Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Jenny Camp '18: Dressage + Stadium

Anybody who has been reading for any length of time already knows that I'm a bit of a hopelessly sentimental sap. It's true, there's no denying that. This year's MCTA Jenny Camp hosted by OF was special in how it proved to be the convergence of two different threads in the fabric of my journey into eventing.

dis charlie's "i'm a good boy doin' mah job!" face, lookin handsome as always in his v-shaped Dark Jewel Designs browband
First up is what it meant to me to compete at OF again. I've been riding at this farm since the spring of 2014. It was my destination of choice when I first decided to dive into eventing with Isabel and bought my truck and trailer to haul in for weekly lessons with trainer P.

That fall, Isabel and I did our first ever starter trial. We finished the BBN division on our dressage score and checked a major item off my bucket list in the process. OF typically hosts two events a year - a USEA recognized event and a fall starter trial. So obviously the next year Isabel and I were eager to get back out there, this time for our last BN run before moving up to N. That remains one of my most favorite cross country runs with Isabel.

And then..... Well. That was it. I haven't competed at OF's starter trials since. In 2016 I was horseless (that was basically the exact timeframe Charlie entered the picture), and in 2017 Charlie and I had to scratch bc Mt Vesuvius his splint injury was looking more and more likely to be a surgical case.

we don't always bend left. but when we do bend left, we over-bend left lol
Meanwhile, I've already written somewhat extensively on my checkered history with MCTA's Jenny Camp starter trial. This event is typically held at Shawan Downs, and Charlie's intro run there last spring was 100% the redemption I needed. Not to mention, the run where he really proved to me that he could be an eventing powerhouse.

This year tho, MCTA moved the event to OF, and I had planned it as Charlie's move up to Novice this past May. Except.... It was postponed due to rain, and we moved up at Loch Moy instead.

But with our disastrous and disheartening second N attempt at Plantation, Jenny Camp was poised yet again to be our shot at redemption.

or just over bend in general lol. he was kiiiiiiiinda fakin it, and the judge could totally tell haha
Thus bringing us full circle, and back to present day: Competing at my home turf for the first time since the highs of the Isabel era, and looking for another proverbial win at an event that has not always been kind to us haha.

So let's get on with it, shall we?

he was trying tho, being very obedient
I kept Charlie's warm up brief and to the point - just a little bit of stretching into trot and a couple careful canter transitions on each lead. His last few tests it has seemed like I blew through his best work in warm up, then kinda had a freight train in the test itself.

So I wanted to avoid that this time, while also avoiding the trap of not being warmed up enough vis-a-vis canter leads like in our first test of the year at Loch Moy.

some very happy moments in the test too. but gosh, emma. shorten. your. reins. for. fucks. sake.
It worked out too. We were able to get into the ring a little early, and the judge very promptly rang the bell for us (even as Charlie was kinda periscope-up, eyeballin all the buzzing activity of trailers parked in the field across the lane from the dressage court...) and off we went!

felt like we had our best canters yet in this test
This was easily Charlie's most obedient test to date. He was prompt, responsive, and was basically all aboard the "head down and bend plz" train. Plus he was maintaining a pretty lovely rhythm without the running that sometimes plagues us.

I figured out at Plantation where we got a personal record score despite me not being happy with the test that maybe I needed to back off the gas pedal a little bit while in the ring. And based on this test, I think that's the right strategy for Charlie right now.

not every moment was perfect, but when i remembered to ride charlie responded in kind
We even made a semi respectable turn off center line too - finally! Usually we enter fairly straight for a 7, but then immediately blow that good first impression to smithereens by nearly eating shit and dying in that first 10m half circle turn off the line lol. Not this time tho! Our first four movements all scored 7s. Good dog, Charlie!

trot diagonals are still my favorite tho <3
And basically the whole test rode like that. Mostly very good, every button I pressed seemed to work promptly. Not perfectly tho: we lacked engagement from behind, and Charlie's trailing hind end meant he had a few unfortunate stumbles.

Plus he was kinda faking it with his head set - as evidenced by the lack of true engagement. Meaning, he wasn't really lifting through his back or lifting through the base of his neck to reach out to the bit. This meant that at times he got a little deep and over bent. Which obviously the judge totally knew.

and we canter! with bonus gorgeous tail
I wasn't gonna argue with the horse tho. He felt for all the world like he thought he was being the best boy, and I like it when he feels like that. Like when he feels like he knows the job at hand and is eager and willing to do it -- even if it wasn't quiiiiite technically correct.

And like, let's be real, I could have done a better job as a rider and maybe he would have come more over his back anyway without much added effort. Like, if, say, I stretched my legs down long or shortened my freakin reins (seriously tho, omg, omg, emma, plz stahp with the wide hands... he's not that green anymore!!).

Case in point: during our second canter circle I kinda had this epiphany moment of "Oh yea, Emma, don't you want to try riding this canter and showing it off to the judge?" at which point I .... pulled myself a little more together. And boom, got a 7 with comment "better on second half" bc yea. Riding helps, it turns out lol.

lookin pretty freakin balanced and happy here. good boy, charlie <3
It was a good test in all tho. The judge rewarded our consistency even as she made some pointed comments about our lack of engagement and iffy connection. I goofed and forgot to add the collectives to the video below, but they are:

Gaits: 6.5 - Nice pair, careful over bending neck left
Impulsion: 7.0 - Haunches trail due to lack of push left hind
Submission: 7.0
Rider: 7.0 - Continue to encourage correct connection

For a final score of 33.6%. I knew it wouldn't be our best scoring test bc the tests I like the most tend not to be the best scoring lol, go figure. But I'm still counting it as Charlie's best, most complete, and most obedient effort. And it put us 5th of 9, squarely in the middle of the pack. Which, let's be real, for me and Charlie that's basically the same as winning haha.

Charlie had barely broken a sweat with the economical warm up and quick test, and then got to go chill in his stall for an hour while I hustled around the cross country course watching Brita and Rachael gallop across their Training track. Much fun was had by all!

Then even more hustling bc I had just under one hour after that to retrieve Charlie from his stall, get the studs in, tack him up, and get up to the warm up ring for jumping.

then jompies time! charlie jumped the snot out of jump 1 haha
This period included a not insignificant chunk of precious minutes spent staring slack jawed at my bridle and bit collection. I've been riding a lot in my hackamore lately, but knew I would maybe need a little more help steering - esp at the roll tops at 5AB on our xc course.

Meanwhile, my jump bridle just had a simple Sprenger KK loose ring on it; I hadn't actually ridden in our Sprenger KK elevator with double reins and curb chain since Plantation. So I contemplated literally all my options. Just go with the hackamore? Or just the KK loose ring? Or use my bradoon hanger to combine the two? Or get the elevator back on the bridle??

Eventually I decided on the elevator, and set to readjusting all the cheek pieces and moving reins etc. Ultimately I believe this was absolutely the right choice haha, but it wasted precious minutes.

I also spent time pondering my stud collection. We have had a lot of rain lately, including a pretty drenching storm the night before, but parts of the course were still pretty dry and hard. I wondered if I should go for the more pointy grass studs labeled for "firm" ground, at least behind. But ultimately decided to just go with the same square flat-ish road studs I've used the past few times. These worked out ok, tho we did slip twice on course and maybe could have used the next step up.

i <3 this Old Bay jump. yummmmy ;)
Anyway tho, finally I had the horse (who was napping, btw) ready to go, and we hustled as quickly as we could to warm up. I was running late lol. We cut through the dressage warm up and trailer parking areas, trotting all the way. Charlie maybe.... would have preferred to walk instead, and get to look more closely at all these trailers invading the erstwhile quite field. But oh well.

He warmed up feeling very distracted, and very strong. The elevator was the right choice for sure. And he knocked the warm up oxer pretty hard, despite jumping from a pretty good spot. Perfect, I love getting that reminder in warm up.

killed it through the two stride in and out
He felt as ready as he'd ever be, so in we went to stadium a little early. Again he felt a little distracted through the beginning. He found a really nice rhythm and was finding the jumps nicely out of stride, but seemed like his mind was maybe elsewhere and we had a couple hard taps that could have easily been rails.

and i think he cleared the stars and stripes lol... #overacheiver
Charlie felt good tho - listened really well and handled the terrain beautifully. Especially to the two stride coming around an undulating turn and going up hill. He nailed it, but then I didn't do a very good job setting him up for the bending line to the next fence and he ran past his distance for the rail. Simple mistake, nbd.

finishing up the last line starting with the sail boats
He cleaned it up well after that and jumped the snot out of the stars and stripes haha, then came around to the last line quite nicely. It walked in a 7/8, but I had a feeling Charlie would eat the ground up a little quick haha. Which he did, but he fit the 7th in mostly ok so it was nbd.

barely fit the last stride in, but jumped it cleanly. i'll take it!
All in all, it felt pretty easy. Charlie kept that same feeling from dressage where he seemed to really understand what we were doing, and what was expected of him. He was forward and very firmly in front of my leg, while not being rude about dragging me around. The adjustments were there when I needed them but for the most part we were able to take every fence from a forward feeling stride.

It was a far cry from our sticky sloppy round at Plantation. And for that, I'm grateful. Stadium has historically been a strong phase for Charlie, even tho we fairly consistently have a rail (at all heights haha). It's NOT *my* best phase for damn sure lol, so I'm extremely grateful to have a horse who is relatively uncomplicated here haha.

I had some serious trepidation about heading out on cross country tho. Mostly revolving around leaving the start gate, and any issues we might have with barn sourness, considering how close we'd get to Charlie's barn in the back fields. Would he want to check out and go home? Or would he click into gear and stay focused on course?

I honestly didn't know what to expect. But I hoped that if he maintained the same attitude he had through dressage and stadium, that we'd be in for a good round. Stay tuned for full details tomorrow!


  1. hes so cool - what a champ. glad he worked it out in the dressage, thats usually a good sign for phases to come!

    1. Definitely. He was happy and relaxed and doin the thing. Can’t ask for much more!! ;)

  2. Looking good!! His game on face is pricelss.

    1. He’s so funny when he thinks he’s being such a good boy I love it lol

  3. So glad y'all had a great dressage and stadium phase for a show that means so much to you <3 Charlie looks absolutely lovely in the dressage and so game for stadium!

    1. Thanks and yea he was super game for stadium. Idk why I always get so nervous about jumping on grass or whatever. He’s clearly fine lol

  4. He looks so steady in both the dressage and the stadium! Definitely a horse that remembered what he was doing out there and not having Feelings about it!

    1. thanks - he definitely felt very very steady. like not perfect (tho maybe he would be haha if i were closer to perfect myself) but certainly fully engaged with playing the cards he was dealt. i like it!!

  5. Sounds like you guys had a great start! I'm excited to read about XC :)

    1. thanks - it was definitely a good start. xc coming up soon!!

  6. I love it when mid dressage rest you wake up and are like "but what if I actually rode, tho?" That legit happens to me every day.

    1. lol i love it even more when it actually works too. like charlie was just sittin there waiting for me to like, idk, do something. imagine how good he could be if i did something more often?!? lol.....

  7. I feel you in Dressage... I usually get the canter... and then waste half a circle before remembering to RIDE the CANTER. Like I am so relieved to have the right lead, that I like to pretend like nothing else matters.

    He is adorable in show jumping. That terrain does not make it easy at all!

    1. lol being 100% honest idk if there will ever be a time i'm not like totally preoccupied with "but did i get the lead?!?" haha...

      and yea the terrain in stadium had me a little worried. i was also surprised bc i thought i had heard that the two stride was getting taken out after T, but it ended up being in through BN so idk. it worked out just fine tho - the studs seem to be making a HUGE difference for charlie. he feels super confident on the ground and will actually bust out flying changes left and right like nbd whenever we end up on shifting ground or turns. it's kinda nice!

  8. UHM When did Sir Charles grow up and become a steady Eddie eventing pone pone?!

    He looks FABULOUS. What a good boy!

  9. All the small diligent work pays off <3

  10. You guys look so good! He jumped so well! And man that was one square halt haha! Way to go! Can't wait to hear what's next!

    1. Thanks he is really figuring it out! Just a small mistake in stadium but otherwise I’m super thrilled with him! Tho that square halt was actually haunches left haha - just like every single freakin time. He’s so long I just have a really hard time holding him together. Ah well lol

  11. Yay Team Charlie! You guys have come so far despite all the set backs. It’s inspiring.

    1. Aw thanks - he really is a very good boy and has mostly made things pretty freakin easy for me. For that, I’m grateful!

  12. He is getting so grown up! You two look great. Isn't it the best feeling when they just seem to "get it"?

    1. Omgosh it is the BEST feeling. He’s always been a clever horse who likes to be a good boy, but he really kicked it up a notch this weekend!

  13. You guys look great! Charlie jumped those jumps like a total badass

    1. Thanks! He felt like a superstar, I loved it!

  14. Whoohooo! Great dressage test! Very consistent with tons of lovely moments, what more could you ask for at this stage? Congrats on a solid SJ round as well, sounds like it went pretty great overall!!!


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