Monday, January 22, 2018

just the jumps, ma'am: Charlie does arena eventing!

Yesterday I wrote about the magical dielectric grease that helped get us back on the road. Obviously we needed more than just that, considering last we heard my truck had blown a brake line..... But we got that fixed too: with a full replacement kit of stainless steel lines all the way around. So, theoretically, corroded lines should be a thing of the past! Yay!

Perhaps it was all for the best too, since almost every circumstance of this planned outing has also improved: particularly, the weather! It was in the 50s!! And SUNNY! Ah, paradise!

The long and short of the story is: Brita and I took our horses to Loch Moy's Cross Derby held on their all-weather arenas. They pull all their cross country jumps into three giant arenas to create fun and challenging courses. Each level has about an hour to school whatever they want before their rides begin.

sorry but there are exactly zero photographs of us actually jumping. but the shadows from my helmet cam video (below!!) are pretty fun to watch haha
I opted to school with the Novice riders so that Brita and I could ride together (I entered BN), tho we kinda biffed the timing anyway. By the time we were saddled and mounting up, we had about 30min left in the schooling break.

Next time we'll plan to be on and already warmed up on the flat (the warm up area they use for stadium at horse trials was available for the derby too) when the arenas open for schooling. This way we'll have enough time to do everything we want (like schooling a level above our competition height) without feeling rushed for time.

is this the face of an excited event horse?!?!?
As it was, I actually scratched my timed ride anyway to just focus on schooling as my and Charlie's main event, for reasons I'll describe more below. But had we continued, the derby format is: begin trotting or cantering around one arena with a start similar to a stadium round, they blow the whistle and the clock runs when you cross the start line.

The course winds through each arena (with some very creative and fun pathways between!) with a focus on optimum time. All penalties are converted into time, and circling on course is allowed. Stadium fences are intermixed in the course - particularly in challenging spots like after a more galloping style fence or combination, or after a downhill or uphill between arenas. The objective is to hit the optimum time dead on - any time over or under is converted to penalties.

Anyway tho, let's talk about the schooling since that's what Charlie and I did for the day!!

this is the face of an excited event rider tho!! lol.... and if you compare this pre-ride selfie to one from about two years ago, the differences are pretty stark. if that 2016 selfie was an omen of the season to come, let's hope my happier more relaxed expression here is likewise a harbinger for 2018!
This was Charlie's first real outing since Fair Hill in September. It's been almost as long since he's had a serious jump school outdoors. We had one jump lesson outside since Charlie's surgery, but it was very light and kinda messy anyway. I also lightly schooled him over fences myself once around Christmas. But we've been indoors ever since.

Needless to say, we're both a little rusty! So I went into the day fully prepared to focus on the schooling above all else. And the schooling was GREAT. I'm SO PROUD of Charlie, he is just such a great horse for me <3

naturally, we couldn't go on adventures without our buddies!!!
So let's dig into some details, starting with what went well:

1) None of these jumps were remotely scary to me. In fact my nerves were shockingly settled, despite panicking slightly when ride times were announced.... But I studied the course maps in advance, knew which jumps were where, and which elements of the course were likeliest to challenge us. So by the time Charlie and I walked into those arenas, I felt confident and prepared.

While we didn't do ditches, banks or water during the schooling, I feel confident in saying there's nothing at BN that isn't within our ability. We still have lessons to learn, pieces to smooth out. But we can do it. Charlie continues to feel bold and uncomplicated at this level.

just under one year ago, charlie overlooked this very scene mostly as a spectator. on this day? he was a full fledged participant. yessssss <3
2) On a related note, I've spent a LOT of time visualizing improvements in my position: hands more forward, shorter reins. This, I've come to believe, is the secret sauce in getting more comfortable and in sync with Charlie over fences. When my hands are farther forward (with shorter reins plz!), it's 1000% easier to see the more forward going long spot, and to actually go with Charlie from said distance.

Even without photographic evidence, I'm proclaiming this ride a win. Sure, there were still moments when I stayed in the back seat and slipped my reins at funky distances... But more often than not, I felt more in sync with Charlie and like I could ride his jump more smoothly and effectively.

it helps that he has great role models!!
3) Another thing that went well was introducing Charlie to new styles of fences, and larger variations of some styles he's seen before. Specifically, we jumped our first corner, skinny chevron, true table, and log oxer during this ride. He also jumped a bigger faux brush style fence than he's previously seen. None posed an issue.

And 4) Both horses were extremely cool customers about the atmosphere, despite neither having traveled much in months. They were excellent coming off the trailer and getting speed-tacked to hurry off to school. Excellent for the riding itself. And excellent chillin at the trailer afterward.

They're just good, reliable horses, and it's so reassuring to both me and Brita to feel like we can count on them.

fun things we jumped included this little stick horse in the pathway through the parking lot between arenas
On the flip side of the coin, let's also talk about what needs work after this ride. There are really two main biggies here, that are both kinda related to each other.

1) I need to get more comfortable riding Charlie up in front of my leg in a forward canter, and Charlie needs to get more reliable in the brakes department. He's not bad or naughty about braking... just... green, like he doesn't always understand what I want. Or also like he's not strong enough to take a half halt to shift his balance back while still staying up in front of my leg.

turns out that mini stadium corner we schooled a few weeks ago was perfect prep for an actual real BN mini corner!
Meanwhile, bc I'm uncertain about being able to stop him or slow him down, I end up riding him too under paced. Case in point: That related line from log oxer to log coop rode in a long 3 our first time through, then felt we needed to gallop to get the 3. But when I walked it later in the day? It walked in exactly 48'. Like, on the dot.

That is not a long distance for Charlie, unless I'm riding him too compressed. I need to ride him forward, need to keep my leg on, need to put him in front of my leg. Need need need.

BN tables likewise posed no issue for Sir
The main struggle here is trusting that the brakes work. I got better as the ride progressed about keeping my leg ON even if I felt like we were going too fast, and we subsequently got a lot of really nice jumps jumped from a forward stride (particularly the table rode very well for us, esp when I steered haha....).

However we typically did not land in the same balance we jumped from, and thus recovery on landing took too long.

this log oxer was deceptively chunky - one of the biggest we jumped for the day. and in a related line, too. twas nbd tho.
Which brings us to the other part of our ride that needs work: 2) Basically everything between the jumps haha. Because we aren't recovering very quickly from jumps taken on a forward stride, the turns on this course proved incredibly challenging for us. Elements like stadium jumps placed soon after xc jumps that wanted that bigger forward canter would also suffer from this issue.

Ultimately that's why I scratched my timed ride: the individual elements posed no issue. Rough around the edges, sure, but totally fine. Better than fine, honestly. Considering Charlie hasn't had a normal jump school in months, and we haven't jumped many BN sized things recently either.... Considering all that, I'm pretty fucking pleased with how easy this was for Charlie.

the water was too ice-filled for any real schooling, unfortunately. served as a good mid-ride drink break tho!
But we actually aren't at present able to string it all together in one go. At least, not in a manner that I felt was productive given Charlie's current level of schooling / fitness. We need a reliable half halt. We need to be strong and balanced enough in our more forward canter that we can land in balance too. I.e., shorter recovery times after fences, especially when we take a longer spot.

A lot of this falls to me, in being able to hold my position no matter what, or recover my seat and reins more quickly to really sit down on Charlie and half halt on landing. Some of it is just Charlie's strength and schooling tho. It's hard work to hold himself up in balance on a longer stride -- falling flat and on the forehand is so much easier! Just needs more practice, tho!

look at all that ice.... it's more ice than when we were here last year in below freezing weather. on this day tho? it was 50s and sunny. perfection!
Which, incidentally, the practice imho is just as fun as the actual competitions when done right! And this arena eventing stuff... wow it was actually SO FUN! It's a whole different feeling jumping these cross country fences on flat, well groomed surfaces. And the venue organizers took advantage of this by using their biggest, widest and most fun fences for each level.

skinny chevron roll top! this was also a pretty substantial jump, with a face just over 4' wide (i measured). technically seeing this jump on a BN course strikes me as 'course creep' ... but whatevskis, charlie didn't hesitate!
We started in the upper most arena that's typically used for stadium at the venue's horse trials. The jumps in there were mostly stadium fences tho (which I skipped) with only two BN xc fences. Both of which were kinda small and straight forward. Good for warming up, then we moved on.

There's a ditch built into the path from that first arena to the largest middle arena (typically where they put the dressage rings and the intro/elem stadium course). But that ditch was in a trakehner for the PM / T courses so it's saved for another day.

fun brush jump!! charlie's seen the starter version of this jump but finally got to tackle it at bn height!
The middle arena had the biggest and most fun jumps, as far as I was concerned, and we spent the most time here. The atmosphere was also the most challenging for Charlie since you can see basically the entire property from this arena, and it had the most horses in it. We experienced a few episodes of running sideways (which you can totally tell in the video lol), and Charlie had a harder time settling even during walk breaks.

He was really very very good, tho, and legitimately did every single thing I asked of him. And even when some of our fences were kinda awkward the first time, he was able to come back around and smooth it out on the second try. And we only almost ran into other horses a couple of times. Not too bad!

definitely a super fun video, esp if you're watching the shadows too lol

The third lower ring saw Charlie become his most settled. It's a quieter arena with its low lying position limiting visual distractions. Plus, most of the jumps in this space had right handed approaches. Charlie continues to be a little more reliable jumping from his right lead, and a little more explosive on the left haha. Nbd, tho.

post ride snax!!!
After schooling the BN jumps in this third ring, the schooling period was ending so I opted to try one last pass over the most challenging portion in the middle ring: long gallop to the corner, long gallop to the table, to a super sharp left handed turn to the related line (which would have then taken another sharp right turn to a stadium oxer, but I skipped all the stadium jumps).

Everything honestly went pretty smoothly, Charlie met all the jumps great, but we still weren't quite able to make that left turn from the table to the line. Ah well, in time!

austen snapped this shot of charlie looking like an absolute hunk at the trailer (with ubiquitous sugarloaf mountain in the background!). also looking like he was feeling like a macho studly hunk too, lol. 
That's also not really a turn I expect to see often on more traditional courses, so it doesn't worry me. Plus Charlie has an automatic lead change in there somewhere, even if he seems to have forgotten about it during his rehab. Once that's back in working order, left turns will become easier on this horse who almost always lands right.

And I'm fairly positive we could have pushed through and made it happen if we needed to.... But for my purposes I preferred just doing individual elements as well as possible, rather than pressing on in a rushed or sloppy fashion. Trying to develop correct habits here! Or something like that, lol!

best part of a great day of riding? chillin out at the trailers with friends afterward, with sandwiches and a beer
Honestly my only regret from not doing the full course in my timed ride was that I didn't get any pictures. Sigh. Makes my inner media junkie sad. That's ok, tho. We'll get pictures next time, bc as far as I'm concerned, Charlie got exactly what he needed from the schooling! And it's only whet my appetite for moar fun things!!!!

Plus he got to hang out a bit longer just chillin in the atmosphere while we watched Brita do her ride (which she slayed, btw). And then we all hung out at the trailer afterward, tail gating and soaking up the sun and warm weather. What's not to love, right?

39 comments:

  1. It sounds like just the day you needed.

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    1. We love going out and doing all the things ;)

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  2. So much to say! 1) Yay for working brakes and electric connections! 2) The cross country derby sounds AMAZING. What a cool way to get out and get mileage over solid fences. You live in such a great region for cool stuff like that. 3) I really love how you handle things with Charlie and how willing you are to scratch and focus on something else when things don't feel right.

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    1. This derby format is SUPER fun, and super low key. Sometimes I worry that I'm unnecessarily conservative or careful when I make choices like skipping the timed ride above... But so far it seems to be working out pretty well for Charlie. He really is always paying attention and always learning, even when we keep it light or low key.

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  3. Charlie is looking great! I have a friend up there that always takes her students to those derbies and the videos make them look super fun.

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    1. I really couldn't have been happier with how Charlie went for this schooling. Still obvi a lot to work on lol but it's coming! And these derbies are great - there were a lot of students and school horses there this time too, which I hadn't expected but it makes total sense. It's a great way to get safe and fun xc mileage in enclosed arenas

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  4. just came here to say omg, look how fat he is, im so jealous. less so the ween hangin out but i guess when you feel good, you feel good! im also really jealous of bella she is GORGEOUS and looks so fun to jump.

    love the little BN corner! im hoping my farm goes to loch moy in march again. ive been practicing the trailer driving in the vain hope i can take myself there...

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    1. you should definitely come to loch moy this year! i feel like we go constantly, and brita and i were talking about it a little while ago like "are we tired of it here? should we be trying to go to other places instead?" but.... no, i honestly don't think we'll ever get tired of it haha. and they have such fun jumps that are always in new and interesting positions!

      also yea, charlie has gotten so chunky lately, i love it. bella too - she's come such a long way with brita it's insane. she is NOT an easy horse to ride (i could never ride her, wayyyy too handsy over here) but brita makes it look easy.

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    2. yeah i think thats the testament of a good rider - taking a challenging horse and making them look REALLY fun and easy

      she just looks so sproingy!!

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    3. seriously! like, i knew what brita could do with a horse just based on seeing what she did for wick (and getting to ride him at the very beginning and very end of her lease with him)... but bella like, could not be more different than wick in literally every dimension. brita had to do soooo much trust building and confidence building with this mare in the beginning bc she would just rush at everything (including bouncing one stride grids).... and now the jumping is just so easy for them! dressage.... is still a challenge lol. but ya know. that's horses haha

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  5. ohhh so much fun. I am seriously going to come watch you all in Feb and MAYBE OH MAYBE Bring Remus one of the next ones? I did the math and it would be a haul but I could do it. Maybe?? It looks like so MUCH fun.....and i love that you can school first. I may be jumping up and down in my seat here writing this :) LOL glad Charles behaved (except for not stopping HA) and I am sure next time he and you will be ready. I mean that is a LONGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG break from jump schools outside if you think about it. YAY CHARLES IN CHARGE!!

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    1. ha yea he was really pretty awesome, esp considering how long it's been since he's really gotten to practice any of this stuff. i mean, realistically, the horse has only done two BNs and schooled BN xc *once* outside of events. it seems like it should be so much more than that, but.... that's honestly it. and yet it's easy peasy.

      you and Remus should definitely come too! it is a long distance but the venue is SO PRETTY and so fun!! and so many fun things to jump! plus usually there's water to play with (if it's not ice filled lol)

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    2. yes it looks like they have several so i think i would drive down to cheer you guys on hopefully at the next one then sign up for one of the later ones. I have to see before i drive anywhere with the trailer and my beast :) HA....but it would be so cool to try something different like that (we have the cross derby up here but this looks like a lot more challenging questions)!

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    3. they have derbies in february and march, and then in december too. i think what makes these derbies special and different from fair hill, for example, is the arena aspect. i was surprised at how different it felt schooling xc in an arena! and i liked it!! but yea i'll keep you posted about plans for going again!

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    4. yes i was kind of thinking maybe trying the March one if i can get to the feb one to watch :) just neat to try different things and i may just do what you do and school! :)

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    5. yea i mean, the derby entry fee is only like $15 more than just plain schooling at the venue. and you get the added bonus of getting to practice in a competition type atmosphere (tho way fewer horses as a normal horse trial).

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  6. Ummm, that looks like an absolute blast! They have some derby crosses in Aiken (about 2.5 hours from me), but that's more of a mix of SJ/XC. I want to try arena XC!

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    1. yea this was a derby too - a mix of SJ and XC. i wrote a little bit about it above (and you can see all the SJ jumps in the video....) but i skipped the SJ jumps for myself this ride. they're there tho, and in pretty challenging places too!

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  7. This is so so so great. First off, that venue sounds amazing and what a fun competition. I wish we had arena eventing around here! Secondly, to be able to do it in January!!
    Charlie sounds like a magical unicorn. What a good boy!! You can tell he is enjoying this as much as you are :)

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    1. we were so spoiled with winter last year, but this winter has already been so intense and icy that i honestly wasn't holding out a lot of hope for getting to do this. but yet, the weather broke just in time!!! bc yea this type of competition is so fun. the venue is open for schooling on the all weather rings through march too!

      and charlie is just... ahh such a good boy! i'm so glad he likes this stuff and seems to want to do it!

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  8. YES! Fun times and definitely a good plan for just doing the schooling. Baby steps are always a better plan in the end!

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    1. yep - we all had a BLAST while schooling, and as far as Charlie's concerned he went out there and showed all those jumps who was boss. i already know that he can blast through a full course (hey, it's basically all we did last year lol) but he's still gotta learn that it isn't actually a race!

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  9. That's really cool they hold something like this and you were able to go out there and do it! Fun times!

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    1. it was super cool - and super fun! i didn't write it above, but in thinking more about it, i think this was legitimately the most fun, and maybe even honestly the first *fun* (ie, i wasn't feeling sick or crippled with nerves) cross schooling i've done in... years. wow. crazy, but i think true.

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  10. Of course he thinks he's a hunk - he's absolutely rockin' that Dad Bod! You guys looked awesome! (yes only from helmet cam but still!) He looked confident and uncomplicated as you said, which is super for your first outing in a while. So glad you guys had a blast!

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    1. thanks! i'm seriously pumped by how good he felt. i had to rewatch all these older videos of our cross country riding just to remind myself that it would be ok, that he would be fine. and then he totally was fine! i like it <3

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  11. That looks so fun!!! And I saw that pic and immediately thought, "Wow, what a hunk!" And then I read the caption haha

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    1. lol yea.... he's a hunk alright! haha.... but yea, such a fun day!

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  12. What a fun outing!! Glad you got the trailer working just in time.

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    1. yea luckily the trailer didn't ever really *not* work, but the arctic temperatures a few weeks ago complicated an already loose connection.

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  13. Hell yes to settled nerves and feeling confident! Charlie looks GREAT.

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  14. What a fun event! You guys make it look easy :D

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    1. aw thanks! i still can't really believe it sometimes, but so far charlie just cruises. he just does the things. i feel very lucky haha

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  15. Charlie looks INCREDIBLE! So glad you guys had a fun outing. What a nice way to knock the rust off. Hopefully, I'll see you guys there this year:)

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    1. i hope so too!! my friends and i have been working on keeping the list of potential events on the page above updated -- definitely let me know if you see anything on that list that you're thinking about too. OR, if there's something that *isn't* on the list that you think we should be considering!

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  16. He was totes flirting with me, what a dude. 😂 So happy to have gotten to hang out, and so sad I wasn't there to get action shots. Soon, though! I know we're gonna have lots of opportunities for photos this year! 💗

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    1. i hope so!! hoping for lots and lots of fun stuff this year!

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  17. It's still so frozen here, though we may have a bit of a thaw for the weekend. I've gotten back on da Birb (who is sound and solid and yadda yadda yadda) for several relaxed walk-jog rides. We're rebuilding strength and stability, which is boring but also about all we can do because the ground is alternately rutted/frozen or slick mud. :( Winter, I do not love it.

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