapping around like a fried chicken wing basically the entire time, ugh haha.

lol wait, spoke too soon.... haha, c'mon chuck, really?
Anyway tho, it was actually a pretty cool lesson. And I was legit sad to not have better media to share, if for no reason other than to share the cool lines that we did. Because trainer P has been on a serious angled fence kick in recent weeks and I fucking love it.

Feast your eyes on this spectacular example of "jumps errywhere!":

i wish i had a video for you but you'll just have to use your imaginations instead! fwiw this is super versatile and would work equally well with poles
Again, I wish I had more clear media for how, exactly, that all worked. But for most of the lines it either didn't end up on video, or the way the videographer had to swivel around, the lines still don't really add up. Sorry!

first jump on the green line in the diagram, fwiw jumping right to left according to that diagram
The most interesting was the green line in the diagram. For all Charlie's lazy #slugness, he really was a star for these lines. No question whatsoever, and got the appropriate striding and everything.

second jump of the green line, going right to left according to the diagram. not pictured in the diagram is that third element, the orange vertical that was roughly 4 strides out kinda just hangin out there haha, but it all rode arrow straight
Actually the second element of that green line, the oxer that would normally be the middle of the treble in the blue line of the diagram, consistently produced a fantastic jump from the horses.

oxer into the bending line, his pony face kills me
Anyway tho, Charlie was honestly fine for the jumps themselves. It was just getting him going that was such a monstrous undertaking. I swear, this horse is just such a slug sometimes.

But like.... he wasn't necessarily "sour" about it. Not like the sucking back against my leg that has gotten us into so much trouble in the past....

combinations would be easier with jussssst a little more oomph!
Instead it was sorta a more soft hearted, "Ok ok, I'm going, yes yes, just give an old man some time!"

Except.... Uh, Sir. We are literally barely getting around!!!

there we go, slightly better with the jumps up a hole. but let's be real, this is my giant brontosaurus beginning to unfurl his forelimbs on a 3'+ fence before his hinds have fully pushed off....
Again tho, I shouldn't complain. In a way, the weakest link in my own riding gut instincts is riding forward. So I appreciate that my horse makes me work on that in our lessons. Sure, he's kinda hot and cold in whether he's running away with me or just like, literally barely crawling along.... But it's all good practice haha.

still kinda casual through the treble tho, even after we raised it
And meanwhile, per usual, Charlie mostly perked right up when we set the treble up to full 3'3 height haha. This horse.... He just doesn't care about small jumps. Tho of course he still wasn't meaningfully impressed and knocked everything down the first time, so we had to do it again.

go charlie, GO!
That's ok tho. The nice thing about lessons immediately after a show is.... nothing is on the calendar right now haha.... So if we want to work on crazy lines, or work on literally just getting our horses to carry us forward... Well, we have all the time in the world!

And being totally honest, even tho I had to flap my wings and kick my legs the whole way around this lesson, I'm actually still really happy with how Charlie feels right now. It feels easy to him. Boring, even. Which like, obviously my flighty nervous heart adores haha. I LOVE the feeling of *needing* to put my leg on!

he's a good boy tho <3 <3 <3
All the same tho, it's probably time for Charlie's "forward" bootcamp to start again haha. Some things never change!

Regardless, I'm pretty excited about this jump lesson. Mostly bc, hot damn, that course diagram is nothing to sniff at, but Charlie handled it all with ease. For any of you out there looking for #gotd inspiration, I highly recommend it! We did everything at mostly compressed distances, but it seems reasonably flexible.

Let me know if you give it a shot! Or like.... I suppose if you're like me and having to deal with a horse that maybe takes a bit of encouraging when things are a bit more boring haha....

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Kentucky Fever!

Guys!!! The time is nearly upon us!! The Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L (wow, so many new terms to still get used to in that mouthful of a name...) is this week!! My friends and I fly down to Louisville on Wednesday and I am so freakin excited!

time to get the gang back together!
This will be my third time going down - after last year, and also 2016 (where we got poured on for all of cross country day but didn't care one bit haha).

Part of my plan for getting all pumped up includes re-watching last year's thrill ride of a compilation video (above) haha. I just LOVE spectating at these major events, and esp trying to get as much video from as many jumps as possible.

kentucky is great for cocktails, yo
Back in 2016 I didn't even try to get video bc the weather was so bad, it didn't seem worth it risking ruining my phone haha. Last year was perfect tho. And hopefully this year will be pretty good too.

mmmm yes. the cheese don't end with the tailgate!
Of course, going down to Kentucky isn't just about watching world class horses make easy work of impossible looking feats of athleticism haha. I mean, that's a BIG part of it, but that's not all.

This trip also serves as one of my big vacations for the year, and is the perfect time to check out new towns, hang out with all my riding buddies with no real agenda, and, of course, do a little casual shopping haha. And the tailgating too, obvi lol.

we're hoping for good weather, but we'll be ready for anything!
If history is any guide, I can expect to have basically zero cell phone reception while on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park. Which.... can be challenging. But if you're going to be around, let me know anyway (fraidycat.eventing at gmail). I'd love to meet up with any other bloggers etc who may be there!

Otherwise, see ya on the other side ;)

Friday, April 19, 2019

FAIL friday

Lol you had to have known this was coming.... Because it's Friday and we're all a little tired, enjoy a little humor from perhaps the funniest moment of last week's cross country run lol....

the original
And let's be real, what's the point of capturing fantastic moments of fail if you aren't gonna have a little old fashioned fun with them?!

Only thing missing from this picture is a bath tub and rubber ducky lol.... Because you better believe the only thing going through my mind as Charlie went catapulting into the water was, "Oh, ok. I guess I'll fall off now?" LOL....

death comes soaring in on dark wings haha, courtesy of Liz Stout
Maybe should have added a can of Red Bull or something haha, bc clearly Charlie thinks he can fly!!

another take on "cannonball!!!!" lol
Or at least maybe he thinks he could clear that entire water complex in one bounding shot?!?

it's a bird, it's a plane, it's..... SuperCharlie?!?
He may not be the hero we need, but he's definitely the hero we deserve ;)

Obviously available in video form too, with bonus gratuitous slo-mo.....

What do you think, did I miss anything haha???

TGIF everyone! Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful wild ride of a weekend ;)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

MDHT 4/19: Finally, XC!

Finally, we get to the best part of the weekend, right? For all you helmet cam junkies out there, you may have noticed a new video widget* in my sidebar, and the XC video has been uploaded for a few days now. If not tho, well, uh, now you know? Haha...

Those of you just here for the helmet cam, you can find it either in the sidebar or at the bottom of the post, or right here. Enjoy!

(*FYI: the sidebar doesn't appear on the mobile version of the blog, but if you scroll to the bottom on any page, there's a link to "View web version." From there you'll be able to see all my side bar stuff, including the video widget, blog list, archives, etc...)

we love the maryland horse trials!!! 
For the rest of y'all, per usual there's a bit of a story to go along with that video. The details, nitty gritties, highlights and oopsie moments to be recounted lol.

Tho in a departure from my normal style, I'm not posting the full course walk. Mostly bc.... Well... We've pretty much seen it before, right? None of the jumps were new to us, and the course followed a similar path to last year. So you're not missing much, I promise. And it'll help keep this post from dragging on eternally haha (but only a little!).

it's possible that i do this more for my own peace of mind than anything else haha. but it feels worth it! pc Austen Gage
Anyway. The day before our show, I scribed the jumping phase at Loch Moy's YEH/NEH qualifier (just like last year). Which conveniently meant extra time at the venue to walk my courses etc.

The advantages were: 1- walking the day before gives me more time to mentally prepare for my ride (including any last minute schooling if needed). And 2 - it frees up the gap between the dressage and jumping phases so that I can relax and be calm without running all over the place.

track ran clockwise and included two major downhill sections before finishing with a steady climb
I really like using my Altitude Profile hiking app to track my course walks, but for some reason don't think I actually looked at the elevation chart this time. Which.... I should have, bc it made a pretty big difference in how I rode this course.

Particularly, I fixated too much on the concerning downhill bits without taking advantage of allowing the horse to carry his own balance in the up hill parts. More to come on that.

i actually quite strongly disliked the designated warm up space, so we were quick about it haha. pc Austen Gage
Anyway, the warm up area kinda sucked hard. It was narrowly pear-shaped set on seriously sloping ground, with just a few unimpressive log type jumps offered. To canter or gallop anything, you'd have to be really cruising downhill, then make a sharp uphill turn to the fences on soft chewed up ground. No thanks, pass.

We trotted a single fence (like civilized beings, for the most part!) then just high tailed it over to the start box to wait for the count down. Charlie didn't need no long drawn out warm up anyway!

lol this may not be the most convincing moment but i swear he left the box great! pc Austen Gage
He was actually quite pleasantly patient circling the box too. Like, very alert and definitely on his toe with anticipation. But not jigging or trying to drag me back to the trailers. Not that "fragile" sort of feeling that unnerves me so much.

And then? As the starter counted us down from 10, Charlie just walked into the box, waited for my signal, then picked up a perfect canter carrying us easily forward to jump 1. Yessss, atta boy, Chuck!

quite possibly one of my favorite pics of the weekend, over jump 1 <3 pc Austen Gage
Loch Moy is nice in their course design in that they often point the start box and jump 1 in the direction of the trailers, which helps draw the horse out onto course. Tho at some point you *do* have to turn away from "home" and carry on.

On this course, that happened with a gently sweeping turn to the feeders at 2. I honestly expected Charlie to drift or maybe slip behind my leg, but he didn't at all. Just went for it!

gosh i love his face tho!! landing off the feeder at 2
Same story to jump 3, which was just the log roll top that Charlie's seen at every level from Intro to Training. He actually didn't feel totally locked on to it, but not for really any reason. Maybe he was just kinda feeling a little casual and the jump was kinda small?

It didn't matter, a few strides out, he was just like, "Oh that? Sure, cool." and jumped it extremely politely.

such a good boy cantering away from the trailers!
This is where things got interesting tho haha. You may remember from my Open Intermediate Compilation video here last summer, but there are two giant earthen mounds built into either side of the water combination for upper level courses. We were approaching the water from behind one of these mounds, so the water was completely hidden.

Plus, BN had a table option that was set dead ahead on our path, that we were meant to turn before to go into the water. Charlie honestly wasn't really looking at the water - he was kinda looking at the BN table. But then we were turning, and then there was the water. And... I mean, he DID go for it haha.

lol and then this happened at the water....
Gotta at least appreciate the enthusiasm?!? LOL.... But seriously tho, long time readers will remember that I almost always try to school the water on xc courses - whether that means walking or trotting through it first, before putting Charlie on whatever line we're intended to run.

But at some point, we gotta just go for it, right? Charlie's a big boy now. He's brave, he's got a fair amount of experience for this level, and the line was a very fair one (with plenty of time for us to pull out or circle if something bad happened). And so we went for it haha.

y'all already saw the shenanigans in the water, but look how well he recovered! 
And it definitely caught Charlie a bit by surprise haha. But god damn isn't he the most honest willing bravest brontosaurus ever?!? He just CATAPULTED into the water lol. And before I could even really understand what was happening, he was already locked onto this boat on the far side, charging forward like a beast. Gooooood boy, Charlie!!

another favorite photo of the weekend <3
Tho, um, ahem, cough cough, we mayyyyy have landed in just a teensy weensy little bit of a bolt after the jump, with Charlie just running headlong toward.... something. So I opted to make a circle. Nbd, these starter trials aren't timed and I honestly am not really worried about time at this point anyway (there's too much other low hanging fruit still lol).

such a hunk tho
It took a hot minute to actually get Charlie turned, but once I did, he just clicked right back into "normal" gear again. Straight up recovered immediately, and practically show jumped the palisade and carried on as if we were just out for a pleasant afternoon canter. You could have knocked me over with a feather!

quite polite over this sorta ugly upright palisade. i'd honestly prefer the larger but more ramped version next to it...
But the jarring moment at the water plus the following runaway episode definitely snapped me into a more defensive riding style. This is probably a case where Charlie is adapting and evolving faster than I am. He was perfectly recovered, but I was slow to figure that out. Ah well.

Next up was a downhill run that I honestly really did not like when I walked it, esp considering it was approaching one of the main "questions" offered by this course. Charlie was totally fine and I probably could have let go more during the approach, but as it was, I basically kept him in a show jumping canter this whole way around.

half coffin option!! either way it's a bending line to the skinny
The combination was pretty cool, tho - a bending line half coffin, but numbered separately for N and with an option for what to jump at the first element. What made it really interesting tho was the second element, a skinny-ish house.

I honestly don't really know if one of these sides is meaningfully harder than the other. The ditch was small and Charlie's jumped it (and the larger version just outside of frame) before without issue. But while N had the option, T was required to do the ditch. So I chose to do that too.

not big. but skinny, and kinda a spooky color. 
I was a little worried about how it would go, but I shouldn't have been. Charlie was foot perfect. Honestly, again I should have allowed more forward and done one fewer strides (we did 6 when a 5 probably would have been more on-pace).

It didn't matter tho, it rode quite nicely and Charlie executed the bending line like the easiest thing in the world. Quite possibly bc we *do* school stuff like this in stadium lessons all the freakin time, so it should be easy. But for whatever reason I always expect it to ride differently on xc.

eyes on the bank!!
After that, we carried on up a little hill over another variation of the same blue house (this time the BN version tho, so quite small even tho it was still a little narrow) and on toward a small raised log. There was another T fence along the way here that I had planned to jump too, but volunteers had apparently been lightning quick with taking down the T flags before N got started, so the jump was no longer flagged.

I usually have no problems with jumping extra fences on course, but usually those extra fences are flagged. Unflagged stuff I think is a bit more taboo, tho probably it would have been fine. Idk. You can kinda see me aiming Charlie at it in the helmet cam, but then changing my mind and cruising past. Charlie didn't care either way. He would have jumped it (has before) but didn't really mind one way or another.

he was actually way more bold to the bank than i expected!
He was just cruisin, ya know? Tho actually we jumped the next raised log pretty fucking weirdly. I'm not sure why - our distance was a little gappy and like I said, I was riding him a bit under pace.... But also the jump kinda didn't really look like anything to him so he sorta just farted over it, landing extremely flat footed and out of balance.

Which was a bit disconcerting since we had an immediate turn to an up bank haha. Charlie has jumped this exact bank before, tho last time I schooled him first over a smaller bank and even still he was a bit noncommittal to the real thing. But this time? Charlie actually attacked it, and left a stride earlier than I expected. Uh, good boy??

just loping right on along haha
Again, part of me was still feeling a bit defensive, esp after two jumps in a row that were a little funny. Charlie didn't care in the least, tho. He jumped the next little coop easily, and began the next downhill segment of our course.

this jump had a long down hill approach and worried me well beyond reason. clearly charlie did not care tho haha
Idk why I was so worried about this downhill section. But I was. Maybe bc the only downhills Charlie and I have at home are heading toward the barn and he often barrels down them semi-uncontrollably? Who knows.

Regardless, I expected a wild ride to this brush table half way down the slope. And it totally was NOT haha. At all. Charlie just kept lopin right on along in that tiny little show canter I had him packaged into. Jumped it lazily, and kept plodding right on along. He's a saint, y'all.

big boy makes the jumps look sma!
I was honestly a bit amazed, to be perfectly honest. Tho this was also where I started to realize just how very differently the ride was going in reality than what I had expected in my head. And that, where I had expected to be getting run away with, we were actually way too fucking slow haha.

These are the kinda problems I like to have tho!! And, luckily, per the elevation chart, the rest of our course would be a nice uphill climb. Perfect for remembering to LET GO and allow Charlie to carry his own self forward. Which he happily did straight up the hill and over a nice N table right out of stride. Ditto the next little raised flower log thingy too. Atta boy, Sir!

sorry for the weird colors but my original photo was way too dark. through the woods our penultimate fence on course was this option between corner or table
Penultimate fence on course was the last real "question," another option. Again, I'm not sure one side is actually harder than the other. We've jumped both these fences repeatedly in the past. On one hand, T tables still make me nervous... but this N version really doesn't so idk if additional mileage over the N table makes any difference for how I feel about T tables.

On the other hand, that corner is positioned very similarly to Morven's T corner that gave me heebie jeebies. Sure, at Morven it was the B element of a bending line. But it also had that same sorta open angle off to the left, Charlie's and my favorite direction to drift. This N corner was positioned basically exactly the same, so that made my choice for me.

so fun galloping around, esp knowing we've got friends out there cheering us on too ;)
And? Obviously Charlie was fine. At this point we were finally starting to get more of that "running flat" feeling that I had expected much earlier on course, since it really is a difficult balance in allowing Charlie to go forward but still maintain an uphill carriage. Plus, ya know, he knew we were heading back toward the trailers haha.

So we ran a little past our distance to the corner, but nothing terrible. Charlie sure as shit didn't care haha, and actually kinda did the same thing to the final jump too, a nice roll top. And then that was it, we were finished!!

Such a good boy <3 Again, I feel so lucky with this horse. He's got that magical "click" that gives me confidence. Charlie is so brave, so invincible. Tho obviously I still have a bit more work to do in figuring out how to be better as a rider. More forward is needed haha, as always.

Walking away from this course, I just feel hungry for more. But like, more schooling. There's a lot about Novice that feels easy for Charlie right now, but we also still have a lot of rough edges. And a lot of gaps when it comes to more technical stuff. But more than ever, I feel really really eager to give it all a shot. I guess we'll see what happens ;)