Wednesday, September 20, 2017

jumping lessons one month later

It probably wasn't super obvious, but yesterday's summary of our recent dressage lesson was actually a full week old. That's the way of things around blogs tho, I guess. We're always at least a day or two behind around here, if not a little more!

"i am fancy dressage horse, yes?" - charlie
In the case of Le King of Dings over here, that means he's often coming sound again right around the time I post about his latest lameness. Which was again the case this time around. His awful, terrible, no good bruise resolved itself enough for him to consider himself no longer crippled by Sunday. At which point he got a nice long hack (as mentioned yesterday).

"yes, i suppose i am."
Then Monday he got a reasonably structured flat ride - for which naturally I dressed him up like the fanciest of fancy dressage horses. White boots, fleecy bells, the whole nine yards. Bc obvi if he came up lame at least maybe ppl would be distracted by his cute outfit? Maybe??? lol....

He was sound tho. And quite good. Well. Let me temper that a little bit: he was sluggish and decidedly behind my leg for at least the first half of the ride. But he offered exactly zero dinosaur moments. And actually got right on board with my efforts to put him in front of my leg. Specifically: halt-trot transitions. Actually, he was so on board that he did a shockingly nice walk-canter transition despite me only looking for trot. Goooood boy!

he's also a fancy jumping blur too!
So I was optimistic going into a hastily scheduled make-up evening jump lesson. Which, if you're keeping track, is our first real lesson over fences in exactly one month. The last one being that hybrid stadium / xc lesson back in August. Then we were sidelined by that abscess for a little while.... tho at least we got one quick supervised school over fences in the meantime.

his middle name is "unimpressed"
Also in the meantime, Charlie and I had a few opportunities to go out and jump our own selves around - such as during that baller paper chase at Tranquility, and obviously during our recent competition at Fair Hill.

thank god for that star to at least sorta make sense of the blur!
And Charlie's just been jumping great. So well. I'm so excited for him. But simultaneously honestly I'm a bit caught up in the disappointment of wondering where he could be if we hadn't had such a crappy 6-8 week run of things. Between my travel, his aggravated splint, more travel, that abscess, then the recent fat leg... We've just missed a lot of time.

"we're gonna need a bigger fence!"
I know it sounds like a broken record every time I dwell on that.... But it's what's on my mind so it's what I write about. Like, included in that lost time are the opportunities to school new and interesting challenges, or continuing to expand Charlie's horizons with adding more height.

When you're constantly just trying to "get back into it" tho, it doesn't make sense to always be pushing boundaries.

love how clever he's getting to the base!
So this lesson was nothing amazing or super ground breaking. Charlie was good, I was ok. We had mostly a good rhythm and still some green mistakes. I'm REALLY excited tho about how adjustable the horse is getting - in learning a half halt, but also in his steering.

he's a pro at bending lines now too <3 i didn't even know he popped a change in this line til i watched the video lol
We schooled around some lines and bending lines. A couple interestingly styled fences (tho we left out the skinny shark's tooth bc of needing to share daylight among lesson mates) and more technical turns. But yet I wished it could have been more. And honestly wished each fence was raised another hole or two. That they could have been 2'6 and up instead of 2'6 and below.

disappointed we didn't try the shark's tooth, not enough daylight :( soon!!
Which seems crazy haha considering my crippling nerves and anxiety just three months ago. But if I've learned anything, it's that confidence and anxiety are cyclical beasts. And I will take whatever good positive feeling comes my way, no questions asked, thankyouverymuch.

(imo, negative gnawing feelings deserve full dissection and analysis. i like to know those issues inside and out! the happy feel-goods tho?? no need to look that gift horse in the mouth!)

fan jumps are old hat now tho!
I hope that doesn't sound whiny lol. We aren't really in any rush to get any where, and we aren't exactly stagnating or anything -- obviously there's still a lot of work to do in improving my riding and getting Charlie more schooled, ever more trained.

dusky evening video here!

Maybe I'm just feeling greedy tho lol. I just want to get beyond this feeling of "getting back into the groove." It's cool tho. It's all ahead of us.

Our upcoming calendar has a lot to be excited about, and there are a few other ideas bumping around in my head for new ways to enjoy this wonderful horse of mine. We'll see how it goes! And in the meantime.... yea, we'll just be here, working on getting back into that groove. Forever and always lol.

How about you - have you ever had to deal with little nagging setback after setback, or feeling like you have so many goals allllmost within reach, but not quite? Or maybe you're more patient than me haha -- or you're better about not making too many concrete goals with your horses bc horses have such a knack for irreverence when it comes to our plans??

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

dinosaur dressage redux: elegance + a gif!

So my long time dressage trainer C spends one day a week traveling to other farms for lessons - including our new barn OF. While we weren't able to ride with her during the first month after our move, things are looking like we will maybe FINALLY be able to get on a regular schedule!

future elegant horse???
Even better - the dynamic has shifted such that she reaches out to us ("us" being the handful of riders at OF who lesson with C regularly) to schedule rides, instead of me needing to remember to text her about a lesson. Definitely makes it easier for coordinating purposes!

looking dubious tacking up. polo wrapped bc of puffy fungus-y legs. fungus was cleared just in time for the fat kicked leg. c'mon sir, get a grip!
Another cherry on top of this new arrangement is that a) I don't need to haul out to take a lesson and b) since trainer C is on the road instead of teaching out of her normal barn, she can charge us less while still pocketing more money since she doesn't have to pay out a cut for her barn. And I don't pay a ring fee. Saving on time AND cost??? Yessssss :D

blurry and dark but you get the picture
Oooh and one last benefit: so far we've scheduled things such that Brita does the early lesson and I arrive in time to catch the end (including taking video and media). Brita then has returned the favor by sticking around for my ride and taking more pictures! Yay dressage media!!!

still showing some bracing up front, but maybe getting moments of figuring out that his butt is actually attached
Lots of stuff to be excited about with this arrangement. Which is good bc the rides themselves have been challenging lol. I wrote about our lesson here, saying that it was a rough ride with us pushing the envelope for Charlie. And maybe pushing a little bit too hard, and he ended up kinda giving us the finger and quitting on the ride.

canter is so easy for him. wish i could sit up tho!
That's a big reason why I've wanted to get him more fit again, so that physically he's a bit more comfortable with an increase in work load. But he's also still got some emotional road blocks to his dressage training.

coverin' ground
Charlie can still be very resistant to being driven forward. And after he's figured out how to do a certain thing, when I change the rules on him (as in: asking for more) he can be.... a little defiant.

you put your left leg in, you put your right leg out, you put your left leg in and you canter all about
This crops up mostly with Charlie sucking back, sticking his head way up in the air and propping a little bit. Tho sometimes he mixes it up by kicking out too lol (such as in that glorious gif above, too bad there isn't volume on gifs so you could hear us all giggling at his "expressiveness" lol).

cute gazebo for background
That's been a bit of an ongoing challenge in our rides lately, which is frustrating... But the moments in between his outbursts are getting really good.

The general gist of this lesson was pretty similar to the last one: Putting the horse more fully on my outside aids, connecting his hind end such that he can turn more like he's got "rear wheel drive" instead of always needing to drag his shoulders around. And working harder to make me sit a little more correctly.

picture will be improved with just a few more tweaks i hope!
Particularly: C wants me to get downright zealous about my outside rein, and simultaneously stop using my inside rein as a crutch. You can see in the photos tho that this is really difficult for me haha. I'd let that inside rein slip out... but would then hold my inside hand out and lowered to still hold the connection.

My outside hand meanwhile wants to be either right on his neck or bordering on crossing over... whereas I need to hold it further out over his shoulder. C encouraged me to press my dressage whip against my outside thigh to help the outside hand stay anchored in place. I must also start thinking about connecting the reins to my elbows instead of using so much hand movement.

i really need to stop using wide hands as a crutch 
Additionally, C took me to task for my lower leg position and use. She was adamant: I must rotate my leg so that it's not clinging with the calf/heel with toes pointed out. Rather, I must keep my toes pointed forward, finding my big toe in the stirrup iron. I need to be thinking about using my upper calf instead of my heel, and to use much more thigh instead of pinching my knees.

the pieces are coming together slowly but surely tho
This is really really difficult for me bc gripping with my lower legs is kinda like my security blanket.... But especially given Charlie's surliness about being driven forward, I need to be a lot more accountable and purposeful with leg aids rather than just constantly nagging at him...

The lesson itself kept us on a 20m circle the whole time, rather than doing any exciting movements or figures or anything. But I was able to get a much clearer sense for what the "feel" is that I'm looking for in connecting Charlie's hind end and getting him more on the outside aids.

look who's sound again! back in action with a lonnngg (and somewhat misguided) solo trail ride. atta boy charlie!
We also had to deal a little bit with going through Charlie's whole "dinosaur in tar pit" tantrum every time we picked up after a break. It's a behavior I thought we had maybe resolved a little while back... but now I'm recognizing it for what it is: Charlie's go-to response to any increase in flat work intensity. Whether bc the work itself gets harder or bc he's less fit. It's just something we'll probably always deal with in some form or another.

Per usual, consistency and routine are probably my best defenses against the antics. It's hard to keep the rules the same when we have so much unplanned time off.... but I'll do my best! And in the meantime, I'm SUPER heartened to see how much the quality of Charlie's work is improving. Obvi, again, there's a lot needing improvements but I feel pretty good about saying he's squarely within the expectations of a training level dressage horse.

And so the cycle continues. Charlie appears to have recovered from his poor puffy little bruised leg, so we are hopping right back into the action. Included in that is preparing for a new plan to help address rider fitness in tandem with the horse's conditioning. Stay tuned for related details (and a contest!) soon!!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

stuff i bought while my horse was lame (again)

Yes, my horse is lame again. No, I don't really want to talk about it. Yes, he will be fine, and no I'm not particularly amused that he came up lame on the same day that I joked about "jinxing" it.


ghost of sound horses past
He appears to have put a limb in the wrong place at the wrong time, most likely sustaining a kick to a hind cannon. And it's killing him omg. #dramaqueen

dat's a fattie, charles!
True to form, his leg blew up and he was quite pitifully ouchie on it. But... ya know. It's basically just a big tender bruise, so by day two he was much less sore even tho the puffiness persisted.

poor Cos wanted charlie to pay attention to her over the fence line in the worst (x-rated) way
So I missed yet another jumping lesson where there was an awesome course and very fun and interesting jumps to be schooled. Blargh. But like, cold hosing and wrapping are fun too, right?? ....Maybe don't answer that lol.

In the meantime, knowing that we wouldn't be able to ride in the lesson, I preemptively hit up all our local tack shops for a little retail therapy. Both the big box store and the independents (including my favorite consignment shop!). Much fun was had!

pictured: retail therapy
Tho actually, in reviewing the purchases, it's maybe kinda glaringly obvious that even in my "splurge" moments I'm still kinda hopelessly practical.

A)      Polos that are a liner/bandage combination (consignment)
B)      Matrix dressage "liner" pad (consignment)
C)      Wahl mini cordless clippers
D)      Vet wrap
E)      Flat-backed wall mounting feed pan
F)      D-ring savers
G)     Tail Tamer brush
H)     Galloping boots
I)       Furazone
J)      Feed scoop
K)     Woof splint boots
L)     Hunt style 3pt breast plate (consignment)

Not pictured: Ice Horse ice pack (see below)

screwed into place bc sir likes to play with his food. we'll see how long this lasts!
Honestly I only decided to go shopping bc Amazon didn't seem to have anything that really fit my idea of a wall-floor-mounted feed pan for Charlie. He has to eat on the ground bc of his tie back surgery and tendency to aspirate food. And he has to have his feed soaked bc of the alfalfa pellets and to protect against choke.

But he also likes to paw all up in his food and fling it around his stall, then spend the next 20 minutes hunting and pecking to snarf up every last morsel. I honestly don't mind the pawing too terribly since he does in fact go find and eat it all... tho it's stressful when there are important meds in his feed.

when your tail is so luxurious you can't even see the wrapped leg behind it
The biggest issue tho is that his stall becomes a veritable fly haven with all the grain remnants everywhere. Like, it's buggy as fuck in there always. Same story at his last barn too - they'd routinely dowse his stall with Pine Sol just to try to control the bugs. It's nasty.

So my hope is that this wall-mounted, floor-level feed pan will resolve this. Except I'm about 65% skeptical that he won't just rip it right off the wall, perhaps taking down some of the boards in the process. And probably laming himself too just for good measure, bc why not, right?

this ice pack miiiiiiiight be filled with magic tho! i also like how you can't even tell that it's under the standing wrap on left
Speaking of lame, I also hemmed and hawed big time about picking up this freezer pack. I'm a big believer in just plain old ice - it's cheap, readily available, and I've got a great set of ice boots. But after going back and forth a little bit I finally bit the bullet, #splurge right??

And actually it made a huuuuge difference after just an hour on. The leg had been wrapped for two hours before hand (while the pack was chilling in the freezer) then I rewrapped it with the pack. It was super easy to wrap - you couldn't even tell it was in there. And then the leg came out looking actually leg-shaped after an hour (whereas it hadn't looked even a little bit different after 2 hours with just normal wraps). I like it!!

intriguing concept of a "liner" saddle pad!
Other odds and ends picked up were mostly all impulse buys. Like this white dressage pad. It's like.... the opposite of what we normally think of fancy pads -- most of which have all sorts of special built in padding.

This one tho assumes that you've already got a half pad that meets your needs, so the pad is extremely minimalistic breathable mesh under the saddle, and a nice crisp material that feels like it'll repel dirt and stains. It was an absolute bargain at the consignment shop ($10, tho it does not appear used) so perhaps it'll serve well as our new show pad. (if my horse is ever sound again wahhhhh)

really starting to feel organized!
And of course, with bringing all this stuff home it served as a perfect opportunity to check in on my new locker's organization protocol. And I'm pleased to say that so far I'm still feeling really good about the tack locker! Obviously I could fill whatever space is given to me (lol), but we're making do with what we got.

This hanging organizer is great tho, and holds most of my daily- or regular-use stuff that doesn't necessarily need to be mobile (and therefore included in my grooming tote for travel).

Hooks across top: extra bits, spare halters and reins, and Dark Jewel Designs hat

1st row of pockets: Mane 'n Tail shampoo, fly bonnets; polo wraps and ginger snap cookies.

2nd row: surpass and breath mint rolls; MTG and betadine sponge; keratex with brush; animax/dermalone and spare feed baggies; pair of brushing boots.

3rd row: Pair of brushing boots and pair of galloping boots; empty pocket (ooh the possibilities!); spare plastic bags; scoop; sweat scraper and bath mitt.

make good choices, charlie!
So ya know. In a way it's weirdly satisfying to get all my little odds and ends organized. To pick up all these new little extras for whatever may come in the future. I mean.... obviously I would rather be riding lol....

But at least it's fun to pick up new stuff with the prospect of future rides on my brain! I'm particularly excited about that hunt style breast plate lol. It's definitely the least necessary of all the purchases, tho I've toyed with the idea of popping a standing martingale on Sir Dinosaur Stuck in Tar Pits just to see what happens.

Mostly tho, the breast plate is for dress up. And I'm super excited about its classic look and brass hardware. Next time the horse is sound, y'all, there will be pictures!

me, wonderin when my horse will be sound again....
Until then, tho.... Wish me and my fragile little butterfly good luck in nursing him through yet another terrible, no-good bruise!!! Hope you all have a happy Sunday too!

Friday, September 15, 2017

riding trot sets, when all of a sudden....

Operation: Get Charlie Fit is officially running full speed ahead. God willing and the creek don't rise, we'll get this big ol' TB's baseline condition improved enough so that he can stop being such a puss about the rigors of living as an amateur's low level event horse.

dat's a goat, charles!
Which... mostly means that now that he's sound and what not (knocking furiously on wood) and wearing all his shoes (fingers fucking crossed) and seemingly on track for the fall season (yep, we're basically jinxed now, right??), we're just easing back into the normal routine.

collecting le partners in crime
The normal routine being: our standard weekend jump lessons with trainer P; getting back on track with dressage trainer C since she comes on site every week (we rode with her again this week!! details and MEDIA to come!!); and the balance of our time spent either schooling flat work or hacking out.

oh dear, some game is afoot!
And naturally, should time and daylight allow - both schooling flat work and hacking out can be combined bc nothing beats a long casual hack after a shorter but intense workout.

srsly tho, bella, are you channeling your inner arab???
Now that we are at the new barn tho, we've got more options for hacking out than ever before. Particularly with regard to using the fields and paths for more purposeful conditioning rides. I've legit never really done "trot sets" before bc:

A) They're kinda boring as fuck if all you're doing is circling the same small field a zillion times; and B) The fitness necessary for the lower levels is pretty easily achieved for hotter blooded breeds with less formal regimens. Like.... Isabel was fine with the regularly scheduled lengthy trail ride through hill and dale with an occasional sprint tossed in there.

they're comin' in hot, sir!!
The new barn's trails don't quiiiiite rival Isabel's barn's trails (which were part of a state park system) -- but there are fields upon fields upon fields. All with gentle slopes in every direction. And all communicating with each other through a network of gates.

i spy with my little eye, a four legged red headed instigator lol 
So I headed out with Brita and Bella the other evening so she could show me the ways of taking full advantage of various paths and fence lines and field perimeters to optimize both physical and mental conditioning of the horse. Perfect!

Lesson #1 in conditioning the event horse is that it's always better with riding buddies lol. Esp if there's juicy gossip to be had!

lol riley's all like, 'ugh but mooommm just five more minutes!'
Or, perhaps more importantly, when your riding buddy is more expert at handling all the gates and whatnot so you can easily pass from field to field. Especially when the roving gangs of resident baby ponies thugs interrupt your travels to play with your puppy haha.

riley's bebeh poneh friends agree, moar play plz!
Goofy ponies. Definitely worth a good laugh tho! Esp that dark little TWH baby -- she was an orphan raised among shetlands (notably, she's the only non-shetland sized pony in the pictures from this post) but is now out in the full mare herd and is bold as brass lol.

wheeeee and they're off again!
Anyway tho, we pretty quickly decided that sharing field space with this particular herd would not be conducive to our plans haha. So we moved right on along. But not before capturing some solid gold video snippets!

hooligans, every last one of 'em
And Charlie, bless his quiet gentle soul, just kinda stood there watching in amazement as all these sma critters expended so much effort unnecessarily lol.

bella has a confuse about this whole thing. also how sweet is this senior gray mare center left who likes to play and hang out with the young'uns??
Naturally, the rest of the ride was fairly uneventful after that haha.

It was good tho. Brita showed me a couple simple and easy loops through the fields that serve well for trot sets. I didn't time it or anything, and we just did one long track twice (and Charlie was actually all veiny and foamy after).

But it seems like it'll be a really nice addition to our weekly programming - esp on week night evenings for as long as daylight lasts, then maybe on weekends?

then back to greener more boring pastures
I esp liked that there's enough space to not really have to cover the same exact ground over and over again. Esp for a horse like Charlie who has a propensity toward getting barn sour or bored lol. The whole goal is to keep getting him physically stronger and more fit while also keeping him emotionally and mentally fresh and sharp. We'll see how it goes!

Have you had to deal much with fitting up the less-inclined horse? Or tried to include more rigorous conditioning in your schedule with limited time, facilities or resources to do so? Or maybe you're just here for the ridiculous pictures of baby ponies being goons?? lol....

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fall Fair Hill: Cross Country

Cross country time!!!! Everyone's favorite, right?? :D

Michele walked the course the evening prior and was kind enough to send me and Alli pictures of the course maps. I had a fairly clear idea in mind of what the course might look like, having ridden the BN tracks at this venue multiple times over the past couple years. But actually, the course kinda looked..... decidedly meh.

circling at the start gate
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
It was flagged as only 13 jumps (14 efforts if you count the entrance to the water which... maybe doesn't count). No banks, or even that little log on the mound that's been a hallmark of the BN and Intro courses. Instead, Novice got that mound jump and both banks. Greedy N course!

Nor was there a jump anywhere close to the ditch. At least the course had an A-B combo at the water, with A being the entrance and a roll top leaving the water for B.

Also slightly annoying, the only "big" fence on course - the red table - was very early at #3. I dunno about y'all, but typically I'm still kinda in the "establishing rhythm" phase at jump 3 so it was kinda a bummer to meet our biggest fence so soon.

charlie's first "canter" out of the start gate was a bit of a fizzle
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
At least there were a couple N elements that looked like they might be easily interwoven with my own track. Including one of the N bank combinations. Tho after stadium where Charlie felt tired and perhaps a bit behind my leg, I was less certain about giving that a go. Esp since it was also quite early on course - would be the 4th effort.

I asked Brita her opinion (since she had already cruised around the full N course like no big thang!!!) and she pragmatically suggested that I'd know whether to try it or not based on how the first three fences went. Makes sense to me!

hey-o, it's a log!
So after a brief warm up over two height variations of Fair Hill's blue produce stand (would have been the other "big" jump on course had it actually been on course), we headed to the start box.

I decided this would be Charlie's first time cantering out of the start box and he..... kinda almost declined lol. Dammit. He napped a bit -- see those pinned ears in the above picture? -- but eventually picked up a lope to hop over the log nbd.

lookin good over the log
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
That accomplished, we cruised toward fence 2. At which point Charlie gave me a goddamn heart attack bc he started napping even more. Ughhh. I panicked a bit bc like, c'mon Charlie, this is supposed to be the fun part!!! Please please please do not get sour on cross country buddy!! :(

In my mind, the horse getting sour and nappy on course is like my absolute worst case scenario and I legit worried we'd get a refusal. But thank god a couple strides from the coop his ears swiveled forward again and he locked on to the jump, softening his back and carrying me forward to it. Phew! Crisis averted!

harsh morning light but this is a reasonable coop
I was worried tho. As I've mentioned a number of times, Charlie is gonna do the thing bc it's fun and interesting to him. If he ever decides that cross country is not fun tho? I'm honestly not sure I'll be able to convince him otherwise.

So at this point on course, I really just wanted to leave him alone and let him settle himself into his canter. Complete with loopy rein and leg off. Which.... well. Logically I understand why I did that. But I also logically understand that being a "soft" rider is not necessarily the same as being an "effective" rider. Ideally I should be both -- but ultimately I must be effective first.

more harsh light - but this is actually quite a generously sized table with a ramp face
And my lack of contact and leg support to get the horse up in front of my leg definitely bit me in the ass for fence 3 - where we just sorta cantered on up to a decidedly nothing stride. Like. Nothing. There was nothing there. It was exactly the type of stride that leaves the door wiiiiide open for a refusal. 

Luckily Charlie made the executive decision to jump from where he was - good boy sir. But it was a heinous disaster of a jump with legs and body parts and reins going everywhere. Not a confidence inspiring experience! Sigh. 

novice hogging the up bank all to itself with an inviting two stride line; bn stuck with that little log on the left
I was disappointed in myself for failing to be there for the horse, but also immensely grateful that he's such an honest boy. 

Beginner novice fences are legitimately so easy for Charlie that I let myself get lulled into a false sense of security, forgetting that, uh, sure it might be easy esp when everything goes the way it's supposed to.... But he's still a green horse and he's still gonna make mistakes. It's my job to help him out when that happens. Noted. 

Anyway, we made such a shit show spectacle of jump 3 that it would have been downright foolish to aim Charlie for that two stride cabin to up bank N combination as I had planned to do. It was an inviting enough combination and one I think Charlie could do... But we're all about confidence building, not confidence proving. So the combination will be saved for a future date. Sigh. 

but um.... yea. logs. apparently still sometimes kinda messy. whoops.
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
Instead I pointed him at the little BN log, which we proceeded to eat shit over again ugh. Cantering up to a nothing stride again bc the horse was still behind my leg. This time chipping in ridiculously instead of taking a flyer.

Like, look at that picture haha - I swear the horse is actually jumping a log there. Really truly. it just looks.... Idk. It was special. Blargh.

trying to pull our shit together
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
Luckily we had a nice little downhill stretch to canter on along for a minute before our next fence. Wherein I reminded myself to put leg on and take a contact. Charlie was also settling into the whole "this is fun" zone thankfully, tho I knew our issues stemmed in large part from his tiredness.

it's a bench!
We cruised along to the bench more or less ok. It wasn't our best jump in the world but it wasn't as heinous as the preceding two.

you say "bench", charlie says "droppin into head of the lake, yo!"
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
Tho you can tell from my position that I was taking no chances haha. The urge to sit back and be defensive is so strong with me, esp after a couple rough jumps. I really need to retrain myself tho to think about getting the horse in front of me instead of wanting to get behind the horse.

still trying to pull our shit together
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
Small distinction maybe, but possibly a difference maker. Anyway. We kept cantering on along - notably with Charlie not rushing or pulling AT ALL. Just.... cruisin.

simple ramp from which to launch into flight down the back stretch
Next up was a tree line fence - this time a ramp, wherein last time the red table was here. Also last time, Charlie landed from this fence galloping away across the next field so I kinda naturally expected him to do this same this time too.

or, ya know, just kinda pop over and lope away. either way works!
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
He totally didn't tho. Got to a slightly snug distance to the ramp and just.... kept right on cantering. Go figure.

choo choo train!
Another big change in this course from literally every single other course I've jumped at Fair Hill ever was that the train which typically marks the final fence on course was actually out in the back field. I guess they wanted to switch it up?

turns out when i USE MY LEG we actually get a nice jump!
I didn't expect any issues from our BN train car tho - but actually Charlie took a little peek at it and stood slightly off from it. Which was perfect bc it reminded me (again) to put my leg ON. And whadya know, he jumped it beautifully. Maybe his nicest jump since the coop at #2.

roll top schmoll top
We continued loping on down the track to a simple roll top, by which point things were coming together much better for us and Charlie hopped over easily out of stride.

Then over to the water, where I planned to again take a moment to bring Charlie through the unflagged section first to get his feet wet. Charlie also opted to take a little drink break lol.... The jump judge was laughing like, "wow I've never seen that before" haha but I had kinda expected he might want to tank up. Like I said... he felt tired.

oh hey look - two more roll tops! with some wada in between! better believe we jumped this N fence into the water!
But I wanted him to feel a little refreshed bc I was determined to fit in at least one N schooling opportunity during this course - and the likeliest option was this roll top going into the water. N had the A-B going in, and BN had the A-B going out - so I wanted to just thread the needle right on across all three elements.

definitely the highlight of the course right here!
Again, Charlie took a little leg to the first roll top - something I should consider a good feeling - but mostly just cantered right on along. Distances weren't perfect and he kinda hopped into the water somewhat awkwardly. But he did it nbd. I'll call that a win!

ditch is alllll byyyy itsellfff. also, brita and rachael cameo!
Then another easy lope down hill to the stand-alone ditch. Charlie hopped it a little awkwardly but fine enough for our purposes.

Then uphill to the barrels and our final stretch toward the finish line.

cruisin toward the finish
Charlie jumped the barrels quite well actually, then finally found his rocket burners and started running lol. I mean, it had to happen eventually, right?

such a good boy <3
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
It's kinda such a tricky balance bc he went from sluggish and behind my leg to fast and behind my leg - neither of which are ideal and both of which are perhaps symptoms of his lack of schooling.

lil house
But I figured it would be ok for the purposes of finishing this course. Obviously we have some work to do in general schooling, but with two efforts left I figured we'd just roll with it.

homeboy was flyin!
photo nabbed from After the Races facebook page
And that's about how that went. Charlie zoomed on up to a very going distance to the cabin. And for once I actually more or less managed to stay with him.

another house to finish
Then continued racing on along to the final fence, another simple house coop type thing.

wheeeee!!! it mayyyy or may not have taken a little while to pull him up after this haha
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
I had tried slowing him down a little on approach, but it was a futile effort lol. He leaped over it, and then took the better part of ten full seconds to pull up after crossing the finish line lol.

gosh i just love his expression <3
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
So. Ya know. Haha. We made it! The first third of this course was somewhat disastrous - and definitely showed just how south things can go when you take for granted that a green horse will just do the thing all of its own accord.

But at least it felt like we cleaned it up a bit by the middle portion. And despite slipping back into that "racing" gear for the end, it at least felt like a positive way to finish.

Generally speaking, it was an educational course for me. A reminder that it's still my responsibility to set this green horse up for success, and not get complacent by just expecting everything to be so easy for him. In doing a little bit of post-ride analysis, I've found maybe three areas that can be improved upon for next time:

-   Fitness. There's no doubt about it, Charlie was tired on this day. The whole day. All of it. I knew that his baseline fitness wasn't where I needed or wanted it to be going into the event. But I need to take real steps to ensure that we can improve upon that to the best of our ability. Because if Charlie gets tired, he's that much more likely to get a case of the "I Don't Wanna's" and that's not fun for anybody.

-   Rider Accountability. I must not get complacent. Must not confuse softness for effectiveness. A more proactive rider would have created a better canter earlier on to avoid the types of confidence-busting jumps we had at #s 3 & 4. In the same vein, rider must be more accountable for her own position and not be so loose in the tack!

-   Boots. The fronts of our new set of Le Mieux xc boots rotated pretty early on and by the end of the day there was a quarter sized bloody rub on one of Charlie's fetlocks. While there's no saying whether this caused Charlie's nappiness, he's been known to go into full-on dinosaur mode when he's uncomfortable. Our first leather girth that apparently pinched him is the perfect example of this. So. Back to the drawing board for front boots (tho the hinds worked perfectly!).

he may be green but he's such a good boy
photo courtesy of Megan Kiessling
 All in all, even tho it wasn't the perfect conclusion to our event - esp after the high we felt from dressage - I'm still just so proud of this horse.

I believe Charlie has a lot of potential and will be able to do all the things I could possibly hope for, and maybe more. It'll just be up to me to help keep him on track. To keep it fun and interesting to him, while also making sure I hold my own self accountable in our schooling so that we develop the tools needed when things go a little sideways or when he needs more support.

all the treats for sir!!!!
photo courtesy of Megan Kissling
Ultimately I honestly kind of expect Charlie to become a packer. Crazy as it sounds, he's actually already kinda close in some regards even a year into his training. But he's not there yet. So I just gotta be ready to step in as needed.

This is all good stuff to have figured out during the first event of our fall season. Now we look forward to a small at-home starter trial in a couple weeks, then the last two events in Loch Moy's fall series. Very exciting!