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 ;)

31 comments:

  1. You two look so professional! And congratulations on a nice dressage test and stadium round.

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    1. Thanks! Nice and smooth basically feels like winning to be at this point haha, Charlie sure seems to think so!

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  2. Aw, I love that sassy tail swish! You two really look awesome. Your outfit game looks super sharp to me. Very Memorial weekendish lol

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    1. Ha thanks, it was pretty freakin hot so tbh I mostly just went all white for the sake of not dying from sun stroke. The red belt was a nice touch tho ;)

      (Um even tho it wouldn’t stay tight and I ended up duck taping it LOL)

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  3. Charlie is looking very professional out there. The hard ground has killed Eeyore’s hooves as well. Ugh. If it isn’t one thing with hooves it’s another. My farrier told me to overflow the water trough and keep the ground around it wet so the hooves get moisture. Not sure it does anything but it’s an easy enough thing to try.

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    1. Thanks! I’ve actually heard farriers recommend trying to keep the hooves dry this time of year but treat with products that improve flexibility like keratex

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  4. Yeah for long weekends and horse shows! Your point about pilot vs passenger really spoke to me - that is an important thing to remember - and try and do when we all go in the ring. Darn anxiety and nerves do not make it easy some days tho!

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    1. Dude the passenger v pilot struggle is so so so real. And so hard. But then again if it were easy it wouldn’t feel so good, right?!

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  5. You both look very confident! Can't wait to hear about XC!

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    1. thanks! it all felt very confident <3 and if you're too too impatient, the xc video is already up on my side bar haha ;)

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  6. You two are seriously just the best. Love your wrap up, and so sad I couldn't be in three places at once Sunday to get you some dressage media!

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    1. aw thanks, i really am just crazy about this goofy horse haha <3 and sorry you couldn't be there too but sounds like you also had an awesome weekend!! can't wait for those details too ;)

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  7. You two are looking like an actual team! Congrats on surviving, don't even stress about stupid dressage. They only knock 2 points for your 1st error anyway ;-)

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    1. thanks he's definitely my best boy <3 and actually i really like the dressage and am thrilled that we're doing much better than just surviving at this point !!

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  8. Yay! It's always fun to see progress. Charlie looks so happy to be out there doing the thing :-)

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    1. he's the happiest at doing the things, omg, haha. and yea the progress feels so good. doesn't have to be monumental, seismic progress either. just steady going. i like it!

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  9. looks like you were having some steamy weather just like us. Glad you did the stuff and got through it all :) I hate dressage :) LOL there i said it! HA

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    1. omgosh i was so worried about the weather that we'd have a repeat of last year where i was nearly sick from the heat. luckily it stayed reasonable enough and we were finished our rides before it got too oppressive out!

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  10. You both look so happy! I love it :)

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    1. thanks!! leading up to it i wasn't so sure if happy was the right word, but once we're out on course that's really what it's all about!

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  11. You guys look great! And good job working on the nerves. They can be tough to get past, but showing really IS fun!

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    1. it really is!! idk if i'll ever be fully over the nerves. honestly i think they keep getting worse with age. but it's worth it to keep pushing!

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  12. You guys look so fantastic! I have my alarm set for your next show, bahaha

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    1. yasssssss haha i may or may not have already started practicing braiding LOL

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  13. The stadium looked like it rode pretty well out of hand, yeah bobbles here and there but those will happen - being also a member of the small rider big horse club the dressage/flatwork will always be the hardest part (well aside from the mental component as you said haha!) But I think you guys look fabulous and I hope your farrier has come to the barn and sorted his feet out!

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    1. thank you! and yes the farrier has come and gone and charlie's feet are returned to proper working order! and yes that stadium round felt pretty good -- the one mistake is one i *know* how to fix even tho i do it all the time. one day we'll be perfectly smooth, tho ya know, i continue to be grateful we're not judged on style!

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  14. Glad you had a great day speeding over the jumps!

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    1. thanks!! sometimes life is best taken at speed, no?

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  15. Wahoooo!! You guys look amazing out there

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