Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Charlie's 1st Novice: Dressage

So let's set the stage a little bit for Charlie's novice debut at the Maryland Horse Trial's Spring Starter #3: For the entire week leading up to the event, forecasts called ominously for violent thunderstorms. Starting Saturday night and rolling all through Sunday.

all photographs today are credited to the ever-talented Austen Gage. thank you so so so so much from the bottom of my heart for capturing so many moments of my beloved brontosaurus looking graceful <3
Those t-storms did in fact eventually materialize, and they were in fact quite violent with flash flooding and lightning. But.... the storms were slower moving than anybody anticipated and didn't show up until Sunday evening.

Meaning the conditions ahead of the storm were of the brutally humid and obscenely oppressive variety. Honestly, basically heat stroke conditions. Plus strong sun.

dis my "future elegant horse." the future tho, guys. it's coming!
This was obviously.... not ideal lol. And it struck me as kinda funny that when Charlie was at Loch Moy back in March, the dressage rings were frozen solid and snow was still littering the xc course. And this time it was the polar opposite - hot hot hot. Luckily tho the ground was actually quite good thanks to recent rain.

i'm also moderately obsessed with his abundant mane and tail haha
And actually - lots of things were quite good. It was a great day. I'm just dwelling a little bit on the weather bc I tend to be pretty susceptible to heat stroke and therefore made a lot of decisions throughout our rides that had more to do with keeping me from getting sick than they had to do with getting the best possible tune out of Charlie.

ok this is a screen shot - the only one in the post. but i couldn't help myself, looooookie at what a good boy he is!!
Which is fine, right? Priorities and all that. An advantage to those circumstances were that I was so focused on not getting sick that I didn't have time to be stressed or worried about our rides. Basically I just shrugged like, "Well I know we've done our homework. I know we're prepared. So now we're just gonna go on ahead and do the thing!"

And so we did! So let's get on with it, shall we??

finally entered the ring, and just getting right down to work
Ahem, anyway. Dressage!! Brita had gone earlier in the day (putting in a really nice test for them that showed off all of Brita's hard work at smoothing out their transitions) then we three riders plus Austen hustled out to walk our xc courses before Rachael's and my dressage rides (which were at basically the exact same time in side by side rings lol).

it's becoming very clear that he's really figuring out this new balance
Suffice it to say, by the time I swung a leg over into the saddle, I was already pouring sweat. Basically all the riders were wearing as few garments as possible - all techy type white shirts and white pants, with few stock ties or jackets to be seen. I had planned on wearing my jacket bc I had expected rain. But... ya know. Adapt, evolve, overcome, right? My Smartpak sunshield shirt was good enough tho with the sleeves rolled up.

a nice walk with bonus luscious tail
Charlie, for his part, felt quite good. My new warm up strategy is to just walk for a while, per our usual habit, but then go pretty much immediately to canter instead of trot. He's always better after a canter, as it helps open his back and get him in front of my leg, instead of fussing and nagging at the trot.

more trotting bc he's still just the best boy
This worked out super well, but I think I maybe still used up our best work in the warm up. After a brief walk break, when we picked back up again he was kinda just ready to canter always and forever, and started kinda dragging me around. Whoops.

i could ride this canter forever, even if i still don't show it off well to the judge
That trend carried on as we made our way into the ring for our test too. We had a little too much "pull" forward and not quite enough "push" or balance. This showed up especially in our turn off the center line, all of our corners, and any straight lines.

still so much more work to do, forever and ever. but the pieces are there
The circles themselves were ok in that they helped me bring Charlie back to me a bit - tho you can totally tell by our appalling geometry that I was having some trouble steering lol. Nbd tho. He's just a big giant rangy horse, and it's going to take time for him to develop the strength needed to carry himself in this new balance. He's trying tho!

more pics of charlie looking like a grown up
The canters I thought were also pretty good. That's the one thing I really tried to ride effectively, and while it didn't feel like our best work, I was satisfied. The transitions were a little hollow but they happened promptly. Even the downwards, which are usually our weakness!

getting a better balance and better reach!
Unfortunately the scores were a bit disappointing, basically 6s straight across the board. I was lucky to run into Meredith again after the test, as she had been able to watch and was then running the test sheets back to the office. Meaning: she actually had my scored sheet right there in hand as I was leaving the arena. Thanks! That was super convenient lol. The score wasn't added up yet (they do that in the office) but I could see from all the 6s that we'd be getting a very high 30s mark. Sigh.

you're a good dog, charlie
The judge saw a picture of a strung out horse that needed more half halts from the rider to pull him together. Which like.... ya know.... that's accurate haha.

From my perspective I see a horse whose balance is light years ahead of where we started, and who is really learning and trying. But yea I can also see how we're just plain old not there yet. It's possible that a different judge may have used a broader spectrum of scores across our movements, as I felt some were clearly better than others. Again tho, I can also see how they were all 6s.

it can be easy to forget tho that he's a very large horse in a small little arena lol
In a way tho, I was kinda happy to be hearing a judge tell me to use more half halts etc since I had purposefully wanted to avoid giving the impression of a tug of war with the horse. Like obviously there has to be a middle ground in there where I'm not yanking the horse's head off with locked-straight rigid arms, but I'm also not just flopping the reins forward and letting the horse drag me around lol.

judge had useful feedback for us (a rarity at events!), but charlie was maybe preoccupied with finding his next #snax
For this ride tho, and for where we are in our training, I felt like we hit a pretty reasonable balance there. I was also happy with my efforts to keep my legs more down and under me, a constant struggle. And while my seat still isn't where it needs to be 100% of the time, I'm getting closer.


So ya know. Lots of good feelings about this ride. And actually I quite liked this test too, even if I still need to work on cleaning it up more (like that serpentine that I kinda fumbled a little bit).

so happy to be done. also so so so hot lol
And I'm especially happy that Charlie's at a place now where this particular effort was kinda just "meh" on his scale of ability. Like it's nice to know that we're actually currently capable of better.

he's a 10 in my book ;)
Plus, ya know, this event was never going to be about the dressage for us anyway. This was a day for JOMPING OMG!! And jumping bigger things!!! Stay tuned for all of the pictures and video omg of Charlie's first go at novice, and my first time back at the level since 2015!!

56 comments:

  1. I’ve been following you and Charlie since you got him and I’m so impressed with how far you’ve come. I remember your early tests where connection was fleeting. Now I see mostly connection with breaks. He’s more fluid and supple now and you are riding him really well. The judge’s score would be similar here (but I think our scores tend to be lower here) but she can’t know the ‘before’. It’s always hard to know how much to correct. I find it better to give the aid I need and then get on with it but it’s a judgement call in the moment. Irish learned that he could be a freight train in the show ring until one day I had enough and sat him on his ass. After that he was much better. Other times I have not pushed Carmen for more because it felt like I would upset our balance.

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    1. Aw thanks I’m really so proud of how well the horse is developing! And yea I mean I can simulyanroysly see that the judge isn’t wrong at the same time I can see that for my purposes Charlie *is* doing very well for what I’m asking of him. There’s a lot of work left to do and much of it revolves more around strength building in the horse (which can’t be accomplished with anything other than time) than training alone. It’s exciting to see him get closer every day tho!

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  2. JUST LOOK AT SIR GO!!! Emma he is getting SO ELEGANT. So well done on your first novice test with him!! And those whites with the piped pockets are SO cute on you too!

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    1. Thanks!! He’s finally learning to use that giant neck of his for good not evil lol!!! And the pants are montars! I have a couple colorful pairs and really like how they fit tho I kinda wish they had a contrasting seat instead of the silicon dots.

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  3. great job and this was Sunday? Or Sat? Either way it was hot hot hot here too so I feel for you! LOL. That humidity was fierce.

    Charlie looks great!! I can really see it coming together!

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    1. Sunday - the day of the storm! Definitely fierce heat! And thanks it felt like a great start to the show despite the weather!

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  4. Yay! Those good moments are GOOD! Damn girl! All your hard work is paying off :) And I hear you about the heat. I tend to try to avoid showing in July/August as I am so intolerant of the heat as well.

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    1. Oh man we usually take July and August off too - actually most starters are in spring and fall anyway so it works out. Tho we had one show postponed to August and I’m kinda dreading that... bc damn that’s too too hot!

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  5. Charlie has come such a long way and you have much to be proud of!

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    1. Aw thanks ;) I’m so giddy and happy with him!

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  6. Those are some excellent pics! Glad you made it through without heatstroke -- I know how miserably humid it was here all weekend and we didn't even have the impending storms, so I can't imagine how much worse it was for you guys, gross. Exciting that your move up to another level was such a good experience!

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    1. Thanks ! It really was a great experience. And the nice thing about weather is usually once you’re out of it and recovered, it’s easy to forget about how awful it was and just focus on the good stuff! And I’m so grateful for Austen’s pics - I don’t have many of Charlie in dressage and these are definitely keepers

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  7. Omg it was so gross. Lyra and I basically boycotted life yesterday in an attempt to recover. Lol!

    I thought you two looked very good, especially when you consider the plan for the day and his history. I loved your reaction to turning his full speed ahead steamship self at the end of that centerline. Haha. You were all "CHARLIE! ICEBERG AHEAD!" And he was all "HurDur, gotta find mah rudder."

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    1. Thanks girl and thanks for all your help in keeping the horses (and riders) healthy and safe from the heat! And also thanks for the pics!

      And Charlie lol.... he’s definitely *not* the unsinkable ship even if he thinks he is... those turns off centerline are challenging! Honestly my only regret is abstaining from hollering out “WHOA SHAMROCK!!” lol....

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  8. OMG he is looking so elegant! Way to go Emma and Charlie! He really has come such a long way. You have really done right by this horse - all your hard work shows! And his weight looks awesome. Go you!

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    1. thanks <3 we've certainly been working our tails off for... a while now. i'm fortunate tho that he's mostly made it pretty easy to keep chippin away. and his weight right now... omg i 100% totally credit all our lush grass recently - he's really blooming!

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  9. He just keeps evolving! Great test :D I love the opportunity to speak with the judge and get more feedback.

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    1. i was surprised (in a good way!) to get feedback from the judge too! usually at events we just get a nod and go on our merry way.

      loch moy recently changed their starter event formats - running half of BN and all of the intro and elem on saturday, then the rest of BN and the higher divisions on sunday. it's made for fewer horses and riders on each individual day, which has helped relax the schedule a little bit. seems like it's working out in this case too!

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  10. You guys look really good out there. He looks a lot more relaxed to my eyes. I love those brown boots with the white outfit.

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    1. thanks! he felt pretty relaxed too, like he understood what we were doing and was not particularly anxious. it helped that we were in the lowest ring for dressage - you can't see the cross country field or stadium ring from that area, which definitely helps since charlie can be easily distracted by horses running in the distance lol

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  11. Aw you guys have come such a long way! He's looking much more put together these days and all your hard work is certainly paying off!

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    1. thanks! it's so hard bc i really don't get a lot of pictures of our dressage work so it's kinda hard to know where things really stand. but he's been feeling very good for a while now, and i'm super happy to see that he looks pretty reasonable too!

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  12. I mean he LOOKS really fancy, so I feel like he should have gotten extra points for that.

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    1. lol if only it worked that way haha....

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  13. He's looking so fantastic!!! You guys have come a long way; so happy for you two and your first novice!! I can't wait to see the JOMPING 😀

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    1. thanks it definitely felt great! jumping is coming sooooon ;)

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  14. I think you guys look fantastic! I think the judge could have been a bit more generous.

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    1. thanks! i can definitely see where the judge is coming from - sometimes they seem to have some sort of baseline where, if you're not clearing that hurdle you're just not gonna get any change in your score (i had rides with izzy like that where all the judge saw was her curling and nothing else). whereas another judge might see that while charlie was strong and strung out often in the test, he had some moments of balance that were better than others. eh, i'm not too worried about it tho bc it's all just steps in the same direction!

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  15. Hooray! I think the scoring was a bit harsh- you guys looked so great!

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    1. the scoring was disappointing to me, even tho i can see why we scored the way we did. thanks tho!! it feels like charlie's really figuring things out!

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  16. He's shiny and fit and looking quite happy to be doing the work- which is huge! I thought it was a really great ride and that you both looked fabulous!

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    1. thank you!! as far as he knows, he's a friggin champion at this whole game lol. and i'm not gonna tell him any different at this point!

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  17. man he looks huge in these photos. hes really filling out. and starting to relax!!! happy days.

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    1. he's freakin giant now, it's insane. like.... he's a massive horse haha. the spring grass this year has again been a game changer! seems like he feels great tho!!

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  18. He's come such a long way from being Intro Olympic Champion! I can't wait to see what he looks like in another year. #stunna

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    1. aw lol thanks! it really is kinda crazy to look back at some of his earliest pics tho.... here's hoping he can keep building in the right direction!!

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  19. Love all these gorgeous pics! You two look faaaaaahbulous!!!

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    1. thanks!! austen has such a good eye for that perfect shot! i just wish i had known in advance how hot it would be and could have planned better.... like why am i wearing navy gloves with literally zero navy anywhere else??? it's a mystery!! haha....

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  20. You guys look so great!! I love how forward and engaged he looks! Also, that browband is perfect for his diamond. :)

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    1. aw thank you :D forward and engaged (esp engaged lol) aren't really attributes that come super naturally to charlie, but he's figuring it out! also thanks - i love that browband too! it's a Dark Jewel Designs prototype <3

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  21. Man, it is pretty cool watching this horse develop. Just the change in his ability to cover ground is impressive, much less all the million other pieces that are coming together!

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    1. thanks! i honestly feel the same - and think that's kinda what makes him special: he is a learning horse, he *does* let me ride and influence him, and tries to understand what i'm looking for, even tho i'm far from perfect in the saddle. definitely helps make my job easier!!

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  22. Having now watched this test so many times, I do like how it flows. You get time with each movement to really settle into it and (hopefully) do well. Looks like a steady test on his part. Congrats on finishing your first Novice.

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    1. thanks - yea it's a very nice flow to the test. honestly the only piece i don't really love is coming from canter to trot approaching the corner before turning up the center line. on a horse like charlie, that's not a lot of time to regain our balance after the transition lol. other than that tho, yea i really like the test!

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  23. Whoo hoo! You guys look amazing. And that tail tho...

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    1. i fully admit that his thick luscious locks were a contributing factor to my deciding to buy him LOL ;)

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  24. Wahoo! Look at him go FORWARD!!!!! I agree with you, the judge sees a horse that needs more half halts, but he's miles ahead of where he was!

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  25. That mane tho! (Although my inner hunter princess is screaming "it's on the wrong side!" lol)
    It's a great feeling when the pieces start to come together. It gives you incentive to keep going! Good job!

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    1. Lol thanks! And your inner HP can’t be too surprised, having apparently never noticed before this very moment despite it always being the case!

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  26. You guys look amazing! So excited for you

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  27. Who is that tall, dark, handsome, FANCY fellow you're riding? Look at him!! Emma - you MADE him this way. Huge congrats on the first outing at Novice. Minus the hellfire heat, it sounds magical.

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    1. Definitely magical ;) he’s turning out to be such a special horse and I’m so so so grateful for him!

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  28. WOW WOW WOW! I see a HUGE improvement!!! I think you guys look terrific, and that the judge was a little stingy in some areas. Just my 2 cents though!

    <3 Kelly @ HunkyHano

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    1. thanks! haha i think she was a little stingy too, tho fully admit to being biased ;)

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