Wednesday, September 18, 2019

when xc is way harder than expected....

Alternate title: "Turns out, Boyd doesn't stake down all the fences at Windurra.... Whoops!"

Ahem, cough cough. Anyway.

I wrote yesterday about feeling just overwhelmingly tired with life lately, and how that manifested in a somewhat insidious feeling of the "I don't wannas" when it came to all things high pressure with horses.

assembling the crew. that dog was charlie's spirit animal
But... Then, sorta out of nowhere, a barn mate told me she had impulsively signed up for a lesson with Sally at Windurra the following day, and did I want to tag along too? And much to my surprise, my knee jerk reaction was a totally refreshing "Heck yes, let's do it!"

Which like... If you've ever gone through a phase where you only want to say "No" to anything and everything, even the things that would normally top the list of exciting happenings.... Well. It's a very good feeling when something crops up that makes you definitely want to get out there again. And not just because you feel like you should do it, but bc you actually honest to god truly want to. Does that make sense?

as evidence of my own dysfunction during this ride, try to figure out which element was intended to be next in this line.... (hint, we were a little crooked lol)
So I didn't really think too deeply about it, or worry too much about our slightly sub-optimal preparation. Realistically, I figured it probably wouldn't be a mindblowingly phenomenal ride.

But I also more or less expected that the lesson format with Sally would provide a perfect recipe for getting my and Charlie's good juju flowing again.

got better coming back the other way down the little bank
Which... was accurate. And also basically exactly what the doctor ordered. Charlie and I were.... not on the same page. Even for our earliest warm up jumps, Charlie wasn't really taking me to the fences and had a bit of a non-committal feeling about things.

Unlike past rides at Windurra where we progressed relatively quickly through the warm up to full size training level fences, this time we just worked on repeating the first few lines trying to get a rhythm together.

a couple jumps charlie did very nicely
Sally observed that Charlie really needed me to be his rock, needed me to be really strong and stable in my position. I needed WAY more leg on, firmly. But also more firm contact. No wishy washy, no just sitting there expecting him to drag me to the fences.

Maybe some days that kind of ride works well enough with Charlie, but that was definitely not the ride we were having on this day, for whatever reason. Well. Ahem, not "whatever" reason -- it's the same old story I told yesterday.

And actually the same story as unfolded after Plantation last year: If I don't do my homework in schooling rides, if I don't stay consistently clear about the rules with Charlie -- that he must always be in front of the leg and going forward -- Charlie won't exactly police his own self on the matter. And then I can't just snap my fingers and expect Charlie to suddenly understand that "this ride is different" and that he has to listen now.

this line scared the ever loving shit out of me, even tho each individual jump is small
In a way, tho, I'm honestly kinda glad that this was the horse I had in the lesson. All summer long we've been working on getting a better canter to the fences, but that became even more important in this lesson where Charlie wasn't really participating as much as normal.

And Charlie is such an honest horse -- when I got my feeling right (way more leg and WAY more contact -- but forward contact -- than I expected) Charlie more or less responded in kind. Like he did through this crazy ass line haha.

bless him, tho, charlie is SUCH an honest horse
The wide angle lens of the helmet cam really does a disservice to any sort of terrain - everything is so much more flattened. But you can kinda sorta see Sally standing next to the mound in the gif above as evidence that.... the mound was TALL. And the skinny little jump on the back side was completely invisible until you were already jumping the pipe.

I've never ever ridden anything like that before, and honestly really biffed it the first time. Charlie would have been blameless for running out, but he jumped it - good boy! And then was even better the second time (above), even tho I thought we were tempting fate by trying it again.

these banks are our bitch now haha
So yea, I don't want to give the impression that Charlie was bad, per se, during this ride, because he wasn't lol. Obviously, he is the best boy, always and forever.

But.... He just wasn't particularly keen. Didn't have his normal zip or his typical gusto. Part of me thought that maybe it was bc we stuck with the small jumps that didn't inspire him to greatness... But then again, with the way he was jumping them (or, uh, clobbering them, as the case may be) it definitely did *not* seem prudent to size up, ya know??

this giant drop still scares me but charlie was aces
Plus, Charlie was getting kinda emotional. The kind of weird stuck feeling that he gets as a ride like this progresses, where he gets really fussy about the transition into canter, or only wants to pick up the incorrect lead but then is offended when you bring him back to ask again.

That's exactly the type of progressively escalating nonsense that I need to be quicker to end, vs sorta trying to tip toe around it. Bc.... Well. If you watch the helmet cam video you'll see why LOL.

nothing about this house into water should have caused an issue for us
Anyway, the ride was mostly a bit uneven. We had a few weird instances of Charlie just sorta failing to adjust and clobbering the fences. But we also had some really good moments - notably, the keyhole line above, the ditches, and actually every single bank we did, including that giant down bank that scares the pants off me.

All that to say... The meltdown at the water definitely took me by surprise.

and yet..... issues we had. charlie rolled the mother fucker completely over. excuse me, sir, wat?
In Charlie's defense, the little house into water was positioned on somewhat uneven ground and I think the last step caught Charlie a bit off guard. But.... Well. Charlie responded by literally climbing over the fence, rolling it over in the process (thus the alternate title about Boyd apparently not staking down his jumps.....).

This was obviously... very unexpected. I tried to talk through how I rode it, to see if I made a mistake, but Sally was legit incredulous, saying, "He shouldn't have done that. What the fuck."

Her point being, this is not a new exercise for Charlie. We've practiced it, actually in way harder configurations. He's got a good eye and knows how to adjust, but just.... didn't. Which like, I can't protect him from that. That's 100% his responsibility.

and then, naturally, he wanted nothing to do with it. much application of voice cues ensued.
Things..... Devolved from there. While Sally and a lesson mate fixed the jump, I got Charlie cantering through the water on its own. Then approached the house from the opposite direction - water to land. Which.... Arguably may have been harder, but Charlie cruised over easily.

Then went to approach again and Charlie went into full blown dinosaur-stuck-in-tar-pit mode like we haven't seen in ages. In that situation, the whip doesn't work. The spurs don't work. Basically the only solution is unleashing the full force of my lungs in a primal scream growl lol. Which, go figure, got Charlie unstuck pronto haha.

He still didn't want to go near the house tho, so we kept cantering and just went directly to the rolltop in the water instead. Again, a jump that is generally understood to be substantially harder (and, uh, objectively larger) than the house. And Charlie jumped it like aces.

the whole saga is recorded in the video below... but eventually we managed to put the line together. jusssst in time for boyd to pull up in his water truck, womp. 
At which point we came back to put the full line back together. It took substantially more scream growling -- and you'll note that Charlie wasn't even CLOSE to being straight upon reaching the house. But, good boy, he did in fact jump it. Then was an even better boy and covered the ground extremely nicely to jump the roll top too. Yessir. We will take it.

Holy shit tho, that was way harder than it needed to be. Christ almighty.

Oooh. Also, I didn't really notice that truck driving up until after I got over the last jump. But yea. Totes Boyd coming up to top off the water level I guess, or something. Just in time to witness me having to holler like a madwoman to get my horse over a BN house. Bc I am so gud at riding, guys. Sigh....

first jump in the water tho, and it was no issue!
So.... Yea haha. It was a little bit of a tough ride. But honestly I'm not sorry that it went the way it did. Charlie is an extremely good horse. He's generally very easy and uncomplicated, and beyond generous.

But ya know. He's a horse haha, not a machine. And the biggest uncertainty we have in pushing for bigger badder fences is whether I can pick up the slack when Charlie isn't operating at 110%. While that remains a big question mark, I feel like this lesson gave me a lot more tools and a much better feel for the type of ride I need to give.

Sally, for her part, was a little concerned since she'd never seen this side of Charlie. She's only ever really seen him on his A-Game, actually, and felt like I should do a little digging on the physical side of things to make sure he's ok.

Her recommendation was a Lyme test, which is basically always in the Top 3 boxes to check whenever a horse in this region seems a bit off kilter. I personally didn't feel that a positive result was likely, but since I pay the woman for her opinion I went ahead and did the test anyway. It was negative, as expected.

I'm also treating for ulcers. Again, I am not convinced that Charlie is actually in distress here, but it's a good box to check off. And if we see any major obvious changes during the course of treatment, that'll indicate whether we should scope too just to be sure.

To me, Charlie's behavior in this ride wasn't really beyond the pale in terms of what we've seen of his development over the last few years. But then again I've never regretted taking a few extra precautions. So we'll see.

In the meantime, it felt really valuable to be reminded of that post I wrote last year after a similar feeling from the horse at Plantation. It's funny how that works, tho, right? Like we're always going into these lessons hoping for some amazing magical experience. But actually, sometimes it's the rougher rides that give us more tools in moving forward lol. Have you ever felt that way too?


  1. You know, from what I've seen, Boyd has a pretty good sense of humor. He probably thought it was great that you were working so hard. Just picture him saying "go on and get him over that fence" in his sexy Australian accent ;)

    1. omggggggg hahaha.... but actually that does help a little bit ;P

  2. Oh I'm sure boyd's seen worse. Muuuuch worse, bless him. That's pretty funny, though.

    Even tho the lymes turned up neg and you're not sure about the ulcers, it's good you're covering it anyway. It's just one of those 'easy' things to check off. I did the same with Spicy when he was being a spooky freak - did the lymes, had his vision checked, etc etc. Just so I could eliminate those things from the list once and for all.

    I hope that treating him for ulcers helps. It would be nice to have a simple, straight forward answer!! (FOR ONCE)

    1. yep, ticking items off the list, checking the boxes, isolating the "knowns" from the "unknowns." it's always a useful exercise, and in someways i find it as useful as setting baseline TPR metrics with your horse. like, having already previously tested charlie for Lyme (back when i first got him), and having already treated him for ulcers a few times (i generally do it annually), i now have a fair amount of confidence that.... neither are an issue today haha. charlie is actually like the least ulcery thoroughbred i've met. but he *is* quietly emotional in his own little way, and does live a lifestyle vulnerable to gastric distress (trailering weekly, competitions, etc) so it's always good to check in on.

  3. Horses. It's always something, right? I mean, I hope it's NOT ulcers, but It started to get DARK of all things which is how I found myself retreating Subi's ulcers... Stupid horses... But, after 15ish days, he's really good at taking paste... lol

    1. ha aw man, glad he's taking the paste! i'm only doing paste for a few days then switching to generic omeprazole powder. it's MUCH cheaper, and considering i'm fairly sure charlie doesn't actually have ulcers, it makes more sense. if we see big results tho i'll bust out the big(ger) guns lol.

      but yea. it's probably not ulcers. it's probably just the same training issues i've been working on with this horse from day one. but as always, before we dial up the intensity of our riding -- before we lay in with the primal scream growls and pony club kicks -- it's generally good practice to make sure there isn't some sort of physical issue first lol.

  4. I don’t know if I’m odd or what but I sorta like it when I have a “bad” lesson or training session in front of Trainer. It’s not fun per se but at least then they can see what I’m dealing with and give me some pointers. If Eeyore was always a saint for lessons and a butt at home it would be harder to work through things, you know?

    If your past speaks for your future, I’m sure this outing was a mere blip like Plantation was and you’ll come back the next time stringer and better and maybe not rolling fences over LOL

    1. honestly i agree - and was actually pretty pleased to have this sort of familiar-to-me tough ride happen in front of a trainer who could help me work through it, and reassure me on what choices to make, and what expectations to have of the horse, etc. like, it can be hard to remember but before this summer i hadn't had a proper cross country lesson since moving charlie up to BN. even tho we've had a lot of bumps along the road since then, i'd still never really had a chance to ride through those issues on xc with a trainer on hand - so yea you're exactly right in feeling like the "bad lesson" actually has its advantages lol.

    2. Agreed - its good Sally saw this from Charlie so she could help you troubleshoot the situation. We all massacre a fence now and again (some horses more than others.. looking at you Ramone), good job for working through it

    3. ha thanks. charlie is nothing if not the occasional massacre-r of fences LOL. and yea i'm glad sally saw this too. on one hand, i'm a little sad that it maybe knocked charlie off the pedestal she had him on ... but... ya know, this is part of who he is as my riding partner and i need to know what to do in these situations before i'll feel confident about trying to move up.

  5. I'm happy for all the GOOD lines and jumps, and bummed for you and Charlie that that wasn't the theme of the day. I think you're taking all the right steps physically with him. I'm glad Sally was there to help you and see it for herself. It's always helpful when someone else who you respect can help you through something odd.
    I listened to a great interview with her on the Major League Eventing podcast. What a class act she is!

    1. thanks! yea i'm really happy for all the good lines too. esp in reviewing the footage after the ride, it sorta struck me about how much of what we did was surprisingly technical -- all terrain and narrow fences. it was actually on the simpler fences that charlie was the most blah, go figure. so overall i'm definitely happy for the experience

  6. Sally is the best!! I love that you are getting to ride with her so much. And she will help figure out Charlie with you. Hopefuly the next ride will be so much better. But it sounds like there was good as well as bad that day!! And seeing Thomas (was it Thomas) the dog helped!! I cant ever remember her dogs name but she has the CUTEST DOGS EVER!

    1. omgosh the dogs are SO CUTE lol. tho i felt kinda bad, while she was distracted trying to fix the jump charlie rolled over, the dog suddenly went swimming into that nasty algae filled sludge water haha.... ew.

      and yea, the next rides WERE better -- this lesson was more than a week ago so we've had some time to reflect on next steps so that's always a good thing ;)

  7. Oh Charlie.... he's still cute though :) Cracking up thinking about you growling at your horse to get him over the jump!!!! I know I've done that PLENTY of times!!! hahaha!!!! and I'm sure Boyd has growled at horses himself so when he heard you growing he was thinking "awesome! Another rider getting it done!" :)

    1. omgosh i hope that's what he was thinking instead of "wow she's having to work really hard to get over that small jump...." LOL. but yea, the growling works super well for charlie haha. i could slap that whip around all day and he'd basically be like, "bring it on, bitch!" but i raise my voice and he's all sad like, "aw plz dont yell at me :(" poor charlie haha

    2. I also typed my comment before I watched the video so I didn't have to imagine you growling b/c it's on the video!!! :)

  8. None of us like those hard days, but I personally like it when it does happen in front of the trainer because they can then help you fill your toolbox with ways to overcome the problem when you have it outside of lessons. Sally sounds awesome, and I'm glad you two were able to work through it in the end! It is good you're checking Charlie out tho, too. Although, I wonder... could he have SADs like you, to a degree? Was it this time of the year last year that he had his issue with forward at Plantation? (altho that was June, so maybe not) I have recently been going over Whisper's foot history and in the past few years I've found she starts getting worse mid-summer, and then when the hottest part of summer hits in August she's always dead lame, then okay into October, so just wondering if perhaps this may be something similar for Charlie? Just perhaps sick of the heat?

    1. ha yea, for sure charlie definitely has physical issues that are seasonal. like he has to wear a muzzle when the spring grass comes up bc he gets belly achy, and he has to get pads on his shoes usually around may/june bc the ground gets so hard. in terms of whether the horse is actually depressed or not, honestly i think it's WAY more likely that he's simply reflecting my own attitude and behavior. if i'm being kinda wishy washy or lethargic or not really committed, he's just gonna mirror me. so it's not really a surprise when we start having bad rides when i'm myself not in a great place.

    2. Oh gotcha! That makes a lot of sense.

  9. Charlie, WTF, mate? But serious lols to all of your verbal necessities to get him hopping again!

    1. lololol honestly watching the video i don't really understand why i didn't unleash The Growl earlier, it works so well!!

  10. As always I appreciate your openness to sharing the ups and downs. Glad you're feeling like you're getting your mojo back even though the ride had some challenges.
    Was it hot that day? Horses sometimes just have bad days too, but like you said it's better to rule out anything physical.

    1. nope not hot ;) the horse is just mirroring me and reflecting the level of work i'd put into preparing him for the ride. same story, different day

  11. Honestly right from the start where you were saying he was backed off I was thinking ulcers. So I'm glad you're exploring that avenue. Good for you for sticking to your guns and getting through the tough stuff! I hope it's just a day and you both move on from it.

  12. Nice riding. I was watching the video and when you started saying ‘good boy’ Guinness sat right up ‘is she talking to me? I’m a good boy’ 🤣.
    My experience with ulcers is that training issues are the exacerbated so it’s sometimes difficult to tell.

  13. I'm way behind on reading blogs here...! Oh Charlie - what a guy...interesting that the growling works better for some horses. My gelding was the same - a whip would escalate things too much for him. I don't mind having some difficulty on a ride when a coach is handy to help you work through it.

  14. I've always learned more from difficult rides, or rides that go wrong. They're not usually super fun, LOL, but I do learn a lot and gain more tools to fix things in the future!

  15. It's fun to have lessons where everything is great, but I totally agree with the usefulness of having things not go perfectly. Tim Bourke in a clinic this summer actually told me I had a perfect round and I looked at him incredulously (it was... not perfect) and he said it was perfect BECAUSE I figured out how to adapt and get it done!

    Also, we clobbered an entire grid like dominoes a few weeks ago so. *shoulder shrug*

  16. A few things stuck out to me here.
    1. Yeah this seems like a totally logical jump for Charlie to make. "Jump was hard. Jump did weird thing. Jump bad. I bad. Everything bad. Ded."
    2. That tiny white dog wandering out into that nasty water. AHAHAHA. Oh god.
    3. The moment you dropped off that mound in the gif I was like "whoa damn. That high." Lol

  17. Honestly I am just down here laughing because someone in the comments said Boyd had a sexy Australian accent, and I have never been told that Australian accents can be sexy before.

    Good to know.

    Ruling things out is always nice, far better an alternative than getting 6 months down the road and then discovering all the issues were from ulcers etc.

  18. Because naturally that would happen when the 5* rider is right there. Naturally. That suck. BUT you got through it and everyone has off phases- that's what Sally is there for!

  19. I have to say it's really disappointing seeing ANOTHER jump at Boyd's not stakes down. My trainer's horse was nearly killed earlier this year by a non-staked jump toppling, falling apart and impaling him. It's not the first time this has happened either:( I'm glad Charlie didn't get hurt, sounds like you guys had a rewarding lesson in the end.


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