Friday, March 13, 2020

love in the time of cholera

Whew, is anybody sick yet of reading about sickness?? I honestly couldn't even really believe I came down with the flu. Hadn't been sick in something like well over a decade -- just lucky, I guess.

But it meant I had basically forgot what it even was to be sick. Let alone with something like the flu that completely flattens you!

throwback to that other flu quarantine situation... for real, tho, protec yo'selves!!!
And, naturally, the timing being what it was, I felt more than a little sheepish having to always be like, "but it's only the normal flu, I swear!!!" Still, tho, what a mess.

The timing was doubly worse bc last I wrote on ye olde blog, we had just attacked some grid work in a lesson for the first time in forever. And I teased that we'd soon be attending another gymnastics clinic, to be my second time riding with local-ish professional Martin Douzant.

charles, the CDC says plz stop putting your mouf on things
You might recall that I rode with Martin the first time last October for a private XC lesson on Loch Moy's competition course. That lesson was so great that I've been keeping an eye out for more lesson opps every since. And this was to be the day!! A semi-private gymnastics lesson at the adorably quaint Coexist Stables over in Mt Airy.

Literally from the day I came down with the flu, all I could think about was recovering enough for this lesson. And because I have extreme first world problems, I admit to being very dramatically desolate when it seemed like I might not be able to pull it together enough to go.

legit the only pic i took from our gymnastics clinic with Martin Douzant, from after our ride when i basically collapsed in a chair while my barn mate had her lesson. i am so sorry :(
Somehow I made it to the barn, tho. And figured that since I promised to drive a barn mate and didn't want to ruin her day too, I might as well put Charlie on the trailer. I could at least try to get on and see what happened, right? Just one step at a time, ya know? Tho, haha, full disclosure - I mayyyy have had a tiny pity party on Charlie's shoulder while waffling about all this. 

Somehow, tho, I rallied. And Charlie, bless his gentle soul, took care of me through the lesson.**

**Ahem, as did the gatorade...
grid progression at the Martin Douzant clinic. ridden both directions up until the right most element became a vertical, then it was ridden only L to R
lines are ground poles; big X's are crossrails; lines with a small x at one end are half cross rails (just one side raised); and lines with two small x's are verticals
And the lesson was actually pretty good. All very basic gymnastic work (which was basically the only reason I could even pretend to try haha).

Martin had us keep our warm up very very light, since the work itself would be taxing. Then it was right away cantering through the long line of 9 ground poles set at bounce distances (probably 9' tho I didn't ask).

When going through just the poles, Martin reminded me that it was *my* responsibility to rate Charlie as we went through. That it was up to me to help prevent him from lengthening his stride down the line. If we started knocking the poles by the end, that was my own mistake.
final configuration. would have ended with an oxer (ridden left to right) but i ran out of steam
But that responsibility had to shift to Charlie once the individual elements started systematically gaining height. Much like my last lesson with Martin, he wanted us softening in the stride before a fence. His point being: there really isn't anything we can do at that point to make a change other than interfering. 

And naturally, since basically all the elements of the full line ended up being "within a stride" to a jump, it required staying soft in the hands the whole way down the line. So instead we had to focus on arriving at the first element in the proper balance.

recovered well enough to make a long-anticipated trip Aiken tho! what you see here might look like people, but do not be deceived. this is not Brooke, Lauren or Ronan. This is actually offset rolltops on the P course at Sporting Days Farm. Obvi.
And about that first element - Martin was very specifically explicit in his directions. He wanted us to pick up our canter *AT* the first pole. Not after the first pole, not before the first pole. At it.

Especially as the exercise progressed, he said we were too late if we only just cantered at the first element with height. But, at the same time, we were *not* to rush at the pole and canter prematurely. Especially for Charlie, he wanted plenty of RPMs in the trot, but on a very short stride to help arrive at the exercise in some manner of pseudo collection.

and this is obviously a brush fence. obviously.
So yea. Pretty standard gymnastic exercise haha. And it was good. Fucking hard, but good. And Charlie was sooooo good. What a horse, guys.

He got a little upset at the very beginning bc he was confused about whether we were trotting or cantering. I think he thought I was going to pick on him about walk-canter (since we've been practicing) when I just wanted trot. So we had a dinosaur-in-tar-pit moment that Martin obvi didn't get. But once Charlie understood all I wanted was trot, all was well again in his world.

I also talked a bit with Martin about the feedback we got from Sally about uphill balance. And actually, Martin's reaction was reassuring. He said what basically everyone says - that the horse has a nice and pleasantly balanced canter. Charlie's canter is good. He just told me to make sure Charlie's poll remains the highest point, but just don't use my hands to do it.

Haha. Ok. Sounds good, thanks! lol...

oooooh i also got to meet this fancy duo! 
For real, tho, it was reassuring. Tho Martin did prescribe moar bounces in our regular work. And. Um. Ahem, open front boots.... Lol Charlie was not particularly respectful of the grid!

All in all, tho, I was really glad to have been able to actually survive the lesson. And learn a thing or two from it. It was kinda expensive for what it was, but for whatever reason I really enjoy Martin's instruction and felt like it was a good barometer in that moment.

Slightly unrelated - it was also a good barometer for testing whether I'd be able to make a long-anticipated trip later in the week. Last October I booked a trip down to Aiken, SC for a few farm tours etc, and was sliiiiightly concerned my illness would get in the way and ruin everything.

had lunch with KC too, but failed at taking even any photos - so enjoy this screen shot of legitimately what the map looks like trying to drive through the horror show that is DC
Luckily, tho, I did in fact recover in time, and proved to myself through the Martin clinic that I could rally. So I made it, yay! And even better - I'd sorta hastily gotten Sara and KC on the horn about meeting up as I made my way through the area. The plans were all very last minute, but thankfully both were super flexible about timing etc, since I'd be stopping by their respective towns on my way back north again.

First up was Sara, whose farm I stopped by kiiiiinda early in the morning lol. And omg, what a farm! Y'all have seen the pictures on her blog, but it's even better in person. Something about how the barn and arena are situated on the land just make everything look really open and bright and spacious. I loved it! And Sara!!! And the husband and kiddos and four-legged residents too ;)

flashback to a year ago when KC and I met when she came to maryland!! pro tip - if you come to maryland, lemme know bc i will likely do what i can to meet you where you are!
And before I knew it, Sara was handing me the reins to that appy Eeyore!! Who was shockingly reminiscent of the early Isabel days actually. That pony is one heckuva springy flexible little pocket rocket. And has a lot more "Go!" than Charlie LOL.

I was just sorta sitting on him trying to not spring forth into canter every other step while leg yielding hither and yon -- feeling like Sara's probably gonna win literally all the dressage at some point in the not-so-distant future.

So ya know. Keep an eye out for that haha!! And thank you Sara for being so welcoming <3 loved chatting and hope for more opportunities!!

also failed at media at this AOPF jumper show!! boo hiss. was a super cute farm tho - we warmed up in this dressage ring then competed in the indoor below
Sadly I had a very strict schedule and had to get back on the road... which just about two hours later saw me exiting the highway in KC's neighborhood for brunch!

I was bummed to not meet Pilgrim, whose farm is a bit farther off the highway. But still, it was awesome catching up (remember we met a year ago when KC came up to Loch Moy!) and getting the scoop on what that magnificent new ottb Leo is up to down in Florida lol. And also make sure P has laid off his cycle of eye/hoof/tendon injuries.... ugh. Plus KC shared a couple other newsworthy items that she'll presumably blog eventually - so uh, stay tuned for that too!

the indoor at AOPF is narrow but actually pretty lovely. this was the course we did, snapped the only pic after i learned my barn friend had forgotten to video our round WOMP
To be honest, it felt a little unfair to push off so soon from that brunch too... But the road beckons. And damn but those were some long ass drives! Hopefully tho there will be more future opportunities to meet up with both of those lovely ladies - and other bloggers too!!

Hands down my favorite thing about having this little space on the internet has been the connections I've made with you all <3

so i grabbed some artsy shots of chuck to at least have something
Anyway, tho, no rest for the weary. During my absence from home, I may or may not have bribed some barn rats with Starbucks gift cards to keep Charlie moving. I think they mostly just hacked him out, but every little thing helps.

Especially since I'd be returning Monday and taking him to a local schooling jumper show that Wednesday.

you're a good dog, charlie
I am 100% devastated to not have video of our round. Full disclosure. I actually am still repeating in my head the exact moment when I observed that I probably should say some gentle prodding reminder to the person who had my phone to, ya know, start recording.... But I didn't do it. And so neither did she. And I have nobody to blame but myself. Siiiiiiiiiigh.

So you'll just have to take my word for it haha that it was a good time ;)

"i know" charlie, probably
There's a new local series offering schooling jumper shows on weekday evenings at a couple different farms. It's pegged as the "AGO" series, standing for AOPF (An Otherwise Perfect Farm), Good to Go Farm, and Oldfields. Oldfields, naturally, being the site of our last little local schooling jumper show.

It's a new series tho and I think they're still figuring out the scheduling and logistics etc. They did their best to provide advance estimates for when each class would ride, but as might be expected those estimates were blown wayyyyyy the fuck out of the water basically immediately. Like, when we arrived in time to hit the end of the 90s but they were still on crossrails. Whoops!

gosh he's the sweetest tho, dweeby hair and all <3 <3 <3
It worked out, tho. Thanks to daylight savings we had enough light to get our horses warmed up in the outdoor (unlit) dressage ring without being unreasonably premature for our own rounds. Plus all the Oldfields kiddos had to leave by 7ish anyway to get back to campus. Which meant that while the crossrails and 60cm classes were packed, the 80cm was very thin and basically everyone was gone except for me, my trailer mate, and two other stragglers for the 90cm.

My original plan was to do one 90 and one 100, but with things as they were, our coach actually did the course reset and made it a combination of heights 90-100 all in one. Which suited the organizers who were all basically dying to go home lol.

and spring is here! forsythia already starting to bloom!
I had some anxiety about the course -- vague existential dread, ya know -- ahead of time. Like, the indoor was narrow. And the distances were all set on a full 12' stride.

There were two backwards (imo) rollbacks, a suuuuuper skinny on a strange line, an unforgiving end jump, and the hardest line (24'-60' triple) on a short turn going away from the gate (the blue and white line in the pic above).

But... Our warm up was very smooth. And by the time they were resetting the jumps for our turns, I had Charlie walking around inside the indoor to acclimate and he felt allllll business. So... I just stayed in the ring and went first. And? He was ALL business.

Super forward, distances right there, no issue with the 12' stride in a narrow constricted indoor. No spook at anything. Some drift issues, esp when I forgot which jump I was aiming at in our first rollback (like I said, imo they were backwards), so I piloted us to a couple missed turns. And we dropped the last fence - the unforgiving end jump off the left lead after that blue and white line.

sheeps probably ready to be sheared soon too ;)
But overall the feeling was very good. We were much more forward than we had been at Oldfields (take my word for it LOL) and I didn't feel like I stuffed Charlie to anything. Most of our issues felt more circumstantial to the environment -- which is not likely to be replicated at any of our 'proper' events this year. So it didn't seem like a repeat course was necessary.

And I especially liked how Charlie felt. He felt rideable. He listened. He went forth, went where he was pointed. Read the jumps, jumped them well. Had a rub or two, and one down. But.... Ya know. That's mostly on me at this point LOL, let's be real.

So overall it felt like a worthwhile experience. A late night, a long wait. And jumps that were maybe skewing toward too-small for what I want to do. But.... actually that's really ok haha.

Our entries are in to open the season, and I feel ready. The venue's message so far is "The show must go on!" so I'm hopeful. Who knows what will actually happen, right? But for now, we're being boy scouts and are prepared. Cross your fingers for us LOL. Or.... Ya know... Commiserate with us if you've had to deal with cancellations or illness or any of the above chaos too!


  1. Good boy Charlie! I love his derby forelock. It is the best. I was so happy everything ended up working out and you got to swing by. Hay while “trying not to canter every stride” thing is a work in progress. Some day it will go away. Maybe.

    1. yay i'm so glad it worked out too!! esp being so sick the week before i was getting pretty nervous.... and yea omg once Eeyore figures out how to channel all that bounce per ounce he's gonna be a FORCE! honestly would love to get some of that spring into charlie's step lolol.....

  2. I am hoping that this virus runs its course quickly or they might start cancelling horse shows! Although part of me wants to be quarantined because of all the riding I could do!

    1. I’m worried about horse shows too (priorities!) but a bunch of big name events put out statements yesterday saying they were holding to the plan for now. Obvi that could change but I’m hopeful that everything will be ok. I mean, horse people jobs are still jobs too - gotta protect the workers!!! Or something?

  3. This whole thing is pretty crazy, but it sounds like you've been having an adventure in the meantime!

    1. Definitely an adventure - honestly I think it was lucky that my stuff all finished a week or so before stuff seemed to start getting very serious. But ya know .... there’s still more to come and it feels impossible to predict what will actually happen....

  4. What a good Sir Charles! I'm glad that the lesson was still worth it and that you were able to rally after being sick! I think a lot more people got sick this year since flu B was first instead of A. Although I can imagine you saying "No, it's just a flu!" over and over lolol. That's so awesome you got to meet Sara and KC!

    1. He is the best sir Charles <3 and actually I’m totally used to pushing thru illness, but this flu was different. I was completely flat for two full days, and still really struggling to recover for a full week after that too. The headaches and lightheaded feeling were particularly challenging ugh. But it was such a relief to finally be well enough in time to do the things!!! I wouldn’t wish that illness on ANYONE!

  5. Haha phewf monster of a post - I'm glad you are feeling better and you were able to rally for what sounds like an epic trip and also for all your clinics and fun pony time.

    I wish people were as media focused as us bloggers can be sometimes (well some of us bloggers are a bit more media getty than others lol). Should be like modern life 101 "if I start doing anything, turn on the camera".

    I got like 3 updates yesterday that were kinda funny considering our current global situation: Comic-con said they were canceling their spring convention but issuing refunds. Disneyland said they were closing the park for a while. The rated horse show series I attend said "The shows will continue!! Send us your Money!"

    and I was like well ok I guess we're doing it then lol

    1. Oh man horse show people are indeed crazy. And yes monster post, but I’ve had such a hard time getting literally anything written that I figured I should capitalize when the inspiration struck.

      Esp without the media ugh. If I had had media it’d be easier to break things up LOL. For real tho. Ppl just don’t care about pics and video the way we do I guess. These girls were actually saying that they hate watching videos of themselves and don’t feel like they learn anything anyway, which is crazy to me. But c’est la vie I guess!

  6. Glad you are feeling better and were still able to do all the stuff you had planned!

    Awesome blog title!


Thanks for leaving a comment! If you have trouble with this form, please email: fraidycat.eventing at gmail.