And it was fine - Charlie took a nice young rider for a walk when we arrived (vs her taking him for a walk bc.... no that's definitely not how it went haha), then watched Brita and Rachael ride their dressage tests, then played musical trailers as we kept the horses not currently being ridden together on the same trailers for the sake of company.
And meanwhile I trekked back and forth up to the jumping area to walk the stadium and xc courses and watch everyone else jump (tho fortunately we had enough vehicles-not-attached-to-trailers so that I never actually had to go on foot).
Not unexpectedly, I hit my 15k step goal well before ever tackling my own rides haha. Oh, and in case the gray skies in many of these photos don't make it clear, it was raining and gusting intermittently throughout the day. Typical Fair Hill lol....
|cantering around for dressage warm up in a busy and uneven hill? sure!|
Somehow tho I still didn't plan enough time. He really needs ~40 minutes right now (predominantly walking), and I had about 25. The steward called us on deck before I had even cantered. That said, Charlie actually warmed up quite well, even if it felt incomplete. Tho he was kinda amped - especially on the uneven ground.
So maybe more time would have only led to him getting stronger, as our second canter was decidedly less quiet than the first. Oh well. We went in for our test and actually got enough time to lap the court and make a few circles to refocus Charlie before the judge blew her whistle.
|trot circle left|
Sure, it's only happening in fleeting moments and the entire picture isn't exactly correct yet - but it's pretty clear that Charlie is beginning to figure out that there's more to the contact than just something to lean against.
|canter circle left!!|
But I was pretty pleased with it for what it was, and maybe hoped it might even potentially be competitive despite the flubbed accuracy and rider mistakes. Alas, tho, it was not.
|changing the balance and outline one step at a time. tho it's funny how one thing seems to improve and another kinda regresses -- note Charlie's lack of engagement and impulsion here.|
Therefore each movement where Charlie exhibited any bracing or lack of suppleness was dinged accordingly. So..... basically every movement haha.
|flash back to some of the "best" moments of trot from each of our previous competitive dressage outings, for the purposes of reflecting on the horse's progress|
And of course the judge only sees what's presented to her on any given day. She can't possibly know what we know about the horse - that he's a very green horse ridden exclusively by an amateur. And that he's still managing to improve despite said amateur's apparent flaws.
|this halt garnered the lone high score of 6.5|
So. More work as always is ahead of us on the flat. But I'm gonna go ahead and take comfort knowing that this test's 46.6% placed us only 6th of 9 (stingy judge is stingy lol. and nvm that we were way closer in percentage to 9th place than 1st haha).
As far as Charlie knows, he was a good boy and did the thing, and I'm actually quite pleased with his development even if our brakes were majorly faulty in this test!
Anyway. Let's move on to the fun stuff: JUMPING!!!!
For those of you unfamiliar with Fair Hill, there is a LONG hack between the trailer area and dressage courts, and the stadium and xc courses. It's probably about a mile and takes ~20ish minutes to traverse. Tho it also serves as a nice low-impact warm up too haha.
The trail begins downhill (in both directions) until it bottoms out at a very shallow stream crossing, then climbs back up again. There are usually lots of horses going in both directions, but Charlie and I ended up making the walk almost entirely alone. And Charlie was MARCHING OMG.
I was slightly unsure of how he would handle the water crossing (considering our spotty history with streams...) but luckily as we approached, there were other horses on the other side coming our way. And actually Charlie was pretty good. Hesitated but then went right on through. And continued climbing up the hill with ever more gusto.
And then the poor guy kinda flipped right on out when we suddenly emerged in a wide open field full of galloping horses. Sorry buddy! After bringing him back from his mini-bolt, we kinda just stood there and observed the open field for a while. Then he trudged soslowomg over to stadium, where we stood around for a while longer as all the riders before us warmed up.
|zomg she kinda bent her elbows!!!! #progress|
He had a VERY strong draw in the direction of that trail through the woods and even exhibited a few moments of running sideways. Turning right was a struggle again. But I honestly didn't make a big deal out of it and just focused on the task at hand.
And given the size of our fences (read: microscopic), it was my opinion that Charlie should have absolutely zero business gunning through these lines at full tilt.
|it's nearly impossible to tell in the video but we reeeeeeeeally almost didn't make it over this jump. turning right is HARD yo|
Rather, given that I had purposefully chosen a level that should be "easy" for us, I wanted to ride as accurately as possible to confirm that, yea we can actually do this.
|biggest fence on course yo. and he actually rubbed it pretty damn hard haha|
Rather, it was the space in between the jumps that were a bit hairier haha - like the right hand turn after that first line, going back in the direction of that trail through the woods that Charlie had clearly not forgotten. We.... yea we almost didn't make it to the fence haha. It makes me a little sad actually that you can't hardly tell in the video but you'll just have to take my word for it.
|of course it wouldn't be a Charlie 'n Emma jump course without at least one flyer ;)|
Then we looped around another jump to approach our final related distance, for which I actually collected Charlie's stride back a hair too much (#notcomplaining) and we somewhat unbelievably had to work to get out of the line on the add stride.
I'm honestly pleased with this course - he found all of the jumps pretty darn well aside from the one where we almost didn't turn. And he did in fact gather his stride ahead of the fences when I asked, so that I could mostly kinda coast through the last 2-4 strides before a fence (kinda).
At times the horse was very strong on the landing side of fences (I know it doesn't look like it in the video... but. 17h with a giant stride is more than enough to give a very different impression to the observer than the reality for the rider lol. so... maybe just take my word for it haha), and this held true in xc too.... But he was also able to hold adjustments in his stride length when I could get through to him.
The best part was that I didn't feel like I had to explain away our greenness or mistakes after this course, always a plus! Tho... I'm gonna add a flash to our jump bridle haha. Charlie raced in a flash (which seems kinda unusual at the track?) and I'm starting to see why lol.
So. Charlie jumped the jumps at a level that's definitely *way* too easy for him. And probably didn't learn anything about the jumping side of things from that course. But methinks he learned a couple other things about atmosphere and activity and focusing despite the distraction. Mission accomplished. Next step: Cross Country!