Thursday, May 30, 2019

Novice XC @ MDHT #3 2019

Y'all ready for some cross country?!? I know I sure am haha! And of course, we all know Charlie was born ready lol.

Anyway, like I mentioned yesterday, I hadn't been particularly impressed with the course map posted online. The jumps looked small and the course looked soft technicality-wise. Luckily, tho, walking it improved my opinion. There was a fair amount of interesting terrain and a lot of time spent in the woods. Plus some jumps in new positions that I quite liked.

brace yo'selves for hella pictures of charlie gallopin loping around
Tho.... There were also a few aspects of the course design that puzzled me. Like some very strange turns and approaches to the fences, and a half coffin that walked in a half stride no matter how many times I walked it.

Overall tho, I figured the course should go pretty well for us and I was resolute in determining that I would ride more forward. To aid in this, I busted out the stabby jabby studs I bought earlier this spring. The ground was super hard and I wanted to give Charlie every opportunity to respond to my aids by giving him enough traction.

cruisin along to the itsy bitsy tootsie roll at jump 2
Initially I had honestly been thinking about skipping studs. After Rachael's accident I didn't bother studding at Shawan, and Charlie was fine. But the ground was soft there - plenty soft enough to dig a toe in for some purchase. With the ground so hard now, it's an entirely different ball game. And ultimately I had zero regrets deciding to stud up.

In fact, Charlie seemed to discover his studs pretty quickly in the xc warm up, and immediately improved his carriage and turning radius. Yessss! That's the ticket, big guy!

Warm up was actually pretty cool too (for fucking once LOL) bc they had this long straight roped off lane leading up to the fences, all going away from the trailers. Since I was the first to go on course, the warm up was empty. So I was able to right off the bat practice our "start box style" by just breaking into gallop up the lane and over the first warm up fence. Perfect.

he actually spooked a little at it LOL
I came around again to jump the larger warm up fence, then basically just chilled until the starter got the go ahead that everyone was in position.

The start box was also pointed into the woods away from the trailers and rings etc, which can traditionally make for a sticky situation with Charlie. This time tho? He was totally clean and clear out of the gates, and jumped the first fence beautifully out of a forward stride. Good boy!!

Jump 2 was kinda an unimpressive tootsie roll jump with a shitty ground line that Charlie sorta spooked at and jumped a little funny when we got to a gap. Nbd tho, he landed cantering forward looking for the next.

we looped down a hillside with some very fun use of terrain, albeit small fences, that you'll have to watch the helmet cam video to see. then came back into view for this simple table
Next up was a little coop that we've seen a bunch. Tho in the past both Isabel and Charlie have seemed to spook a little at it, so I still treated it with a little respect. Again tho, Charlie was easily up and over.

He landed wanting to run, but actually we had to pretty quickly re-balance for a steep descent into this sorta little hollow that we went through in Charlie's season opener last year. Unlike last year tho, Charlie's a damn educated horse now and handled the terrain way better than I expected!

We jumped the little feeder down in the hollow easily, albeit a little close. Again, it's a small jump and didn't really give Charlie any reason to stand off it. Nbd tho. From there, we curved right back up the hill out of the hollow toward the garden gate that Charlie jumped beautifully right out of stride.

stupid turn to the palisade + horse who doesn't turn right = THIS lol. he's a star tho! also.... it makes more sense in the helmet cam haha, but at least we're forward, right?? LOL
Then we caught another little table on our way back toward the start. From the table, we had an option of two right hand lines - the more direct of which led to a palisade shared with BN. The other went to the N palisade we jumped last month. Honestly, walking that line looked so freaking dumb that I figured it didn't even make sense trying to bother. I'd just do the BN version.

Except.... Once we got there I really preferred to do the bigger jump, and Charlie was being extremely rideable. So we went for it. I knew the turn would be hard bc his left shoulder weighs 8,000lbs and we'd be trying to angle late after some trees turning back away from the start box.

Charlie kinda fussed with me about the turn, and didn't really see the fence itself until three strides out. He locked on tho and gave it a huge effort. Good boy!

easy peasy through the first water!
We repeated basically the same thing to the next fence - winding our way through some trees then having another kinda weird right angle to some hanging rail jumps that I kinda don't like. For some reason Loch Moy has started building out all these hanging telephone pole jumps. Probably the jumps are super cheap and easy to build.

But.... I just don't really like them. They're so airy and don't really impress a horse, ya know? Honestly I worry about Charlie hitting one of them... Esp with the stupid turn and him fussing about going right... It was fine tho, he jumped it kinda sideways, but he jumped it. Then cantered on down the hill.

I opted to bring him down to a trot going into the water, just bc it was heading straight back toward the trailers and I wanted to make sure he had enough time to see our next jump. He was foot perfect tho, and actually didn't try to drag me toward home at all! Yasss!

for some reason loch moy has been using a TON of this style fence..... and honestly i actually really don't like them. they don't back charlie off and esp coming out of the half coffin that seemed mis-measured, i would have preferred a more impressive jump
Next up came the half coffin: small ditch to another one of those hanging rail fences. This line..... perplexed me. I've ridden a ton of combinations at this exact ditch over the years, and have never felt so iffy about the distances. It walked in exactly 2.5 strides. Every time. There looked to be a little bit of a left bend, so I tried to walk that, but still got 2.75. Walked it from the shortest most direct edges and still.... 2.5. Idk.

i walked this half coffin no fewer than 8 times.... it rode fine in a show jump canter tho!
Like, realistically, Charlie probably could have done 2 in there. But at present I don't necessarily feel like that's the direction we need to be going in for his training. Like, mayyyyybe if there had been a more substantial fence on the other side, like a big solid rolltop or something. But I definitely didn't want to go balls to the wall to that airy little hanging log thing.

So.... we show jumped it. And it was fine. Whatevskis, right? It seemed a little strange and unfair to put that kind of striding in the middle of the course but presumably they had their reasons.

that's my boy chuck!! his shape now is so much stronger and more adjustable than it used to be!
Next up came a row of fences positioned right at the top of this little hill - a place I don't ever remember seeing fences before. And I actually reeeeeally liked it! Novice had a skinny-ish blue house that Charlie jumped in last month's half coffin, and the landing was immediately down hill again.

i REALLY liked the placement of these houses on the crest of a small hill. also, can we all just agree that charlie is too pure for this world?!? #SWOON
I love jumping Charlie up hill bc it forces me to put my leg on, ya know? Charlie got there beautifully to it and really didn't seem to mind the terrain at all, even the down parts. Thank god for studs tho LOL.

Next up we slowed a bit to approach probably the coolest combo on course - a tiny bank up onto a mound, then back down the other side before reaching a nicely sized roll top. Charlie has very little experience with mound type features, so even tho this bank was very small (it's a BN bank) I was eager to try it.

this combination was super fun too!
Naturally, Charlie was a super star. Gosh I love this horse. He's getting to be so game!! I love feeling like he's thinking about what we're doing too - like he's really focused and looking and processing in real time. And making his own adjustments too -- this horse's eye is legitimately 100% better than my own haha.

charlie was brilliant over the table
From there we took a sweeping turn back around toward the water again. The course again offered Novice the option between the corner or the table. To be honest I would sorta prefer that both fences be on course, instead of having to choose one or the other. Both were on his first N course last year, but this year not so much.

They're both very nice fences and while obviously Charlie's jumped them each a few times now, it still feels like good experience for him.

god i love him tho <3
Anyway, last month I jumped the corner so I figured I might as well jump the table this time. Plus I liked the line a little bit better anyway. Not sure it really would have made any difference, but Charlie jumped that table absolutely perfectly. Such a good boy!

steadying up ahead of the second water
We were basically almost at the end of this course, so I wanted to make sure we didn't have any silly mistakes heading to the second water. Honestly I was a little surprised that there wasn't really anything going on with this water too. Like, there was a jump on the other side but it was small and kinda far away.

lol i love how he's staring directly at the photographer while i'm trying to organize for the water
Since the first water had a jump on the far side, it might have been nice to have a jump going into the water this second time. They've certainly done that before on these courses. But oh well, nobody asked me, so it was just a simple canter through the water.

charlie is just canterin through like a normal horse. emma is apparently doin the shimmy lol...
Charlie actually drifted a bit off his line too, not quite wanting to go straight in. He was fine tho. And just cantered on through happy to be heading home.

ping!! these jumps too smol tho!
The last two fences were definitely a bit small too - the little log roll and the blue brush box, both of which Charlie has jumped easily at the T heights. It didn't matter tho, Charlie jumped them both fine.

Actually, I was super proud of him too bc even tho we were clearly heading back to the trailers and had pretty long runs between the last two fences, he really didn't speed up or start pulling. Actually I probably could have ridden him more forward! But that's a good feeling, ya know? Like Charlie has finally truly figured out that this is *not* a race, and that there are different gears and speeds etc.

so dreamy tho, amirite?? <3
Overall I couldn't be more proud of how this horse handled himself on course and throughout each of the three phases. He's so smart, he definitely understands the game.

This particular course was in some ways kinda strange, and some of the jumps were definitely underwhelming. But it did feel like a proper Novice test, and Charlie felt at every moment and with each hoof fall that he knew the answers and was able to face each obstacle competently and confidently.

I'm not sure there was much here to "test" or "prepare us" for the next level, but that's totally fine. It's enough to just get through smoothly and free of any drama or moments of unexpected excitement haha.

It's a little disappointing to be so far off the leader board after dressage. Esp knowing that it's not really that unusual for us to have a rail. And, honestly, if at some point we do timed courses I expect we'll get penalties there too. So it would be useful to have stronger dressage scores.

we don't have to be competitive to be having fun <3
All in good time tho. For now I just couldn't be happier with Charlie's attitude and professionalism. Each positive reaffirming event helps me feel that much more confident about the future with him. And that's all that really matters, right?

that moment when you get home exhausted and dump everything on the floor, and the cats are like, "cool - new sleeping spot!"
So another one is in the books. And even tho on paper it doesn't necessarily look like an impressive day, I think this was possibly one of our best runs at N to date across all three phases. The rest will come eventually, right?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

365 Days Later: Dressage & SJ at MDHT

Memorial Day Weekend is one of my favorite horse show weekends of the year, and generally coincides with Loch Moy's final event of their Spring Starter Series.

I did my first ever  BN with Isabel at this show in 2015. Charlie did the Intro here in 2017 before moving up to BN, and then we moved up to N here last year. (I missed the show in 2016 for #reasons, le sigh)

charlie's lookin like a hunk these days! finally his fitness is pretty much right where it needs to be for the level
It's an especially awesome horse show weekend too bc of the national holiday on Monday. Hurray for getting extra time for the horse show hangover recovery!! So. How did it go? Basically really really well. Nice and smooth, just the way I like it.

I was a little nervous leading up to the show bc the state of Charlie's hooves is pretty fucking atrocious right now. Not sure exactly what my farrier was thinking when he opted to hold off on doing them last week, tbh. Luckily tho, despite 3 out of 4 hooves having at least one nail that was basically completely devoid of hoof wall, and the toes of the shoes being worn to basically nothing.... despite all that, each shoe was on nice and tight, and the toes aren't so long as to be making Charlie feel funny.

damn tho, the hard ground came on fast this year. really should have gotten his feet done the week before, but the farrier seemed to think it'd be better if we waited. not sure there will be anything left to put a shoe on for his appt today :(
Anyway, I'd be traveling to this show with my former barn mate Rachael and her mare Birdie, who'd be doing Training. Our ride times worked out really nicely for carpooling purposes (not too ungodly of an early hour) and we mostly got to see at least a little bit of each other's rides throughout the day.

Plus -- the best part was both being done around 12:30, before the heat got too too intense. Yesss!

picture from after we finished for the day. he really is my best boy <3
I have exactly zero media from our dressage, but it was pretty fine. My warm up was good, Charlie felt good. I probably could have / should have asked for more, but was satisfied with the answers I was getting. And especially satisfied that I felt like I had quite a bit of horse under me, instead of a slug.

We went in a little early for our test, and basically just got immediately to work. Charlie entered well, produced a nice turn off center line (instead of our normal "losing balance" lol), had a lovely first circle, and a serpentine to change directions where I felt like I finally rode the geometry more appropriately. Tho.... Well.... Fuck me, bc I went off course after the serpentine AGAIN.

You might remember I did that (in the exact same place) at our last show last year too. And scolded myself that, "if ever I forget what to do on this test, it's probably a trot circle!" Ugh. Emma. Last year I just decided to start cantering. This time I just walked. Idk. Dumb mistakes!

ugh but that mother fucking error again.... why can't i remember this test?!?
We got back on course tho and pretty much immediately picked up a bug in Charlie's ears. Poor guy. He was trying to listen and do what I ask, but this fricken bug stayed with us for like three full movements. Tho I gotta say - I really appreciated that the judge seems to have looked past that.

Some comments acknowledge the bug ("dropping poll + curling neck" --> aka Charlie had his head shaking between his knees.... "stops before A" --> I had to let the poor horse briefly pause to rub his face.... "needs energy + focus" ---> yea, homeboy was distracted lol) but she doesn't seem to have dinged us in the actual scores.

Like who knows, maybe we would have gotten better scores without the bug, but honestly maybe not LOL. So ya know. I'm cool with it, and felt like it was reasonable but also kind of the judge.

commentary all pretty much right on point with our norm.... le sigh!
I thought our canter work was pretty good tbh and am a little disappointed it didn't score better. But I get it. Charlie is a big rangy horse who naturally wants to be a little strung out. According to the measuring stick I've honed over the years of training him, he is way more packaged up and engaged than he used to be. But according to the measuring stick of "generally accepted correctness".... yea, we still have more work to do.

At least we didn't pick up any wrong leads LOL, something I'm embarrassed to admit we seem to do in roughly half of our tests hahahughfml.....

And anyway, while our canter-trot transitions are still nothing to write home about, they're good enough now that the quick succession of canter-trot-center line turn isn't as hard as it used to be. All our work on 10m half turns clearly paid off too when Charlie nailed the CL turn, yasssss!

that's ok tho, i didn't buy charlie to be a dressage horse
Overall I'm happy with the test, and how Charlie felt. He's becoming extremely consistent and obedient. The dressage work doesn't come naturally for him but even tho our scores this year are trending behind last year's average (35.5% and 36.9% this year compared to an average of 33.9% last year), I still feel like Charlie is just getting better and better.

So while in some ways it's disappointing to not be at all competitive in the dressage, I'm cool with it. And honestly I'm thinking we might see improvements when the tests get a little harder. Maybe. Lol...

he's a jump jump horse!! even when his rider sometimes tries to add too many strides in haha, whoops! (note the falling rail...)
Anyway, I'm going to talk about the cross country in a separate post, per my usual habit. But my impression from scanning the course maps in advance was that it looked.... Definitely soft but maybe actually kinda boring.

So far this year, Loch Moy hasn't really used their biggest fences for the starter trials (like remember those double brush tables that I've jumped with Izzy and Charlie previously?? where are those at?!?) and I feel like the Novice I did with Isabel asked more questions than what I've seen so far with Charlie. Esp now that we've been schooling more T fences but are still green to combinations, I'm really feeling hungry for the beefiest that N has to offer, ya know?

this jump apparently fell like crazy the day before. charlie aced it tho!
So with all that in mind, I was actually pretty excited when I heard reports of the stadium course. Friends who were there for the Saturday division said it rode like a real, proper test. Yasss!!

gosh he's pretty <3 he was mostly jumping quite nicely this whole course even tho the jumps feel small to us!!
The ring continues to be under construction as they expand it, tho it looks a little less spooky now vs a month ago. The course itself started with two singles to get you going, then a slightly short 4 stride followed by a very going bending 6, turning immediately to a bending 7 to the 2-stride in and out. Boom boom boom, then finished with a comma-turn for the final two fences.

he's my favorite <3
Again, I tried to warm up with discipline and purpose. Keeping my mental game going continues to take a lot of effort, ya know? Like, that last hour before my rounds is emotionally a bit of a struggle. Feelings like "Do I even want to do this?" or "Why do I keep doing this to myself?" are not uncommon, but I'm working really hard to take the underlying physiological effects and use them to tell myself that it's all positive excitement.

Just continuing to tell myself that I do it bc it's fun. Bc I do want to do it. And bc riding my horse at speed over jumps is unlike anything else. It's thrilling -- Charlie is a good boy and I love riding him. But yea. Mental games are tough, and often by the time I've gotten to the warm up I've sorta decompressed to the point of slipping fully into "passenger" mode instead of "pilot."

wheeeee!!!! we really committed to a somewhat aggressive striding down this strange bending line haha. charlie nailed it tho -- check out that tail action haha!
A big part of helping myself through those feelings etc tho is reminding myself to be disciplined, and do my job. Help Charlie be successful by riding like I've been taught, ya know? And riding with expectations vs just sorta sitting there wondering/dreading what might happen. Making decisions -- even if they're not always the right decisions! -- so that at least I know what's happening and what works / doesn't work.

not sure what the pro photographer was thinking when she framed up this shot.... considering yes i had to crop out a whole lotta other random shit lol and there's that fence right in the way. chuck looks good tho in this fun bending line to the in and out!
I got to warm up with plenty of time, and really tried to be thoughtful about the progression vs sorta just trying to rush through it. Trotted a little session, then took a break. Cantered a little, including practicing the simple change I knew we'd need between Jumps 1 and 2, then walked again.

i think we definitely prefer oxers to verticals
Did a circuit of the four warm up jumps (X, Vertical, Oxer, Bigger Vertical) then walked again. I was first to go for Novice, so I kept an eye on the course reset and walking break. Then, when it was just time to go down for my course, did one more pass over the oxer off the other lead.

All was fine, Charlie was moving nicely forward, finding his jumps, and felt adjustable. Yesss!

i esp like it when we match the jumps lol, tho i'm not sure my red belt was quite enough for the "red white and blue" idea i was going for!
Once in for the course itself, I probably should have had him a little more forward right off the bat. We tapped jump 1, were a little sluggish with our simple change, and then I put in one-too-many strides to the oxer at jump 2. My bad, Charlie, and he took it with his front legs.

Apparently Jump 3 had claimed a number of victims the day before. It was the in jump to a short four stride combination right next to the gate and I guess people just weren't getting the approach right? Idk, it didn't matter for Charlie. He nailed a slightly gappy distance perfectly (with his trademarked turbo blasters LOL), and then balanced well enough through the line to not get too close to the out jump.

i kinda biffed the turn to this final fence (big time) but charlie got through just fine!
One nice thing about this course was that all the distances appeared to be riding extremely consistently, but I still knew the next line would have to be ridden with commitment to get the 6. The fences were slightly offset from each other, but it really wasn't very much bend at all.

Charlie aced it tho, jumped HUGE out over the oxer haha, then wheeled around the turn to 7. Luckily he saw the jump soon enough, since he was a bit distracted and fussy at that exact moment by my efforts to keep him packaged up lol. But he hit 7 nicely enough, then actually took a little leg to move up into the two-stride.

yayyyyyy survival!!
Got out of that fine, and then went to finish through the blue bending comma. I saw most people do 8 in that line - land straight for 4, turn, then 4 to the vertical. So that was my plan. Except I tooooootally biffed the turn and we ended up with a goofy 6 to the vertical, whoops. Charlie jumped it fine tho so no harm, no foul!

video of the round here! personally i like the part where you can hear rachael explaining to another friend that, yes, charlie does in fact fart over almost every single fence LOL

All in all, I was extremely proud of Charlie through the course. He really is so steady and consistent, and is learning to hold his shape better even as the course goes on and we kinda want to get a bit strung out. The hardest part of course work with this horse is that the longer he goes, the more he wants to drop his shoulder and flatten into more of a run than a round canter.

Lately tho it seems like he's really getting the idea, and is able to come back to me when I ask. Which is good, bc I think the more I can trust that the horse will be there when I need him, the less likely I'll be to always want to ride him under paced. This course itself I felt was pretty appropriately forward, aside from our sorta sluggish start to the first two fences, for which I take full responsibility. Nbd tho!

getting through the flags is the best feeling sometimes <3
Possibly the greatest thing about this horse is just how good he feels to ride. For however nervous or anxious I might feel leading up to the ride, once we're actually in motion everything just clicks into place. I feel like I know this horse inside and out, I trust him completely. And I like to think he feels the same way about me haha, tho perhaps that's anthropomorphizing....

Regardless, after stadium I knew we were ready for the cross country course. Especially bc after walking it, it looked a bit more fun than the printed course maps had suggested. There would be lots of terrain to contend with - something I know Charlie and I need more mileage doing. Plus the course would test our steering and forward esp relating to going toward and away from the trailers.

So stay tuned for the details on how that all went, plus obviously way more pictures and video LOL! Hope everyone else in the States had a good Memorial Day weekend too ;)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

putting it into action

It is straight up insane to me that we're almost  halfway through 2019. Where did the time go? What on earth have I even been doing these last few months?? I feel like I've been super busy, hustling constantly... And yet I also am not entirely sure what we have to show for all that lol.

the bugs and heat are officially bad enough that the horses are voluntarily coming off grass to get to the shed midday
Possibly that's just an effect of getting older?? Maybe?? And I guess we kinda got a late start this year.... Regardless, I'm feeling eager for some action lol.

just look at that goofy lovable face tho <3
I've made so many awesome plans for this month. So many cool things to do. But.... Per usual, not much has come of it. Last year we ended up missing out on all my grand plans (all those clinic and competition entries for instance) because Charlie kept getting injured.

This year tho, the horse feels fabulous. Really really really good. Emotionally he's in a great place. In his schooling with me he's in a good place. He feels like a fully primed and prepared canvas ready for whatever I throw at him.

trying to keep my pledge of reducing water usage.... sometimes a full hose down is needed tho!
But my plans still aren't really panning out. Like, I keep booking these big xc lessons weeks (in some cases, more than a month) out. Organizing all the logistics. Preparing for the travel. Putting together a thoughtful exercise and schooling schedule to build up to these outings. Etc.

The universe is basically like "Wait a sec, hold my beer!" tho, and twice in a row this month the coaches I've booked for xc lessons have backed out less than 12hrs prior to our scheduled lesson slot.

Which like, sucks, right? 12hrs out and nobody else is gonna be available to fill the same time slot. Meanwhile all the rest of my schedule has been booked by that point, with the expectation that we would have had that schooling. So not only do I not get those rides, but it's also near impossible to reschedule quickly.

it's always nice when it's followed by some grazing obvi
Part of me wants to be snarky and be like, Well c'mon now guys, if I cancelled on you 12hrs out you'd still charge me for the full lesson price. What gives?!? Realistically tho, I get it. Horses are a tough business and when push comes to shove for most pros, I'm kinda a low man on the totem pole and am easy to bump. Which sucks, but that's how it goes sometimes I guess.

oooh look at this sweet familiar face i ran into while waiting for an appt at Waredaca!
My big plan for this past week was a show jumping lesson with upper level event rider K (which worked out perfectly, yas, and I wrote about on Monday), then school xc at Windurra in a lesson with Dan, and close out with a much needed dressage lesson with Trainer C at her lovely farm.

Essentially -- all three phases, with three key pros, spread out over a couple days. Then just hold steady as needed until the weekend for our starter trial on Sunday. Nice plan, right?

such a sweet old doggo to keep me company haha
Ah well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad, right? Dan's schedule apparently imploded after his wife (also a talented 5* rider, and a lovely individual) had a nasty fall. She's ok, thankfully, but it was scary and meant Dan had to pick up some of her rides and presumably lessons etc. So again, with their own priorities and schedules, when push came to shove, my little private off-farm xc lesson ended up getting bumped. I continued to be super bummed, but again, I get it. C'est la vie.

also here's a less sweet face haha, but always a welcome sight at the farm! go eat 'dem mice! fun fact: charlie strolled right on past this giant fucking snake without a glance lol....
Especially considering -- those other two lessons both went off without a hitch, and were exactly what I wanted / hoped for / needed. Again, I already wrote about the show jumping lesson, where we worked on staying forward in balance on a 12' even through bending lines, etc.

story time: i was already prepping my truck for the early morning drive to windurra when dan cancelled. feeling sad and discouraged, i went to gas up anyway, but recoiled in horror when i opened the gas cap and nearly palmed this nest and its wasp chillin in there. upon closer inspection, there was a second nest+wasp  inside the driver's side door frame too. bc fuck me, right? fortunately random gas station people are kind. a stranger took my broom to gently swat the nests down, and the wasps all flew away quickly and peacefully... full disclosure tho, i may or may not have had a little cry after that once back on the road.... sigh. 
The second lesson - a dressage ride with Trainer C at her farm - was also exactly what the doctor ordered. Obvi not as exciting as cross country haha, but we'll take what we can get, right?

Again, Charlie's been doing super super well in our rides, and I've been trying to be disciplined in my position and riding style. It's hard tho. I have so so so many bad habits, and at this point I've kinda conditioned Charlie to respond to my pretzel contortions. So when I feel like I need to get something specific from the horse, I revert immediately back to my bad habits. You know how it goes haha.

and speaking of biting stinging murderous beasties.... sorry to post a picture of charlie's junk but the bugs are absolutely savaging his under bits. i try to clean the crusted blood out every day but it's seriously awful, poor guy! :(
Basically, at this point, Charlie feels like a true reflection of me and my riding, for better or worse. He's been very good and very obedient lately. He's getting stronger and stronger, and has really been trying for me. I like it a lot!

But I just don't really know what the next step is. I know that for him to be better, I have to be better. I just don't know how to do that on my own. We just need coaching right now, ya know?

every day he's got fresh blood drops :(
In some ways Trainer C is kinda funny bc I see her so infrequently that she feels like she shouldn't disrupt my style too much in case I'm doing things for specific reasons. Like rein length, she seemed to think I was keeping them longer or looser or whatever bc Charlie wouldn't like it if I shortened them too much.

But like, no. Actually I just have bad hands bc I don't have someone there to tell me repeatedly and often to fix my bad hands LOL. Luckily I didn't need to tell her that twice and she made it her business to remind me every step of the way to fix my god forsaken hands haha. Yassss.

he hasn't let that slow him down tho! good boy has been busy lately!
Particularly, she wants me to pay more attention to my inside hand. I want to let it sorta get low and pull down, but she wanted me to think of actually having it be a little higher than the outside hand. Like in our leg yields, where she was basically like "even if the barn is burning down and everyone is dying, for the love of god stop pulling your inside rein." Or for moves like the 10m half turns. Something we've been practicing a lot lately, mostly to good effect, but that still need improvement.

Overall Charlie was pretty good for everything. No real standout glaring issues or anything, and nothing too too nitty gritty (at least, not that I remember) about changing my ride. Except for the whole clinging and clutching with my lower legs. That's another habit that's going to take a lot of persistent coaching to eradicate.... And maybe a County Epiphany LOL.

so tired but so pleased with himself <3
And for the end of the lesson, we actually opted to do a quick run through 1-1. I've only read the test once or twice, and have never put the whole thing together with Charlie, tho we practice components from it almost every ride.

The purpose of this test ride was more or less just to set a baseline. Kinda see where we're at, what the weak points are, etc. And actually Charlie did WAY better for the whole thing than I expected. He was a little tense and tight in the base of his neck, possibly bc he felt like we shifted gears too quickly from lesson mode to test mode, something I'll need to consider in warm up and maybe schooling too.

But actually he did surprisingly well with the rapid fire (relatively speaking) transitions and figures etc. The trot lengthenings in particular were on fire, literally way better than anything we've ever practiced before. Good boy! The canter work was good too, especially his transitions were also more prompt and crisp than I sometimes see in schooling. And the 10m half circles were adequate.

the juxtaposition between charlie and his spicy little nugget of a trailer mate always makes me LOL
It was certainly rough around the edges (our halts in particular were quite bad) and I'm not sure it'd break a 60% at even a schooling show lol.... But it was a great start. And super reassuring -- I think the construction of that test suits Charlie way more than I expected.

We'll be riding that test, plus the very similar USEA Training A test, at a schooling dressage show in a couple weeks, so at least now I have an idea of how to keep refining. Charlie definitely has all the pieces tho. It's a good test for him. I just need to help it flow more, be more smooth.

And. Ya know. Perhaps try to lesson more than once every 3 months LOL. Details, details. This weekend we're just riding Novice A again anyway. As much as I would love to really put in a solid effort for a test we've been riding for legit a year, it'll probably still be kinda mediocre. That's ok tho, I'm excited anyway.

Just excited to get out and do things!!! Ya know? Looking forward to stuff on my calendar is one of my favorite activities, even when, blargh, they don't quite pan out. Hopefully this weekend will be good tho. We shall see!