Wednesday, October 13, 2021

MDHT Jumping

Whew, onto the fun part -- the second half of Charlie's and my long awaited return to an actual proper 3-phase event: the jumping!!! Complete with legit as many photos from GRC (used with purchase) that I could realistically squeeze in haha ;)

gratuitous photos will be gratuitous, sorry not sorry!
I'd walked both the cross country and show jumping courses after volunteering the day before, so the break between dressage and jumping was basically spent just trying to relax and stay calm. It unfortunately had not stopped drizzling but... Eh, at least it had warmed up a little bit. We got ready at an unhurried pace, and headed over to warm up just as things were getting started. 

legit almost got lost trying to find this jump after the in-and-out
Charlie and I were the first to go, which meant I didn't see the course ridden at all (had missed it the day prior since I was out on XC all day). It looked straight forward enough, tho. Aside from a slightly short 2-stride, the other lines were all in the 7+ stride range. Which is basically unrelated, more or less -- esp when there's a bend in the line, as there was from 5-6. 

such a star!
I definitely felt a twinge of imposter syndrome walking the course -- it all looked so big and fancy and formal compared to the small intimate stuff we've been doing at Thornridge. But actually, Thornridge has probably been the perfect preparation: jumping in that small tumultuous grass ring with all manner of crazy twisting bending lines made this big ring feel downright generous. 

Charlie aced his warm up, including clobbering one vertical despite hitting a decent distance. Something I admit to being *quite* happy about, since maybe he'd remember that feeling in the ring. And? Guys, Charlie jumped the snot out of the course. 

Really -- watch the video and really see how much he uses his neck and body over each jump. He really really tried, even when we got a little long to jump 2, and when the in-and-out rode a little short. It felt amazing, and I was so so proud of him <3 And we jumped clear, omg! 

"omg we are actually doing this"
I'm also proud to say that while I sorta objectively mused that "I could stop now if I wanted," like we'd done at Shawan (withdrawing after a lovely show jump round), I actually didn't want to. I was ready to try for cross country. Which... was also an oddly reassuring feeling. 

first 3 fences were BN size. charlie don't care tho <3
The warm up fences all looked great -- they had the BN, N and T log rolls that Charlie's jumped a million times, plus some other stuff. I love a nice soft round but chunky jump for warm up, so that looked good. Plus, again, I'd be first out on course, so it was just a matter of waiting for all the jump judges to get in position and test out their new scoring app

This actually.... Took a few minutes. And normally I'm kinda mentally in a big hurry to proceed directly to the xc course. But the extra 15min felt welcome, for whatever reason. We caught our breath, stood around, walked around, relaxed, and then -- when it was time, jumped the N and then the T log roll, and hit the start box. 

kinda love the black background effect here
Charlie knew, guys. He knew. He hit the ground running, and caught jump 1 nicely out of stride. As is his habit, he got a little behind the bridle on the way to jump 2... almost daring me to goad him into a 'tar-pit' moment. Luckily, tho, jump 2 was a distance away, and in the meantime he became distracted by a golf cart, then locked on to the jump himself. 

Which was nice, bc the jump was literally right next to the giant gaping chasm of an intermediate ditch haha, which caught out many many horses all weekend, and the weekend before at the championships. Charlie didn't care, tho, and jumped it well. 

lends to the intensity of the moment: approaching the first proper question on course
Ditto jump 3 -- the third BN-sized fence in a row -- despite spooking at some oblivious course walkers who didn't understand how to get the F off the track for approaching horses... Sigh. Jump 4 was our first proper N fence, and looked imposing on my walk, even tho we've jumped it a million times. 

It was fine, tho, and actually Charlie impressed me by coming right back for our first of three downhill runs toward home. We basically came straight down out of the darkness in the picture above, before rising up again to the top water, where a fairly aggressive question awaited us. 

ok so this was not a perfect distance -- but it was nbd
Again, due to the extreme volunteer shortage they squished the course together to make life easier for jump judge coverage. Thus, after jumping 3 BN and 1 N fence, we arrived at jump 5: the N boat perched high above the water on a somewhat rakish angle, originally used on the M and T courses (as part of combinations). 

I about choked when I saw it on the course walk... But... I also knew Charlie's done bigger versions of the same question. He'd be fine. And he was fine -- and actually quite catty with making sure he fit in the last step after missing the distance. 

a surprising number of stops at this table all weekend long
That section of the course was intense tho, bc landing from the boat pointed you straight at warm up -- but you had to turn away toward another big roll top (that again had been relocated for easier judging), and then land and keep turning to another big roll top -- the cut out table above. 

This one was an option right next to the down bank that Charlie and I have jumped before but... Eh, no need to do that on this particular day, thanks! Oddly, a LOT of horses had stops at this roll top. Maybe since it's positioned on a short turn away from warm up? Plus disorganization might have crept in after three rapid fire jumps in a row, so maybe horses just weren't getting there very well? Charlie was fine tho -- once he saw the jump, he jumped the jump. 

second water!!!!
We got a little breather after that to cruise toward the second water, that just had a single flag at the entrance and nothing else. In retrospect, I should have used this time to let go and relax a bit, and let off the e-brake. 

omg his face tho <3
But.... The next set of jumps at 9 and 10 were another result of the jump-squish situation, and were (imho) straight up stupid. It was an "L" shaped turn from a small BN corner at 9 to the lattice vertical at 10, with the lattice on the short end of the "L" -- and a massive wooden pillar in the elbow, so you couldn't just slice straight across instead of doing the "L."

honestly had the e-brake on basically the whole ride...
Basically everyone rode a circle between those two jumps the day prior, and I figured we'd probably do the same. Tho... I kinda had it in my mind that I wouldn't make a final decision until we were jumping the corner itself. This was probably a stupid thought, tho, bc it's part of why kept Charlie so wrapped up through this part of the course. I should have just let go, knowing we'd fly over the corner and then have to do a circle. 

what a star to the slightly downhill narrow wedge!!
Ah well, tho, this is what being rusty is all about!! Anyway, we executed that portion just fine, then moved on toward the second downhill run toward home haha, this time populated with two slightly technical fences. First: the narrow roll top wedge that Charlie's jumped plenty before. Tho, I really did not take any chances here. 

seriously the goodest boy <3 i look at these pictures and can't understand why i get so worried....
Then we continued to the even steeper downhill section where there was a narrow blue vertical house. Again, Charlie's jumped all these jumps before, but I've also seen the houses catch horses off guard. 

lol oh my lord i HATE jumping downhill
Obvi part of what I need to relearn about riding this horse cross country is.... Yes, absolutely keep supporting him the whole way around. But ya know. Trust him too, haha. Because Charlie takes care of me, even if that kinda means dragging me along as he goes LOL! 

100% will never jump that absurd intermediate trakehner in the background
Anyway. This next section of course had also been improvised a bit, and after jumping straight downhill toward home, we had to make a hard left turn, straight back UPhill into the woods again. Charlie, in his boundless enthusiasm, kinda missed the turn at first. I had hoped to use the little stone dust service road, but ended up having to settle for the steeper grassy hill instead. Luckily it wasn't too torn up or rain slicked yet! 

will jump this table for dayyyyyys tho <3
Once in the woods, we made our way around the final little segment of the course -- catching first a little cedar log oxer that is a little too show-jump-y for my tastes, then this BN table. I would have preferred the N version of the same table, but they are honestly both lovely fences to jump and we found a good distance. 

heading home, somewhat unbelievably 
Then just three fences to go: starting with a chonky red roll right up at the top of the hill, leading into the long descent to the finish line. Obvi I knew we were gonna.... er, fly home. And obvi then we saw a big one to the roll top, whoops haha. So.... haha.... we kinda careened down the hill, before I could kinda get a "WHOA!" through to Charlie, ever gung ho haha. 

Penultimate fence was the nice big N ark that we've jumped a ton, and luckily we found enough balance to jump that in a reasonably civilized fashion. Then the last jump was the BN produce stand, imo a somewhat unfairly small fence to put at the bottom of such a screaming descent haha. It was fine tho, and then it was over!!

Whew, holy moly what a ride haha. Hahaha. This horse, guys, he really is something. It's really not clear at all that he fully understands what this cross country thing is all about, ya know? He knows how to jump the jumps and answer the questions, but for everything else he's just like, "Uh, so, why tho? So we just get home as quickly as possible?

And it makes for a somewhat distracted feeling in the ride. Obviously if I can get Charlie to the jumps, he jumps the jumps. And he definitely DOES draw to the jumps, he does take me to them. But... he's not always looking for them, not always expecting them, and definitely not always easy to turn or steer lol. 

But, eh, what else should I expect given that we just don't.... do this very often, right? Considering the circumstances, I'm honestly pretty pleased. He's a good boy, he took care of me, and we made it happen. Could we do better? Should we do better? Yea, probably lol. That's my problem tho, haha, and something I'll deal with later. For now, this is enough <3

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

MDHT Dressage

I'm still holding out for photos from the jumping phases, so let's dig into the lead up to our return to actual eventing, yes? For starters, we are having a lovely fall so far. Still occasionally a little warm and humid -- but generally getting crisp and cool in the mornings and evenings. I like it!!

bathed for his first clip of the season
But.... you know who does NOT like it?? Charles lol. He's almost a proper teenager, and each year seems to get fuzzier earlier haha. I'm honestly amazed at how quickly he fluffed up. Knowing how flimsy my will to push on can be, and knowing that Charlie himself can be a little bit of a quitter... Well, eh, I figured we'd go ahead and get in an early first clip. 

The way scheduling worked out, the person available to do this is one who often doesn't really clip as close to the skin as others. Like, in this case, you can't even really tell the horse is clipped from a distance -- there isn't much of a change in hair color etc. 

lol hardcore #training happening here, folks
That's not great if your hope is to get away with a single clip for the whole season. But... It's actually perfect when you want to clip hella early but maybe not fuss with blankets yet either. 

So Charlie got enough hair taken off last week to help him feel a difference and stay cooler, but without needing a blanket. And I'll just plan on clipping again later. Works for me, and is $75 well spent for one less thing to worry about LOL. Tho, jokes on me, since show day was rainy and cool lol. Eh, it worked out tho!

honestly pretty proud of charlie's hooves this year. this one little overreach has been growing out forever, and we touched up the manicure just in case it wanted to start cracking out more
Other than the clip, there wasn't much else to do in the way of serious "preparation." We managed to sneak in a super short impromptu jump lesson with Trainer P, a rare treat these days! It was just a private, and she quickly got us coursing through a fun set of combinations including a double, triple, and various striding configurations. 

Charlie felt great, was on point, and I got to practice working on being more smooth on both the step and the add stride. Sad there isn't video, but eh, we can guess how it went, right? Like Charlie is already trained to this level. We're mostly just making sure everything felt fresh and ready to go. 

gray jacket doesn't exactly "pop" when the entire friggin world is gray. charles looks handsome tho <3
Our "dressage schools," if you can call them that, have been smooth too. And I worked hard at just maintaining that same feeling once we actually got on the grounds at Loch Moy. Charlie wanted to be a little tense and tight in the warm up -- but I tried to just reassure him that we'd be doing the same things we always do.

Lots of steady relaxed trotting on giant sweeping figures across the enormous warm up ring, smooth changes of direction. Hints of counter flexion and leg yield here or there. Reminders to hold up both shoulders evenly since he kinda wanted to drop and lean left. Ya know. The usual. 

ok so i still have work to do with getting my right leg off the horse haha
The dearth of volunteers meant there were no stewards in the warm up area, so riders were expected to find their own way into their rings promptly on time. I worried that this would create instances of opportunists grabbing an open ring or cutting ahead etc. But luckily (at least for this phase) ended up being the first rider into my own ring. 

So I kept an eye on the clock, moved out of the warm up and into the area surrounding the courts themselves to do our final canters, and then was circling the ring ready to go at 7:59.

kinda knew our test wasn't gonna be a great score. but, eh. so what?
And ya know. Our test was fine. I actually did ask for more roundness from Charlie than I normally do, just because.... Obvi that's part of the test lol. Judges wanna see it. And close watchers might be able to notice the change in Charlie's frame in some places of the video (video is much nicer than the stills, I promise). 

But even so, this judge wanted more. Forever and ever, more. "Hollow" was our red thread comment throughout the entire test, showing up in 8 of 17 comments, with other variations like "reach to bit" and "above bit" peppering the rest. 

finally, tho, a good halt!! well done, sir <3
The score was a bit below average for us, at 35.5%. Felt on point tho for what we presented, so I wasn't really surprised by it. Was, actually, a little miffed at the distance between our score and class leaders tho, and wondered whether we suffered from stiffer scores by being first in the ring. Ooh, and also from apparently being in the open class, as most of the pros in the Novice division were in my split, womp.

(Tho, actually, it's an improvement in score from the last time this judge saw us at Thornridge last July so... Yea. Probably on point.) 

It's ok tho. I had actually really tried to prepare myself not to get caught up in the scoring side of things. It legitimately 100% did not matter -- all I wanted to focus on was keeping an ok head space so that I'd actually DO the cross country. I even sorta kinda hoped to maybe prevent myself from even checking scores until it was all over. 

Which....  half worked and half didn't. It didn't work bc the test was emailed directly to me almost immediately after the ride, so I saw the comments and scores right away. But -- it did work bc I only saw *my* score, not the whole class. 

test scoring and comments are all done through an app now, and emailed to the rider within minutes. kinda a nice system!! tho the scribbles are hard to read unless really zoomed in, sorry. they're in the video tho! i'll give you a hint: basically every comment is "Hollow."
Loch Moy is using the Compete Easy app now for most of their live scoring, and my app was down. I didn't realize at the time that there's also a Compete Easy website too. So basically, I knew my score was below average, but couldn't check to see where it landed me in the class. But ya know, probably low, right? 

Which was kinda perfect, right? Like, not a great score in a split full of pros. Probably didn't really have anything on the line. In other words, basically zero pressure. Just had to go out there, and start jumping some jumps. 

I'd already walked the course the day prior after jump judging so.... the break in between rides was spent kinda quietly chillin, and trying to stay warm haha. Trying to convince myself that this was a good idea, and that this was fun, and that I'd be happy when it was over -- and to just put one foot in front of the other until we got there.  

Monday, October 11, 2021

Returning again to the Maryland Horse Trials

I'm not going to indulge on a long-winded walk down memory lane, through all the twists and turns of trying (and failing) to move up, or languishing through pandemic-induced ennui, or just generally letting the vague existential feelings of doom get the better of me.... It's not exactly a unique case, after all, haha. As far as I can tell, maybe it's even par for the course in horses (or life in general?). 

Whatever the reasons, it's been just under two years since Charlie and I left the start box at a 3-phase horse trial (last time at Waredaca in Nov 2019). 

And that's not exactly for lack of trying, either -- with a couple horse trials where we made it through one or both of the first two phases, but didn't proceed to cross country. Tho, haha, that's the beauty of a blog: for those curious, Charlie's entire events history is dutifully recorded and indexed here for easy reference. 

the conquering hero returns?
The important detail I'm sharing today, tho, is that:: We finally got back out there again this weekend. And completed all three phases. Yesssss!!

My goals this year were simple: step back from the cycle of pressure and disappointment we'd experienced trying to move up, and rediscover the thrill and JOY of doing all the things with my amazing thoroughbred. We were gonna get out and do EVERYTHING, but at Novice, where we feel experienced and reliable. 

That goal got off to a bumpy start last spring, but try, and try again, right? And eventually we started settling into a rhythm of having fun again at our outings -- and making horse shows feel closer to 'routine' and 'mundane' again. 

So, knowing that I had soon-to-expire volunteer credits at Loch Moy, one of our ultimate favorite venues... Well, it seemed like now was the time to try again. I figured, either we'd get through it, or I'd have to sit down and really be honest with myself about whether I actually want to do this particular thing.

So. We went for it. And I'm hoping to have many more details to share about the nitty gritties (plus many many more photos, cross your fingers). But... The important part was that we did it. Or maybe, that *I* did it, since there's never been any question mark about Charlie. 

It wasn't easy. I was the first Novice rider for all three phases, meaning an ungodly and DARK morning. I left home at 4:00am, and we arrived at Loch Moy right in time for sunrise at 7:15am, and go-time at 8:00am. It was rainy and foggy and quite a bit cooler than I'd expected (thus no extra layers for either me or the horse), plus Charlie's long absence from this type of atmosphere meant we were a little tight in the dressage. But he was imo a very good boy <3 

added another pretty green ribbon from Loch Moy to the war chest, after finishing on our dressage score
While temperatures fortunately warmed quickly, the rain and fog persisted through all three of our phases. But it was ok. Charlie has turned into quite the professional show jumper, and the arenas at Loch Moy are all wonderful. He jumped his heart out for me, and left all the rails up despite a couple imperfect distances and rubs. 

And cross country... Hm. What to say about it? This weekend was enormously busy in Area II, and volunteers were scarce (true story: after receiving enough increasingly panicky pleas for more help, I actually came out the day prior to jump judge too). So they'd kinda scrunched all the jumps closer together so each volunteer could judge multiple fences. 

This made for a surprisingly technical assortment of turns and quasi-related distances... Plus the course featured tons of terrain -- including no fewer than 3 long runs downhill straight toward the trailers. Which... proved challenging on a horse like Charlie.

charlie is pretty sure the grass is greener on the other side of the rope, out on the cross country tracks
But guys -- Charlie was such a good boy. And, again, we did it. I dropped the helmet cam video up above for anyone who wants to see exactly how it all went, but again will hopefully have more to share soon. 

For now, I'm just trying to enjoy this little moment of satisfaction from finally doing the thing that has for some reason been so hard to do recently. We'll save the full dissection and objective critiques for later lol. 

Thursday, September 30, 2021

evening xc school

Sunset arrives earlier and earlier each night, and soon enough it'll be daylight savings time -- wherein we're confined to lighted spaces on weeknight evenings for the foreseeable future. 

But. That's not here yet. And fall *is* my favorite!

cantering this horse around is basically my favorite
The lingering daylight combined with cooler temps and softer ground meant it was primetime last night to get out for an easy breezy romp around our home xc fields with a friend. 

friendly roll top that charlie jumped in his first ever xc school, d'aww memories. i like to think we've come a long way since then, but really it's mostly me who has learned to ride the horse better LOL. he's always been a good boy....
Originally we had thought to maybe ship out somewhere close... But eh, traffic and work and not wanting to rush, etc etc etc, and we decided to just hang out at home. Which proved to be a good call since my friend's horse had actually lost a shoe, whoops. 

gratuitous shots of cantering around bc i wanna -- plus, lol at the peanut gallery of geldings behind us
So we headed out for a relaxing evening stroll around all the xc fields while I eyed up where all the jumps had moved to since we last schooled out here. 

warm up fence #2 -- friendly split rails
Y'all already know I like to keep things surgically efficient with Charlie when schooling at home. He really doesn't need (or want) a lot of repetition.... And he can get a little surly and barn sour if he feels like I'm picking on him. 

slightly larger split rails to get us more to height (ish)
Plus, Charlie has always had a tendency to want to get things right the first time around. Call it anthropomorphizing if you want, but sometimes I think he resents being asked to repeat a task when he's already done it once well. This.... obvi can create challenges when yours truly requires more practice, mileage or repetition lol... 

But, eh. Oh well. I like it when Charlie's happy. Happy Charlie makes for a confident Emma. So we make it work.

can't stop won't stop
And on this ride, I knew we'd likely log a very limited number of efforts. Honestly I expected the number to be in the single digits, but after counting it all up (and including non-height efforts like the ditches), we hit 10 jumps on the dot. Not bad!

charlie's face <3 i think he likes it too!
To be honest, I have a pretty conservative routine. But I like it and it works for us, so it's what I keep going back to. We start with an intro jump or two. Then maybe a BN jump or two. Then a Novice jump. Then hit up some more technical stuff, like the holy trinity of ditches / banks / water. Plus I like to try to get in a related distance if possible. Then finish with something "big."

remember when i fell off at the ditch at fair hill a couple weeks ago? me either
So ya know. That's exactly what we did lol. I'm still trying so so so hard to keep my god forsaken hands forward, as a means to help my whole position commit to a more forward ride. And naturally I continue to always keep a finger looped through the neck strap as a part of that. 

handsome horse in the fading dusk <3
It's helping a lot in our approach and takeoff to fences, and I'm finally feeling more consistent -- esp when it comes to slightly longer takeoff spots. Long time readers might recall I have a very unattractive habit of "clutching my pearls" at gappier jumps.... And I don't even wanna admit how many videos and pictures I've cringed at for that exact reason. 

wheeeeeee banks!!
Finally, tho, I feel like consistent progress is happening. Slowly, so slowly. But ain't that always the way. And, as is also always the way, I'm now developing more new and interesting bad habits. Like, the whole goal here -- the big objective -- is to have independent and following hands. 

Step 1 has been to not impede the horse on takeoff. Step 2, tho, our next frontier, will be to not impede the horse on landing. It's always something lol, and now that something is not keeping my hands so anchored on his neck that they don't allow Charlie to "finish" his jump. Baby steps, yo. 

i didn't tell our videographer that we'd continue to the yellow after the bank, so the clip ends here, tho charlie jumped it beautifully. fun fact -- that yellow roll is just fresh paint on our old green friend from my and Izzy's first ever HT from wayyyyy back in the day <3 <3
Anyway, tho, I was also super proud of Charlie at multiple points in the ride. He's somewhat notoriously drawn as if by magnets toward "home." And, conveniently for him, basically all roads lead home out in our xc fields. There are gates in basically every and any direction that we have used hundreds of times to return to the barn. 

But aside from one little "victory gallop," Charlie never really sped up or tried to pull off our lines. Also, on multiple occasions through the whole ride, he showed a willingness to balance and collect in turns and approaches to fences that practically caught me off guard. In a good way!

obvi every great ride ends with a little scope check lol
Honestly, we all know the old saw about how "dressage helps with the jumping," but I'd like to point out that's not exactly true if you're riding bad dressage LOL. Something has clicked for us this year tho. Sure, I don't ride Charlie very round in our flat work -- but I'm not stuffing him behind my leg anymore either. 

Plus, with the help from our recent Molly Clinic, it feels like I'm really getting the hang of nagging less with my legs -- and, therefore, preserving the meaning of my leg, seat and weight aids when I *do* use them. 

And guys -- Charlie is noticing. I legit think he likes it, and is a happier riding horse for it. Like, even his earliest canters in the video below when we're first just warming up look so good to me. 

All in all, it felt like a pretty productive ride. A good temperature check. Also a nice reminder that Charlie really doesn't need to jump all height all the time, bc when we're working well together he never blinks when we go immediately from an Intro roll top to the fun N open oxer you see above. He knows his job, he's good at it, and I really think he kinda likes it lol. 

Which.... Are good happy thoughts I'll continue to cycle through my mind again and again bc, um, well this may be tempting the fates, but I did actually send in an entry for a full HT this year. And I really truly believe it might be worth forcing myself through it, even if I kinda get a repeat of the sensations and feelings that made me withdraw at Shawan this past spring

So. Lol. Cross your fingers for me, all good juju is appreciated!!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

fine i'll do it myself

So I don't normally post meaningful ride recaps on Saturdays but.... Eh, sometimes ya gotta strike while the iron's hot, ya know? And... AND -- omg -- I actually have riding media from a low key solo schooling session. And since there is a direct correlation between my blogging schedule and my media content.... Well. Obvi I gotta write!!

welcome to a visual summary of yesterday's ride <3 
To be perfectly honest with y'all, I try really really hard not to whine or complain about whatever first world problems lie before me and my pony, unless I'm already 100% on the job of working toward a solution. 

Meaning, I try not to complain if there's something I could do to fix a situation. Stuff that's outside of my hands?? Yea, open season on that LOL, but otherwise... ya know... I try to live a life of self determination. 

just stepping my gigantic packer over random arena trash
This ongoing "Lesson Limbo" situation tho... Ugh. You've already heard me whine a lot about it, evn if you didn't consciously realize how extensively peppered into every post those references have become. 

And.... I'm actually not doing a whole lot to resolve it. Well, ok, that's a lie. I am doing a LOT of *thinking* on the subject. As in, 

"What does an ideal solution look like?"
"How willing am I to travel for regular coaching, and what's the relationship between distance + frequency?"
"Am I open to the idea of moving my horse as part of this solution --- and, if so --- geographically, what are the limits?? (esp considering I'm full time remote)"

can't for the life of me figure out why dressage judges keep saying "needs to be more round" when we go around like this 97% of the time....
The reality is.... There's an enormous sense of flux happening at Charlie's barn right now. It's a multi-generational farm, an iconic venue in the region, but like every single member of the family at each generation is kinda just... Ya know. Experiencing life and changes and whatnot. 

My own sorta selfish perspective focuses on the impact all that "flux" has on *me* and *my goals,* but... ya know. Even I'm not so egotistical as to think it actually has anything to do with me. Except the whole "self determination" thing --- If I want my horsey life to be a certain way, nobody is gonna care more than I do about making it happen. 

also can't for the life of me figure out why i post some of the pics i post. but here we go with yet another glorious glamour shot into the short two stride <3
So. We make it happen, yes? For ourselves. Because we wanna. Or, ahem, cough cough.... something like that?

Lol for real tho, Fall is here. Hurricane season is usually the turning point for Maryland in terms of "ground condition" -- when we finally get enough good soakings to well and properly soften the ground. Combined with sunny but less humid conditions, we basically arrive at "Perfect Charlie Weather."

i swear on my mother's china that this oxer is like a single baby's breath under 3', and charlie's kinda just lopin over it lol
Thus, I'm making it my business to capitalize on opportunities wherever they present themselves. Lately, that's looked a bit like scavenging on fun jump set-ups left behind by other riders. Like, when I see a peer actually setting up stuff to jump (vs the tiny stuff normally left behind by lessons). 

d'awww but look at him really try when i got him a smidge close at the next vertical, this one just a hair over 3'
None of the jumps have moved much in recent weeks (due in part to some of that "flux" I mentioned earlier), and there seem to be fewer and fewer functioning standards and poles each week too..... But. What's set up right now works for us. 

A couple verticals that can be ridden as singles, or in a line, or in bending lines, plus a short 2-stride and the short 1-stride I set up last week (now set to verticals instead of the big X's I did last week). 

let's try that again, but with conviction this time
And, props to myself, I pulled on my big girl pants and gave Charlie a good positive warm up to prepare us for an easy breezy schooling session. After our summer of zero lessons and lots of shows, Charlie's definitely gotten into the groove of warming up and then going straight into THE course. 

So, naturally, being the good boy that he is, he nailed our little mini course the first time around (after words about being too quiet at the first, ahem). And I legit intended to just finish with that. But.... Then a friend arrived at the ring, and I decided to do another trip and ask for video too. Thus -- the media!

better distance = a more casual charles lol
It was also interesting because obviously Charlie was moderately incredulous about having to repeat the same task after having already executed it well the first time. But, eh, life is like that sometimes, buddy!

But also obviously the second time we weren't quite as smooth. I really liked this little course tho, mostly bc of the two little combinations. Idk, I just love a good one stride grid for Charlie. He knows them so well, and they're so good for getting him up on his toes. 

yea i think i'll #KeepHim

I also love how "On It" Charlie was with his lead changes. Seriously, did you watch the video?! This good boy may be just loping around a basic course, but you can't tell me he isn't having the most fun! I'm not really sure how much more challenge this horse wants in his life, but I still feel like we have time to get better. So. Hopefully we'll get more ideas soon!

In the meantime, happy weekend!