Tuesday, November 5, 2019

MDHT Fall Starter Trial!

So, hey guys, surprise surprise:: Charlie and I finally made it back to another horse show!! And we completed, heck yes.

You may recall this summer didn't go so hot in terms of horse show plans -- we started the spring strong with a pair of starters, then entered and promptly scratched our first recognized event bc of hoof soreness. Then entered another recognized event, but fell off in show jumping (our first attempt at 3'3 sj, womp). Then went back for another at-home starter, but withdrew after dressage bc Emma had #feelings. And scratched yet another after that bc of Charlie's epic bat cave puncture.

handsome charlie
So... Haha, yea. It's been an interesting season for competitions! But I've been trying to kick my own butt back into gear, including putting together a nice little fall season to close things out.

it was crazy foggy out in the morning as the sun warmed up the heavy frost coating the grass. you can barely see the show jumping ring!!
I entered the novice division at Loch Moy's final starter trial of the year and brought a barn mate and her gelding Punky along for the show. There were a few advantages to this: 1) I prefer that Charlie has company for longer trailer rides; and 2) having company myself made me less likely to back out or be so.... me-ish haha.

I figured having a shared agenda with someone would help keep me on the straight and narrow, keep me focused on doing the things. And? It more or less worked!

bronto dressage ain't really all that special, but he's a good boy anyway
We actually had pretty decent ride times so it wasn't an ungodly early morning. Everything went reasonably smoothly, and before I quite knew what was happening, we were mounted up and heading toward the dressage warm up ring.

felt pretty good doing the test in my jump tack
Charlie warmed up more or less fine. He didn't exactly feel what you'd call.... spectacular.... But ya know. He was good and he was trying. Everything worked basically the way it ought to, although he felt a bit restrained through his body. Not particularly stretchy or supple, maybe even a little protective.

k-x-m free walk; x halt to rub face
This year has been such a doozy for hooves -- it was so rock hard for so so so so long. And suddenly, just like that, our drought broke and we've gotten a refreshing and welcome supply of rain. Tho with cooler temperatures, the ground isn't really drying out either.

It's not too too bad mud-wise (and actually the cross country footing was spot-on perfect) but I'm kinda thinking it's about time to get Charlie back out of those hoof pads for the winter. Next shoeing cycle I'll talk to the farrier about the right plan.

wheee canter!!
Regardless, for the test itself, everything was honestly more or less fine. Charlie did everything he was supposed to do, when he was supposed to do it. Only real "whoops" moment was when we did our trot-walk transition and he thought maybe we'd pick the trot right back up again, as we often do in schooling. Nbd tho.

All the same, however, each movement had at least one little moment of a loss of balance. One little bobble, ya know? So I figured our score probably wouldn't be great. And, ya know, it wasn't haha. Numerically it was actually one of our best of the season at around a 34% and change. But relatively speaking it put us 10th of 11 in the division. Oh well!

big sigh of relief to finish
I've honestly kinda been neglecting our dressage schooling anyway. Bc.... Let's be real.  I've spent a lot of money working with really high quality trainers, and feel like we work pretty hard in our solo schooling... But it still hasn't really moved the needle much in terms of scores.

And, possibly more importantly, I've come to be a bit suspicious of how some of my bad dressage skills might be negatively impacting our jumping. Like, it's so so easy to get Charlie behind the leg and sluggish and nappy on the flat. He gets bored and doesn't feel particularly forward thinking. I worry that too much of that can sorta infect our jumping rides too.

So.... Rightly or wrongly I've mostly just been focusing on fitness and forward and jumping. Charlie knows how to go on the bit and move off the leg. He knows how to come over his back and be supple. He knows how to do the thing. So I kinda just figured that he would do the thing in this test. And he did. I probably could have worked a lot harder in preparations in order to score maybe 7th or 8th of 11 instead of 10th... But eh, at this point who really cares, right?

onto the fun part!! jompies!!!!
For me, so much of the day was just about going through the motions. Focusing on getting my mojo back. Doing the Things, Sir.

a shocking number of horses had first-jump-itis at this yellow oxer. charlie was obvi fine tho
Especially going into jumping I was just sorta overtaken by this vague sense of dread. About what? Who knows, honestly. It's all in my head. Novice jumps certainly don't scare me or the horse. The course looked good. We are experienced and have a deep tool chest for riding at this level.

But ya know. I can twist my guts into all sorts of mean shapes haha. So again, my focus was just.... Getting through it. Putting our experience to work. Riding well. Making good choices. Setting the horse up for success. And allowing it to happen. Aided in no small part by my new best friend, the neck strap LOL.

look at me holdin that neck strap like i know how to follow directions!
And? Actually, our show jumping warm up was perfect. Absolutely fucking perfect. Everything, perfection. Which honestly sorta amazed me. We had a lot of time to warm up, including lots of time spent watching the course ride (since I hadn't been able to walk it).

But I somehow still sorta misjudged our wait time and went through my actual over-fences warm up about 10 minutes too early. That kinda bugged me a little bit bc omg, we deviated from the plan, oh no!! But I figured we'd stand around watching a bit longer, than I'd jump one more thing before heading down to the ring.

Which, actually that jump was also fucking perfect. The canter was right there, the stride was right there, and Charlie jumped the ever loving snot of the oxer -- jumped it so hard I throat-punched my own self with the handle of my crop lol.

desperately trying to stick to the plan!!
So we headed down to the ring and I more or less tried to hang on to the same feeling. The first section of course was all twisty left handed turns all the way around one half of the ring before S-turning back again.

Landing on our left lead is... Not our strong suit lol. And while the jumps weren't necessarily at related distances, there wasn't really a whole lotta room for making a simple change happen either. Somehow tho it worked out. Charlie was on point, did his changes, and was patient to the fences all the way around.

so many left turns at the beginning of this course tho, but we got our changes!!
We had a bit of an unfortunate rail at the center jump in the middle of our S-turn, and I'm not entirely certain why. But ya know, that's kinda how we roll. Charlie is known for his bravery, not his carefulness haha. 

Then somehow extremely unfortunately, the one end jump where we were going to land to turn right to the in and out line... Somehow this horse who always lands on the right lead landed left instead, then cross cantered into the double. Uh.... Fuck haha. We're used to doing that going left, but not so much right, oops.

such a good boy making big efforts over these fences
We got through the double fine tho, but were a litttttttle squirrely coming out the 7 strides to the third element of the line. Every single horse I'd watched did that line in 7, but it looked short. Rode short too, which maybe rattled me a little bit.

tho it figures the one time we should have landed on the right lead, we landed left... womp
From there, we just had a bending line back to the finish flags that had ridden mostly in 7, tho I'd seen horses do everything from 6 to 8. Naturally, we saw a flier to the in jump haha and I sorta panicked a bit about what to do, including letting go of the next strap I'd been clutching like a security blanket the whole ride.

not the best shot into the in-and-out, but we made it through
Honestly I'm not exactly sure what we ended up actually doing over that last jump lol, except that we kinda left a stride out and chipped at the same time (somehow?) and Charlie sorta corkscrewed over the thing. He did it tho!! Good boy, didn't even knock the rail.

It sure helped that he was giving these jumps a LOT of room haha! What a good horse tho.

kiiiiiiinda starting to lose it a bit by the end LOL, go Charlie GO!
So... Yea. We did the thing. Survived stadium. More or less in one piece. I had really hoped we could be a bit smoother or more polished, but oh well. It's also sorta hard to reconcile my feelings from the ride with reality bc I only have helmet camera footage.

The wide angle lens on the helmet cam always makes things look a bit more smooth and less choppy, so it's not the most reliable critic lol. But that footage looks more or less fine.

wheeeeee hold mane, emma!
I didn't really feel fine, but again that's probably more of a problem that exists between my ears than anything else. I kept having to remind myself that we were just focusing on going through the motions, doing the thing. And that perfection or, god forbid, winning, were never likely outcomes anyway.

Plus, in some ways this ride was a bit of a proof of concept on the changes in my hand position and technique that we worked on in the Martin clinic. By being so mono-maniacally focused on keeping my hands forward and still, with a finger looped through the neck strap, there wasn't a lot of brain power left over for anything else other than just keeping my leg on and my eye up.

But of course, as L Williams is fond of reminding me, the solutions to today's problems often become tomorrow's problems. In other words, while the changes I'm making with my hands now are steps in the right directions, any type of change can produce new and interesting ways of making mistakes. Like learning how to adjust my rein length or keep my arms "following" even as I hold the neck strap. Let's call it a work in progress lol, shall we?

So anyway. We did the thing. And it didn't even take a taser or cattle prod to get me into the ring. Way to go, Emma lol. And while I wasn't necessarily glowing with pride over our admittedly rocky finish to the course, I felt fairly confident that we'd get around xc just fine. Which, spoilers, we totally did. Details on that tomorrow ;)


  1. Yeah! So glad you guys made it out to a show and had a good day! I love the 2nd last pic of you guys going over the red jump...you both look great! Looking forward to hearing about xc. :-D

    1. Ha thanks I’m so glad we made it out too lol - it had been too long!! And I was honestly super surprised in a good way when I saw the photos, Charlie tried so hard <3

  2. Foggy, frosty fall mornings are wonderful, aren't they? I'm glad you went out and did the thing! You look great!

    1. It really was perfect weather lol - cold enough to blanket the horse over night (and keep him clean!) but crisp invigorating temps during our rides lol! What more could we want, right ??

  3. YAY! The weather looks like it was freaking PERFECT, too. Those autumn colors are really stunning in the background of the stadium photos. I can't wait for your XC images!

    1. Aren’t those colors lovely??? I didn’t think we’d get much in the way of colorful foliage this year bc of the drought but the rain came just in time!! Alas they didn’t really have their A-game photographers on xc so those pics are a little less impressive but that post is coming soon ;)

  4. you hit the nail on the head about the dressage vs jumping. It's hard in eventing to know where to put the focus sometimes - there's a LOT to work on! But at the end of the day the jumping is more important. It's a safety issue (not that you're unsafe, just saying in general) and if you have a crap dressage test you're not going to get in trouble or get hurt or scare your horse (or YOURSELF), youre just going to get a crap score. So I think it's great you're focusing on the jumping and fitness. And once you have him coming forward consistently and happily, the dressage score will be RIGHT there!

    Glad you got out again this year. The ground has been fucking concrete this summer.

    1. lol it's all about focusing on strengths, right? like janet foy said..... you can work all day long on trying to move that 4 up to a 6, but if it ends up messing up something that would normally be a 7, was it worth it?? hard to say sometimes!!

  5. Yeah for one more show!! I'm glad that you got out and did the thing. Charlie looks in great shape and his expression is all 'don't worry I got this!'.

    1. ha thanks, he's such a pro <3 and if all goes to plan, there might actually be a couple more things on the calendar this year!! we'll see lol

  6. Glad you guys managed to sneak in another show and you were able to Do The Things and keep such a positive attitude about it all! You and Charlie look awesome out there!

    1. thanks!! i'm glad we were able to make it happen too - it was overdue!

  7. Good for you for getting out there and doing the thing! And you got some really fab photos out of it! Plus remembering to work on what you PLANNED to work on is a pretty big achievement on its own. Can't wait to read about the rest of the day!

    1. ha yes, agreed 100% ! so often at shows i kinda slip into this survivalist mode of passenger instead of pilot, but i really wanted to ride as if it were a lesson or something, where i was really focusing on doing the right things haha. obvi it still doesn't always work out that way, but we try right?

  8. Yayayayayay! Way to get it done!

  9. Dressage sucks anyway. 😘 Love you two getting out there and doing the thing. And LOVE that you're feeling positive changes from that clinic ❤

    1. lol thanks ;) we're certainly trying haha! apparently just getting out there really IS half the battle!

  10. Go team!!! I am so happy you're just out doing the things. I think I need to take a leaf from your book.

    1. yes 100% haha. i fully admit it's been hard to practice what i'm preaching lol, but it's worth it!!

  11. Yay for doing the thing! Sometimes it is just about getting out there and doing it.

  12. Your dressage is looking good (I'd be thrilled with 65+!), and I like how you look jumping with the neck strap.

    1. thank you!! please do not misunderstand me above tho, this was not a "65+ scoring dressage test." not in any universe, lol.

      there is a major discrepancy between how tests are scored in eventing (esp at unrecognized shows) and how they're scored in dressage. in eventing we routinely see scores in the 20s, and a 40 is considered kinda bad. whereas in dressage, a 60 (the inverse of 40) is usually a qualifying score.

      this isn't bc eventers are better at dressage either haha, it's just bc the scoring rubric is vastly different. from a rider's perspective, it's more useful to consider how the score placed in a class vs what the score actually was. in this instance, my score put us 10th of 11 lol, with the first few placings going to scores in the low 20s.

  13. Sometimes you just have to go knock a bit of rust off, try new concepts in the show ring (like the neck strap) and best of all - survive lol. Glad that it turned out fine!


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