Wednesday, May 9, 2018

schooling @ Shawan Downs

As a general rule, whenever life has me feeling a little off kilter, or I'm a little bit on the stressed or overwhelmed side of things, my knee-jerk reaction to any question becomes "No."

So when Brita pointed out that Shawan Downs would be open for schooling over their recent MCTA recognized courses this week and that we could head over after work one day... I right away was like, "Sorry, can't!"

Luckily tho, she is a patient friend and allowed me a couple minutes to actually consider the idea a little more fully - at which point I realized that, uh, yea. This was a great opportunity. Jenny Camp won't be at Shawan Downs this year, so this was our only chance to ride there. Plus it's local and cheap, and Charlie hasn't done a proper off-site xc school (aside from the arena schooling in January) since like.... last summer's paper chase at Tranquility.

there are only two actual pictures of us haha. here is one.
So. We went! I had walked the N course over the weekend after volunteering (you already saw pictures of the three main combinations - banks water and ditch - yesterday), so was able to formulate a pretty solid plan of attack.

dis charlie's excited face haha
Tho I hadn't walked the T course, and interestingly all the courses deviated from each other somewhat significantly in track. Like, BN and N mostly followed the same path - except for one little N foray up a hill and down into a hollow for the half coffin. M and P went way far afield in the road-facing field toward the far end of the steeplechase track. And T went off up the hill on the opposite side of the rail past the announcer's tower.

They had taken all the numbers down so we had a little trouble distinguishing some of the M jumps from the T jumps too, but opted to do our warm up by trotting through the entire steeplechase field checking out all the things so Brita could come up with her own ride plan.

also i got my volunteer prize from Sara just as i was walking out the door - felt like a good luck charm!
This also had the nice secondary benefit of getting the horses acclimated to the venue. There were a couple other groups on site - some including up to 5-6 horses - and lots to look at. Luckily tho both horses actually settled really nicely, and Charlie didn't seem inclined to show any of his "HEY LET'S GO BACK TO THE TRAILER, YES??" tendencies haha.

easy warm up through the water
We walked through the main water (which was way way way too deep - they had left the water running for some unknown reason) and up and down the lower edges of some banks just to get the horses tuned in. Then began warming up in earnest!

I trotted Charlie through the water then up and over a small log from the BN course (it was the B element of their up bank combo), then over to a couple houses. The left side house was on the BN course (tho you may remember it from our Jenny Camp intro course last year) and the white N house is from our own home farm, tho I haven't jumped it since the Isabel days.

more warm up: small house then less-small house!
I wanted to get my eye on N early tho, bc.... Ya know. The struggle is real. But I knew as soon as I started pointing Charlie at N things, my worry about the size would dissipate. Bc Charlie sure as shit doesn't share my concerns haha. In fact, he was happy to be aimed at this fence and was in that really nice place where he was taking leg to the jump. Yesss.

we saw this combo in yesterday's post
In my mind we would have tackled some other jumps first before the banks.... but they were right there, so why not. I pointed Charlie at the BN combo first, and he felt slightly noncommittal to the bank, but trotted it anyway then giddied on up to the log. Second time was smoother tho.

And then Brita was there for me when I waffled about doing the N side. Thank god for friends who can be there for the well-timed gentle nudge!

hey look, i jumped it even tho it scared me! didn't scare sir tho ;)
So I cantered right on around, held for an add stride up the bank (rightly or wrongly) that made the 2 feel a little long, even tho I had walked it in 1.5. But Charlie was an honest genuine boy and I just slipped my reins, put my leg on, and he carried us over what is not actually a very small fence at the B element. Good boy!

we jumped the BN version of this table back in march. also apparently i still love left.
One of the great things about having our respective fences of interest on different tracks was that Charlie was able to get a little lesson in "Go Forth and Jump! Now Stand Around and be Chill!" while Brita did her T coffin.

This is the element that has been missing in his training: we've done far far far more competitions than we've done schoolings, and he's just not really aware that sometimes we stop in between jumps haha. He caught on quickly tho, and it really helped keep him rideable after each fence!

N corner was very inviting
Anyway, we kept moving after that to the middle section of the N course - with a couple large single fences: a log table from our home barn that we've jumped the BN version of; a nice corner; and Charlie's first steeplechase style jump.

I was really happy with how he felt too bc he continued to have that feeling where I needed to be adding leg to the fence. I expected this to the log table since it was going away from the trailers, but was pleased to still get the same feeling after looping back toward home for the corner.

Tho, uh, I chose a really shit line to the corner the first go 'round so we came back and cleaned that one up a little bit haha. Charlie didn't care tho!

officially charlie's first brush fence! #nailedit
For some reason, I've kinda had it in my mind these past few months about how "Charlie hasn't really jumped a brush fence yet." Idk why. I mean, he's seen a very little bit of brush on some of our courses, but nothing really big before. But this N steeplechase fence felt perfect.

I esp like how he stayed centered over the fence bc of it's "U" shape despite my tendency to allow a left drift. And again, even tho this jump was heading home, he still took leg forward (instead of me feeling like I needed a backward feel) and easily came back to walk after. The "start/stop" of schooling reeeeeally feels good for him right now!

this bench also scared me, and i need to remember to ride forward even when i'm nervous. charlie don't care tho!
Then we went up a steep rise to a smallish table thingy (on the video but I didn't bother with a snapshot) then down into the hollow to this bench. Idk why but benches often look big to me, even tho I understand that their profile is very inviting to the horse.

And my current issue right now is that even tho Charlie was taking my leg, I wasn't being very good about actually putting it on and pushing him up to the jumps that made me nervous. So our first effort here was.... not great. He jumped it, but it was a little bit of a wake up call for me. So we came around and I actually created a more forward feel and it was perfect. Good boy!

straight forward N half coffin in an easy 3
My first time over the ditch, I just trotted diagonally across it not aiming for the B element, which actually confused Charlie a little bit bc he had kinda had his eye on the log. Nbd tho, he handled the ditch just fine so we came right on around and cantered through easily.

The three was a smidge tight for us but no harm no foul. I appreciate that Charlie is not ditchy haha! And I also appreciate that he's actually looking for fences and able to be drawn through a combination from one element to the next.

f*ing giant N brush table. brita had to convince me to do it, and i didn't ride forward the first time....
After the half coffin we crossed the road again, down a steep little descent that Brita promised me I wouldn't even feel (spoiler: she was totally right) (oh also this happens to be right around where I fell off during my second ever HT when Isabel spooked at some mud...) up to what was probably the biggest fence on the N course: a giant brush table.

I had let Brita know that this jump concerned me a bit, and I wasn't sure we should try it. But she maintained that Charlie would be fine, that the bigger jumps really don't ride much differently from the smaller ones, and that I wouldn't notice the descent leading to the fence. So I gave it a whirl!

second time tho charlie jumped the SNOT out of it omg, look at his shadow! this is easily the biggest obstacle he's ever jumped and he ate it up
Again, much like my first time at the bench, I didn't really ride it with enough forward commitment the first time and we kinda got there on an awkward half stride. Charlie is a saint, guys. An actual saint.

But we came around again and I rode for my distance and Charlie SOARED over it, omg. I think we both learned something from my first mistake. And, uh, I like the way Charlie thinks haha. That was easily the biggest jump we've ever had - both in scale of the obstacle itself and his effort over it. Wow.

inviting N coop going into the small water to a log
Obviously I was thrilled with him! A little disappointed in myself to keep making the same mistake of not giving him a very good ride on our first tries tho, since I don't really want my quarter to run out with this horse, ya know?

So for our last effort of the day - three individually numbered elements of coop to water to small log - I was bound and determined to add enough leg to actually lengthen the canter a bit, but with Charlie's shoulders UP and in front of me. It helped that this coop was pretty friendly bc let's be real, it's all a mental game for me.

we, uh, missed our line the first time after LEAPING into the water haha
And Charlie nailed it over the coop. Jumped it great. Even tho before this day we've jumped very few N fences (just a couple here and there since last summer), he's clearly very comfortable with the height.

We still have more work to do with water tho. Charlie wants to jump into it, which was only exacerbated by the steepness of this water's banks, and he doesn't really jump straight so I totally lost my line to the log.

got it after that tho <3
I was cool with it tho, bc I don't think Charlie realized the log was on our agenda - plus the elements were technically numbered separately on course so had this been a real competition we would have been allowed to circle.

Tho I opted to come back through the water flags again to reapproach (which would have not been allowed in competition but that's the beauty of schooling!). And he was fine, obvi.


So that concluded our schooling for the day. We didn't do the entire N course. The first three fences were a small log, brush roll top that was smaller than the steeplechase we had already done, and a log oxer that I forgot about, but it wasn't particularly big. And the last two were a simple barrel jump like we've seen at Fair Hill, and another house that also lives at our home farm.

oh and btw brita and bella are KILLIN IT lately!
But I was completely cool with that. I learned a couple important things during this ride anyway. First of all? My eye can and will adjust up once I get to work. The easiest way to make something look less imposing is to remind myself I can do it... by, ya know, actually doing it.

Charlie, for his part, couldn't care less about the difference in height from BN to N. In fact, I'd say he likes it! He was very very rideable during this schooling. I'm not convinced that's actually related to any work we've been doing, or to the addition of a curb chain to our bridle. Whatever the case tho, I liked it a lot.

turns out this big giant TB butt can jump some fences. good boy!
We need to practice more banks, and practice going in and out of water more - esp darker or deeper water. I've been practicing mostly on our more inviting and shallower pool at home but the new pool right next to it is calling our name, methinks! Ditches continue to be a non issue so I may start thinking about upping the ante there soon. We'll see.

In any case tho, it was a hugely confidence boosting ride, and I'm seriously grateful that this horse is such a saint for those moments when I get more defensive instead of committing to the forward. Hopefully I'll learn my lesson about that before he decides it's too much work to keep covering for me! Luckily tho, he does genuinely seem to enjoy this game <3

Plus it was also nice for me and Brita to go out there without our normal coaches (we tried, they were just unavailable) and still be able to show good judgement in producing good schools in each of our horses. Ideally we'll have more professional guidance on hand as we each seek to challenge ourselves, but for now this was fine. Phew!

So I'm feeling a lot of things. Excitement. Relief. Reassurance. And also hope. It's been two and a half years since I rode a novice course, and it's really nice to learn that it means more to me than it does to the horse haha.

50 comments:

  1. SO MUCH FREAKING FUN! I had fun just following along. You two are gonna have such a FUN summer.

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    1. eeee thanks! i sure hope so! i'm sure something will crop up bc it always seems to with charlie, but damn he's fun when we can finally get out there and do the things!

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  2. Good boy Charlie! Sounds like a great outing for you both :D The shadow on the one jump is no joke, Charlie has hops big time!!

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    1. oh man, it was definitely intense! he was completely committed to not touching it again after i rode him up practically underneath it the first time!

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  3. You guys look so good!! He's such a tall horse that that height must be a piece of cake to him. I'm so glad tho even if you didn't get the first time you were able to ride it so well the next time! Such a good boy <3 He looked like he was having a blast out there! And good job to you too! lol

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    1. ha seriously, his height is a legit advantage. i sit around looking at these jumps like "omg they're so big tho :(" and charlie's like, "ha, hold my beer!" i'm not complaining either!! and yea it was useful in some ways to make those mistakes in order to remind me to, ya know, uh, *not* make those mistakes haha. we'll figure it out eventually!

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  4. Sounds like a really great day and just what you needed too

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  5. He looks like he's jumping great from the helmet cam!

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    1. thanks! he felt pretty great too. like, sure i rode him to some funky distances, but for the most part he was finding the jumps pretty nicely on his own!

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  6. Gosh he's such a good boy. He looks like tons of fun!

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    1. he is SUCH a good boy. it's crazy. like. i know he's a good boy, but he still surprises me every day. i'm super grateful!

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  7. That course looks like so much fun. I love thank bank combo.

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    1. it was definitely a lot of fun! the bank combo was interesting to me bc i haven't really ridden many combinations of up bank to jump, and was surprised when the distances walked so short. but then when i rode it, it rode really long (possibly bc i added one too many strides in the approach lol). i have somewhere in my mind that you shouldn't leave long around banks, but that might actually be for downs not ups... idk haha, there's a lot to learn!

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    2. Banks change distances, because of where horses land in relation to them. Bank combo distances won't walk the same as a regular fence-to-fence distance, just like an up bank distance won't walk the same as a down bank distance.

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    3. yup that's basically exactly what i observed above! ;)

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    4. Right, I just wasn't sure if you knew that was because of how a horse lands from an up bank (very shallow, almost right at the upbank itself) vs down bank vs regular fences, that you should walk the distances differently according to the landing distance required for that particular element. From the post it sounded like you walked a regular 6' landing distance from the bank instead of walking from the upbank itself, hence getting 1.5 when it was actually a 2? Maybe I'm not reading correctly. Was just trying to help!

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    5. yes i did walk it in a normal stride. and observed that it walked very short (i wrote the same earlier this week when i first posted the picture too). then i rode it, and observed that it did not in any way ride short. thus i wrote that, yea, turns out that bank combinations ride differently than i originally expected. and, by me having written about those observations, a reader might reasonably assume that i'm also aware of that!

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  8. He is so brave and DGAF - I love it and I love that you trust him!

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    1. omg he's so so brave. he just.... goes forth. and does the thing! makes the whole trust part super easy lol!

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  9. You two look great out there and I love his happy forward ears through everything. It doesn't look like much phases the big man. Your summer season is going to be a lot of fun! I'm glad the Road ID showed up in time for your outing!

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    1. thanks so much for hosting the contest, i'm loving it! and having a lot of fun volunteering (during which volunteering i'm getting all these cool opportunities to walk new courses, which can only help, right?) and yea, nothing bothers him at all, it's fantastic! except for, uh, when he goes lame lol. that can be a bit of a bother... haha

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  10. Wow those are some scary jumps, great job! And what a good boy Charlie was.

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    1. thanks and yea some of them were definitely a bit outside my comfort zone. luckily charlie makes everything feel ok!

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  11. Woohoo, you guys made it look easy! Way to go!

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    1. thanks! all credit to the big man lol, bc i'm sure as shit not making it easy for him haha

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  12. What a fun night! I love friends that help us take a risk and make it fun.

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    1. definitely - i really sometimes need that extra little push so i was grateful to have it!

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  13. I love this post! And I too love the left drift 😅 I swear I can float my left rein, aim for the right side of the fence and we still end up on the left. You and Charlie looked great and YAY for him eating up the bigger fences!! I may have to do a road trip this summer - I want to see you guys in living color :)

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    1. oh man, definitely let me know if you're coming down this way at all! i really hope we'll be out and about all season, but you know how those best laid plans always go lol

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    2. I think our season will be limited to fairly local but I’m not against a horseless road trip for the right reason :) Talk about best laid plans. First show in 2 weeks and I threw my back out. I guess yay at least it’s me and not the horse? 😬

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    3. ugh noooo :( that sucks, i'm sorry! hopefully you're feeling better soon! and yea definitely lmk if you're road tripping!!

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  14. Well done for jumping the things you were worried about, it sounds like a fun day out!

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    1. super fun! it's nice bc charlie doesn't worry at all, and ultimately he's kinda the one that matters lol

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  15. Awesome!!!!! I’m always so inspired by people running around advanced that I tell myself Novice and training are very doable!!! Just DO IT!!! Plus it helps having a horse that thinks 3’ is easy 😂 Yay Charlie!!!!

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    1. yea definitely - i've been volunteering a ton lately and watching a lot of higher level riders go about their business and.... ya know. it's kinda cool to watch them make it look doable! even if i'm not entirely convinced i'll ever even want to do higher levels haha

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  16. I've been bad about keeping up with blogs lately, but OMG when did you guys start jumping those big XC jumps and OWNING them????!!! Awesome!!!!!

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    1. ha thanks - he's been ready and willing to go higher for months and months now. actually we had originally been slated for his N debut last fall but he ended up having surgery instead. tho he's a much more schooled horse now than he was then, so in some ways maybe it was for the best. in any case tho it's taken me a while to catch up with him!

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  17. You guys look great!! And I agree- with these big guys it's really hard to tell the difference between BN and N sized fences. Although it is only 4" after all (I always hold my fingers up to show myself how small that is any time I get nervous)

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    1. honestly i think my own eye has been off. i've been jump crewing a lot at events recently, including measuring and setting jumps for each level. turns out, what i thought was "soft" for a level is actually.... measured correctly. i've just somehow come to believe we've been jumping lower than we actually have been. perhaps my trainer has been fibbing to me lol....

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    2. That's kind of a great feeling though, to realize that you are doing more than you originally realized!

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  18. How FUN!! Charlie sounds like he is really stepping into the increased challenge without batting an eye. What a gem.
    Also, I totally relate to your first paragraph...I'm the worst about always saying "no" whenever I'm stressed, and sometimes the things we turn down (or almost turn down) are exactly what we need! So glad you guys had a good schooling!!

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    1. yea i definitely need to reprogram my mind to be choosing "YES" as an answer more often haha, that's like.... the first step to positive thinking, right? lol.

      also. yes. charlie is a complete gem <3

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  19. Weee Charlie! That looked like a ton of fun! Glad he's healthy and you guys can do more adventures!

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    1. thanks!! now the trick is to stay there haha

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  20. Hooray for friends who nudge us out to the edges of our bubbles at all the right times!! Charlie is so freakin' awesome! And yes, left apparently is a thing and I seem to love it too--Shiraz ignores my left leg though so I blame her.

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    1. lol left is best, all the time and forever and ever!

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