Tuesday, June 5, 2018

keepin 'em guessing

Since my first full season eventing, spring has always been one of the busiest times of the year. We're all always so eager to get out after spending all winter in boot camp that it's easy to just sign up for literally all the things omg!!

we had a little trouble with this line, but when we got it right? charlie nailed it
True story: the calendar of events my friends and I sketched out for the first half of this year included seven (7!!) events on my wish list for April-May-June. Which like, is a LOT guys haha.

It hasn't worked out that way tho. I mean, does it ever? Charlie got off to a cracking good start at Loch Moy's season opener in March, but then popped* a splint in early April. Meaning I withdrew from the jumping phases at Full Moon Farm and then scratched from Loch Moy entirely a couple weeks later, choosing to rest the horse instead.

(*Colloquial term for general pain, heat or swelling in the area of the splint bone. Often an effect of blunt trauma, shoeing issues, concussion, some other interference, or even metabolic issues. Swelling can be in the surrounding tissue or even the outer layer of the bone itself. Some horses go lame but many do not. Charlie did not. Splints typically resolve on their own, and can be aided by anti-inflammatory medication, bandaging, and cold therapy. If you need additional help in brushing up on Basic Horse Injuries 101 and have trouble distinguishing this injury from a "broken" splint bone, I encourage you to pursue further reading here.)

hard to tell but this is a slightly skinny fence - maybe around 8'
In early May, Brita and I decided to skip Fair Hill's starter for a couple reasons. Brita was feeling a bit over extended (their season has been very busy so far!) and I felt like spending a long weekend ahead of time in Kentucky cut too much into my prep time.

But then the weather gods conspired against us, causing the postponement of a starter trial at our own farm. Incidentally, the trial both Brita and I had planned as our move up event. It seemed perfect, right? Our own home turf and all jumps we've jumped before! It was not to be tho...

sliiiiiiightly strung out going into the one stride lol
Instead we just pushed on with finally getting back out again for Loch Moy's final spring starter. Which like, we go to Loch Moy a lot. This farm is basically a home away from home. So it worked out haha.

Hopefully tho the rest of the spring will keep chuggin right on along without further interruptions. We've got one (mayyyyyybe two) events left on the docket before summer. Charlie and I are hoping to head out to another event next weekend - going along with a young lesson mate this time too. Should be fun!!!

made it out in good form tho!
So in the meantime, I'm still trying to find the right balance of schooling to keep Charlie sharp and feeling great, without making him too dull or tired. It means we do a lot of conditioning haha. In fact, Charlie's basically just been hacking and doing trot sets since Loch Moy last week, with the exception of one jumping lesson.

The lesson tho was a pretty great opportunity to check in on a few things. I opted to ride in my dressage bridle (with myler comfort snaffle, instead of the elevator bit on my jump bridle) for kinda unclear reasons. I think I was halfway feeling lazy about all the straps on that jump bridle, and halfway feeling curious to see how Charlie would be.

also a tad too gung ho going into the triple bending combination
Verdict? It is *not* my imagination that he's becoming more rideable and adjustable. I *can* bring him back into balance with my body and position without relying on a lot of leverage in my hands. So. Ya know. That's always reassuring haha!

On the flip side tho, the ride also kinda proved why an elevator bit is a good choice for Charlie right now. The mouthpiece of our typical jump bit is just a regular old aurigan KK. So when ridden off the snaffle rein, it's no different from a simple double jointed loose ring snaffle. It's extra power comes from the cheek pieces - the leverage they provide with poll pressure and curb chain when the curb rein is activated.

kinda skidding out a little over the jump haha - big horse wasn't steering super great this ride
This is a useful combination for Charlie since his tendency is to get heavy and low up front, plowing forward on his forehand. It's not out of naughtiness - really truly. It's kinda just how he's built, combined with years of going like a race horse.

He is developing in his training in this regard - as I was able to help him rebalance without the elevator bit. But the reality is that training is only half the issue - and the other half is strength. It's just going to take time for him to build the strength to hold himself more up in his balance.

We're working on it! It's basically the same issue in our dressage work right now too haha - the only difference is Charlie doesn't approach dressage with quite the same relish and gusto as jumping lol...

he's still so pretty tho <3
And this lesson was a phenomenal exercise in exactly that. The ring was filled with allllll sorts of interesting things, including some bending lines or unexpected turns that would help keep Charlie with me by making him guess a little bit about where the next fence would be lol.

Tho I'll note: the first thing to go when he's getting heavy and strung out up front is the steering lol. So it was good practice but also reeeeeally challenging for me! Luckily Charlie's a good honest boy and once he figured out which jump we were going to, he just up and jumped it.

i don't even know what this style of jump is called - basically a giant cross oxer with a liverpool beneath
The outside line of oxers was fairly unassuming, except it was set on a true 60' four stride distance. Charlie obviously has no problem hitting a 12' canter stride, but maybe *I* kinda do lol. I'm used to trying to collect or compress him, but then kinda go too far in the opposite direction when I think we need an open stride.

Charlie just needs the barest of a whisper from me to open up. Instead tho I kinda get a little too excited and am like OMG GO GO FLY HORSE GO! Which like, is not productive haha. I mean, Charlie happily obliges! But it's not generally super balanced and often results in awkward jumps and flying rails. Ahem. Oops.

ha. haha. see above comment about how we had a little trouble with this outside line....
So of all the exercises, the straightforward line took the most effort for me haha. Once we got through that, tho, there was a very cool line from a skinny vertical, then bending immediately at a somewhat acute angle to an 18' in-and-out.

Charlie's first pass at the skinny found him surprisingly not super committed. But the second time (during our course in the video below) he toooootally just blew right through me, then almost didn't make the turn to the one stride haha. Fortunately tho, he's got enough experience with one strides that the exercise was kinda able to correct him instead of me. Like he blew through the skinny and got strung out, but then adjusted and navigated the one stride carefully and correctly. I'll take it!

practice makes better tho
Then we went around to a bending triple combination of 3-to-3 strides. This is not really something I ever anticipate seeing in a stadium course at an event, but *is* the type of line that could show up on more upper level cross country courses.

Charlie was again a little too gung ho going into it - I had let him continue to be a bit strung out and was kinda relying on the turns to get him back together again. It worked just fine for these jumps - he's an honest boy and goes to the fences. But the distances were kinda tight and had these been skinnier fences requiring a tighter line (or, say, had there not been wings on the jumps) it might not have worked out so well.

charlie looks like such an eager beaver while i try to pep talk myself into not gunning it down the line lol
Last little exercise was a short turn vertical then loop alllllllll the way around to this bizarre liverpool oxer type thing. I opted to make my turn well inside from the rail to continue with the theme of keeping Charlie guessing about what came next. And in response he actually really came back to me in his canter and balanced quite nicely to meet the jump easily.

i love that he flags his tail tho when he locks on lol
Trainer P sent us back to clean up the outside four stride line once more just to really reinforce the idea in my own ride of looking for a pleasant, balanced 12' stride vs just running the horse at the jump.

Other than that, tho, it felt like a super productive school. I really really really like how Charlie feels right now about jumping, and honestly believe he's happier and more engaged with bigger fences. Plus it was oddly reassuring to feel like A) I *can* jump him in a plain snaffle, but B) the elevator still feels like the right choice for where he is in training.

So ya know. The horse feels good. We'll see how this week unfolds in terms of schooling rides too. Honestly we need a ton of work on the flat, obvi, but with limited time and a high priority on keeping the horse happy vs dull/sour, we'll see how  much I actually do in that regard.

Mostly I expect to be hacking and doing more trot sets in the woods. We both seem to enjoy that, and it's doing wonders for Charlie's physical condition and soundness. I might also try to make it out to the cross country fields at least once just to go up and down some banks, and maybe over a ditch or two.

It's harder now that all the gates are closed again and horses are turned out back there again.... But it'll be worth it to make time, I think. Even for my own peace of mind.

Mostly tho I'm kinda hoping to stay in cruise control. And may or may not be eyeing the upcoming forecasts with suspicion and skepticism lol. Wouldn't it be nice to have one single show so far this season that wasn't some variation of extreme weather????

We'll see what happens, I guess haha. Is anybody else spending much time assessing the upcoming calendar? Maybe your season is only just getting started? Or you've also had to deal with weather issues or injuries or anything like that?


  1. I am perusing 5e calendar as well. In terms of dressage there are 5 shows this year, which for this area is a lot. Then there’s the fun stuff. Plus, you know, work....

    1. ehhhh work schmerk lol, if only we could spend all our time doing the fun things with ponies!! i hope you have fun planning out the season!

  2. Calendars remind me of not showing this year. Still, I have some outings in mind to prepare Bast for the fun that is going to horse shows. Haha!

    Love that moment you can confirm your schooling is working. I remember when I pulled the drop off Pig and he and I managed to stay on civil terms. Felt so good to know the training and work we'd both put in was sticking.

    1. definitely reassuring to get that confirmation that charlie *is* learning his job haha. and yea, that whole period of restarting is tough, esp after being accustomed to riding at higher levels.... hopefully tho you and Bast can get out and about soon tho to start getting that mileage!

  3. Look how zoomy he is! Damn. More impressive knowing his size. Our season hasn't been as I originally planned, but sometimes life responsibilities take precedent and other priorities (moving the horses!) become the most important quest of all. Go slow to go fast, I suppose!

    1. ha yea, he's always had the zooms in him (being a race horse and what not lol) but is only now figuring out how to use that power sorta for good instead of for.... whatever the hell we were doing in the early days lol. and hey, getting the horses close to home for you had to be that all important step 1, right? hopefully all the rest will follow soon!

  4. i am reading all your posts getting my horsey content thru you since i am so busy with life etc. But glad you have plans and glad the lessons are going well. Charlie is really umm maturing this year? He totally looks like a diff horse this year. I mean it makes sense but everytime i Look i go wait...where is the Brontosaurus (I am sure the bront comes out still once in a while HA HA HA)

    Keep on doing :)

    1. oh man, we will absolutely keep on keepin on as much as possible! hopefully tho you can get your own horse fix soon too when everything settles down after the move! and yea charlie's doing so well. the bronto is definitely still in there, but now that he better understands expectations and what the job is, he's more amenable to going ahead and doing it. small wins!

  5. those look huge to me - hes doing really fantastic. optimism for the rest of the season for both of you guys!!!

    1. thank you!! i'm optimistic too, as much as is reasonable i suppose lol. and yea charlie's definitely liking the bumped up height!! to the point where i don't even really look at them, since i know he'll be fine. craaaaazy over here lol

  6. Haha, you guys were zooming! Charlie looks amazing!

  7. I'm reevaluating my plan to go back and do another Derby until I've got this hock issue straightened out. I don't want to unduly stress joints knowing that there's a potential source of pain for Gwyn.

    I might do some schooling dressage shows instead where I can do just a walk/trot test so that we get out and show. I do have an appointment set with my vet now though! Next week.

    1. that's good that you have a vet appt! hopefully you get some answers!

  8. Yeah why is it that every show is on either the hottest or coldest day of the month??!!
    You guys are looking good, despite the occasional awkward jump :p

    1. normal weather would definitely be appreciated!

  9. My calendar is full this summer....with non-horsie things. Boo.
    But going on a mental vacation from everything is mucho needed.
    I am probably only getting out to one show this year, but I am okay with that !

    1. yea i hear ya. some years are just like that. mental vacations can be pretty wonderful too tho ;)

  10. Replies
    1. aw thanks <3 he's really figuring it out!

  11. Holy cow, those jumps are enormous!! You guys are looking awesome!

    1. ha thanks! he's feeling pretty excited about getting aimed at bigger things lol

  12. I love these jumps, because they are high enough for his giantness to really jump! Whoop! You guys look like such a confident and happy pair.

    1. thanks! it definitely feels a lot easier in some regards now that he's having to focus more on the jumps and give a little more effort. i like it!


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