Thursday, November 30, 2017

Favorite Posts 2017 - Part I

Inspired by L Williams' annual tradition of reflecting on her and readers' favorite posts from the past year, I've decided to create my own fun little reading list.

The following is organized loosely by category. I've included the posts that I often like to go back and reread within those categories, each with a brief description.

Ideally I'll have a few more posts covering other categories that have been interesting to me this past year too. Definitely let me know if any of the below have been particularly interesting to you, or if there are others (or other general topics) that you especially liked!

Introducing Charlie!

- A New Normal: Introducing Charlie to blogland!

- The Comfort of Routine: God it felt so good to be back <3

- Notorious S.T.A.L.L.I.O.N.S.: A review of Charlie's pedigree, especially some particularly grouchy ol' goons in there.

- Sympathy for the Devil: Charlie's life on the track wasn't always easy. He's got some baggage.

Philosophy on horsemanship and horse training

- A good brain deserves a good foundation: Discussing why trailer training matters to me, but also seeing the bigger picture of what it means to learn with and teach a horse how to respond positively to adverse stimuli.

- Making silk purses out of sow's ears: Envisioning the possibilities of transforming the raw material of an OTTB into something truly special. Complete with links to inspirational videos.

- Wise words: tl;dr -- don't leave holes in your training, ffs. Setting yourself up for success means not skipping ahead prematurely.

- Playing the long game: Horses do not have an infinite capacity for accepting pressure. Pick your battles.

- What I say v. what I do: Sometimes I talk a big game but still do really dumb shit.

- Discretion is the better part of valor: Horses don't choose to be bad. Building a solid horse is like building a solid house: if I lay a shoddy foundation, the walls will crack beneath the pretty pictures hung on them. If I want the horse to be disciplined, hold myself to a standard 10x as high.

- Whose journey is it anyway? As equestrians, we're always talking about the "journey." But what does that really mean?

- The hive mind: Collective Intelligence: Basically this community is incredible and has been amazingly inspirational to me.

- The audacity of a plan: I'm a planner, what can I say? Things don't always work out tho.

- What is 'fancy' and why does everybody care so much? As a follow up to this discussion, I'd like to point you to this post at Braymere Custom Saddlery and this post from COTH.

Show Recaps!
(most of these shows have multiple entries - click through the archives for the full story!)

- Bob's No Halters Required Dressage Show: Charlie's first competitive outing. Focused on what it means to introduce a horse to showing.

- MDHT Slayer Edition: First big show, tho we only did the CT. Charlie proves he's ready!

- MDHT: Very Green, Very Honest: We did all three phases! This link is just to the overall summary, but click through to the next two (dressage + stadium, and cross country) for play-by-play details.

- Jenny Camp 2017: XC: This xc course was bigger than anything Charlie and I had schooled to date. It was a watershed moment in understanding what kind of event horse Charlie could be. And I loved it!

- MCTA: Revisionist History: Charlie moved up to BN and acted like it was the easiest thing in the world (even tho we got eliminated on some bs haha, oh well!)

- First of Fall: Fair Hill Preview: Wasn't intended to be our final show of the season, but it was a high note no matter what.


Are any of the above your favorite? Or did I miss something that should have been captured in one of these categories? Or perhaps you're thinking of maybe doing a similar collection of your own favorite posts from the past year?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

rollin with it

True to my promise, Charlie and I had a really quiet and relaxing weekend riding-wise. As much as I would prefer to focus on regaining lost ground after all the time off.... it's pretty hard to argue with taking advantage of gorgeous fall weather by hacking out all across the property and woods.

entering into the woods!
So poor sourpuss Charlie got his wishes granted and earned a reprieve from the sandbox. Tho I did make him just canter around the jump ring a couple times in a freewheeling lope, for funsies. While it took a minute to achieve the canter, and then another moment to convince him that, yes we would canter past the gate plz, he more or less just rolled with it. Sigh.

surprisingly deep little stream really makes charlie use his noggin lol
That's cool tho. At least Charlie is a pretty freakin wonderful horse to hack out - and is surprisingly not at all barn sour (or at least, hasn't shown that inclination yet lol) considering how gate sour he is in our arenas. This makes him a nice pleasant horse to stroll out around the property with, either alone or with company.

galloping lane! or.... canter-pretty-fast lane lol
He gets pretty distracted by seeing horses out in the fields and has to stare very intently at them even as we keep on walking. But that's fine. So long as he doesn't fall on his face lol. Tho when we trail ride with friends he doesn't seem quite so forlorn about horses in the pastures haha.

sooooo many leaves on the ground - they create quite the sound track to our travels - esp with all the nearby squirrels who crash through the leaves like elephants
I don't really know the trails through the woods super well yet, and it's kinda hard this time of year when everything looks the same and trails are covered by leaves. Mostly tho it's not so extensive of a property that it's hard to get lost. There are only a few main trails -- a shorter path that skirts the pastures and a longer loop that goes all the way around the woods.

the open fields provide a quiet and serene counterpoint to all that noise lol
There's only really one stream crossing, if you don't count all the little rivulets that separate the various cross country fields from each other. Charlie's gotten pretty reliable about the stream but is still funny about the rivulets. Two out of three times, he'll just walk right on through. That third time tho? He's gotta jump it. #horselogic #keepsmeguessing #grabmanenomatterwhat

tho naturally the dogs did their part by entertaining us with a splashfest
The trails themselves are very simple. Typically relatively broad - can fit two horses side by side in places. Mostly smooth, with the occasional eroded or rocky spot. Not particularly challenging nor hilly - tho there are some fun spots with a little extra technicality. Mostly they're well suited to a somewhat clumsy and inattentive horse like Charlie, haha.

these dogs have way too much fun lol
There are even a couple places perfect for a little speed! Like a nice lane in between pastures that we "galloped" as a group during one recent ride. I say "gallop" bc it was more like just a canter for Charlie, but that's fine haha. He was very polite about it all the same tho.

It's just crazy sometimes running him bc his head and neck are SO LONG and being a career race horse, he's very quick to settle into that form of really using his head and neck at speed - the oscillation is intense. I'm honestly still kinda figuring out what length rein I need and where to keep my hands and body to stay in a more effective position. Actually it was during this ride that I realized that must be my main issue with maintaining a solid galloping position while riding this horse xc. Given my t-rex arms, I probably need to keep my whole body farther forward than I have really wanted to. Good food for thought!

i think the horses enjoyed themselves too tho ;)
Anyway tho, there's enough trails and lanes and paths back to the barn that you can easily squeak in a 15-20min hack or a 2hr ride, whatever suits your mood. Esp with all the cross country fields it's easy to just loop and wander all around.

When I'm riding alone I still have to dismount for basically all the gates. Charlie has finally learned how to ace one important gate - the one we use most often. It's easier bc there's no latch, it just rests on the ground and doesn't swing very much. So he's got it figured out how to open and close that one.

Another couple I can open from his back, but can't close. Either bc the gate swings too far or the latch is too fussy. And some I can't do at all bc the latch is too low to even reach. Luckily Charlie proves again and again that he's polite to sidle up to an xc jump or random log for me to remount.

So ya know. All this hacking out has been productive in its own right. Especially just by nature of being a really pleasant way to engage my horse's mind and body. Hopefully tho we can get to the bottom of some of his recent sourness and figure out a sustainable schooling schedule. Methinks everything will be much more fun when he can jump again lol. Soon, buddy!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

shake it off!

Phew, thank god for the weekend! I hope those of you who spent the Thanksgiving holiday with friends or family had a nice time! And that the rest of you got to enjoy some black friday shopping craziness!

so cute. so dusty.
I didn't do any shopping personally -- rather I took advantage of PTO from work and the fact that my family is all local to Maryland (so no insane travel necessary!) by logging some solid day time pony fun. A rare treat outside of weekends!

Tho.... I recently discovered during our schooling rides this week that.... While physically Charlie is getting back aboard the "in work" train.... Emotionally maybe he needs me to take it a little slower. He's been a very, very good boy for the past few weeks - and notably happy in his work.

i just <3 this sweet guy. he's always eager to hang out!
But with dark week night evening rides limiting us in where we can ride (meaning: only the lit areas), and his rehab limiting us to flat work, I've come to discover that we've been too focused on dressage alone for Charlie's tastes. This presents in a horse who has been suddenly growing increasingly sour after being so good for so long.

no idea how i used to be able to get his entire body on camera while lunging. this lovely and flattering shot was the only time i got his face on screen lol
So.... That's cool, big guy. I hear ya. Maybe I need to remember that there's no rush and nothing matters if it's not any fun. So I went ahead and scratched from tomorrow's dressage schooling show and decided we'd just focus on playing and having a little fun throughout the long weekend.

headless horse + distracted, camera-wielding pilot who can't steer = missed the poles, whoops
So yesterday I got there mid afternoon to grab Charlie from his field (he was right at the gate too, score!), dust him off and toss on his jump saddle and hackamore to stroll up to the indoor for some play time. No real agenda, just maybe revisiting some of the ground work we did so often when I first brought him home.

there we go with the poles! still no pony head tho lol
First I pulled all his tack and let him wander loose around the arena while I set up some trot poles. He happily followed along with me before getting distracted by a particularly fluffy spot of footing - perfect for a quick roll!

dirty mirror selfies beat no mirror selfies, right?
Then I tossed on his rope halter and went through the exercises we used to practice all the time - that whole "hip-hip-shoulder-shoulder-back-forward" routine I wrote about here. And parlayed it in with a little practice on lunging over the ground poles.

aww, snuffles from charlie
The purpose here wasn't really the exercise or physical exertion -- rather it was just reestablishing various cues and open lines of communication, and seeking to make each cue lighter and lighter while still getting the reaction from Charlie.

So lots of transitions, never really doing any one thing for very long if he was getting the answers correct. Just asking a question then either praising or asking again. Asking for a yield of a fore- or hind-quarter here, getting a step and praising. Asking for a trot transition there, getting a circle then stopping and praising. Rinse repeat.

on week nights we walk up a long very dark driveway from the barn to the arena. it's a big farm so there's a lot of traffic in and out. so i picked up some hi viz reflective tape to try to DIY some road safety stuff. hoping these loops on splint boots might help?
Charlie continues to be a somewhat pressure-averse horse -- that's where the sourness crops up in our schooling. So it's really really useful to spend this time with him, asking him a lot of different questions and praising the bejesus out of him when he answers.

And he honestly kinda likes these games - he likes knowing that if he picks up his trot and pings on through the ground poles, I'll ask him to walk and tell him how clever and amazing he is. Which he naturally just soaks up like a sponge, with head low and licking and chewing. He just... wow he just LOVES being a good boy haha, even if sometimes that means being pushed forward and exerting himself a little bit first.

the tape works, but not sure it's really big enough to make a difference to drivers. 
I was pleased to see that he's remembered basically all the exercises and games despite not having practiced at all in months and months. He's also gotten a lot more even from side to side, whereas it used to be a lot more challenging to apply any pressure to his right side (he MUCH prefers me staying on his left, thankyouverymuch).

Tho honestly he's still kinda dull haha. He might always be. Charlie's work ethic is.... low. He's a lazy kinda guy, ya know? Not inclined toward exertion. But he does like to play a little bit. He likes being asked questions when he knows the answers already. And maybe it's useful to remind him (and me, let's be real) that all of our riding and training boils down to exactly this kinda game play: answering questions and solving puzzles. And there's always a correct answer. Always.

So for this weekend, my main objective is to get out and enjoy each other's company and find ways to keep us working together so that we can carry some of that attitude of play and fun and games back into our schooling too. We'll see how that works lol. It's always a balance, right?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

happy thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone in the States a Happy Thanksgiving today full of good food, friends and family!


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

thoughts on the new eventing dressage tests

The announcement of new 2018 eventing dressage tests left me excited but also a little nervous. Excited bc the eventing tests are kinda boring haha. Nervous tho bc.... well.... The old BN-B test treated me very well over the years and I didn't want to lose it to something less friendly!

After the announcement I quickly glanced through the BN, N and T tests with the general impression that some technical elements from each level now show up a test earlier than before. For example, moves from the last Training A test can now be found in Novice B.

coming soon to a ring near you!!
Riders will face more than just 20m circles and diagonal lines earlier in the levels, something I like. And movements equivalent to USDF first level start showing up in Training A now, instead of Training B. Additionally there are a few halts at G instead of X, which doesn't really change much but will test the rider's memory lol.

Overall I appreciate the new challenges in these tests, that it's not only USDF training level equivalent moves until Training B / Prelim A. While it might further the perception that lower level eventing is essentially a dressage competition, I'm not sure that's true. Testing riders on more advanced moves might have the opposite effect of rewarding those who put in the schooling vs just those who have a pleasant enough horse for straight lines and 20m circles.

Anyway, soap box aside, this post is not just about my general feelings on the new tests. This weekend is the Bob's No Halters schooling dressage show at OF -- which you may remember as Charlie's first ever horse show last year. And the organizers agreed to let us ride the 2018 tests even tho it's still 2017 (schooling shows rock, y'all!).

So I'm hoping to get a head start on familiarizing myself with the new moves. Especially now that Charlie is cantering, I opted to sign up for BN-B and N-A (BN-A is mostly unchanged except for one big difference we'll discuss below).

So. Let's go ahead and dig into these two tests, shall we?
pdf of test sheet here
I'm a little miffed that the BN-A test is virtually unchanged as it's historically a difficult test for me. BN-B on the other hand was always my absolute favorite. And yet it's undergone a complete facelift and is barely recognizable now. Sigh. It could be ok, tho. Maybe.

Anyway, the entry in both BN tests is brand new. Test writers chopped the 10m half circle turn off the center line at C and replaced it with a diagonal turn to the corner veering off from X. This is exceptionally kind, and an opportunity for riders to demonstrate straightness on the aids by staying straight on the center line with a crisp turn onto the diagonal from X. For those of us who struggled with balance in that turn off the center line at C, this is a gift.

From there, tho, the test goes a little bit downhill for me. The old version had riders execute all the trotting in both directions, with a lovely relaxed diagonal change of rein in between, before beginning to canter. Then all the canter is done back to back (again with a breather for trotting across the diagonal) before the free walk and finish.

This test is a little more like BN-A where you do your trot and canter in one direction, then change rein for the trot and canter the other way. The only difference here is they don't plunk the free walk right smack in the middle of all that and instead leave it for the end. Thank god.

Regarding those trots and canters, they've adopted quite a bit from the old N tests here. Trots are now done at the ends of the ring, and canters in the middle. Plus there's that half circle of trot to develop your canter. The idea I think is that it's more difficult to stay accurate in the middle of the ring vs at the ends, so this is technically more advanced.

So long as riders don't get lost amid all those half circles it should ride fine, tho. As in the old N tests, both canter circles are done at the same letter, so remembering that all the canter circles are at E will help riders stay on course.

Another notable adaption here is that the medium walk is scored separately from the free walk (this is true in the new BN-A test too). This pleases me, since you may remember from my data analysis of Charlie's and my tests this past year that the medium walk scored separately in USDF tests was a stand out mark. Riders will have the opportunity here to show a distinct transition from free walk to medium walk and get horses fully back on the aids before the trot transition.

Finally, I'm very happy to see separate scores for the final transition back into trot, turn up the center line, and halt (again, also the case in BN-A). I can't tell you how many times I've had a nice center line score ruined bc of a hollow trot transition, or a wonky halt. So now riders can maybe still get some nice scores here even if they biff part of that little tour. Or. Ya know. You could biff all of it and sink your entire test lol. Who knows!

While it's not clear where the coefficients are for these tests, in all I think there are some very interesting changes here. I'm very sad to lose that second trotting diagonal change of rein and to canter so early in the test. But there are also a lot of really friendly changes in the scoring to hopefully make up for that.

pdf of test sheet here
Phew, ok. You staying with me folks? Let's keep right on going and take a look at the Novice A test next.

The entry returns to using 10m half circles off the center line at C. Sad but not unexpected. These turns on and off the center line are legitimately the hardest turns you see in dressage below first level, and riders who treat them with respect will be rewarded with nice scores.

The test proceeds to a trot circle then change of rein. But lo! The change of rein is done via a two-loop serpentine instead of a diagonal! I LOVE this. It's one of the nicest chances in low level eventing for riders to demonstrate a series of changes of bend. Balance and accuracy will be key here, and riders could treat it kinda like stacked 20m half circles slightly flattening at X.

Then the next trot circle, followed by a full walking tour. And again, the medium walk is scored separately from the free walk. The test is even explicit on where the rider should develop the medium. I remember from auditing Janet Foy a couple years ago that she instructed transitions in gaits be completed before the horse's shoulders reach the letter. As indicated in this test.

Then we're off trotting again to prepare for all the canter. I like this test's progression from trot to walk to canter - seems like it might have really pleasant pacing. We have the same half circles to develop canter as N riders should already know, and in this test all canter circles are at B. Plus there's another trotting diagonal change of rein between canters - which you know I love.

Then it's down to trot, and up the center line before the final halt. Not unlike the old (and new) BN-A. That part's a little harder for a big strong horse like Charlie who struggles a little bit in the downward transitions from canter. Getting him balanced in trot so quickly from B to F, and then turning immediately up center line at C will require.... some riding haha.

Really tho, this test excites me. I love the serpentine -- it's a friendly lead up to those E to B turns that are still in the new Novice B tests (that test's main change, as far as I can tell, being the inclusion of a stretchy trot circle. tricky tricky! but at least there appears to be a good set up for it).

so eager to do this again!
Obviously I won't really know how any of it goes until I've ridden the tests haha. All is well and good on paper until you actually string it all together, right? From what I can tell, tho, these are inviting tests that set the rider up well enough to demonstrate a reasonable degree of training for the level.

What do you think? Have you looked at any of the tests yet? Any plans to ride the two above, or others that I haven't discussed? Do you think the new versions are improvements on the old? Or are they worse? Or something in between?

Do you think these tests will make low level eventing even more of a dressage show than it's already perceived to be? Or do you think they'll help level the playing field a bit more?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

charlie attends "take your dad bod to work" day + impresses all the ladies!

Meaning, Charlie went to his first true lesson since having surgery to remove a broken fragment of his splint bone six and a half weeks ago. We went to dressage trainer C's farm TM for a lesson focused on "dressage as physical therapy."

the big guy is back to work! he actually broke a sweat for the first time since before surgery lol
Trainer C was thrilled to see Charlie's current physical condition too. As I've mentioned previously, Charlie put on quite a bit of weight during his confinement to stall rest. We purposefully never cut his feed despite the drastic cut in exercise, and Charlie acquiesced in packing on some bulk.

also his first trailer ride since coming home from the hospital. he had been a hot goddamn mess on the way back from new bolton - weaving like crazy in the trailer the entire time and was covered in a thick white full body foam. so.... i was a little nervous about how he would be in the trailer for this lesson. verdict? homeboy was FINE. phew!
Mostly in the form of a hay belly haha, but also just general fullness throughout his hind quarters and neck. Naturally he lost a lot of muscle at the same time but that's ok. We can rebuild that. And frankly he looks the best he's looked since I brought him home.

practicing our longitudinal suppleness via halts and downward transitions
The hope, therefore, is to work to keep this weight on him even as he returns to normal turnout and working conditions as winter sets in. So far, so good on that note. Even just in the last few weeks of getting back to using himself in a more "dressage" kind of way, Charlie's slowly transitioning from his "dad bod" to having "dat bod," lol. Again, I'm happy haha.

trying like hell to get that weakest-link right hind to play along
Anyway. Body condition tangent aside, let's get back to talking about the lesson. There's no media from the lesson itself, but Brita was kind enough to capture some moments from our ride the day prior. So you can enjoy those fairly representative shots of how we go right now while I talk about trainer C's thoughts on moving forward.

the stall rest set us back in bringing that leg up to spec, but he's trying! getting him stronger will only help.
It was essentially a very basic lesson, wherein we focused exclusively on the most fundamental aspects of walk and trot. But we worked our tails off for sure!

aw but i love how good he's been lately
It can be boiled down to three main topics:

-   Charlie has effectively baited me into overriding the right side. #shocking
-   There's more to 'leg yielding' than I've taken advantage of
-   Square turns are our friends, particularly when tracking right

more downward transitions, in preparation for another immediate upward transition
Let's start with the leg yields, shall we? I told trainer C about my idea of essentially "restarting" Charlie on the flat during this rehab period and she was 100% on board. She asked if I had been doing much lateral stuff in the process.

and CANTER OMG!!!!! yay charlie!!!!
Which.... honestly I've wanted to but haven't had much luck, mostly bc we've been doing a lot of our riding in a crowded indoor with jumps and wayward lesson ponies scattered everywhere. We've done the occasional leg yield from quarter line to rail in most of our rides when possible, but not much more than that.

he actually really likes playing with walk-to-canter transitions and feels so pleased with himself after doing one
C wanted to up the ante a little bit. Especially since we're limited in intensity and fitness, drilling into more complicated walk movements was a good focus. Her idea was that I should leg yield Charlie along the walls. Instead of going quarter line to rail or vice versa, with Charlie's body more or less parallel to the wall but his direction of travel on a diagonal, she wanted Charlie's line of travel parallel to the wall and his body on a diagonal.

actually all he really wants to do right now is canter lol. which is great bc it means he feels good and is eager to go go go. physically we're still keeping it light tho, but soon!
Meaning, at the walk:

- Either his haunches in toward the middle, with his chest facing the wall at about a 45* angle, while I needed to also be very clear in facing the wall and staying straight in my body, and keeping my outside leg on and hands carried up and slightly to the outside.

- Or his shoulder in toward the middle, with his haunches traveling down the wall at about a 45* angle. Same concepts of rider straightness applied.

i'm not sure how clear this diagram is, but it essentially shows how we rode this exercise while staying more or less on a circle. just aiming for a couple clear steps along each long side before turning to come back around again.
This exercise should not be confused with "shoulder in" or "haunches in" -- rather we're definitely looking for straightness in Charlie's body and four distinct tracks. Which, honestly we can only really get a step or two at a time right now. Which is fine. It's also much easier to achieve when the haunches are in and his chest is facing the wall.

omg so excited about ground poles tho lol. look at this chunky monkey sit down and attack the pole!
In both cases tho, I need to remember to think about cutting my corner early and putting Charlie squarely on a diagonal line (either toward or away from the rail), but then holding that straightness while pushing him down the rail instead of traveling across the diagonal. The idea here is to start parsing Charlie's various body parts out so that he can learn to move each quarter a little more independently.

and compare to a similar stance from last march - where not only was he much skinnier, but also wasn't really sitting or pushing himself in the same way he does now. i like the progression!
Naturally this was pretty tricky work, but I suspect that once Charlie understands it as more of a "game" it'll be easier to reproduce. I'm excited to practice more of it tho! Once we solidify the concepts at walk, we'll introduce it again at trot.

eeeeeeeee he's gotten soooo much beeeefier now tho!!!
The other big concept: Square turns at trot. This isn't anything new to most of you, but is basically all about moving Charlie's shoulders fully around each corner using just my outside aids, and without him drifting out to the rail. (we aimed to work on the inside track for all of this - always staying 3-5 feet off the rail to ensure I was responsible for our straightness on the outside aids instead of the rail).

Ideally each turn (as in, the 90* turn from short end up to the long side) should be accomplished in about four trot steps. My inclination was to kinda quit a stride early before Charlie's shoulders were fully on our new straight line (these 'square turns' being essentially the juncture of putting two straight lines together) and let him sorta drift the rest of the way.

happy man back at the trailer post-lesson
This is where my habit of over riding the right side was most glaringly obvious -- especially tracking right when I had a REALLY hard time pushing his shoulders around the square turns with my outside (left) aids. I want to pull my inside/right hand way out and to the inside, and bring the outside/left hand pushing up against his neck and over his wither. When in reality, I should be a bit opposite in my hand carriage.

also happy to come in from the field for treats, snuggles and rides
I also need to keep my outside leg more down under me, instead of letting it get stuck curled up behind me. Really tho, the big theme is straightness on the outside aids. I'm ok on the right side, sorta. But when my left side is on the outside it's one big struggle bus. Tho, ironically, trainer C likes his trot to the right better than his trot to the left right now haha. Go figure.

tucked in for the night in his surprisingly cozy stall
Hopefully all this work will help in my overarching goal of creating a more supple, limber Charlie who is capable of carrying each of his body parts independently. It should also help in ultimately getting him more and more engaged through his hind end. Which is much needed at this point bc he lost a lot of strength particularly in his right hind, always our problem child.

Charlie's got all kinds of hind end baggage and wonkery from getting sandwiched between two horses during one of his races, according to his race trainer. Plus that whole "being long as a bus" thing naturally makes it that much trickier to bring the hind end up and under. But we already know from pre-surgery times that Charlie grows sounder and stronger with more work.

We've got another 2-3 weeks before Charlie will be cleared for lift off over fences, so until then we'll continue to re-introduce the canter and hopefully dial in more on some of this lateral work. And maybe some more ground pole work too just for funsies ;)

If one thing is certain tho, it's that Charlie really appears to be enjoying his work right now. Seems really happy to go out and do stuff. So hopefully we can keep him engaged and enthusiastic about the work as he gets more and more fit!

Monday, November 20, 2017

charlie's best bloopers

Happy Monday, everybody!

For those in the States, we're counting down the days until the Thanksgiving smorgasbord. And thank god for that haha.

Tho, naturally, it might also be the time we're feeling thankful for a little bit more than just mountains of gravy-soaked poultry. In which case, I'd like to take this opportunity to expand on the feelings of gratitude I expressed last week for my birthday.

This time around, I'd like to remember with happiness all those... other moments. Not necessarily our *best* moments, but the funnier, oopsie moments that naturally come along with the territory of pushing ever onward for better and more.

That's right: it's time for the blooper reel, folks. And it's a pretty good one! Charlie and I are that sorta partnership where there's seemingly endless source material for outtakes and goofs. In fact, we've got some examples for pretty much every month of our year-long+ partnership.

Naturally it's all annotated and captioned for your viewing pleasure. Recommended viewing with sound ON. ;)

While many of these clips have been featured previously on the blog, there are a few never-been-published moments in there too. Including an even better view of Charlie's infamous "free jumping" extravaganza (at approx. 0:30). You're welcome.

Should you also be inclined, here are also the blooper reels from the Isabel days, with videos from 2015 and 2014. Because funny moments of fail never get old!

Hope you all had a great weekend and are looking forward to all the approaching holidays with feelings of happiness, gratitude, and maybe a little mischief too!

Friday, November 17, 2017

more on those photos

I'm glad y'all liked Mr. Morris's take on my.... style in riding Charlie haha. It's unique, that's for sure!

Tranquility BN Stadium, June 2017
Honestly I'd been itching to do Jan's blog hop on the subject for actual weeks but had a hard time choosing exactly the right image for the purpose.

Tranquility BN Stadium, June 2017
Luckily (?), my favorite local show photographer GRC Photo had their annual Veterans Day sale so I snagged the 15 image digital package for 25% off, with proceeds donated to veterans wellness organizations.

Tranquility BN Stadium, June 2017
Knowing this sale would eventually roll around, over the course of the season I'd been squirreling a couple images from each show they photographed away in their "favorites" file on the site.

Tranquility BN Cross Country, June 2017
The company usually brings their trailer to Loch Moy shows, where they'll do an on-site special of every single image they took throughout the day on a thumbdrive for $99. My favorite deal ever and why I always have so many photographs from Loch Moy shows lol.

Fair Hill Intro Stadium, July 2017
For the shows without the trailer on-site, they can only offer more standard pricing packages. And as much of a media junkie that I admit to being... Well. Let's be real. Charlie and I aren't exactly the most photogenic pair.

Fair Hill Intro Stadium, July 2017
Especially over smaller fences where the horse just kinda looks ridiculous hurling his body over them.

Fair Hill Intro Stadium, July 2017
But also over relatively larger fences too where I'm certain to have made some pilot error or another en route to the jump haha. Plus typically I ride a little tighter than normal during competition just by nature of nerves and atmosphere.

Fair Hill Intro Cross Country, July 2017
So none of these photos really had me dying to click "buy" at full price. But I knew, just knew, that once the sale rolled around, I'd be happy to at least have a couple nicer shots of us out there doin our thang.

Fair Hill Intro Cross Country, July 2017
And honestly tho? Like, sure we're always our own worst critics when it comes to evaluating pictures of our own riding. I can look at every single one of these pictures and find a reason to cringe. Or, less harshly, objectively identify small adjustments I can make to eventually improve the entire picture.

Fair Hill BN Stadium, September 2017
Because I *do* study images of my riding. And I do learn from them.

But... I also just prefer having a picture that makes me wish I was a little better vs having no pictures at all. And of course Charlie is always easy on my eyes so that helps haha. So in my world, I choose to enjoy the photographs, imperfections and all.

Fair Hill BN Cross Country, September 2017
And as imperfect as many of these images are, mostly what I see is a happy and enthusiastic horse hiccuping along whatever path his rider sets for him. And even when I don't make it as easy on the horse as I could.... he seems more or less pretty cool with it.

Fair Hill BN Cross Country, July 2017
I've said it before and I'll say it again: The later half of this season was pretty tough for me and Charlie to find a consistent groove. Especially leading up to what proved to be our final outing of the season, Fair Hill in September, we had a decidedly less than ideal preparation in terms of schooling and fitness. And. Ya know. It showed haha.

But that doesn't (or shouldn't, at least) cloud my judgement beyond recognizing what an incredible season it really was for me from start to finish. Bc let's remember, last winter and early spring I had a hard time even imagining riding Charlie in all three phases, he was that green.

Fair Hill BN Cross Country, July 2017
But. We did it! And this horse is one hell of a ride :)

We've got a long few months of winter to survive (including the slow but steady rehab, and you'll never guess who did a few strides of CANTER this week omg!). But part of what keeps me going, keeps me focused and motivated, is looking back on all these pictures of what was without a doubt a FUN season of eventing.

So. Happy Friday, everyone! Hope those of you staring down the barrel of a long winter are also able to find ways to stoke that fire, or at least keep the bed of embers smoldering, even as we settle in for a period of relative quiet!