Thursday, May 27, 2021

xc clinic with Sally

Maryland's local combined training organization, the MCTA, is roaring back to life post-pandemic in a big way this year. Organizers launched the 2021 recognized event at Shawan Downs (cancelled in 2020) last weekend with renewed gusto, plus opened the facility for 3 (!!!) days of schooling (instead of the traditional 1 day) this week.

still loving this tail guard for keeping things clean on the way to adventures!
The opportunity to ride at this iconic venue is honestly pretty cool, even just to school. BUT!! They've also brought back the unrecognized event this year, after a three year hiatus. Obviously pretty pumped about that -- but more to come later. 

In the meantime, tho, if you're local and have any interest whatsoever in volunteering at that event this coming Saturday (no prior experience needed!), they're desperate for your help. Sign up here!

charlie's favorite activity: chasing golf carts
Today, tho, let's talk about the schooling days. And, specifically, the lesson Charlie and I did with Sally Cousins!! Woot woot, our first time seeing her since the before times

hey-o, it's a log-o!
Shawan Downs is an interesting place bc it hosts a wide variety of equestrian events, including timber and flat races. Horse Trials are the least common, so most of the cross country jumps are trucked in from other venues (including Charlie's farm) for just this two week period. 

The MCTA has used the same course designer for their recognized courses the last few years too -- meaning, the jump placement and combinations are more or less identical each year. So you might be forgiven if this all looks startlingly familiar to that time we schooled here in 2018 right before Charlie moved up to Novice.  

d'aww we jumped the jumps i painted!!
sally advises: this jump can feel a bit aggressive for greener horses as Jump 2 -- the brush, flowers and width are all asking for the horse to get up in the air. charlie obvi is not a green horse haha, but damn he jumped the shit out of it lol <3
For some reason, getting out to this lesson was massively stressful for me. Probably just the logistics of wrapping up work calls on time (true story: did my last zoom while fully dressed in breeches, boots and spurs so I could bolt out the door immediately upon x-ing out...); getting the horses fed and trailer prepped on time; then driving thru rush hour cross town traffic to arrive in time to stud and tack etc etc... 

Luckily it worked out, tho, and we were the first riders on of our group of 5. Whew!

spookin hard at the observation tower lol. jumped the jump anyway tho
sally advises: this BN brush jump is *not* a complicated fence. but the positioning next to the tower can and will be distracting to many horses. charlie was obvi no exception.
I still felt pretty tense and tight, as is my habit... But obvi Charlie seemed to feel just fine. We did a fairly light warm up on the flat before basically getting right into the thick of things with Jump 1 on course: the logs. 

Sally felt like I was riding with my hands way too low, but honestly I just wanted to be quiet and hold mane like Martin Douzant told me to. I figured that was preferable to any wonky nervous pearl-clutching moments, ya know? 

For real tho... Charlie just... cantered right on up to those logs and jumped each (BN then N) perfectly out of a nice relaxed forward canter stride. Bingo, buddy!
oh hey lookie, it's our favorite log table from home!
I don't know why I still get so surprised when Charlie just like... jumps these fences like he's been jumping them for 3 full years. Bc. Uh. Yea, he's been jumping these exact fences and combinations for 3 full years LOL, and has only gotten more seasoned and experienced at the game. 

The horse knows what he's doing, knows how to read a fence and the terrain. Wants to jump the fences, and while he's not above throwing in a little extra style with a big long spot... He's just an entirely predictable rideable and easy horse. Maybe one day my mental state will catch up to that fact LOL!

familiar corner is nice corner.
sally advises: whenever possible, approach a corner on the lead of the angle. right hand corner? right lead. left side corner? left lead. this is especially crucial if you're in the unfortunate position of re-approaching after a refusal. remember, tho: at N the entirety of the jump must be within the allowed jumpable dimensions for the level. meaning, even at its widest part, an N corner is still just an N table. don't overthink or overcomplicate it. 
Anyway, we sorta worked through the entire course piecemeal -- something I don't think I've ever done in schooling before. Like, I've seen other bloggers in other areas write about getting to school a complete cross country course ahead of an event, but that's just not super common around here. In fact, at most places the courses close for schooling leading up to an event. 

So honestly this was a treat. Obviously a lot of the single fences were kinda boring to us (esp those that live at our home farm that we've jumped literally a million times). And I did end up skipping some of them bc... eh, hard ground. But I was pretty happy to just keep be-bopping around, doing all the BN and N combinations. 

who owns the banks? charlie owns the banks <3
sally advises: snug up to a close distance to the bank when possible to help the horse keep his legs under him to push forward for the B element
For me, the most telling part of the ride was this combination up a bank, two strides to a hanging log. We jumped this exact same combo in 2018 (and there were even pictures from it), and... It's kinda interesting how much has changed. 

Like, obviously Charlie has always been a good boy. And he was very good in 2018 -- executed the combination correctly on the first try. But back then, our read on the bank was a little off, then we had to work hard to get to the log in 2, and I still got left behind. This time, tho? I feel like there's just an enormous difference in Charlie's canter and balance. 

nice chevrons in a surprisingly tricky location
sally advises: for a fence like this with a tricky landing (see the driveway not far out?) and tricky approach (steep climb up with rapidly changing views through the cutouts), try to basically just hop over the fence almost like show jumping, vs blasting at it. this will help the horse from feeling surprised at by everything else around the jump.
Plus I'm gonna give myself a little credit for finally riding him more forward now that we both know the balance is there. So I was able to keep my leg on and commit to the combination in a way that wasn't really possible in 2018. Thus, Charlie was basically text book through it. Crazy what a couple years experience can do for ya, LOL! 

N haff caff
Same story with the half coffin. We've jumped it before, we'll probably jump it again. And Charlie was, is, always will be: superb. Gosh this horse guys <3 

One super exciting thing about this ride was that it didn't feel like we dialed up to the highest gear then had to stay there. Meaning: I fully expected to start getting runaway with once we really got going, but actually that really did not happen. We never lost the adjustability. 

Like, for a couple of the 'bigger' jumps -- like the novice steeplechase and table -- we had a bit more gallop with bigger, more scopey efforts. But then Charlie could turn right back around again and execute some of the smaller BN stuff from more of a school canter -- while still remaining firmly in front of my leg. It was nice! 

roll top into the water pit!
sally advises: try to keep track of your left v right hand approaches throughout a schooling, and keep things reasonably even. sometimes the terrain, jump, or line may make one choice more optimal than another, but overall seek symmetry 
Obvi it's always a little easier when we're not at home, so Charlie's barn sourness is not quite so apparent. And it also helped that Charlie was pretty tuned in to sticking with our group -- as opposed to being drawn back to the trailers. 

So ya know. It could mean that some elements that were easier during this stop-and-go style ride might prove more elusive when we're actually set free to do the full course in one run. But. Eh. That's a problem for Future Emma, lol. Present Emma is perfectly satisfied to be very pleased with Charlie's performance. 

And honestly, while I caught myself eyeing up a couple T fences (like that house we jumped a couple weeks ago), it was nice sticking with our N stuff. I've let my mind and confidence and anxiety get so twisted over the last year that it kinda just takes a lot of work to even sign up for this stuff, to even just go forth and do it, even tho I know we can

Right now I just need to get over that hump. Not get so bent out of shape by stress etc., or worrying about whether the ground is too hard, or will it be too hot, or did Charlie get all the prep rides he needs (dear lord, emma, the horse is prepped and ready to go, chill the F out!)....

happy tired pony
Luckily, tho, so far this year -- no matter how worked up I get, or how pretzeled my mental state.... Charlie's always just right there for me. Steady, consistent, predictable and good. Right now, that's enough. More than enough, really. And I'm so grateful for it! 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

a plague on all our houses

Guys. Ohhh my goodness. They are HERE. Ahem, and over there. Frankly, just plain everywhere now. And it's only just begun omg.

Obviously, I'm talking about the Brood X cicadas -- the generation of creepy crawly little pesties that emerges every 17 years. 

It's seriously like.... one day they're just everywhere. Every surface you look at -- every fence and tree and shrub -- is covered in their crunchy little discarded exoskeletons. 

And the very ground beneath your feet proves to have been absolutely FILLED with the suckers for all these years, without you ever guessing. 

Suddenly the roads and sidewalks are covered with little smooshed bodies too -- as each individual cicada only has the briefest of windows above ground to get its groove on, lol.

And meanwhile all the birds and bees (literally) and all other manner of tiny predators go absolutely WILD with this newfound abundance of protein haha. 

It's like all the trees get ten decibels louder -- between the incessant cicada screams AND all the chirping and buzzing from cicada-fattened birds haha.

Really, it's a wild sight to behold. 

And, uh, by all reports it's only just the beginning haha. 

I remember once as a kid we found one still in its beetle stage after drilling up to the surface, and quickly dropped it into a terrarium for observation. 

We spent like the entire night watching that thing slowwwwly break free from its shell to metamorphose into the giant thumb-sized red eyed missile we've all come to know and love. Honestly was a pretty cool memory! 

The last time Brood X hit Maryland was not long after I graduated high school (woof, how's that for aging yourself??) and I remember driving around with my best friends, blasting 50 Cent and what have you, with the windows rolled down..... 

And then suddenly being pelted directly in the face while going 50mph when one of the suckers flew right in through my open window lol.... Ah memories!

So yea. This year I'm definitely keeping all windows firmly closed LOL, but am otherwise creepin and crawling all over the place spying on these weird little bugs haha. 

Anybody else seeing the cicada resurgence in your neighborhood?? Do you love them too, or are you creeped out by them?! Curious minds want to know!!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

keeping it in the family

I remain personally skeptical of the general value of recognized vs unrecognized horse trials, honestly for a variety of reasons. This previous 2015 discussion post partly explains my thinking, but my thoughts have evolved further after getting more involved in this sport. 

holy cow intermediate jumps have a shit ton of surface area tho, omg
For instance, in Area II - my local eventing region - we are blessed with a jam-packed events calendar that includes a WIDE variety of both recognized and unrecognized events. Sure, some of the starter events are held at venues or on courses that might not necessarily meet the standard for USEA licensing. 

But... Many run at the exact same venues as recognized events -- utilizing the same jumps built by the same builders, and often identical courses designed by the same course designers. 

it's slow going, but using a paint roller helped. pro tip: reload the roller often
So it's entirely possible for a low level eventer in Area II to get out and about at all the best venues and compete through Modified at about half the cost of doing so at licensed recognized shows. Our area even boasts a long format unrecognized event too -- the Quarter Star 3 Day at Full Moon Farm (home to the Fultons). 

looking reasonably ok after one coat! probably shoulda done another, but i had 6 more to do.. sooo... yea, this works!
This local richness within the eventing community and calendar obviously plays a big role in my thought process when it comes to choosing what to enter. Like.... I could enter the recognized HT at Shawan Downs this weekend, OR, the starter HT at Shawan Downs next weekend

Same venue, same jumps, possibly slightly different courses but.... One is also 50% the cost of the other lol. And Charlie most certainly doesn't know the difference between them. Seems like kinda a no-brainer, right?

slightly brighter gray for the T steeplechase
There are other, newer, reasons why I'm questioning the value of recognized this year. Mostly... It's not at all clear to me that US Eventing really cares about my segment of their rider base. And by "my segment," I'm referring to the perennially low level adult amateurs who have about zero likelihood of ever being named to any sort of team or developing riders list. 

next victims awaiting their fate
For instance, the big $500K fundraising push** to get Kentucky running for what amounted to about ~160 entries, really left a sour taste for me. Not bc it's an unworthy cause, or whatever, but... bc there are needier causes. Like, can you imagine what local venues offering nationally recognized classes to the sport's base could do with even a portion of that money?  

(**And the subsequent deafening silence regarding the obscene number of horse falls (vs refusals) on what was unquestionably a punishing 5* course, from the sport that just "invested" so much in rider safety by building out all those frangible tables that may or may not actually be meaningfully safer than traditional tables.... Bc god forbid we tarnish the image of grassroots fundraising and the heroics of Mars Equestrian.....)

trying not to accidentally paint this pretty faux foliage. i got best results with getting right on top of (literally) this plank up against the brush first, then going back for the rest of the jump body next
At Morven, for instance, the volunteer coordinator told me they spent $3K on lunches and snacks for volunteers and officials over a two day weekend with ~300 entries this past spring. That's a shitload of money for just plain old food. 

It was very good food too -- but it kinda has to be, bc remember: Our community's dense events calendar means all these venues compete for access to a sufficient volunteer base to safely administer their shows. And as far as I can tell, US Eventing as a governing agency overseeing event licensing hasn't really addressed volunteer scarcity, or its ramifications on event safety.

ta da!! also... isn't Shawn Downs just the prettiest place?!
And of course. None of that says ANYTHING about all of the important conversations and dialogue last year about what it means to expand access to horses and horse sports. Sure, everyone posted their requisite 'black square' photos and lists of new accounts to follow on IG. And Eventing Nation ran that wildly ill-conceived essay contest inviting the community to solve the DEI issues in exchange for a laughably small pot of prize money. 

went back to add contrasting edge lines while i had the bright gray paint out. this little bit of contrast where the front face hits roughly a 45* slope is believed to help horses better read and make a good shape over the jump.
Sure, US Eventing amplified the voices and increased representation of POC within the community, plus held a number of webinars and committee meetings on the subject. And I believe there's a handful of new scholarship opportunities out there for the lucky chosen.

But... when push came to shove, the community at large rallied around a $500K fundraising effort dedicated to the Kentucky 5* -- the most elite and inaccessible event on the calendar. Bc at the end of the day, US Eventing is focused on developing team competitiveness on the international stage. That is its mission, full stop.

dear lord it was stressful transporting paint across xc fields in my brand-new-to-me car tho....
That's not my mission, tho. For me, my objectives in horses go in a few different directions. 

First and foremost, obviously I want to enjoy my horse to the absolute fullest -- do the best we can with what we have, and pursue any and every opportunity that looks fun or fulfilling to me. I want to test and challenge myself and grow as a horsewoman, while also fully enjoying every small quiet moment in between.  

moving on to the next set: barrels!
Secondly, tho, I really love sharing the joy that comes from horses and doing whatever small part I can to enable horsey experiences for those who otherwise fall well outside the umbrella of what US Eventing (or any other national organization) might consider "their base." 

For most of my horsey life, this meant working and volunteering at lesson barns -- where it was absolutely normal to not own one's own horse, and to work in exchange for saddle time, or even just to work for the sake of being around horses. 

had to break out the brush for this one, sadly. the brush is better for those hard-to-reach spots, but is slower and feels like it uses up more paint
Today, this mostly means volunteering at horse shows and for my local combined training association, the MCTA, which offers 1 recognized HT and 2-3 starters each year. PLUS their members are eligible for fun year end awards and recognition etc without necessitating USEA membership or any recognized competition experience. 

Like any other local association, the board is made up of overworked and underappreciated horse people who mostly do it out of passion for the community, all while operating on a shoestring budget. They're a critical part of the local community, tho, esp when it comes to creating opportunities with low costs of entry.

my last assigned fence: T barrels 
Basically, I've decided my time and resources are better spent on local venues and organizations, where they'll have a bigger impact on my community. For instance, unrecognized entry fees aren't subject to USEA-mandated surcharges or ancillary costs. So venues often use unrecognized events to subsidize budget items like prizes, volunteer incentives, grounds maintenance, new jumps, etc etc etc. Aka, those dollars get "reinvested." 

These same local venues and organizations are also likeliest to offer events with the lowest costs of entry -- everything from schooling dressage and jumper shows up to unrecognized HTs -- to offset the costs of their bigger nationally recognized or FEI licensed events (think venues like: Loch Moy, Fair Hill, Plantation, Morven, Waredaca, MCTA, etc).

base painting slightly complicated by the lack of weed-whacking...
So it's easier to see a direct link between my membership and entry fees and the aspects of community access that matter most to me. As opposed to fees paid to US Eventing, underwriting the latest high performance training camp or young rider championships. Ya know, so the professionals can prep for Tokyo or the kids who bought UL horses from those same pros can accomplish something "special." That's all well and good too -- don't get me wrong -- but that's not *my* passion haha. 

Ultimately, in years past I've always ended up renewing my USEA membership "just in case" -- and have entered and ridden in a (small) number of recognized events too. But... Eh, this year I think I'll skip it and keep my money local.  

Obviously this all acknowledges that Area II is somewhat unique in the eventing world, and not all areas offer equal access to lower cost (but still high quality) starter trials and schooling shows. But I'm curious -- do you have any similar feelings of skepticism toward the national governing agencies? Or maybe you feel very differently, for reasons I've completely missed? 

And obvi I'm always supportive of people living their horsey lifestyles exactly as they see fit -- so if competing recognized is important to you for reasons that are unimportant to me, there is exactly zero judgment here. I'm honestly just curious to see what (if anything?) people think about it? 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

charlie goes to a hunter show!

A couple barn mates and I have recently been scheming about fun plans for getting out and about with our horses. When one friend had various family members coming into town this past weekend, we decided to make a whole big To-Do of it by going to a local h/j show. 

Transportation was a little challenging for four total horses arriving in three separate trailers, all of which had slightly varying arrival and departure times... But: we were adamant: this would be a FUN day with ponies!!

Complete with the first proper post-Covid (bc #vaccinations4lyfe, y'all) horse show tailgating party haha. Since one horse arrived in a suuuuuuuper early trailer, the rest of us decided we'd err on the side of early too (even tho our classes were the last of the day) just to enjoy the party scene. 

my unsuspecting victim dozing in his run-in
And guys -- it was great. It's been SO LONG haha. Like, normally we would save the tailgate until after the rides lol. But ya know. We figured, it was an h/j show. With one single ring. With upwards of 40 classes, starting with lead-line and groundpoles. We'd probably be there forever, ya know?

As it was, the Chucklebus arrived at 12:30pm, with a conservative estimated ride time of around 5pm lol. But we got to see a friend tackle the itty-bitty jumpers with her project pony. Plus got to see approximately one zillion hunter and jumper rounds (with schooling breaks between each height group, natch) slowly edge up in height. 

hello sir and good morning -- are you ready to go play?
The prize list was honestly bizarre in terms of height. Basically, at small local stuff like this the bread+butter entries are in the <2'6 classes. So we figured anything higher might be lighter. But actually even the class list was light on options too. 

They had a set of jumper classes where you could have a course set at 2'6-2'9 OR a course set at 3'-3'3. And otherwise there was a single hunter division where the prize list said you had an option to jump the course at 2'9. I talked it over with the secretary in advance of pre-entering the week prior, and decided to do the schooling hunter division at 2'9. 

pictured: a party!! omg we can tailgate again now that everyone is vaccinated!! 
This way, I figured I'd get a full course set at 2'9. The courses would presumably be fairly standard for hunterlandia, but honestly I'd rather that than trying to deal with whatever concoction of "jumper turns" they figured out for the same exact placement of jumps lol. 

So anyway. The horses stood around like absolute professionals at the trailer for basically hours before we finally dragged them off to the show ring. Which.... Naturally took them a little bit by surprise since they'd kinda figured they were just in a random field for the day LOL. 

Charlie bug-eyed around for a little while, but honestly was fine. We warmed up a couple laps in the indoor, including cantering some ground poles and crossrails etc, while I waited for our schooling round. Notably: every single division had gotten a dedicated 15min schooling session in the show ring. 

ponies party too!! tho, we actually did end up moving pony mare Tink's trailer forward a little bit to give her a bit more breathing room from the boys haha
Somehow, tho, even tho I had discussed my entry with the secretary in advance, even tho I pre-entered online, and even tho the gate steward had my name on her list -- they apparently had zero plan for this class where they offered 2'6 and 2'9 courses in the same division. 

The other two 2'6 entries had already done their two courses (while I waited at the gate), and were preparing to do the under saddle class. The secretary had said that even if we jumped the different height options, we'd still do the under saddle together. So I was there at the gate prepared to go in for that class. 

But... The in gate person didn't really seem to understand. I thought I could go in, do the under saddle with the division, then while they reset the course to 2'9 (for which I had, again, discussed with the secretary and pre-entered) - I could jump around as a schooling session. Naturally, my two other barn mates who were doing the 2'6-2'9 jumpers immediately following my class might also school then too. 
pictured: the boys lol
But the in gate person didn't agree with this, and the judge (who may have been a bit hot and tired after what was absolutely a very long day) said that there would be no more schooling rounds for this division. Even tho... ya know... There would be schooling immediately after for the next 2'6-2'9 jumper class. 

I also suggested I could go and do my jump rounds before the division's under saddle went if they had to go in a particular order, but I still thought I should be allowed to school the fences first like everyone else had done (and figured I could do this as they reset to 2'9). 

Really tho, it just wasn't clear if the gate person legit did not understand that I entered the 2'9, or just didn't feel like changing the fences or what. The judge was hassling her over the radio about closing the division, so they started the under saddle with me at the gate. And suggested I do an unjudged 2'6 round, or enter the 2'6 jumpers. Which... No... I entered the 2'9 class tho? 

d'aww look at you, sir!! if shows were won by pictures alone, your record would be flawless <3
Idk. It was bizarre. Even tho I was literally right there at the gate trying to go in for the under saddle, the gate person disagreed and let the judge start the class. So... I opted to just dismount and scratch rather than owe these lazy assholes literally a single cent in entry or office fees. The secretary emerged at this point to remind the gate person that the organizers sign the checks, not the judge... but I was already well beyond irritated. No thanks and so long, folks. 

It made no sense. I was not at all prepared to try to explain to this person, who had my name on a list, how the class was supposed to work. In my mind, I'd done all the necessary prep work: talking it over with the secretary and pre-entering. I literally did not comprehend that maybe the gate person or judge would be like, "Nah we're tired!

Maybe this sounds petty. And it kinda felt petty being the lone voice sitting there like, "But I pre-entered? You knew I was coming? Why didn't you have a plan for how to run this mixed height division that you yourself offered on the prize list?" But ya know. I'm a stranger to them. Guaranteed if I'd had a local trainer** at my side they would have just put the fences up and gotten it done. But I didn't. So neither did they.  (Nor did they raise a single fence for the 2'6-2'9 jumper classes either...). 

Can't really describe how frustrating that felt, to be honest. So.... Charlie's long awaited debut as a hunter was a bust. Tho, as a point of pride, the two crossrails we jumped in the indoor warm up were exceptional lol and I have full confidence he would have been lovely for our rounds <3 

Long story short, 0/10 would not recommend and won't return lol ugh. 

(**Petty Post Script Alert: The lines on course were all riding at fairly variable striding, so I kept asking people what they were set for. True fucking story: one woman who was 100% one of the 'big' hunter trainers there legit shrugged at me and told me she did not know. Which was also obviously 100% not true. Are hunters really such assholes that they won't tell someone outside their group what the distances are? Or was this just a bad sample from some dusty backwater barn?? Real questions here, folks, bc damn it was kinda stunning lol)

Monday, May 10, 2021

planny plan plans

Y'all already know I'm big into making plans. And planning about the plans I plan on planning. You know how it goes. 

With horses, as with so many other aspects in life, it feels easy to get caught up in doing things a certain "way" and progressing according to a prescribed calendar, defined by seasons and levels etc etc.
guys we are having the NICEST spring right now
I'm starting to figure out tho.... that... Well, planning -- especially when it relates to progressing and growing skillsets -- only really works when you actually know what to expect. Does that make sense? 

oooh and i spy with my little eye -- horses out in a new grass field!!
I've been super lucky to get a few different horses going at 2'6. And now Charlie's the second horse I've brought up to 3'. He's also the first horse I've gotten to be reasonably consistent at 3'3. But... Idk, even tho we've jumped that height for years -- including competitive experience -- I still don't feel confirmed at it. Mostly bc our margin of error at that height is much narrower than I like. 

so happy he's finally on grass -- kinda not loving how angular he is rn... 
And that narrow margin of error is basically what creates this feeling of "not always knowing what to expect." Which is a primary contributor to my various anxieties lol. Last year tho I really tried to just trust the process, trust the horse, and stubbornly hang on to the 'plan' even in the face of all the fuckery 2020 could throw. 

lots of strollin, peepin on the wildlife
And... It really just didn't work out. And I really let that get to me. Really let it affect my enjoyment of this crazy horsey lifestyle. I felt disappointed, or like I'd failed some important test. Rather than, ya know, just acknowledging that, actually, riding is hard. And moving up is harder. 

oh hai bambi!!
So we regrouped. I got back into my former lesson program, and as winter eased into spring, I tried to take a fresh look at what I really need right now from my horse habit. I still want to move up, and jump bigger fences. And I honestly believe Charlie would like that too.... But - first, and most importantly - I need to repair the confidence I broke last year. 

and of course, where there be deer, there be deer ticks too... and, by extension, tick jars gross lol
And need to get back to showing bc it's fun and we like it. Bc dear lord, there is literally no other reason to do it haha. For me, I think that means sticking with heights and levels etc where we feel super comfortable. Which, in Charlie land, is the ~2'9 - 3' sweet spot -- aka, Novice. 

this one apparently tried latching on in a few places in chuck's armpit. dusted the girth with Coat Defense just in case it wanted to rub. was fine tho!
So my plan going into spring time was to basically go out and do ALL the things -- but at N, no worrying about T -- so that I could remember how to not freak out or buckle under pressure etc. And, lol, therefore the very first thing I did this season was get to that Loch Moy cross derby and.... freak out and buckle under the pressure. Whoops?

pics from a schooling session with friends a couple weeks ago
Sooooo ya know, haha, that was kinda a wake up call. And since then I've been more assertive about doing what I need to do to feel ok: more regular lessons, jumping more often, keeping both myself and more horse fitter and more sharp. 

was dry hard ground on a day charlie got his toes did
Charlie absolutely benefits from staying more fit -- but it's still a tricky balance between making sure we get in all the activity without pounding on his feet when the ground is bad. Luckily tho it's been a pretty ok spring so far in terms of rainfall, and I've been able to adapt my plans and schedules to take advantage of softer ground when it's available. 

ended up not being a great ride... which was why i was nervous about the CT
Bc damn... Charlie just does not love hard ground. As evidenced by the sorta crappy solo jump school we had on his freshly trimmed feet a couple weeks ago (source of these pictures). But then we got a little bit of rain right before the CT, and you all saw what an absolute superstar Charlie was on that day. Feeling him click into gear like that is just... wow, so refreshing haha. 

but obvi charlie was a star at the CT -- and, at this week's lesson too
And he was basically exactly the same for our lesson this week. It was an epically long lesson bc we were delayed by a violent but short-lived hail storm. And then it just took forever bc there were riders at different levels doing different heights so everything was constantly getting reset. 

only had helmet cam from this week's lesson tho so... thus the older pics haha
But actually it felt like perfect practice for the next couple outings on our docket: local fun h/j shows where we'll certainly be hanging out and waiting around forever in between turns. And I was super proud of Charlie, too -- he stayed sharp and committed to the task the whole time. 

Including being quite comfortable marching down all the lines on the proper striding. Normally trainer P sets the lines a little short in lessons, but for whatever reason everything in this lesson was at 12' -- two 60' diagonals, a 48' outside and a 24' in and out. 

We added down the diagonals during warm up, but Charlie nailed it when we put the whole course together at the end (video above).

was a splattery sorta day, but in a good way
It was kinda basic as far as lessons go, and might actually be the last lesson with trainer P for a while just due to scheduling issues the next couple weeks. Obviously that's not ideal -- but is just another reason to focus on riding at heights where I feel comfortable and am less likely to panic when we don't get all the prep I'd typically prefer. 

honestly kinda loving the cooler spring weather with plenty of rain
Honestly, tho, I'm kinda excited by the prospect of some schooling h/j shows. Show jumping has consistently been one of Charlie's strongest phases as an event horse but.... lol, it sure as shit ain't mine. Give me a big solid 3'3 house and we're all good. An airy oxer with literally the exact same dimensions?! Gulp... lol. 

spring IS ending tho, so ya know. time to ship out all the blankets for cleaning (a very important process overseen by our very important barn manager, obvi haha)
Charlie generally doesn't share my concerns tho, and these last few jumping rounds -- in the lesson video above, and his round at Thornridge last week -- have been super reassuring. He's a good horse, he can do the thing, and maybe getting in a few extra trips at h/j shows will be just the ticket for easing my mind. Maybe? lol...

It's felt like a slow start to the year for us but... Maybe that'll prove to be a good thing? We'll see, I guess!