Monday, July 30, 2018

pace clinic @ loch moy!

This past weekend, former barn mate Rachael and I hoofed it over to Loch Moy for a pace clinic with A Bit Better Farm's Kelley Williams. I've been looking forward to this clinic for a while, but maybe not for reasons you might expect.

the group is ready and rarin to go!
I've never competed in a recognized event, and our starters around here don't typically time cross country. Which obviously I've taken as an advantage in the past - like opting to walk Charlie through waters first before heading for the flags. It's nice to be able to exploit the "schooling" aspect of starter trials to the fullest!

charlie looking eerie in the pre-dawn light
There's a downside, tho. Namely: it's easy to fall into a trap of not riding a horse forward enough for a level. Even tho the tracks and jumps for each level are in fact designed to be taken at certain speeds. Not riding forward enough can make the jumps more difficult for the horse, and potentially less safe.

Plus, on top of that - and maybe more to the point - Charlie and I have been struggling with forward anyway. Our whole issue at Plantation was that I couldn't get Charlie going forward. Independent of all the jumps, Charlie was napping and sucking back against my leg and refusing to go forward away from the starting gate. A serious issue which devolved into very ugly uncomfortable jumps and ultimately refusals. It was not pretty, and not something I want to relive if I can avoid it.

the frogs were extremely noisy and he had feelings about that
So a pace clinic sounded like the perfect activity. I picked up former barn mate Rachael on the way to Loch Moy (tho sadly her mare Birdie threw a shoe so she brought youngster Cherry instead) for a bright and early ride time of 9am. It meant a very early morning for me haha, but what else is new ;)

lots and lots of feelings about the frog-filled jungle of his pasture lol. damn tho he looks good!
We arrived early enough to settle in (and put Charlie's studs in! it was pretty easy with the fresh stud holes! more on that later!) and get acquainted with our other group mate, who apparently lessons with the clinician somewhat regularly. Which I felt was a good sign. Then we all hopped on and started warming ourselves up on Loch Moy's schooling course.

not really any feelings hangin at the trailer before the lesson tho, just straight chillin <3
Kelley met up with us out in the field on her Kubota and began introductions. Getting to know each of the riders and horses, and walking us through our objectives for the day and ultimately what pace is all about.

We would primarily be working at steeplechase speeds vs cross country speeds. The distinction being: steeplechase tends to be simpler than cross country in that there's less terrain or complicated turns, and the jumps have very inviting faces with the extra brush on top to encourage the horses to jump more cleanly.

So your typical steeplechase speed for a level, say Novice, is faster than the cross country speed at the same level. In other words: Novice steeplechase speeds are around the low end of Training cross country speeds. For me and Charlie, Kelley wanted us to focus on getting the hang of 470mpm.

terrible picture but the only example i have of the style of steeple chase jumps we worked over, the rest were little logs
Our track was pretty simple: 1000m set on a somewhat narrow section of the field, on a slight incline. The far turn was just before the 500m mark, and was honestly pretty challenging bc it was a tight-ish turn going downhill. Turns out the studs were a very good call lol.

The first 500m was fairly smooth and all on rising ground. Each 100m was marked by a small log jump. Then the tricksy turn around before the 500m mark, then coming mostly downhill but on kinda wavy ground before reaching the second turnaround back to the start/finish line. Again with each 100m marked by a small log, so nine logs in all (no log at the start/finish line). I think ideally this kind of track would be more of an oval rather than a straight shot out, tight turnaround to straight shot back. But it worked for our purposes.

overlooking the full gallop field we used for our 1,000m track. you can see some of the little logs in the distance
Kelley started us on the track, one at a time, with no jumps involved, and told us where our minute markers were for our respective speeds. Again my speed was 470mpm, so my first minute was just before the 500m log, ie right in the middle of that tricky turn. My second minute would be after the 900m log but before the start/finish line. Final time should be 2:07.

She also set a flag at what should be our 30sec mark, and that's where she positioned her kubota, and told us to really ride for that first 30 seconds. The idea was that we should be leaving the box (no running starts!) and immediately be going for that pace. Like we might even be aiming for three gears more than we need for a couple strides.

borrowed optimum time watch
Especially with a horse like Charlie, Kelley's thoughts were that I needed to focus on that first 30 seconds more than anything else, and from there I would be able to slow him down as needed. But first he has to GO, dammit!

The repetition in this clinic definitely proved helpful for him, as did the fact that we "left the start box" each time. Going from basically a standstill or walk to a gallop. That's typically not something Charlie's been very happy about (despite, ya know, being a retired race horse) so the practice was great.

Our first loop around the track (with no jumps) we were already 5 seconds down at the first 30sec mark, which per Kelley's instruction would tell me that I was going 10 seconds slow per minute, meaning if I changed nothing, I'd be 20+ seconds over time at the end of our 2min track.
sweaty and tired finishing up, but watching the other horses still go-go-going!
Tho, Charlie being Charlie, the second half of the track going back toward the trailers was much faster, and we made up much of that time by the end. But the second half was also much more unbalanced, what with the downhill and sketchier terrain.

We did it again a second time, really aiming again to be spot on that first 30sec. Which we were! Yay! But then again went way too fast the second half. Imagine Charlie from our first run of the season at Loch Moy: Just bookin it haha. Which I'm not complaining about tho! It's been ages since he's dragged me around like that and it felt reassuring lol.

Tho when Kelley asked me about it, she observed that it didn't necessarily look like I was getting run away with (bc he's a safe and trustworthy horse and I was basically just cruisin with him) but that it maybe wasn't really the proper pace. I admitted that I could have done more to slow him down, and that I would not have been super comfortable jumping from that unbalanced and too-fast pace.

looking back to the water - same water i sat by for the YEH class a couple weeks ago
Which took us to the final portion of the clinic: repeating the same track, focusing on getting that first 30 seconds, but this time with the jumps added in. Kelley wanted us to basically be stepping over the logs out of stride. She said it was very imperative that we be able to soften our hands to the jump - that the horse was in self carriage and using their own eye to adjust on approach.

This worked out pretty well for Charlie - especially on that first up hill portion of the track. Apparently it's pretty common that even when riders can figure out the appropriate timing on the track without jumps, they naturally want to slow down a bit when the jumps are added in. That wasn't a huge issue for me and Charlie, tho we were slightly slower.

charlie refused to be photogenic, but i wanted a picture of this little X into water that he tackled
He did get stronger as he went tho - leaping at one jump and then nearly killing us at the next before I was able to get him wheeled around that tight turn at the far end of the track. Then coming back down toward the finish line we were.... wild and woolly lol. He was jumping the jumps tho and being a good boy. That's what I like!

And actually after we crossed the finish line, Kelley wanted us to keep going and come back up the first half of the track again but this time going over the actual steeplechase jumps (roll tops with brush) instead of the logs. That actually went much better for Charlie bc he still kept coming to the fences but didn't leap at them and actually adjusted and jumped well from an appropriate distance (not too long, not too tight). Good boy!

srsly tho, complete refusal to be pretty
It seems simple just writing it out like this: three spins around a 1,000m course, sometimes with and sometimes without jumps. But it was really useful. Charlie benefited from the repetition, and I finally got that feeling back of having him really pulling me forward to jumps.

Plus I got a pretty good feel for 470mpm. It's faster than we'll need to go on cross country, but it was a useful exercise to feel like even at those speeds I still needed to keep riding him forward and soften to the fences.

I also learned from the clinic that my biggest focus on any cross country course should be establishing our pace in those first 30 seconds, and that once Charlie's in gear I can settled more into "managed maintenance" vs how things went at Plantation where I had to keep pushing and pushing for more.

oooooh but we actually used the stud stuff!!!
Kelley's homework for me has to do with practicing this stuff purposefully on terrain. She said I should use uphills to just gallop on - really letting Charlie go. But for downhills, I need to work on getting himself to be more responsible for self carriage without bolting off to never never land. She wants me to practice cantering down hills such that I can work on pushing my hands forward for a stride or two, without Charlie changing pace.

I had opted to ride in a simple loose ring snaffle for the clinic, rather than my normal elevator with curb chain, since I figured I'd rather us be too forward vs too backed off. Kelley encouraged me to continue schooling in the snaffle, and reserving the elevator for competitions, so that I can really work on getting Charlie out of the habit of wanting to lean on the bit (or, more likely, my habit of not wanting to let go). She thought it was great that I schooled in the hackamore sometimes too, but said she thinks it's harder to get a horse to stop leaning on the noseband vs leaning on the bit, so I should be cautious.

All in all, lots of good stuff to work on there!

little square road studs all the way around. this is obvi a front shoe with the leather pad
After our lesson was done, we took advantage of already being on Loch Moy's schooling course and hopped over a few things. Charlie was pretty sweaty and tired so I kept it to a minimum - just a couple passes over the small ditch. Some cantering through the water. Even jumping a cross rail into the water, which caught Charlie by surprise but he was very good to it. Then one last little N rolltop just to finish with a little height.

Right away tho I could feel a big difference in how Charlie was going to the jumps. We weren't going quite as fast as we had just done in the clinic - but he was holding himself up, covering ground, moving forward to the fences. He didn't even really seem like he wanted to be finished after our last jump!! Purrrrrfect ;)

stud out, plug in
So I liked the lesson a lot. Might actually try to set something up with this trainer again just to keep working on this stuff, since so much of it relates directly to where Charlie and I struggle (like practicing leaving the start gate!). We'll see tho.

Mostly it's just really reassuring to get my horse feeling back to his normal self. And I do think the studs helped. The ground is soft from a lot of rain (soft but in a very good way) and the grass was pretty wet for our early morning ride time. Plus that far end turn was really dicey being a tight downhill turn at a gallop.... But Charlie never slipped!

He actually felt quite confident in his footwork, plus was busting out lead changes left and right and all over the place lol.

charlie and cherry were ridiculously cute together in the trailer too lol
Lots to be happy about for sure. It also seems like exercises that are really easy to reproduce at home. Trainer P has mentioned that one of the fields on our home xc courses is measured out to a certain distance. But really just measuring out a 1,000m loop including each of the 100m marks would allow us to keep practicing. Bonus if we can weave some jumps in haha.

Have you ever done a clinic like this? I guess it's intended to help riders who are planning their conditioning and whatnot for a long format three day event, so that they can get some practice in advance. But honestly even tho that's not on my radar I still got a lot out of it.

Think you'll set up a course for yourself at home to practice? Or do you feel like we covered any issues that you normally have too - like being too slow out of the start gate? Or that adding in jumps slows you down more than you'd expect? Or maybe your issues are the exact opposite? lol..

Friday, July 27, 2018

the dog days are here

Happy Friday everyone!! I've been completely consumed by all things moving these past few days. Complicated by my home internet service still not being fully transferred. Considering I work from home, this has been moderately problematic.

just busy over here doin our dinosaur derssage thang!
Things are good tho. They've been busy. Despite being completely exhausted, I've still been spending a lot of time with Charlie lately. I mean, let's be real, he's my rock, right?

and wanderin around the farm, where in - ooh! we've spotted the rare wild whoopie!!
Plus I had impulsively entered a twilight event at Loch Moy scheduled for this past Wednesday. These events are really great bc they're super low key - essentially glorified schooling of all three phases.

this darling shetland is basically the queen matriarch of all things OF
You go in and do your normal dressage test for a normal judge, with normal scoring and commentary etc (altho the final event is not actually scored up or placed, really). But you're encouraged to do so in your jump tack - whatever bit and leg protection is fine. This way, you can go directly to the jumping phases: stadium and cross country.

and as such she basically gets free range of the place. not a bad life!
Stadium is normal, but cross country is set up so that each jump number (1, 2, 3, etc) has all the levels lined up in a row, and you can jump whichever looks the best to you. Entered BN but wanna school N? Nbd! Or if you have a problem and need to circle? Or jump a few height variations? Totally encouraged!

The jumps are also scattered all around other features like banks and water etc and organizers tell riders to hang out and do everything they want. Obviously none of this is timed and penalties don't matter (so long as you're being safe haha).

meanwhile. curious cats.
This seems like a great idea for me and Charlie with where things are right now, so I was bummed to see the event postponed for a day due to the heavy rains we've had the past couple weeks. And I wasn't able to make the rain date.... Womp. Oh well, they moved my entry to later in August, so hopefully that'll work out eventually.

and stud plugs!!! it definitely helps that they are neon green, tho they're still hard to see sometimes when the hoof is packed full of mud and debris
Bc yea, wow, just when you thought I couldn't shut up about how hard the ground has been, suddenly things turned very very very wet. Rain every day. Pouring soaking rain. Light mists. Drizzles in full sun. It's been crazy. Not complaining - we needed the rain - but it would be nice to have something a little more middle of the road!

the rest of my stud order came through too lol.... four more road studs and mud studs, and 7 more firm ground studs, since i just ordered one the first time, whoops
Esp bc we're still on track for that pace clinic I mentioned, which is scheduled for tomorrow. It's bright and early and is gonna mean a lot of work tonight getting ready (despite, as I mentioned, already being really fucking exhausted from moving....). It should be fun tho.

and more cats. here they are getting their beauty sleep ahead of another long night of keeping me awake...
I'm really looking forward to getting some insights and guidance not only on what the appropriate pace is for Novice, but also to really focus on riding Charlie forward. And getting the feel for what that optimal cross country gallop is for catching jumps right out of stride. And don't worry, I'll take lots of notes ;)

this whole moving situation has been a whirlwind for them, apparently
In the meantime tho, I'm still just digging out of the digital black hole I've fallen into this past week. Including catching up on a lot of my reading - something I've missed fairly desperately lately. I need my fix and want to catch up with what all of y'all are up to!!

poor suffering critters....
Thank god it's the weekend tho. And not least because I still have a metric ton of work to do in clearing out the old apartment as the month nears its close. Guys. Let me be a cautionary tale to you: hoarding is bad haha. Omg. Sooo much junk it's insane.... Folks at the Baltimore City dump are starting to greet me by name lol!

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel tho, phew. Soon. Maybe after this weekend, or next week lol. Here I was thinking July is usually a quiet time of year, our "Summer Recess"..... But nope. It's been jam packed. Am I the only one that gets surprised by the busyness of summer? Is anyone else out there running off your feet? Or maybe you're the opposite - you've been able to take some time off lately?

In any case, hopefully things will stabilize soon. Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 23, 2018

'Fraidy Cat Eventing Learns About Studs

Have you ever noticed that there are certain things in horses and riding that people only really talk about as if it was the most normal thing in the world? Like, let's take studs - a common fixture in eventing where horses are jumping at speed on variable terrain.

Every time I hear someone talking about studs, it always seems like they have a sort of casual air about it. As if expert knowledge of studs is just second nature. To put it in other words - I've rarely, if ever, really seen people talk or write about the process of getting started with studs. Like you're either a stud aficionado or just, idk, totally out of the loop lol.

Maybe people don't really talk about it in much detail bc somehow everyone else in the world already knows everything about it except me. Tho, in my experience, just bc some aspect or another in horses is well known doesn't mean horse people haven't wanted to keep talking on and on about it lol...

Another reason why there might seem to be this perceived lack of candid discussion (at least as it seems to me from my perspective in the circles I'm most involved...) could be bc a lot of people just kinda... wing it when getting started with studs.

somebody, not naming any names here, but somebody was a little careless in reading the item descriptions (esp vis-a-vis quantity) when placing this order lol...
My close riding buddies Brita and Rachael first started getting their horses' shoes drilled and tapped for studs last year. And as far as I can tell, they've gotten along by chatting with other riders and a fair amount of experimentation, trial and error.

Personally I haven't really felt the need for studs in the past. It seemed pointless for Izzy since she was only shod up front. And it felt a little presumptuous with Charlie at the lowest of low levels. Plus he's kinda an awkward guy and I have what feel like legit concerns of him managing to disembowel himself somehow with newly weaponized shoes.... And with him being such a big guy that novice isn't really much of an effort for him... Ya know, I just didn't see much point.

Lately tho, my mind has been wandering a little bit. Charlie never really had an issue with confidence before Plantation. And I'm not really ready to say that he's lost confidence exactly, either. But he did learn a hard lesson about just how much more difficult it is to jump a bigger fence (like, say, a maxed novice table) when he's kinda sluggish and behind my leg.

That newfound knowledge in him, combined with his feeling somewhat shaky going downhill I believe are part of why we struggled with the rolltops in our recent schooling. Especially after he had that nasty slip down the hill on our second attempt, it really seemed like maybe some added traction could help him feel more confident.

i saw plenty of normal wrenches in the vet box at MDHT a week ago, but this bionic wrench seems most popular
So I talked to trainer P about it. And then talked to Charlie's farrier about it. And then also talked to my friends about it haha. Lots of talking lol! Also, yes, of course, a fair amount of reading. This article from Dover Saddlery is especially nice and straight forward. And the consensus is: we're going to try studs for Charlie.

His next shoeing appt is this week, and the farrier will drill and tap Charlie's shoes and plug up the holes for me - presumably with cotton. For my part, I've gone about the process of amassing my "stud kit" based on what I've observed Brita and Rachael using this past year as they've gotten familiar with the process.

poke-y thing and spin-y thing. both considered essentials according to everyone i asked
There are plenty of 'starter kits' available online that supposedly have all the important pieces. But a lot of the reviews seemed like some of the kits had extra unnecessary stuff or like the stud collection included in the kit weren't the most useful, or like some of the included tools were really cheap or whatever.

So I opted to collect my kit piecemeal. This isn't to say that I shopped for the absolute best deals or top notch equipment - it's entirely possible that maybe you could stock a similar kit at a better price point. I'm just sharing what I got and why.

It seems like the tools involved in getting the studs in and out of the shoes are just as important as the studs themselves. Esp when my friends first started using studs, it could take them a long time to get the studs in securely - which can be stressful if you're in the middle of a show and are pressed for time. So tools that break or don't work very well only create more anxiety.

pointy for hard firm ground, longer and fat for deeper ground, shorter and flat as more of an in-between
The basic process with studs is: collect your tools (hopefully they're already organized in a handy kit) and select your studs. The small magnetic tray will help keep the studs safe and together as you have to move around from leg to leg on the horse, often on grassy surfaces.

Doing one hoof at a time, start by removing the plug from the stud hole with the spikey end of the above red handled tool. The plugs I ordered (not pictured bc they haven't arrived yet) are rubber, made by Nunn Finer. There are also cotton or fibrous type plugs, but I've heard mixed reviews on them. Then use the metal brush end of the same tool to clean out any dirt, grass or debris from the hole.

Next comes the Safety Spin gadget (mine is also by Nunn Finer). This was the #1 piece that seemed to help my friends the most with getting the studs in quickly and easily. You just screw this spinner into the hole, then unscrew it. This process ensures that the threads are aligned and clear, so the stud itself can then be placed into the hole and tightened by hand.

Last step is tightening the stud with a wrench. I've seen all manner of wrenches but this Bionic version seems most popular. It tightens to fit whatever size stud you use, just by squeezing the handles.

From my observations, a lot of riders prefer to have their horses booted up before the studs go in, and keep the boots on until studs come out. Tho this doesn't appear to be a hard and fast rule, as some of the FEI riders coming off the CIC1/2* course last week (when I was volunteering in the vet box - post on that coming soon!) felt it was more important to get their legs cooled down asap vs waiting for the studs to come out. And since not every horse is ready to stand for stud removal fresh off an FEI course, that meant taking the boots off before the studs came out.

this tackle box is maybe unnecessarily large. i'm sure i'll figure out how to fill it lol... also that magnetic tray is key
So. With all this in mind, I went ahead and ordered all the above tools of the trade, along with my first couple sets of actual studs.

Tho naturally I was a bit of a bonehead in ordering them. Bc uh.... there are eight stud holes, two per shoe. And most of these sets were sold in 4packs, which I noticed but didn't really connect the dots. So I only ordered four of each for two types. And then the third type I somehow only ordered one single stud. I guess it really was too good of a price to be true lol.....

From what I understand, it's pretty normal to mix and match studs. Like having a bigger set behind than up front. Or having a bigger stud on the outside of a shoe and a smaller one on the inside. Tho I think for just getting started I'm going to keep things pretty simple lol. And yes, I did go back and order additional studs for a little more completeness lol.

unrelated: the move is finally happening. many many boxes, so many boxes
The longer fat ones are better for mud or soft deeper ground, and narrower pointy studs are better for harder ground. The very short flat ones are better for paved or very hard packed surfaces. I'm not sure yet how well my current selection stacks up, or what will end up being our favorite or whatever for different ground types. But this is where we're starting!

So we'll see how it goes haha. I'm sure there will be more trial and error involved, and possibly some additional stud shopping. But I'm hoping that the kit itself is stocked more or less fully for our purposes.

Have you used studs before? What did you find the most useful in getting started? Are there any tools you absolutely can't live without? Or any mistakes you made early on that could have been easily avoided? Or maybe you're in the process of thinking about studs soon or sometime in the future?

Do you go about learning this stuff mostly by trial and error? Or is there a more formal education process - either via something like Pony Club or maybe as a working student? Do you have a a fairly lean stud collection - maybe just three main types? Or a vast array of slightly different shapes and sizes for a completely custom approach to any ground condition?

Friday, July 20, 2018

charlie schools xc again, finally!

I've been itching to get Charlie back out on cross country since our disastrous attempt at Plantation last month. It's been tricky tho, and naturally I have excuses.

Most of our jumps at home were sitting piled in the front field waiting for the course designer to reposition them. Work has been busy. The ground has been harder than hard. Etc etc etc. Reasons. Ya know how it goes.

yup, still crazy about him <3
Finally tho, the course designer got to work ahead of our farm's USEA HT next month. The course is set and the fields are mowed. So my friends and I made plans. AND. Mother nature for once appeared to smile on us - with blissfully soaking rain and thunderstorms literally the day before our planned outing.

Normally we wouldn't school the day after rain, but the ground has been so dry and so hard that the rain just made it normal vs muddy. It even partially refilled the water complex that had dried out! Perfect!

sunlit bn feeder for warm up
The only bummer was that we hadn't really considered the rules about competitors schooling the course in advance. So Rachael, who is entered in the upcoming recognized event, ended up not being allowed to actually jump anything. Bummer. She still came out anyway tho to hack and gallop around and take pictures and help move flags and stuff as needed, so it was fun getting to ride with her anyway!

familiar N coop going into the water mud
For my purposes, I wanted to be really clear in my objectives for the day. As an admitted over-planner, I tend to like creating these long term, step-by-step, progressive plans that unfold from one ride to the next in small iterative steps. Each ride building on the foundation laid in the ride before.

This isn't a bad thing, superficially speaking. And possibly this approach to Charlie's training is part of why he's been able to settle into the job reasonably well.

turned around and came the other way - water mud to coop
The issue, however, arises in maybe kinda subtle ways. Unintended consequences and such. Bc when you think about it, that's an awful lot of pressure on each ride. Take last summer as an example. I had this big beautiful plan, casually referred to as "Novice by November." It was a good plan, lots of small realistic and attainable steps.

But every time one of those "steps" didn't go perfectly, or even quite as well as I wanted, it disproportionately stressed me out bc all I could see was my long line of carefully planned steps all falling like dominoes. Like when we ran BN at Fair Hill in September, and Charlie was a good boy but had a number of green mistakes on course.

Honestly I should have been happier with that event than I was bc I was too busy worrying that it wasn't a positive enough prep run to keep us on track for November. Which is kinda crap, right? Like I managed to rob my own self of the happiness of fully enjoying that day, esp since it turned out that Charlie's splint eruption negated the rest of our season anyway.

this N hanging log with downhill landing has always been intimidating to me
So after our Shitty Plantation Day kinda put everything into better perspective for me, I'm trying harder to just take each ride as it comes. Not worry so much about tomorrow or next month or whatever.

And thus, for this ride, nothing depended on the outcome. We weren't building toward anything. Didn't have any targets that just had to be hit, or else. It was gonna be fun. I was gonna stick to my guns about discipline etc, bc that's important right now, but mostly just enjoy the ride and do what felt good in the moment.

meanwhile charlie basically just snoozed over it. check out that majestic AF tail action tho!
As such, I decided to experiment a little bit with tack. Charlie and I had a very pleasant school with ground poles and a couple small jumps the night before in the hackamore, wherein all I did was apply leg and aim the horse. He was 100% responsible for organizing his legs and figuring out what to do over all the ground poles. No micromanagement. No packaging the horse up and trying to make all the decisions myself. Nope. Charlie had to figure out his legs, and I just legged him on and aimed, with basically a loose rein.

This worked out really well and he felt great, so I decided to keep the hackamore train chugging through to the xc school too. With the idea being: I don't really get the same "contact" with the hackamore. There's no "feel" to pull against like there is with a bit. So really the only feeling I can get is by adding more leg. Just leg. More leg. Always with the leg.

simple N house going uphill (and slightly sideways apparently, ahem charlie)
And it worked out pretty much ok! I probably should have also had spurs on, since Charlie was taking up a LOT of leg haha, but did opt to carry a dressage whip. All in all, tho, this feeling of experimentation with equipment kinda added to the relaxed nature of the ride.

whoooops, there's even more sideways action!
For Charlie's part, he was a very very good boy. We started out by hacking all around the fields letting the horses stretch their legs while we checked out the jumps. Then started trotting and cantering around, and catching a couple small jumps and cruising through the water.

aaaaand then a very unfortunate slip down the hill to represent, and he stopped again, womp
I really liked that we all seemed to be on the same page too - the pace of our schooling was very slow. No real sense of urgency. Lots of walking and chatting between jumps. Taking turns, even tho we were doing different stuff. It was nice! And definitely helped me stay relaxed and focused on just doing one thing at a time.

third time's the charm tho!
We warmed up over a couple BN jumps that Charlie's seen before - a small feeder and triple bar. Then worked over a simple N red coop in both directions - into and out of the water. Charlie was taking a LOT of leg, but was a good boy.

the line was kinda messy tho - we actually trotted in it haha
Then we did the N hanging log going down hill - a jump that's always intimidated me lol. It doesn't look like much in the pictures bc... Well let's be real. Nothing looks like much in pictures compared to Charlie. But it's not an insignificant jump - esp considering it's upright-ness and slight resemblance of a collapsible stadium jump.

Charlie didn't care. Kinda just loped up to it and popped over without much thought. Or, uh, effort. Haha. Ok big guy, nice to know you don't care about these things!

one last time for good measure tho, atta boy charlie!
I looped around to a chunky N house after that and he kinda tried to squeeze out the right side but jumped it anyway. It helped that the approach was slightly uphill so I was mainly focused on just adding leg.

But perhaps I should have been a little more in tune with having two kinda not quite great efforts in a row, bc when I aimed him next at the N line of rolltops, we had a run out. In reviewing the footage you can kinda see it coming from the two jumps before, and from an iffy approach to the line. Oh well tho, in a way it was nice to have this issue crop up again so I could work through it in a schooling setting vs dealing with it mid competition like we did at Plantation.

still didn't quite get the striding but was much better
Part of the issue was the approach to this line. It was set for a very going two strides (that Brita and Bella deftly demonstrated for us), but had a downhill and short bending approach. I was having enough trouble getting Charlie to open up his canter (we're still riding the "forward" struggle bus...) as it was. Then there was a definite change in his rhythm as soon as we hit the downhill section.

So I guess Charlie's still just not super comfortable or confident about going down hill at speed. Idk. I mean maybe that's an excuse, but I'm looking at it instead as just information to store away for later (for future planning, natch haha #canthelpmyself). Anyway, we had a run out to the right. Nbd.

lots of pets for a good boy who could work through our problems
I reapproached with a bit more conviction, and I swear Charlie likewise felt more committed. Unfortunately his hind end slipped out underneath him right as we were reaching the jump. Maybe on a different day he would have still jumped, but right now his confidence cup isn't exactly runnething over haha, so we stopped again.

then a nice little confidence boosting spin through the BN line 
Honestly I wasn't too bugged by that. It felt like an honest mistake, just an unfortunate misstep. Not exactly a punishable offence. So we reapproached again, this time with some added shout counting for verbal encouragement lol, and while it wasn't pretty, we got through it.

Then once more just for good measure, and Charlie was much much better. Still added through the line, but I think that's kinda just where we are right now so I was fine to leave it as is.

which he clearly did just fine
Tho I opted to move on next to the BN line, one element of which (the above lattice) is closer to starter size. Charlie's jumped these jumps a zillion times and was happy to canter on through the line without hesitation. Confidence building, not confidence proving, amirite?

and the BN table too, just to really help him (and me) feel good about himself
Same story to the line of giant log table thingys. Charlie's jumped both the BN and N before just fine, but I opted to start with the BN again anyway. Just focusing on getting the revs up in the canter and adding leg leg leg leg leg.

Charlie was definitely getting the picture - sorta. As soon as I picked up my reins he'd brighten up and break right away into trot or canter. Both leads, both going toward and away from the farm. All good things. But the canter was still sluggish and I spent a lot of time pushing him for more.

and then he was a superstar over the N table <3
He was fine for the BN table, and then even better for the N table. Again, I know these jumps don't necessarily look like much compared to brontosaurus Charlie over there (or, uh, the modified version it's sitting next to...), but that sucker is big. Which I think helps Charlie bc he takes the jumps (and my requests for moar 4wrd plz!) a little more seriously.

we take this job v seriously, guys ;)
Anyway, after that I felt pretty satisfied with the outing and Charlie's general performance. There's a lot of other jumps out there that we didn't get to, mostly bc all the gates are closed with horses turned out in all the fields and that's kinda a hassle. We'll get to the rest soon enough tho, I'm sure. Hopefully in a lesson with trainer P!

oooooh we also tackled the terrifying deep dark T ditch!
For the purposes of this ride tho, I felt mostly pretty done, only wanting to just do a couple more things just to reaffirm to Charlie that we keep going when I ask. Gotta always be thinking about that discipline with Mr Barn Sour lol.

It worked out tho bc Brita wanted to take a couple spins over the big giant scary deep dark T ditch (remember when we painted it last year??) and I impulsively decided to fall in line behind them too after it was clear Bella was jumping without hesitation.

charlie didn't care tho - actually tried to jump that big skinny on the other side lol
Realistically, Charlie is not ditchy. But maybe I kinda was with this particular beast, so I was happy to just let him follow a lead for a few passes, which he did with minimal hesitation at the ditch. Actually, wouldn't ya know it, but both times we jumped it, Charlie was clearly drawn toward that giant skinny dead ahead. Maybe some other day, bro!

his favorite part - hangin out with other horses and pups just chillin
After that, I just did one last pass over the red coop into the water. Again mostly just to confirm that when I say "canter forward" we ... ya know ... canter forward, even if we've been out for a while and Charlie thinks maybe it's closing time.

He was foot perfect tho and just went on up and jumped the thing just fine. Despite, uh, a random pony galloping hell bent for leather across the fields right past us, and Charlie swapping to a cross canter as we passed the gate toward home lol. Lots of distractions but when I put my leg on, he still went anyway. Good boy.

and my favorite part, hangin out afterward with a cold beer lol
So ya know. It was a pretty solid ride. And also pretty solid proof why attitude matters so much for me in my perception of a ride's relative success. If I were in serious planning mode with something important on the calendar, it might have bugged me that we had a little trouble with the rolltops. Or that I felt like we had to use some BN jumps to puff more air into Charlie's sails. Or that we still weren't quite where we needed to be in our canter gears.

But.... Nope, nothing on the agenda. No big important next steps. Just one ride at a time. And so with that in mind, it was easy to just enjoy the ride for what it was. Which meant less stress and tension, always a bonus.

(also keep your eyes peeled around the 2:34 mark for a random flash of loose white pony galloping past us haha)

And I'm excited to get out for more soon! We definitely need more galloping in our lives. And I think Charlie would be perfectly happy to putz around with BN and N jumps for the foreseeable future. Until he gets that feeling back of really pulling me forward to the jumps, I don't see much point in worrying about anything else lol.

Next on the docket is a Pace Clinic, which should be fun. I don't really care much about timing my rides, per se, but anything that can help us better establish forward and help me get more in tune with correct pace for novice will certainly help, I think. The clinic is supposed to involve some steeplechase type work, so I'm looking forward to it! Plus I think my friends and I might be trying to get out to Windurra soon. Hopefully. Fingers crossed lol.

For now tho, I'm just enjoying the ride. Have you similarly had to reset your mindset or attitude in how you approach your schooling rides? Surely I'm not the only one who has proven to be my own worst enemy when it comes to the mental game necessary for this sport??