Thursday, August 15, 2019

wild hearts can't be broken

Some days I wake up and want to pinch myself. Is it really true? Is this real life? Are we really doing this??

I know it can be easy to forget, esp for the casual or newer reader. But horses just weren't a given in my life growing up. I begged and - when I was old enough - worked for any and every chance to be around horses. And those experiences I had from childhood through high school were not particularly worldly, although obviously they meant the world to me.

It wasn't until college that I started actually jumping full courses, and learned to be a bit more independent and self directed in my riding. And then it wasn't until the completely serendipitous and unexpected lease opportunity with Isabel, already into my mid 20s, that I finally got my first taste of what horse ownership and serious training could be like. And fun fact: I jumped my first 3' fence less than 5 years ago, with Isabel.

this face tho <3
It's so easy to get sucked into the tunnel vision of day to day training. All those granular details, the shifting grains of sand.... And it's easy to be discouraged when despite our best efforts, today's ride seems to go worse than yesterday's, or last week's, or a ride the month before.

Riders everywhere have probably had periods where they felt "stuck." Wondering why they keep rolling this same rock up this same hill again and again, day after day, when it doesn't feel like we're actually getting anywhere.

And I'm definitely predisposed to this way of thinking. Brooding, overly analytical, and generally picking myself apart inside and out... But... Sometimes it's so important to take a step back and look with fresh eyes: Jesus Christ, I have an amazing horse and we are today doing things that I literally never ever believed I could actually do. And.... I'm just... so grateful.

I don't know what I did to get so lucky with Charlie. But he's my horse of a lifetime. I'm so grateful that I have our journey from the beginning fully documented and chronicled. And that I continue to have exciting stories and developments to share <3

The latest of which was another cross country lesson with Sally, this time at our very own farm!! Score for not having to travel or pay a facility fee haha. Double score, bc the extremely talented photographer Amy Flemming Waters was on hand to shoot the clinic.

If that name sounds familiar, it's because you may have seen her work on Eventing Nation -- where she's covered major events like Fair Hill International, Jersey Fresh, and many more.

She caught so many excellent moments from our ride - and y'all know I'm a sucker for media, so obviously I bought the full album. All photos are credited to Amy unless otherwise noted.

according to Sally, this is our warm up fence now
So. The details! My group was the last to go, but I showed up a few hours early to audit the other groups (including watching my friends go!!). Mostly just to get a sense for the rhythms of how these lessons would go, and familiarize myself with what to expect.

Bc let's be real... Even tho it was home turf, and even tho Charlie and I had just successfully navigated the 3'3 jumper courses the day before, I was still pretty nervous.

charlie likey! just look at that tail flip <3
It turned out tho that most of the earlier groups were BN / N, with a few horses working up to the occasional T fence. Meanwhile, my group consisted of a Prelim rider and horse, and another rider who has taken multiple horses up the levels over the years (many of which were homebreds), and whose newest equine partner happens to be one of Sally's former Advanced horses.

So. Uhhh... Yea, these were pretty seriously accomplished and experienced riders and horses. Then, ya know, me and Charlie haha. Tho obviously nobody told Charlie that. As far as he was concerned, we were right where we belonged.

the progression in my facial expressions is priceless. here we see cool calm confident over the log that serves as Jump 1 on the T course
He warmed up sharp as a tack -- slipping easily and immediately into what felt like a damn good canter gear. I had expected Sally to work us progressively through the warm up fences like she had with the other groups, but turned out to be way off base there.

By warm up jump #2 we were at height - that stack of logs above. And from there, we moved immediately onto the T course from our farm's recognized horse trials last week.

jump 2 on course is a familiar ramp
Had I been schooling myself, I probably would have started a little lower and done more progression but... Honestly Charlie definitely seemed 100% A-OK with getting right down to business. Homeboy was in gear and going forward.

easy peasy!
If anything, these first few fences were almost too easy haha. Not that I'm complaining lol!! And realistically, they should be easy bc I've schooled them all myself previously and they're all well on the inviting side of T.

charlie was aces over this upright brush fence after a downhill approach
The only one that was slightly nerve wracking was the brush jump set in the pasture fence line. Without the brush, these are not big fences (actually we routinely pop over the lower end when we're doing conditioning work and want to switch fields without dealing with gates). And they have very good ground lines.

But... They are fairly upright and have a downhill approach (tho it flattens as it gets closer to the jump). Didn't matter, tho, Charlie handled it comfortably. Good boy!

if you watch the video for no other reason, let it be to watch charlie SOAR over this giant table -- we even got cell phone footage of it!
Sally kept us moving along pretty quickly (she was in a kubota) and next up was the line of log tables. These guys have a long sweeping uphill approach and always seem to jump great. Charlie's jumped them all except for the Modified, and every time is perfect. This day was no different. Yassss son!

Actually, true story: I ran the show jumping in gate at our event last week, and one N/T rider formally withdrew so that she could jump some of the T cross country while out on course. I asked what her plan was, and brought up this very same table. But she demurred, said tables scare her and this one is kinda big. I insisted that this was definitely the one to do, and she ended up finding me again after her round to say that she DID IT and it was GREAT. Heck yes!

So. Yea. Anyway. These tables are flipping fantastic, and there's a seriously awesome shot of Charlie flying over it in the video ;)

our second worst fence of the day, wasn't even really that bad. just a bit deep.
Anyway, tho. Things were basically going perfectly. Charlie was jumping everything out of stride and felt like a finely tuned machine. And yet.... I was honestly still feeling kinda sick. It's just my way, I guess.

And for the next set of jumps on course - the first combination - I was actually totally positive that Sally would start us over the N line. But NOPE, she told me to go straight to the T line. Tho, she was nice and let me jump it backwards (both jumps were symmetrical rolltops) going uphill instead of the downhill as intended.

I ended up coming in a bit quiet to the first and we got suuuper close, but Charlie didn't care, and picked up to move forward to the next without missing a beat. Good boy! This is another one where we have both helmet cam AND cell phone footage. So you get to hear Sally hollering at me to "Press!" twice lol.

Being totally honest, it was actually reassuring to me to have that little mistake there. In a weird way, when everything is too perfect it almost makes me more nervous. Vs when we have little blips here and there, it reminds me that we can deal just fine with imperfection too. In other words, it reminds me that we're not that fragile, we can take a few hits. Our margin of error is growing.

this picture is bananas -- the only video still in the bunch, but what an angle!! it's insane. never in a million years did i ever expect to be able to experience this sensation of flying. god bless, charlie <3 <3
Which. Ya know, haha, is useful bc eventing is NOTHING if not a contact sport. Lololol....

Anyway. From there we moved down to the water. There's an identical green rolltop positioned next to the water - y'all have seen me jump it a bunch of times now. So Sally had us do that, except this time going from the water to the rolltop, instead of rolltop down to water.

Which like, I get her point that in some ways this was easier bc the horses wouldn't see the water through the cutout... But, uh, it's also kinda a steep little uphill to the base of the fence. I shouldn't have worried tho - Charlie fucking JUMPED THE SHIT OUT OF IT OMG. Like, that is the one fence I don't have any external footage of besides my helmet cam and I am SO SAD about that lol.... Bc jesus, he fucking cleared it, wow.

Then, naturally we turned it right around to ride the line going the other way -- tho again, Sally was nice to us and told us to do the N red coop into water then directly to T's B element, the little blue and white half roll you see above. The jump itself is only BN, but it's basically positioned as a drop into water, making it solidly T.

of course, what goes up must also come down. i love the progression of charlie's face as he is like "I AM LEGEND THIS WILL BE MY FINEST MOME--- wait, bish are you seriously about to fall off right now?!?"
I've wanted to do this for a long time, but have always been too scared. Today was the day tho!! And omg Charlie never hesitated for a second. He locked on and just flew over the thing. What a feeling haha!

Tho... Uh, with the drop and slightly deep water, we landed extremely steeply haha. I know it doesn't look like much in the gif, but it felt like I did a handstand on his neck omg. Possibly a more conservative jump over the half roll would've been just a tad more appropriate LOL.

Jesus Charlie.... Nobody can accuse him of lacking enthusiasm!! Tho I kinda love his cranky / annoyed expression when I totally lose my balance and start monkeying around on his back....

no scope no hope!! 
Anyway, ahem, haha. After that there wasn't a whole lot left to do for the lesson. We jumped a few more big new-to-us T singles, like the above blue ramp and a bright white cabin nestled in some shaded woods. Both of which Charlie handled beautifully and easily, good boy!

Then moved over to the N half coffin, where Charlie and I actually had some very wonky moments. My best guess is that Charlie was starting to run a little low on reserves. He's SUCH a good boy, but he doesn't like to be drilled.

Esp with all the start/stop of schooling, after he keeps answering the questions perfectly again and again, he'll resent it when you keep asking. This is part of why I like to do lots of shorter sessions, vs trying for the "everything every time" approach. Plus, it turned out his boots had slipped and were bugging him. Kinda a superficial issue, but I think it compounded his feelings of tiredness.

Sally had thought that maybe we could have also done the full T coffin that's back there, that I've never tackled before... But, eh, I wasn't sure it would be worth it on this particular day. So instead we just fixed the half coffin going from ditch to fence, then turned it around fence to ditch for good measure. Then ended there.

this horse, he is just so special <3 <3
All told, we jumped approximately 16 efforts with about 11 minutes of footage recorded on my helmet cam, about 4 minutes of which involved the active jumping that made it into the final video. That's a LOT of action packed into a fairly short amount of time haha.

Overall I didn't have any major big breakthroughs or new takeaways from the ride. Rather, the ride served as almost a proof of concept: Affirmation that Charlie is doing great right now. He's confident, bold, and happy. And scopey, haha. Very very scopey...

Since my first xc lesson with Sally two months ago, I've been working really hard on improving our xc gallop. And it's working. Aside from getting a little nervous going into the rolltop combination, and then being a bit complacent about the N half coffin, we arrived to every fence from a comfortably jumpable distance.

And actually, there were a few times when I felt like we were getting too close to the jumps, but Sally told me that wasn't the case at all. That esp as the jumps get bigger in height and width, you don't really want to be jumping flatly from a long way off. Luckily, Charlie seems to have a pretty reliable eye in this regard.

So... Yea. Obviously I'm just so thrilled for this horse, and so excited for the future <3 And also so freakin pleased with how much fun we're having right now (even if I'm kinda a nervous mess the whole time lol). Here's hoping that our next show (at novice) will feel like a breeze, relatively speaking!


  1. OMG his cranky face when you ruined his Head of the Lake moment....dying over here

  2. haha his cranky wtf, lady face is great in that gif! So glad to hear that things are coming together for you. Those pictures are fantastic - you guys make such a great team. I would get that first one of the pile of logs framed/printed! Well, I personally wouldn't get it framed, because that would be

    And thanks for the gratitude reminder - I forget that I just love horses and I'm really friggin' lucky to have 3 at home that I can just go and be with whenever I want. I often think, meh, what's the point - I'm not doing this, or I'll never achieve that...but that is wrong and frankly like a moody AF teenager or something. lol

    1. agreed completely, for me just the time i spend with my horse is often the highlight of my day, even if it's easy to get distracted by all the other nitty gritty aspects of horses and training and goals etc

  3. I'm SOOOO happy you're riding with sally. this is such a great post, y'all look great and the pictures are beautiful. Even the one where you botched the landing and charlie is crankin' at you.

    also really loved your use of the word demurred. imagine a +10 in red pen here.

  4. Charlie is a total superman! You two look awesome and like you're having SO MUCH fun!

    1. ha thanks! so much fun, gotta love these ponies <3 and also, yea that one pic may or may not end up becoming future photoshop fodder LOL

  5. Love that drop photo and you are both absolutely loving life and the moment!

    1. that drop pic is intense and amazing haha, what a good horse <3

  6. You guys are both clearing having so much fun. It's so evident in each photo. Way to go!

    1. thanks! it's fun and scary all at the same time lol, but mostly fun after the fact ;)

  7. You guys were certainly killing it out there! Even if you didn't get from the ground footage of how big Charlie jumped that rolltop, I think you can still totally tell how much air time you got from the helmet cam. And that Rolex Head of the Lake was awesome! And I love all the media! I certainly would've bought the full album too, and what a perfect xc adventure for you two to grab some absolutely fantastic photos of such a good day <3

    1. haha thanks!! definitely some air time omg!! and, ya know, also the fact that i landed cussing/laughing lolz.... it was a big jump!! such a fun day all around and i'm so grateful to have all the photos and video to remember it by ;)

  8. Everything about this is so amazing. Charlie IS your horse of a lifetime, but you're also his person of a lifetime :)

  9. This kind of brings tears to my eyes - you guys are flying out there!! And the hang time in that video? Scope for days!

  10. Media gold mine right here! You guys look fantastic and OMG Charlie’s face in the water when he thinks you might fall off is everything.

  11. I have no words, only emotions :D :D :D :D :D *heart eyes

  12. Wow, you guys look awesome! You are making it look so easy, it sounds like a fantastic session.

  13. Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!! LOOK AT YOU TWO. OMG. What am amazing feeling it must be. I love this for you. And WOW so many stellar photos. 😍

  14. You must be on cloud 9! And if you don't order a print of that pic over the table, I will judge you (though I will never know lol)

  15. That leap into the water! Holy cow that looks amazing!


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