Thursday, August 23, 2018

twilight eventing!

Charlie and I finally made it to one of Loch Moy's Twilight Events -- incidentally their final Twilight of the season. These events are held on Wednesday nights through the summer months between Loch Moy's Spring and Fall Starter Series events. They're basically glorified schooling outings, and are extremely inviting.

dis my wild 'n crazy event ottb. i think i'll keep him <3
I've wanted to go to one of these forever, and had signed up for one in July but it got rained out. So this was my rain date -- and luckily Brita was able to join with Bella!

It was a good experience for us for a few reasons. First off, it told me a little bit more about where I am mentally right now. As in.... I practically had a panic attack as I logged off from work just after noon and headed out to the barn to pick up the horses.

it wasn't charlie's best test, but it was pleasantly reasonable
The anxiety was probably mostly due to not eating sufficiently before hand (apparently the whole "evening horse show" thing threw me off my routine haha). But even so, it was a stark reminder that.... Ya know. Horse showing can be hard, and it doesn't take much to make me incredibly nervous and anxious. And possibly I'm still experiencing some fallout from the shell shock that was Plantation.

It was easy to kinda pretend our last horse show wasn't even real, wasn't actually happening, since it was at our home barn and I didn't have to do any real prep or trailering or anything. And denial is a strong drug lol when it comes to anxiety. This time tho, there was no denying that we were embarking on another outing, low key and inviting tho it was.

judge wanted to see more forward, but for my purposes i was happy that we weren't running
The timing was also really tight. We got there with notttt quiiiite sufficient time to quickly walk the course before both having to tack and hit the warm up for dressage. Unfortunately Brita got the worst of this, since her ride time was about 15 minutes before mine. 

They run a tight ship at these events: encouraging riders to basically treat dressage as the warm up for jumping, and go immediately from the dressage area to stadium. As such, riders are encouraged to use their full jump tack in dressage. Including boots and whatever bit or bridle configuration (including martingales) you want. 

This is obviously very helpful, tho we both still needed to get back to the trailer in between to grab our vests and pinnies, stud up the horses (hadn't had time before dressage), switch whip for crop, and grab my helmet cam. 

i'm finally getting used to the fact that charlie is a goddamn professional in the show jumping ring
Charlie's dressage test was also fine for what it was. He felt mostly pretty obedient, but was a little grumpy about his left lead. A few nights ago we had one of our worst dressage schools in recent memory too. He wasn't bad, but was extremely tense over his top line. Like it felt like I was trying to hold his head down, and if I let go his head would ping! straight up into the air. Plus we were basically just running off our feet. It was... not pleasant.

So I was happy enough that he was softer over his top line and more amenable to holding a steadier rhythm in our test, although the judge felt it was a little under powered. One day we'll find a happy medium, but right now I'm 100% ok with just not running lol. And regardless, it was basically just warm up anyway, right?

he nailed the triple 4-to-2 stride combination
I had hoped to catch some of Brita's jumping while taking care of those quick in-between chores like studding etc, but only caught the very end of her stadium and beginning of xc. They killed it tho -- took all the Modified options plus even added in lots of extra schooling while they were at it. Wooooo Brita!

ping!
And in no time at all, Charlie and I were up for our stadium round. He had warmed up pretty reasonably but was kinda in this emotional space where he was doing the thing, felt like he knew how to do the thing, but was maybe not very flexible about any changes to the plan.

Like once we were cantering in warm up, all he wanted to do was canter. Instead of, say, coming back to a balanced round trot again. He worked it out tho and I was pretty satisfied with our warm up jumps.

he let me ride him a bit more assertively here as we prepared for a short left hand turn to an end jump
Once in the ring he was just.... basically kinda in cruise control. Our first two jumps were kinda sluggish - you can see his tail swishing all around when I try to spur him up to a bit of a gap lol. But he did the thing, so that's fine. I thought maybe we would add in our first line tho, but half way through he clicked into gear and easily stepped up to the fence. Excellent!

he jumped pretty well all things considered!
Charlie was very responsive to my efforts to rebalance and handled the triple combination beautifully. I got him a little snug to a couple of the last fences going on a long bending line to an end jump, but he didn't care. Jumped down the last line perfectly for our first clear novice jump round, yay Charlie!


I took my time getting over to cross country warm up to avoid rushing the horse, and started mentally preparing for the final phase. And I had a whole bunch of kinda conflicting feelings lol.

was a very short course just looping through the main fields
See, these events are glorified schooling, right? For cross country, there aren't really any flagged combinations. And all jumps for each level are lined up in a row with flags just at the end. So you can jump whichever height you want. In fact, riders are encouraged to jump multiples if they want, and to school anything that needs it. Plus, they put all sorts of other fun jumps all over the course that you can add in as you see fit.

Jump judges keep track of refusals and whatnot, but there aren't really eliminations and since no final ribbons are given out, there's no pressure on riders to worry about penalties.

This is what makes it a really great schooling opportunity, and especially great for riders looking to move up. As such, going into the event I had been thinking along the lines of "This is my chance to finally get out there and jump a bunch of T stuff!!!" as per my stated goals for the year.

finally - FINALLY - figuring out the start gate situation!
Except... Idk. Walking the course, I wasn't so sure. Like, definitely the first few jumps I knew I wanted to stay at N. One of our biggest schooling issues is leaving the start gate and establishing rhythm on course. Charlie must learn to be consistent here. And if he's gonna be a legit N horse, he's gotta be able to get right on up and out to an N jump.

But.... even tho the first few jumps tend to be inviting and he'd certainly be capable of the T jumps in a vacuum, I wanted to make sure that if we *did* have any trouble with riding forward to the fences, he wouldn't be unduly punished by a confidence-sapping bigger-than-normal fence.

So. For sure we were starting with N. And for more technical jumps like the trakehner or banks or whatever, we're still so green there that positive mileage is more important than jumping "big."

these events are designed for schooling: jumps from all levels are lined up in a row with just one set of flags at the ends. jump whatever you want!
And actually, as we proceeded through the course walk.... I just kinda continued along in that thought process. Charlie is legitimately green to this level. And, uh, ahem, so am I. The N jumps all look easy. They look like the right size. They look like jumps that Charlie could fly over feeling like the champion I know he is.

The training jumps? Many of them honestly look pretty reasonable too. But. But. I had to ask myself what the point would be? What was the value proposition? We see it all the time when a rider moves up a level, has a good experience, and immediately starts talking about the next level up. But... Idk. In my experience, moving up is hard. It's been a bumpy ride every time, with Isabel and Charlie.

warning warning warning: houston we have pilot error! try to figure out what, exactly, i've lined charlie up to jump haha. in my defense, homeboy was galloping down hill omg and not really fully aware that maybe there were jumps immediately ahead of us until it was kinda too late.....
So as we proceeded through the walk and I sized up each N vs T fence, I kinda just felt like what we really needed was more confidence-building mileage at N.

I knew the N jumps would ride well even if we made little mistakes. And I felt like an easy romp around a course might possibly be more valuable to us in the long run vs what could be some more awkward or stilted efforts over bigger fences.

A lot of this mentality stems from my somewhat conservative risk-averse approach to training. I would rather go too slow than too fast, and can be reluctant to challenge myself until I'm really really really sure it'll be ok. But... So far this approach seems to be working for Charlie. I so desperately Charlie to be my packer. To cart my ass around courses feeling like a conquering hero. And he WILL be that horse. I just know it. But for me, on this night, I felt like our particular road to Rome includes more N mileage even when the T options were so tempting.

and. uh, why yes. we were lined up for the gap, and he did in fact jump the gap... uh, oops? my bad, chuck.... fwiw we circled back and trotted the BN version like civilized beings
So off we went on course, and right away Charlie demonstrated again why this approach of careful repetition works so well for him: he KILLED IT leaving the start gate. Galloped away immediately, popped over jump 1, and landed galloping again. Yessssss!!! Goooood boy, Charlie!!! No more starting like a pull-cord lawn mower for you!!

Tho uh, yea, as we like to do here at 'Fraidy Cat Eventing, Charlie kinda swung a bit too far in the opposite direction and we were RUNNING OMG haha. Which was a little unfortunate bc we turned immediately down a steep hill where the N trakehner was waiting for us at the bottom.

I've jumped this trakehner with Isabel before, coming the opposite direction, and it's a pretty friendly jump. But my approach with Charlie was riddled with extreme pilot error haha. He was running through me blissfully unaware that we were aiming for the jumps. Considering how crookedly I was riding him lol.... So when I kinda just aimed from the hip and shot him at the fence he.... also jumped very crookedly lol.

It didn't technically count as a refusal bc we did in fact jump and cross through the flags. But..... I opted to circle back and trot the BN version all the same. Probably I could / should have reapproached the N trakehner but... Eh I felt like the bad jump was my fault and didn't want to make a big deal out of it. So onward we went.

friendly log oxer
Charlie thought he discovered a fun new trick by jumping between fences so I had my work cut out for me trying to keep his left drift at bay haha. But mostly he was fine. Locking on to the jumps. Dragging me along.

Steering wasn't fantastic and our pace was a little more wild 'n woolly than I would have loved, but he felt committed to the efforts and definitely felt like they were easy.

charlie do the big ditch!
Again, a couple of the T jumps looks so so so tempting - like even as I approached the line of tootsie roll jumps I just knew I should be doing the T. Same story for the cord wood. But... Yea. Reasons and stuff. Whatever. The N was fine.

Tho there was a little bit of terrain on course - like for the hanging logs at 9 - where even tho the T fence was also pretty reasonably sized, the steep descent on landing was much closer to the fence and maybe not quite where I thought Charlie would want to be. That could be more of a "me" thing than a Charlie thing tho lol bc he handled his own slightly farther away N descent perfectly.

this hanging log felt like good practice after our botched trakehner lol
I did do the bigger of the ditches tho bc.... Well, why not, right? Charlie's never been ditchy (except for that one time lol) and it's nice to get that schooling lol. And the next jumps - actually even before I had decided to stick mainly to N I had been unsure about which of these to choose. Sure, the T jump is kinda skinny... but it's basically just a coop. Whereas the N jump looked like it asked a little more of the horse, maybe.

Brita had said during our walk that the N hanging log would be good practice for us if the earlier trakehner hadn't gone so hot. So... obviously since that did end up being the case, I was pretty happy to choose this option. Which Charlie tackled no problem. Good boy!

weeeeeee big double brush table!!!
Next up were the big double brush tables. These are some considerably chunky monkey fences - I've jumped the BN version with Isabel and it's easily the biggest thing you're ever likely to see on BN. Same story for the N - so I had already figured out that it would take an act of god to make me want to aim Charlie at the T lol.

It was fine tho. Charlie soared over just like I knew he would. He was having fun!!!

look who cantered into the water AGAIN!!! 95% less cannon balling this time lol, but he did it pretty well!
We also chose to canter into the water again! This is kinda a big deal for me, for maybe weird reasons. I don't think I ever, ever cantered into the water with Isabel. She was just... unreliable haha. Tho she got pretty good at trotting in.

Charlie has proved to be better, but for some reason going into water at speed just makes me really worried. Like what if the horse zigs but I zag?!? I need to get over that tho. And since Charlie did so well at his home turf water complex at Jenny Camp, I think we're officially graduating to cantering in as a default from now on.

Charlie was good too! I slowed him way down (and he listened!) so he could fully see the water as we approached it. He jumped way right tho, way off our line, as we entered the water. Which is probably something I need to be a little more firm about... But whatever. He came back on line for the boats and didn't really lose impulsion or fall behind my leg. Locked on and jumped, good boy!

and for shits and giggles, finishing the course with a robust black lettered table. off a long spot bc obvi lol. go charles! <3
Then it was basically another quick run over ditch #2 (which was very very small haha, esp compared to the first one) before making the turn to the final line of jumps. And.... ya know. I just knew, knew that I would seriously regret it if I didn't jump at least one T jump.

So even tho there had been plenty smaller T versions on course behind us that would have also been just fine, I decided we would finish our ride on this roll top table thingy. It is.... not small haha. But hey, at least if we had a problem there wasn't anything else left on course so we wouldn't have to worry haha.

We didn't have a problem tho <3 Well, I mean, realistically I rode us to a half stride and tried to get Charlie to chop in one more... and he was like, "Emma are you crazy?!" and effortlessly picked up to jump that sucker from the long spot. Ha. Charlie. That's my boy ;)


Then naturally it took another like.... 20 seconds to get him pulled up bc our conquering hero felt like he needed a victory lap lol. I'm cool with it tho!

So it was a good ride. While on one hand I know I could have pushed us for more and it probably would have been fine, it also feels really valuable to have laid down another reasonable round at this level. Confidence building, not confidence proving, right? Plus any time Charlie walks away feeling like a winner seems like a win to me too haha.

What about you - have you ever done an event like this? Do you ever waffle about when is the right time to push for more in schooling? Are you like me in that you tend to be relatively conservative? Or are you more likely to take your chances when things are feeling good and going well? Or maybe you think I'm just way overthinking this and should shut up and enjoy the ride?!? lol...

40 comments:

  1. I SO wish we had events like this in my area. I would love to do more stuff like this. Sounds like such a good confidence building/schooling outing for you guys. I always think its better to finish feeling like you could've done more, than kick yourself for asking too much of your partnership. I am definitely on the side of more conservative. I think moving up is a bigger deal for me/my horse than it is for some pairs.

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    1. schooling events like this are so so so fun and helpful! we're definitely lucky to have the opportunity! and yea i definitely agree about preferring to feel like we could have done more. as much as i want to get out there and do big things.... i also really don't want to end up in a situation where i've bitten off more than i can chew, or undermined the confidence it's taken so long to build!

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  2. OMG I hear you so much on anxiety being worse from not eating. I don't get hangry, I get hanxious. Hanxiety is real and it's the worst lol. I stuff food in my face and my body immediately relaxes and my mind becomes....more reasonable.

    More positive miles and N sounds completely reasonable! And it sounds like it's really working because Charlie gets better every go. I love that the startbox and first jump went so smoothly for you this time around, and he looks like SUCH a professional in the stadium round!

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    1. Hanxiety, omg, that's exactly it!!! and it's so intense, omg! definitely something i need to work harder to avoid lol....

      and yea charlie really is getting better each time. like he's learning exactly the things i want him to remember, so clearly the repetition is helping him! and honestly as happy as i was with how he left the box and met jump 1, i think jump 2 was the real win here -- bc he was able to maintain that forward rhythm instead of getting farther from the start and beginning to question my leadership lol....

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  3. What a wonderful opportunity to have!

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    1. definitely! i'm glad we finally made it !

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  4. I love the idea of a low-pressure event like this :) Great job! I'm with you, I'd rather finish feeling like I could have done a bit more, then regret trying too much and having it end badly!!

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    1. definitely!!! regardless, it's always such a relief to have another great course under our belts!

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  5. I totally get nervous and second guess myself all the time when I move up. Or even when I do things like decide to gallop a horse over a new part of trail and midway through think "maybe this was a bad idea, I should turn around." Haha. Oh man.

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    1. lolol yea.... i mean, i know that feel haha! it sucks to be constantly second guessing myself but i've basically come to the conclusion that there are actually very few truly *wrong* choices with horses, and what really matters is how we feel when all is said and done.

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  6. Oh man that event looks like a great opportunity. I really wish places around here did that. What a great way to choose the jumps that feel appropriate for the horse under you that day.

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    1. it's so so so useful - they end up being really popular! we're so lucky with this particular venue bc they offer so much for riders of every type!

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  7. That looks like so much fun! I hope to one day convince May that she is capable of cantering through water. Until then, I shall live vicariously through your helmet cam videos!

    I really like the format of that event. We have some around here that allow you to jump any of the jumps above the level you are competing in, but it's not really the same. The opportunity to truly school in a true horse trial setting would be really valuable.

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    1. ha yea the water has been a lengthy work in progress for me personally, and with both of the horses i've evented. idk if you were reading or remember charlie's earliest outings, but the first couple times we saw water on course we had refusals. and ever since then i've always taken him into the water outside the flags first before presenting to the flags to school. he's gotten better over time and is pretty confident in water during schooling outings, so it's looking like he's finally ready to be a normal water horse at events now!!

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  8. Congrats! I wish we had something like that here. And I really liked that course and how it flowed. Around here it seems like pretty much everything at every level is maxed out. CDs like to put max, spooky fences as jump 1 rather than let horses establish a rhythm and build confidence. Glad you had a good experience!

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    1. yea that's kinda how plantation was - the biggest fence on course was positioned as jump #2..... not great for those of us who can start out a little cold and under paced!

      i think my favorite thing about loch moy is that many of their fences are actually on the large side in terms of height and width. but they tend to have very inviting and friendly faces and profiles. like the training table we jumped as the final fence on course: that's a BIG fence, but it's smooth rounded appearance and slightly sloping face make it really inviting to the horse and easier for the horse to read it well and produce a nice effort. so for that reason, even the max fences on this course ride really well, even compared to smaller but spookier jumps

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  9. Jeez, I get anxiety about going in the SAND BOX - and you know that's allll I do these days. Me and the Costco-sized box of Omeprazole are tight, yo. But despite the anxiety it sounds like an awesome course and a super fun ride. Congrads on killing it!

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    1. ha yea.... i just completely forgot the whole "self care" aspect of the day bc apparently working and horse showing on the same day are tough, who knew??? lol thanks tho!

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  10. Wow...what an amazing opportunity! Kudos to the very excellent people who run those sorts of things...I know it's no small undertaking, even when it's 'just' a schooling-type outing.

    I think (and this may be a symptom of my advanced years *cough* because I was LUNATIC in my younger days) that building the confidence miles while (potentially) being a bit bored is far more beneficial than over-facing ourselves...it being my 'live to ride another day' philosophy :)

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    1. these organizers are really the greatest - i'm so grateful to them for always offering so many events! it's also part of why this is one of my favorite venues for volunteering, it's just a great place to be! and yea i agree so much with the whole "being bored is beneficial" thing. especially bc.... as evidenced by my minor panic attack written about above, *i'm* not bored, apparently. the horse might be, but he'll survive. ppl always talk about a horse getting bored like it's a bad thing, or like it's undesirable. personally i LOVE the feeling of a horse who feels like he's been there, done that regarding something that has the capacity to make me personally feel nervous. makes me feel more brave when the horse is like that!

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  11. Congrats! And I totally got sidetracked mid-post on "how would you get over the horse zigging when you zag in the water?" and spent like ten minutes giggling at the idea of just... riding into the water, stopping, and throwing yourself off the horse. :D

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    1. i mean, it totally happens haha! and has happened to friends of mine when they got a little too confident that the horse would just... canter into water. centripetal force is is not something to be messed with at high speeds lol!

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    2. Oh, I know! I parted company with a cranky Arabian in a round pen one time when she went right and I went left. lol

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  12. Ok, it's official.

    I am moving to wherever it is you are.

    WE DO NOT GET STUFF LIKE THIS IN AUSTRALIA!

    Our courses on average are not nearly as nice as the ones you are always schooling on, and what's more getting to them and permission to ride on them is IMPOSSIBLE!

    The closest one to me is in town, but it is closed to everyone unless a club is running a training day, and if you partake in the training day you are also there to help clean the course up.

    Not to mention, I have ridden that course so many times it's a bit like... hmmm. AND the water jump is never full. GAH!

    The next closest courses are all 1-1.5 hours away. One is a pony club course so there's not A HEAP out there, one is lovely but you need to have a trainer with you AND pay a facility fee and the other has just opened.

    We don't have the number of opportunities to school in an environment like this and I WANTS IT.

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    1. ha yes you should totally make your way stateside - even if just for a visit!! in fairness tho, some of what you're describing is our reality here too. this venue is a 1.5 hr drive for us each way. in fact most of the places we go to are 1+ hrs each way. and all of them have associated fees (except for our home farm, since using the facility is factored into our monthly board fees). for instance, this schooling event was $95 USD. most regular schooling fees (as in, not related to a show or event) around us are ~$60 (some are cheaper, esp if they tend to only have smaller jumps). tho luckily none that i go to often have the requirements for a trainer and/or club membership etc.

      really tho, we are just very lucky in this area where schooling venues are in high demand and thus become an important revenue source for local farms. therefore they're incentivized to have great jumps, great footing, and competitive pricing. it helps that we're surrounded by some world class Aussies like Philip Dutton, Boyd Martin and Ryan Wood haha ;)

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    2. I think like anything, it really depends on where you are! Here in Perth we have 4 courses we can train over any time, unless there is an event coming up. Plus tonnes of training days. Plus Pony Clubs have some really good courses. We have some excellent event venues within 2 hours from Perth. Most courses are $35 AUD to hire without a coach. Perth is really far away from the rest of the world but we are REALLY lucky to have some amazing opportunities here.

      We have some really good courses here that are built to a very high standard. Our eventing community is really strong, and we welcome new people. Just saying ;p

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  13. He seemed pretty confident to me! A good round! And yes he sure came out of that start box flying! Yay! I am absolutely a more conservative person when it comes to move ups or showing or even teaching horses new things. To me, it's always easier to move faster, but 10x as hard to go back. Plus, I'm more of a "big-picture, farther-in-the-future" type person, so I plan for them to be a solid citizen and last - physically but mostly mentally - for as long as possible. Maybe stop the over thinking a little bit and enjoy the ride, but I'm an "assessor" as well so I get it ;)

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    1. he seems to understand the game better and better with each outing! he's always been pretty confident with the individual jumps, but he's *finally* knitting together the entire process and seems to understand it better from start to finish. and i agree - it's definitely easier to take a little extra time up front vs having to reverse course to back fill old holes.

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  14. Charlie is like YES, I know what this is about! Lets go jump all the things!

    What a cool event, so encouraging. Something like this would be perfect for Henry to get the idea of how an event is run without the pressure.

    I'm all for slow and steady and confidence building. I also think enjoying the ride happens when you're out there and it's all just easy. Then I start to add more stuff in because what we usually do it too easy, you know? But I am also a huge pansy so it takes me ages to do anything.

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    1. ha yea Charlie is all over it these days - he's eager for more!! it's SUCH a good feeling!

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  15. I'm super conservative when it comes to moving up. Although, for me, I think it's mostly about preserving confidence. I lose confidence so quickly and it takes so long for me to build it back up, that I'd rather go slow

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    1. lol yea ppl always talk about the horse getting "bored" like it's such a bad thing. imho i kinda like a bored horse bc it helps me be more brave!

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  16. WHOHOO way to go!! Your show jumping round looked fantastic! I have never even heard of an event like that, where you can pick you cross country jumps, but I love the idea. I am glad you got to sneak on T jump in at the end, congrats!!

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    1. ha thanks - yea i'm super happy to have fit in the final T effort, esp bc it was definitely a pretty legit T fence - and yet charlie jumped it like nothing!

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  17. What an awesome opportunity! So glad Charlie had his go pants on out of the start box.

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    1. ha he had his go pants buckled alllllll the way up, steve urkel style!!

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  18. What a cool schooling opportunity!! That looks like so much fun, and you guys looked fabulous!!

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    1. thanks, these events are so perfect to just get out there and get that mileage!

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  19. A friend of mine rides at Loch Moy regularly and I love their set up. I wish we had something like this nearby. How inviting! Great opportunity to school and build confidence. I like your conservative approach... setting up for success instead of rushing things. With that said, you're already jumping so much bigger than I could. I got a little queasy looking at some of your "small" fences!!! Love the helmet cam :)

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