Monday, December 10, 2018

Year in Review: Part 2

December isn't even half way over yet, but I'm forging ahead with the plan to finish recapping what proved to be a monumental year for me and Charlie.

The gist is I'm rounding up the links to the defining moments from each month. It's always interesting to see how my impressions and feelings on different events shift over time, with hindsight being 20-20 and all that.

You can find the first six months of 2018 summarized here in Part 1. By the end of June, Charlie and I (well, mostly just me, let's be honest) were still reeling after a shockingly bad performance at our second Novice at Plantation.

So let's dive right in, picking up where we left off:

the most elegant brontosaurus that ever was

- Checking in on my quarterly and year-long goals was depressing. Everything looked.... bleak given what I perceived to be the shambles of our current state.

- Charlie got time off, coming back into work with the distraction of an appt to refit and customize the dressage saddle I bought last winter. The saddle maker himself, Jan Huslebos, evaluated us and ultimately performed field surgery on the saddle right then and there, removing the bottom half of the thigh blocks. It was pretty cool, tbh.

- I continued the "distraction" theme with more volunteering. Scribing for judges Stephen Bradley and Helen Bretell at the jumping phase of a YEH qualifier at Loch Moy was great!

- But eventually we had to get back to work on our training. This lesson was a perfect case study for working through Charlie's and my issues. It was the kick in the pants I needed to remember that when *I* do *my* job consistently, Charlie is a happier horse and is easier to ride.

dressage saddle zadel surgery!!
- Looming in my personal background: continued preparations for moving house for the first time in a decade.... It was consuming, but it eventually happened!

- We finally schooled our home xc course for the first time since March. It was a GREAT ride, partly bc I adjusted my attitude to be more "present" and less preoccupied with any future plan that relied on everything in the ride going just so. It was also great bc the same issues from Plantation cropped up for us to work through in a more productive setting.

- That xc ride and those issues helped me decide to tap Charlie's shoes for studs. I wrote about that process here, and a little more here, and also some other general hoof updates here.

- Best day of the month: We capped things off with a pace clinic at Loch Moy. This was just the ticket for getting our mojo back: focusing purely on getting Charlie moving out, in front of my leg. Reminding him that he was born to run, and reminding me to keep pushing forward for that pace. This felt like a turning point, finally!

finally, finally clicking back into gear again

- Moar volunteering!! This time at the cross country vet box for the CIC1/2* at Loch Moy. Another cool experience, esp bc I did a lot of spectating too!

- We checked off a major bucket-list item by schooling xc at Boyd Martin's Windurra! The ride was positive mileage for us, but I felt disappointed that it wasn't more productive. Tho hey, at least I got to change a trailer tire for the first time! lol...

- Even so, things were looking up. Charlie had two KILLER jump lessons this month - tackling 3'3+ course work with a renewed vigor and gusto that felt incredibly refreshing. Not even bragging, he looked like one million dollars. Lesson recaps and media here and here.

there goes charlie, just casually blowing my mind....
- Best day of the Month: Redemption at MCTA's Jenny Camp Starter Trial! Charlie busted out three beautiful phases (dressage, stadium, cross country). I confronted head on his resistance to leaving the start gate for xc, and.... that was it, we moved on, were over it, and had an AWESOME run! Finishing in 2nd place, solidifying Charlie's status as a legit N event horse.

- I meanwhile mused/ranted about the increasingly ridiculous marketing gimmicks used by companies tying to sell a product by preying on our insecurities as owners....

- Ooh and we hit up one of Loch Moy's twilight events! The stadium was easily Charlie's best yet N effort. And while I wussed out from schooling all the T xc jumps (ahem, except for that *one* giant ass table at the end!) it was more positive mileage over N fences.

- Then the month ended on an all-too-familiar low note when Charlie, AGAINST ALL ODDS, managed to puncture his hoof on a piece of mulch. While walking. In the woods. Wtf, sir. Wtf.

pictured: the best feeling in the world

- I knew from experience that Charlie would likely brew an abscess from the mulch incident. But until then, we forged ahead with planning our DIY outfit for our annual hunter pace tradition! Miracle of miracles, Charlie was sound for the pace!! And it was AWESOME!!!

- Plus he was schooling pretty darn well, and I mused about his optimal work schedule.

- We celebrated two years as a team. This horse, guys <3 <3 <3

- He's fragile tho, haha, and the abscess from the mulch arrived just in time to trash our plans for a 2-day show jump and xc clinic with legendary eventer Ralph Hill. I had tortured myself about signing up and finally took the plunge by entering T. Oh well... I audited instead. Le sigh. It was a good one tho - lots of useful, actionable takeaways!

yup, i'm obsessed with this horse 100%
- Once Charlie recovered, he went back to work like he never missed a day. He was schooling great and really stepping up for our jump lessons! And we finally got our first xc lesson in a year!! It was a bit of a bust, tho - we worked over the same N fences we'd seen all summer instead of the hoped-for challenge of facing more T stuff. Oh well! Charlie was foot perfect anyway ;)

- Meanwhile, more fun volunteering by scribing for the conformation phase at the FEH East Coast Championships on a rainy, chilly Sunday.

- Best day of the month: An awesome, lengthy trail ride from our barn all the way down to the nearby Gunpowder River with a group of barn mates. Beautiful day, beautiful scenery, and great horses made for the perfect end of summer ride.

hacking thru the river!

- Technically this happened in September, but I wrote about it in October so I'm counting it in this month. Sue me. Anyway: Charlie and I competed in our final event of the season, and won it on our dressage score!! It wasn't our best performance ever - dressage was elegant and obedient, but our stadium was stilted and out of sync, just one of those lucky clears. Cross country was pretty baller, tho <3

- That event was preceded by a likewise stilted and out of sync jump lesson, with Charlie's first real refusal in a lesson. We needed a system reset, and got exactly that when we FINALLY had a lesson with erstwhile coach Dan!! It was great, just what I needed to ride better so Charlie could perform better. Damn I miss these lessons something fierce...

- We checked in on our quarterly and yearly goals -- with the whole picture looking decidedly different (for the better!) compared to last time.

- Also wrote all about my favorite volunteer roles at events, and what's involved in each of them.

killin it over those roll tops!
- Charlie then aggravated his old splint injury in an alarmingly, hauntingly familiar way. I instantly had flashbacks to the previous year's similar trajectory that culminated in surgery. But after spending ALL the money on diagnostics, the vets assured me the horse was FINE.

- His timing was yet again extremely frustrating, as the injury coincided with our second attempt at a cross country clinic, entered at Training level. This time with Stephen Bradley. It's really starting to get old paying full price for these lessons, but then ending up only getting to audit...

- While Charlie enjoyed time off, I hit up some local big events - including Fair Hill's CCI2/3* as a spectator, and Waredaca's Classic 3DE as a volunteer. Both were super fun! I also ruminated on Charlie's impressive transformation over the last two years.

Best day of the month: Definitely riding in the pairs and teams classes at the Elkridge Harford Hunter Trials earlier in the month! This was a fun, low-key day to get out and jump some jumps and gallop across some fields. In other words, it was perfect <3

definitely a favorite picture from this past year <3

- Charlie continued to rest after his splint blow up, tho we managed to sneak in a gorgeous and quintessentially "Fall in Maryland" trail ride! Otherwise, tho, the horse sat around working on his Dad Bod 2.0 before finally getting back to being ridden.

- I spent this time reflecting on Charlie's progress, especially in the dressage ring. And decided, maybe Charlie is actually ready for First Level after all! I also amused myself by compiling our annual Best Of & Bloopers Video haha.... Hahaha...

one of my favorite views!
- Despite my worst fears, Charlie legitimately, honest-to-god seemed pretty darn sound after the splint scare. He got back to work (again) really nicely, including an excellent jump lesson focusing on grids and gymnastics, and an even better and highly anticipated return to dressage lessons with trainer C.

- Upper level event rider Matt Brown meanwhile wrote an excellent series at Chronicle of the Horse, with Part 1 addressing the impact goals have on mental health. This was a great article and gave me a lot of food for thought about how I structure my goals, hopes, and dreams.

- Mostly tho, it was a quiet month spent settling into the season's changing rhythms and shorter days.

- Best day of the month: SCHOOLING TRAINING FINALLY!! Lol.... After months of frustrated plans, we finally had a proper school over T cross country fences at Loch Moy's arena derby course. And Charlie just.... flew. Acted like jumping these giant jumps was the easiest thing in the world, as if he'd been doing it his whole life. God I just freakin love this horse tho!

there goes charlie, making that giant T fence look tiny....

- Obviously we're not even half way through this month yet, so it seems a little silly to summarize it haha. But that's never stopped me before ;)

- This is reflection season, after all, so it's fitting that I'd be taking time to review what all has happened this year. Like wrapping up my volunteer experiences throughout 2018. And the qualitative analysis of Charlie's 2018 dressage scores. Or these very same "Year in Review" posts haha (Part 1 can be found here).

- I also submitted our season results to MCTA for year end awards. Winning an event, and coming in second at one of MCTA's own events (meaning: double points!) has me hopeful for a strong finish!

- Ooh, and wrote about all the various relationships I have with professionals in the equine services industry, and polled the audience on how you approach that topic too. Got LOTS of really interesting and varied responses!

this horse <3 
- All this retrospective navel-gazing was made possible in part bc Charlie lost a shoe in the mud, and then was so pitifully hoof sore (despite getting the shoe tacked back on after only a day without it....) that he got yet another week off work, ugh.

- The riding year isn't entirely over yet, tho, with a few more big plans in the works. Obviously with horses everything is written in pencil, especially with a horse like Charlie, but the top of our list of Plans is a show jumping clinic with Phillip Dutton scheduled for mid month. My heart is set on Charlie coming with me, but if history is any guide, I may end up just auditing. We'll see.

- And naturally I still have to wrap up our goals for the year to see how that all shook out. My gut feeling tho was that, even with all the setbacks, Charlie really stepped up to the plate this year. I feel happy.


So there ya have it: 2018 summed up in all its glory. Obviously with horses anything and everything can change in a moment, so it's important to take time to enjoy and appreciate the good feelings when they come! Here's to a happy 2019 ;)


  1. You deserve to end the year feeling happy. You guys kicked 2018's butt even with set backs and annoying mulch monsters.

    1. aw thanks <3 it definitely felt like a roller coaster!

  2. I will never not love that dinosaur picture LOL It was definitely a year of ups and downs, but it looks like you're going to end the year on a GREAT note!

    1. ha ditto! and yea if the year ended today, i'd be totally satisfied. still a couple weeks to go tho, so hopefully this isn't tempting fate LOL

  3. 2018 really built one on top of another in a winding way but I don't doubt that you'll both benefit immensely and spring forward into 2019!

    1. thanks - i kinda feel similarly that even despite some of the bobbles (and the plantation blip, which was arguably a necessary evil), charlie really kinda progressed in a very logical sort of way. i'm curious to see if he can keep up that same sort of trend!

  4. What a crazy brave boy! That table top looks awesome! You get the best photos.... jelly.

    1. ha thanks! i'm so so so so so grateful to have gotten so many good pictures this year haha. charlie's and my earliest pictures together weren't.... always very cute. either he always looked kinda awk, or i was a hot mess, or even more often we were both kinda iffy lol....

  5. Replies
    1. thanks!! i admittedly have a little too much fun going back and rereading everything and pulling all the pics together <3

  6. When I read through this I realize that horse people are the poster children for perseverance. Or resilience. Or why wine sales are so high these days....

    1. ha ain't that the truth tho. really tho, it's so worth it. i mean, what on earth else would we be doing with all this energy (and money, i suppose LOL) ;)

  7. I think Charlie just has his own holiday agenda! Sounds like you've had a fun year despite that though.

    1. Ha he definitely does - he’s got no problems whatsoever with taking his vacation as he sees fit!

  8. Saddle field surgery and the pace clinic were two of my absolute favorite posts of yours this year because they were just. so. fascinating! What an incredibly full year on the Charlie-Coaster.

    1. They were both really cool experiences!! I’d love to do the pace clinic again sometime next year, it was such a great way to click into gear !

  9. great recap all these year end recaps are great. Mine would be like 1) moved 2) bitched about weather 3) didn't ride much :) HA HA HA! Here's to an even better 2019 for you and Charlie!

  10. First off, you have excellent recap skillzz! Secondly, you SLAYED 2018.

  11. Best year ever!
    I remember how down you were at the beginning/middle of the year and then, when I look back at all you did, and all the fun you had, despite his injuries, all I can think is that the good far outweighs the bad!
    Here's to another incredible year next year!!

  12. Love this! Hope 2019 will be amazing!

  13. Up and down, but still a trending up year!! Excited to be following along again!


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