Thursday, May 31, 2018

Charlie's 1st Novice: Cross Country!

Okie dokey. When last we saw our hero, he had just finished his stadium jumping survivalist-style and gotten hosed down again before heading into cross country warm up. The heat was intense, but luckily I was still feeling pretty ok.

charlie was cruisin this time out <3 pc GRC Photo
Tho, uh... somewhat hilariously I had not packed clothing appropriate for the weather, having planned on wearing long sleeves (again - I was expecting downpour conditions...).

Luckily the Loch Moy shop had a techy material white t-shirt for sale, and I kept my white pants on too instead of changing like normal bc... yea the idea of peeling off one sweaty layer just to pull on another was unthinkable. Plus the all-white outfit seemed most likely to reflect as much heat as possible. I'll just think about all that laundry some other time lol.....

feelin laid back in the warm up ring too! thanks Meredith for the pictures!!
Anyway, all that was left for us to do was squeak through a minimalist warm up then head to the start box.

Charlie trotted the BN hanging log thing kinda heinously, then came around and cantered the N coop fine enough. Not like, fantastic amazing or whatever. But. Good enough.

I kept an eye on the start box since at our last event we ended up circling it for a few minutes and Charlie became increasingly antsy. So this time I tried to measure it better such that we were cleared to start basically upon arriving at the box.


course meta data from my walk
The course ahead of us looked pretty reasonable imo. It had all hallmarks of novice cross country: ditches, banks, water and a combination. Plus plenty of full sized fences.

I think the jumps this course were bigger than when I last did the level with Isabel. But perhaps the technicality this time around was a little softer? I think the organizers set the course expecting rain too, honestly.

I used my altitude profile app during the course walk to measure the elevation profile and was pleased to see that it was basically entirely uphill. And the hill was about the same size as what we've been practicing in our conditioning rides lately. So I expected Charlie to be fit enough for it, but also expected it to help take the edge off if needed.

jump 1 was a simple log roll top
Charlie was the best he's ever been leaving the start box at this event. Just up and cantered away - no stickiness, no sourness. No pinned ears at being driven forward. Just.... picked up his canter and went! I mean, it helped that we were headed directly for the trailers, but I was pleased!

this is my "oh man, here we go again!" face. pc GRC
We still met jump 1 a little funny tho, and I immediately had this sinking feeling of dread like, I really did not want a repeat of our last cross country run....

hanging log for 2, so far 2 for 2 on jumps i did with isabel
I wanted the horse I had at Shawan Downs: taking leg and a purposefully forward ride to the fences, rather than any running flat and behind the leg. Bc again, with the heat there was no way either of us were gonna survive that kind of pulling match across ~1.6km uphill haha.

much better over jump 2!! pc GRC
Luckily tho, I put my leg on and saw my stride to fence 2, and Charlie met it nicely.

ditto the ark at 3
I knew fence three could be problematic tho bc the track made a little loop on itself here - turning away from the trailers and back the way we came. I expected Charlie to get fussy and behind my leg, and he happily obliged lol.

it wouldn't be an emma + charlie xc round without at least one #awkward jump right?? pc GRC
You can actually see the point in the helmet cam where he swung his brontosaurus neck up, with ears pinned, and looked back at me in the saddle like, "bring it on, lady!" Luckily tho the attitude was gone in a flash, and he kept on cantering to the jump.

He was still behind my leg tho so we still jumped it pretty badly, kinda crawling over it with Charlie getting a solid whack to his hind legs on the fence....

simple roll top going downhill away from the trailers
We had a little more of the same feeling to jump 4, a small fence that Charlie had no respect for and kinda just crawled over. After which I got a little more serious about "Forward Plz!" with a little backup with the crop behind my leg.

unassuming ditch that i believe was originally intended to have a combination, but the second jumps were unflagged
Apparently that was all the encouragement Charlie needed, bc as we turned the corner into a new field toward the small ditch, Charlie settled into a really fucking lovely gear. Hopped over the ditch directly out of stride without a glance and was easily maneuverable between some other fences on our track.

just cantering around like the handsomest horse in town <3. pc Austen Gage
Actually - you'll see them in the helmet cam, but I'm pretty sure those other jumps were originally intended to be B elements for the ditches. One of them definitely had to be N, too. Not sure why they didn't end up flagged on course, but maybe bc the organizers were worried conditions would get too nasty in the expected rain? In retrospect I wish I had paid more attention during my walk to see if I should have jumped one of them anyway, but oh well. Next time!

steep rise to the steeplechase jumps
In any case, Charlie felt great. We turned up to a small steep rise in the ground to a line of steeplechase jumps, and I reminded myself to just stay committed to the forward feel.

looked fine tho. which is funny bc at my second ever BN a near-identical jump scared the bejesus out of me...
Specifically, I reminded myself of the definition of steeplechase. Meaning: this is a fence that's designed to be jumped at speed. Inviting profile, forgiving brush. Just. Ya know. Have at it!

So.... We did haha. And Charlie jumped it beautifully!

maxed out N table was new to both of us
Same story to the table. Obviously this jump has a slightly more vertical face, but it's still asking for more ground cover vs more collection. I told myself to ride forward to it, to catch it out of a forward stride. And Charlie, bless his heart, had his head in the game and jumped it like the easiest thing in the world.

skinny-ish log table thingy
After that we had to weave through a few trees to meet this next jump - small in size, and also somewhat skinny. Didn't even realize it was on the narrower side during my walk haha.

"nbd tho" - charlie. pc Austen Gage
Just went cantering up to it like, "Hm, I guess it is skinny. Well, Emma, you better find the center!" Charlie didn't care tho, good boy!

slightly larger-than-expected up bank, certainly larger than the up bank izzy and i did here during our N...
Our intended track turned right immediately on landing to go up this bank, but I had other plans. Charlie's pretty honest to up banks, tho the non-committal feeling he gave me at Shawan Downs was still fresh enough that I opted to be conservative.

just in case, schooling the smaller bank izzy and i did in 2015. pc Austen Gage
On the left side of the above complex is a smaller bank, so we just looped around to jump that first so I could gauge Charlie's reaction and school if needed. He didn't even blink tho, so we circled around (somewhat awkwardly lol, Charlie's not used to circling so much on course!) and approached our flagged bank, which he also jumped easily out of stride.

he was also a star for the bigger bank, good boy! pc Austen Gage
This was the section where the jump judges had given us 20pts out of confusion. I should have hollered out "Schooling!" or something like that, but my overheated brain was operating on a single track at this point haha. Luckily tho I caught that error in enough time to lodge a formal inquiry and the penalty was lifted!

Bc yea, so long as you cross each of your flags in the correct direction and correct order, you can basically do whatever you want in between them - including other level-appropriate obstacles.

option for brush fence or corner. both seemed quite reasonable, tho the corner is slightly more technical maybe? idk, we did the corner
Anyway tho, like I said. Charlie felt great. So we just kept on going to the option fences dead ahead. I kinda wasn't really even sure which one to choose, honestly. The horse has jumped the BN version of both of them. And they're both pretttty similar in size.

charlie jumped it handily. pc Austen Gage
The corner was slightly more technical, except the way it was positioned maybe actually made it easier: stuck as it was directly between some tree trunks and another fence, the doors for a runout seemed firmly shut.

Regardless, tho, Charlie wasn't running out haha. He jumped it fan-fucking-tastically!

then it was redemption time at the boat lol
We came down to trot to dip our toes in the water on the way to our next jump, and actually I let Charlie walk in case he wanted a drink. He didn't tho, so we picked our canter back up and headed toward redemption at the boat.

The BN version of this jump was almost our undoing back in March, and I was determined to be better this time. Mission accomplished ;)

nice sized table going into the water, with a B element on the far side
We had another long cruise toward the second water, which I also intended to school. The idea being: Sure, Charlie could probably go immediately to the direct route and be fine. But. Eh. It's his first Novice and he's a thinking, learning horse. Every chance I can get to reinforce the game to him is worth taking.

a touch sticky over the table, but good. pc GRC
So we trotted across the water first before presenting to the A element of the fence (this schooling option I had actually already chatted with a jump judge about, so there was no confusion here). Charlie was still a little slow off the ground at the table, but gave it a clean effort.

a little sticky in the water too, but hey - look at me pushing the horse forward! pc GRC
I didn't really love how he felt through the water tho despite my clucking and urging, so I backed it up with another shoulder tap. Charlie got the message and maintained his momentum.

this looks a lot like what we schooled at Shawan Downs a couple weeks ago
The out jump was just another little log anyway, basically identical to the same question Charlie schooled at Shawan Downs. Only difference here was the banks were less steep and the line was longer - so there was less chance of us getting thrown off our line by a weird leap into the water.

easy log out, phew! pc GRC
Charlie was fine tho, obvi. If he can climb over that giant ark at jump 3, it would have taken an act of god to prevent him from getting over this small log lol! So he hopped over nbd. Lots of praise for being a good obedient boy through his first real grown up combination in competition!!

log table in the woods
We had an easy little cruise up a hill that looks exactly like the woods we do trot sets in, and then approached this jump, which Charlie's also seen the BN version. And wouldn't you know it, Charlie actually felt the least committed to this jump of anything on course - literally running sideways to the left actually trying to run out!

he had been too good already for me to let a stupid pilot error derail us! pc Austen Gage
He's not very subtle yet about that, tho, so I was able to try shutting that door early enough that even tho we met the jump very crookedly and at a weird angle, he still left the ground where he needed to and jumped it cleanly. Ok buddy, I'll take it.

and a log oxer in the woods
I was a little more assertive to the next jump - which meant a little less of that forward freedom I had been aiming for. So we got a deeper distance but nothing ugly. And the horse jumped it from the center. Yup, I'll take that too!

penultimate table thingy
Really all I needed to do was get the horse through the remaining two sets of flags and any serious pilot errors or penalties at this point felt downright unacceptable to me. No way, no how. We were finishing this thing, sir!

produce stand at the finish! izzy ate this fence for breakfast back in 2015, so charlie had big shoes to fill! 
So we loped over the penultimate fence, and then I saw a big stride to the final produce stand and gunned it haha. And Charlie soared, guys. Just flew over it! What a good boy!!

I pulled him up pretty quickly after crossing the lines and hopped off immediately. Trying to really instill in the horse that there's a distinct "end" to this type of activity and that it's replete with praise and rewards and an immediate shift of focus to his comfort.

you did it buddy!!!! <3 pc Austen Gage
He seemed just fine with that haha - standing like a statue while I fumbled with his flash strap and girth and stirrups in my woozy heat-addled state. Plus, from this vantage point we got to see Rachael coming in hot on my heels to cross the line too - having almost caught up to me while I was busy doing so much schooling on course lol.

so stupidly proud of him tho. pc Austen Gage
All in all, I was legitimately thrilled with Charlie's performance on course. This is the horse I know he can and will be: A good, honest, thinking horse who will let me ride him but can also be athletic enough to get us out of any tight or sticky spots.


I need to not get complacent with him tho and not take him for granted, bc the last thing I want him to learn is how to quit or say "no." He's still green and still 100% capable of making a mistake or exploring alternative options to jumping (like when he flirted with running out at 13). But if I'm present and proactive as a rider, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to keep him on the straight and narrow.

it all feels so much more exciting and fulfilling to share it with friends too <3 pc Austen Gage
This course was also night and day from our March run. Sure I was exhausted from the heat - but not really at all from the ride itself. Charlie wasn't at all strong or pulling (you can actually see my flopping curb rein at various points in the video!). He was game and balanced. I honestly think the bigger jumps might actually be easier for him. He pays more attention to them and uses his own eye and adjustability, rather than just flinging himself around.

bottles and cans, just clap yo hands ;)
So it feels good. Feels really good. This level will have plenty of challenges for us. But I think it's the right place for us, and I'm really really really excited to be working on it again, finally!

56 comments:

  1. I'm just so freaking happy for you. What a damn good horse. The photos of you afterward just looking so freaking proud are the best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks girl! He is such a good little beastie I have no idea how I got so lucky <3

      Delete
  2. That course looks so fun, and you guys did an awesome job! So excited for you! Good boy Charlie! What a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Such a fun course!! It would have been nice to get a shorter distance combination and I kinda wish I had paid enough attention to jump that fence after the ditch - but honestly Charlie just felt great, felt equal to anything we might have seen!

      Delete
    2. I guess it's good to wish you had tried. Always next time :)

      Delete
    3. definitely!!! i love the feeling of wishing we had done more, vs wishing we had quit while we were ahead haha

      Delete
  3. OMG OMG OMG! You guys did AWESOME! And Charlie - what a freaking hunk! He looks amazing over those bigger fences when he actually has to use himself. He's turning into an amazing boy! And for the record, that photo Austen took of you guys cantering and Charlie staring right at her is my new fav photo of the two of you together. I adore the expression on his face! He looks so athletic! I'm so so happy for you guys that this move up went so well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!! I love that photo too - it so perfectly captures exactly how he feels to ride lol! Such a good boy, I think he might have liked this course the best of all he’s done too! Can’t wait to hear about how things go for you guys this weekend too!!! :D

      Delete
    2. I'm so excited for this weekend. Hopefully it goes as well as your day did! :) And it needs to be said again - Sir Charles is the best!

      Delete
    3. aw haha thanks i think he's the best too!! i'm sure you guys will have a blast, esp if Duke's last event was any indication!! and hopefully you have cooler weather than we had lol ;)

      Delete
  4. YASSSSS I LOVE IT!!!! You guys KILLED IT out there!!! Sir Charles is LEGIT! <3 <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks girl!! The most legit - he finally feels like he both really understands this game and REALLY enjoys it!!! <3

      Delete
  5. YOU GUYS ARE SO CUTE I WANT TO MUSH HIM UP INTO HUMMUS AND EAT HIS SWEET LITTLE FACE AND IM SO PROUD AND HAPPY

    GO EMMA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw thanks haha! His sweet face, I die every time <3<3<3

      Delete
  6. CONGRATS!!! What a difference!! You two look amazing and like both of you are having a blast. Which is such a cool thing to see come through.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks!! I really do believe he’s enjoying himself too!! Maybe bc with this kind of “race” as far as he knows he wins every time??? Lol ;)

      Delete
  7. OMG, that was so much to ride with you. Well done. I love the photos- he's certainly grown into a very handsome hunk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks I’m so grateful for the pics and obvi couldn’t really help myself in posting literally all of them lol. He’s such a good boy and so much fun to ride!!

      Delete
  8. Yay Charlie! It's amazing how much progress he has made. Congrats!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it's pretty crazy to me too, honestly. like -- he went from awkward clumsy green bean to being a bonafide packer basically over the course of a winter. i love it!!

      Delete
  9. All the handsomeness and all the smiles - congrats Emma!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks haha - if only handsomeness were part of the score maybe we would have done better in the placings!! lol... seriously tho as far as i'm concerned he's a true blue winner ;)

      Delete
  10. So happy for you! Love that picture of you guys over #2!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks i love that one too!! and was very relieved to have that there bc it was reassuring after a futzy jump 1 and knowing jump 3 would be tricky, reassuring to know that maybe we'd be ok after all haha

      Delete
  11. Congrats on a great ride! You both look like you're having fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks!! :D we're definitely having a blast!

      Delete
  12. You guys look so awesome! :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. You and Charlie are just blowing me away this year!! I cannot even wait to see how far you two go!! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aw thank you! he keeps blowing me away too! i'm so excited about him, and love that he just keeps tackling every new challenge with so much gusto!

      Delete
  14. What a fantastic outing! He looks so proud of himself in the photos at the end, I love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ya know it's kinda funny - his race trainer told me that he doesn't really have a lot of heart, and that he lost a lot of races he should have won bc he kinda just eased up to stay with the pack. this may be anthropomorphizing, but i'm wondering if maybe esp going on these solo runs lets him feel like he really is winning each time? he definitely seems proud!!!

      Delete
    2. I think it's more that he can tell how proud and happy you are with him. <3 That horse loves you to bits, even when he dinos out in a tar pit sometimes.

      Delete
  15. Thrilled for you! Loving all the happy smiles :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love how the all white looks - so clean and crisp and professional. Charlie looks good too! The novice jumps are no big deal.

    It took me a minute to remember that they don't do time at those schooling shows... I was like how tf did she school all that and not have a million time faults. Duh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yep, not timed. and i take the spirit of "schooling" very seriously at these shows haha, bc hey, why not, right? saves me some cash on having to pay for separate schooling outings!!

      and yea i like the look of white too, but i *hate* the laundry. that outfit was definitely NOT clean and crisp by the end of the day lol!!

      Delete
  17. He looks SO HAPPY. Even with the heat it's obvious Charlie loves this job.

    Congrats on a great event! It sounds like it was a huge success!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you!! and actually, of our entire team charlie seemed to be the least affected by the heat! true story: he was barely breathing hard after our run and was bright and chipper for a while afterward before eventually taking a nap since we were still sitting around tailgating lol. i think all our trot sets in the muggy rainy woods got him much fitter than i expected!! also it helped that we were pretty slow across our track lol

      Delete
  18. Love the recap... what a great ride! Congrads to you for being such a great pilot, and not passing out in the heat!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha thanks!!! i was super super super relieved to honestly feel pretty good after my ride - i guess i've learned that lesson about heat mgmt the hard way enough times in the past to get it right this time when it counted! it definitely helped that charlie made it easy tho!!

      Delete
  19. I'm so happy you finally got back to this level, and that you're here with your own horse! I can't wait to see what this summer brings for you guys!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks <3 !! i swear novice has been like my white whale ever since breaking my leg.... but i'm so so so friggin happy to finally be back at it, and for it to feel so good and so appropriate for charlie. i'm eager to see what all comes this year too!

      Delete
  20. And now we go to Charlie with the 'jumping in the woods forecast':

    "I'M CANTERING SIDEWAYS!!"

    I DIE!

    You guys looked so amazing. I know there's always things to pick at, but I really appreciate how much you come away from each event loving the hell out of your horse and his efforts. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aw thanks girl <3 there's certainly plenty of him to love!! lol but yea, this is the part of the sport i maybe love the most - getting out there and making things happen and loving every moment, while also scheming about how to make it even better the next time. it's the best kind of puzzle lol!

      also yea that cantering sideways.... it's reel speshul lol. but hey, he picked up so that was good enough for this day!

      Delete
  21. You guys look amazing! Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love that in all your pictures you genuinely look like you're having so much fun. That is what it's all about!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. agreed 100%%. like, i have riding goals. competition goals. milestones i'd like to hit. but the underlying assumption in literally every single one of them is that i do it bc i love the horse and i love the challenge and that it all brings me immense joy ;)

      Delete
  23. OMG Yaaaaayyyyyy!!! You two look SO happy and SO thrilled to be out there!! It really looked like you two were having a blast out there, and I'm so glad you got to go to this show and complete your first novice with Sir Charles <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks!! it's been a long long long time in coming haha, i was originally working for his first N last november before his splint went to hell... so happy we finally made it happen tho!

      Delete
  24. YAY so fantastic!!! Love love love all the amazing media! WAY TO GO!

    <3 Kelly @ HunkyHano

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha thanks!!! i basically treat this space like a photo album, can't help myself!!

      Delete
  25. I didn't know that about XC -- that you can do other stuff in between as desired. I learned something new!

    ReplyDelete
  26. That first picture of you guys is probably my favorite picture of you two ever, I just LOVE it! Congrats on a good run!

    ReplyDelete