Monday, July 26, 2021

Fair Hill Derby

Fair Hill is home to all manner of various equestrian events, including a summer series of derby crosses. These are increasingly popular schooling shows where you combine components from show jumping and cross country into one big fun run. 

dreamy pony
Every venue does it a little bit differently, so the rules and set ups tend to vary. At Fair Hill, they run the derbies very similar to what you might see at a Young Event Horse competition. Basically, you start with a mini show jumping round, then proceed directly to a small but representative selection of cross country jumps and features. 

actually bathed him before the show for once, tho obvi he rolled anyway
The courses tend to be low on combinations, but can include any of the three hallmarks of xc: ditches, banks and water. At Fair Hill, these rounds are untimed. And, actually, while competitors sign up for a specific level (choice of: Intro, BN or N), you can actually jump whatever xc fences you want. 

It ends up being like glorified schooling -- there are no judges, no scores, no ribbons, nada. You can skip fences, add fences, mix and match levels, repeat an effort if you want -- whatever. Essentially, so long as you don't forever or scare anybody, you can do as you wish! 

looking majestic at the trailer, watching all the bicyclists zoom past
Charlie and I did our first ever Fair Hill derby last summer after the disappointment of our final failed move up attempt at Training. And I gotta say --- that derby was exactly what the doctor ordered. I LOVED it, even tho we had mistakes and weren't perfect. And I vowed to return again, next time with friends!!

Finally, "next time" turned into this past weekend, and we returned with two other barn mates -- each with their own adorable green pony mares. One in Intro, one in BN, then me and Charlie in the Novice. So it ended up being a pretty fun chill day of hangin out at the show, supporting each other thru everyone's turns. 

you'd be forgiven for getting serious Isabel-vibes from our adorable welsh-arab trailer mate
Our BN trailer mate was the last BN rider, and Charlie and I were first to go in N. So it worked out that we rode over together. I got to watch her absolutely rocket around on her new young mare that has SERIOUS Isabel vibes (omg tho, I legit thought they might be related), then started my own warm up once she was wrapped and they reset the fence heights. 

they actually set the jumps to height this time! 
One thing to note:: These events are so casual that most people (our group included) don't even bother walking the course in advance. The xc is a pretty basic loop, again where you can more or less jump what you want, and show jumping was also very straight forward. 

I only mention this bc... you can kinda tell that I took pretty bad lines to some of the jumps -- like fence 4 in show jumping; or like the ditch on xc... (ahem *cough cough* -- that's foreshadowing, folks!). 

gave us a proper combination, too!!
Anyway, Charlie is such a pro, he knew what we were doing there. Warmed up pretty great, tho I could tell he wasn't exactly thrilled about having to leave his friends in warm up. He was great through the show jumping tho -- honestly really tried for me. 

I kinda kept him on a somewhat compressed stride all the way around, since I anticipated that we'd probably just keep building and building esp once we transitioned to xc.... But he did a good job getting up and over each fence. I was impressed that they actually put everything up to height too -- last year the fences were hella dinky lol.

we took this rail with a lazy hind, but overall felt pretty good
Anyway, we had one rail in show jumping -- which obvi doesn't matter bc there's no scoring or ribbons or anything lol. And then we moved right on along to the first xc fence, which was positioned basically right next to warm up. 

It had a bit of a fussy approach to get around the trakehners (that jump the opposite direction), and I expected Charlie to be thinking more about going back to warm up vs the jumps. So we rode to it carefully and with purpose, and he was good.

then proceed directly to xc! skinny rails to start, right next to warm up
Ditto the next xc jump -- a line of basic boxes you can see in the distance in the above pic. I'd seen a couple horses have surprise refusals there, probably bc it really felt like you were "leaving" base lol. Charlie obvi has a rich and tapestried history when it comes to his feelings about "leaving," so... again, I was ready for him when he started bulging every which way on approach lol and he jumped it fine. 

That bulging feeling continued as we went -- with Charlie feeling just a tad distracted about what, exactly, we were doing. It's been ages and ages since we've actually set out on any sort of proper lengthy course, ya know? Like, schooling always involves a lot of starting and stopping and standing with the group. 

charlie was honestly a little surprised by the change in gear, esp as we moved farther from warm up
Charlie was jumping great, tho, and I was working really really hard at keeping my reins short, hands forward, and one finger looped through the neck strap, no matter what (also foreshadowing, lol). So we continued onward. 

Tho, I opted to skip the mound option -- basically a big mound, then downhill to some logs. Charlie and I (ok, let's be real, it's just me, not the horse!) suck at jumping downhill. I don't like it, and tend to get too backwards in my riding and end up putting Charlie in unjumpable positions. So, eh, no mound for today, and Charlie was obvi aces over the log. 

The downhill run continued tho. Fair Hill is famous for its, uh, hills lol. And the Sawmill Field where these events occur is basically one big bowl. No matter what, at some point ya gotta go down. Incidentally, that's where the ditches are too. 

his face after i abruptly bounced the fuck out of the saddle, whoops lol
Charlie has jumped all these ditches before in competition (years ago), but for whatever reason we kinda had a hard time at last year's derby and then again this year. I'd be frustrated by this lingering issue of struggling with jumping downhill jumps, except... uh, I straight up never practice it haha. Bc... I don't really want to, bc I don't really like it. So we remain... kinda bad at it. 

Add in the fact that I took a hilariously shitty line to our ditch (bc, again, hadn't walked the course and only kinda knew generally where everything was) and... Yea. Charlie sorta suddenly spooked and propped at the ditch, abruptly popping me ass over tea kettle off his shoulder. Like, instantly lol... 

lol carrying on as if nothing happened. got an enormous goofy flier to this big ol' table, much like that time George Morris critiqued our attempt at the BN version back in 2017
Luckily, tho, he is the goodest of boys and just stood there while I clung to his neck like a monkey and got my feet sorted out underneath me. We're just gonna roll with it being a "mostly landed on my feet" situation haha. 

So I climbed back aboard using a nearby jump, and just.... continued with the course. Didn't even bother re-approaching the ditch. Charlie's not a ditchy horse. The mistake was a confluence of other issues, not just the ditch itself. My crooked line, stuffing him behind the leg coming down the hill bc I hate jumping down hill, his slight distraction, my too-far-forward position bc of trying to keep my godforsaken hands forward no matter what, etc etc etc. 

I preferred to just move on with life rather than make a big deal out of it. Bc... spoiler alert -- literally none of this matters for anything haha. Idk who needs to hear that, but, yea. It doesn't matter. I just wanted to have fun.

i LOVED this jump going into the water!!
Which, incidentally, there remained a TON of fun stuff ahead of us on the course! Charlie obviously clicked right back into cruising gear -- and actually continued on better than he had been before. Helped in no small part by us now going up the hill vs down (much preferred), AND, finally going more in the direction of "home" again. 

After a few more jumps coming up the hill, the course finished with a little romp through the water. And I LOVED this, really really loved it. There was a house positioned somewhat generously from, but still related to, the water. Then down into the water, and right back up again to another line of jumps. 

and jumps on the way out too!!! legit the most exciting water complex we've seen in competition in....years??
Idk if it's confirmation bias or what, but in recent years water combinations on Novice courses have felt more, er, watered down. So often, my N courses have just crossed through with literally zero jumps nearby. Meanwhile the T courses did all sorts of crazy things like jumping directly into or out of water, or even water to water, and usually jumps immediately before or after too. 

It always feels like a gaping chasm in the technical differences between N courses and T courses. Something I personally connect to a lot of my anxiety around trying to move up to T. 

So, anyway, slight tangent aside -- this water was SUPER exciting bc it felt like we really got to do stuff with it! Tho I slowed Charlie wayyy down coming in anyway, just to play it safe and make sure he had time to think through everything and not be distracted or surprised. 

finishing strong over the last!!
Obvi he was perfect, tho, dropping into a nice balanced trot for a couple steps before picking right back up again and neatly stepping over the ramp on his way out of the combination. Good boy!!

Then all that was left to do was.... finish. The last jump on course was an attractively beefy table, positioned on gently rising ground headed directly back to the trailers. Basically Charlie's idea of perfection. And guys, he flew over it <3 <3

skip to 2:40 if you only wanna see me get straight up bounced off the horse lol

And for once, I actually get a nice picture of me being right there with him for the effort haha. Bc, again, one of my major goals for the day was to keep my hands in the appropriate zip code, rather than always wanting to bring them up or back. Still always more work to do there (always and forever), but it felt overall like success. 

this horse, guys <3 <3 <3
Honestly, the whole experience was just great. What a fun ride!! Y'all might be a little confused at how I can square falling off with being a "great ride," but...  as hard as it is to explain, all my anxieties and feelings of existential dread really aren't about the horse or the ride, ya know? It's just... everything else in life haha. The uncontrollable chaos, etc. 

even with the mistakes, this is honest to god the stuff of dreams for me
For right now, for whatever reason, these super low key schooling outings have been just the ticket for enjoying my horse to the absolute fullest, while minimizing all the vague pressure and anxiety. 

Like, again, nothing about this ride really matters, ya know? There isn't any big schedule or date marked on the calendar, we're not working up to anything. The outcomes from any given ride or effort don't have any bearing on the future -- no long lines of dominos ready to tumble if I mess up or make a mistake. 

Instead, it's just.... One day at a time. One ride at a time. Charlie already knows basically everything there is to know about jumping 3' and below. We might not be super polished or perfectly practiced or anything, but it pretty much feels like we can go out and do just about whatever we want. It feels good! 

Friday, July 23, 2021

the quick and the..... very much alive!

Believe it or not, we haven't schooled cross country, even at home, since our epic lesson with Sally Cousins at Shawan Downs back in May. Because.... as I mentioned then, most of our farm's good portables actually go to Shawan for their recognized and starter horse trials. 

spoiler alert: every picture in this post is a rerun, since i took not a single shot, nor wore my helmet cam. but they're all more or less representative of location and/or actual jumps
The jumps return to our farm soon after -- but generally remain sitting hodge podge in the front field for an extended period until mgmt starts setting courses for our home recognized event (in August). 

Finally, those preparations are underway now and the portables have migrated back out to new and interesting positions across the farm's expansive grounds. AND, since I'm not foolish enough to repeat last year's mistakes and enter our own event as a competitor... I'm therefore allowed to school the jumps freely.

my blog, my rules. and omg this horse <3
Which, I finally did last night!!! It's cooled down substantially in the last week -- plus all the mowing and general grooming going on out in the fields means there are slightly fewer biting bugs out and about. 

And guys -- this was legit my favorite style of cross country schooling. Just me and Charlie. No studs, no spurs or crop. No big bridle or anything. Just us and the fences. And a neck strap, obvi. 

in this pic i'm jumping split rail to ditch (hard to see), but now these two jumps are set up in a bending line for BN -- actually not too too dissimilar from this shot
Bc: All I really wanted was to ride the horse forward and keep my god forsaken hands going with him no matter what. My most constant and enduring battle haha. 

And we kept it like.... surgically efficient. All told, I was on the horse for 26 min, including what it took to hack out to the fields, and strut back --- as only a conquering Charlie can do. And we jumped 8 fences total. 

despite this open oxer living at our home barn, i jumped it for the first time in actual competition vs schooling. that was years ago, tho. now it's an old friend
Trotted around a couple laps -- mostly to outrun the bugs, if I'm being honest. Ooh, and scope out where all the jumps were, since I haven't been out to the fields AT ALL recently (again, bc of said bugs). So we trotted a bit just to see what was what, and took advantage of whatever gates happened to be open.

I spotted a lovely Intro jump positioned beautifully on rising ground with expansive approaches from either direction -- perfect! It's actually a very nice jump -- a twisty log placed on top of this neat base that you can see about halfway through this old Krimpet post (the top log has since been replaced but it's the same base).

in our ride yesterday, it was similarly placed, but book-ended on either side by other level jumps -- and we jumped the opposite direction
We trotted the baby ditch on our way over, then cantered the log off each lead. Boom, Charles was strong and forward, but polite. Yesss! So we moved right on along to the generously lengthy BN bending line of split rail fences heading toward home. 

I don't usually jump Charlie toward home if I can avoid it, but figured this would be a good time early in the ride. Like maybe I kinda wanted to see if we'd be a mess, or if we could keep our shit together through a long line of small fences. Wouldn't ya know it, Charlie was all business!

look at this majestic brontosaurus thru the water!!! 
Longtime readers know I'm a huge fan of very short schools --- like, 6 jumps total type schools haha. So after accomplishing a warm up and the BN related distance combo cleanly, we moved on to something with a little height + width. 

The N open oxer was positioned coming back toward the water (in a similar spot to where our favorite log table was during our first xc lesson of the year). It was nestled between other jumps and tbh I heavily considered doing the beefy BN picnic table instead... But, eh, Charlie felt on point on so I looped a finger through the neck strap and had at it.

believe it or not, this bench still has not been painted....
Honestly, Charlie likes the jumps a little bigger anyway. He also knows this game -- another reason I like to keep things short. Charlie likes to be perfect the first time, but then gets cranky and grouchy if you keep asking him the same questions after he's already given you the right answer. So... again, we're economical lol. 

We landed from the oxer, took a little lap through the water just to say we did, then continued back toward the fields going home. Tho --- notably, not pointed in the direction of home bc, ahem, not the right bridle for that, thanks. Our familiar N bench was positioned nicely along that path after a little stream crossing and quick turn, and natch Charlie took that right out of stride. 

in schooling rides, i actually like finishing at what's typically the start
From there, we could cut back through an open gate the way we had come -- back into the front-most field where our xc courses typically start. 

Charlie has a lot of strong associations with this field so I generally don't linger there, but the typical positioning of jumps 1 and 2 is legit lovely -- with a nice log landing to gently rising ground, before a sudden steeper rise and boom, jump 2 is right there ready for ya!

this T cabin was placed on the top of the rise visible in the shot below, and was our final fence of the day
For the last couple years, jump 2 has been our farm's selection of ramps for all levels. This year tho, much of the course actually looks quite a bit different -- and now, we have houses! 

Charlie loves houses, obvi, so for our final fence of the day I aimed him for the T option (the same T house we jumped in our last school, pictured above), which naturally he stepped over easily. Good boy!

i like to imagine we looked like this lol <3 
My goals for the day were super simple: 
1) Keep my hands more forward and softer than they were at Thornridge; and
2) Get a quick refresher on jumping xc fences so we're ready for some exciting upcoming plans.

Because.... Well. It's hard to explain. I lost my mojo for full three phase events right now (hopefully a temporary feeling...). But I still like jumping cross country. And, ya know, my horse is a jumping machine. So we're looking for happy mediums. Maybe something.... derby-ish?? Stay tuned haha, we'll see. 

flashback cafe, bc it's my blog and my rules and my ridiculous jumping machine ottb <3
In the meantime, it felt really good to get out there for the quickest of rides -- 2 intro jumps, 2 BN, 3 N, and 1 T, plus a ditch and the water. Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am! And obviously Charlie strutted all the way home like the Champion he is. And then proceeded to be an absolute pest in the barn bc obviously champs rule the roost, duh lol..... Cocky Charlie is the most ridiculous, not gonna lie <3

And to be totally honest, this whole process of stepping back from a lot of the pressure I put on myself.... Focusing just on the stuff that I *wanna* do... It's all been so refreshing. And it legit seems like the horse is benefiting from my improved mindset. So we'll keep plugging along and see what happens! 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Eventing Volunteers Donated $700K Since 2017

For the love of the sport. 

The driving force behind the sport of eventing is the many amazing volunteers. In December 2016, the USEA launched the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP) to increase the ease of participation, provide incentives, and recognize the tireless efforts of volunteers.

Eventing as a sport is unique among other equestrian disciplines in the manpower needed to successfully (and safely!) run a horse trial. There are often multiple dressage rings running concurrently with show jumping, plus the cross country tracks can expand beyond what is visible from a single vantage point. 

Each phase is managed by judges and event officials - overseen by the ground jury and technical delegate, and supported by various volunteer roles. Likewise, volunteers facilitate the smooth flow of competitors through each phase by stewarding warm up areas.

The most common volunteer positions by phase are:

- Scribe
- Score runner
- Bit check
- Warm up / ring steward

Show Jumping:
- Scribe
- Timer
- Jump crew
- In / Out gate
- Warm up steward

Cross Country:
- Starter
- Start and finish timers
- Score runner
- Jump judges (usually 15+)
- Warm up steward

Additionally, volunteers often assist with parking and/or traffic management, drive shuttles, and support much of the preparations leading up to the event, like painting and decorating fences, setting the dressage courts and show jumping courses, etc. Perhaps most importantly, volunteers (especially xc jump judges) are often the 'first responders' -- playing the critical safety role of eyes on the ground, armed with radios, in the event of an accident. 

Since its creation, the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program has invested in building out definitions, video guides, and training materials for all volunteer positions. You can find more information here

Overall, the program launch has been enormously successful, with strong year over year growth in volunteer participation in the first 3 years as platform adoption rapidly expanded. 

Nearly 2,500 individual volunteers have used the VIP Portal to sign up for positions this year alone as of July, and 7,225 have registered since the portal's inception. Furthermore, this online portal succeeds in creating easy participation by simplifying logistics for event organizers and coordinators, and connecting the new pipeline of potential volunteers with venues they might not otherwise know.

Total number of yearly volunteers, scraped from, July 2021
The 2021 season is not complete as of this analysis.
Notably, 2020 proved to be an outlier, with reduced participation due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Events were cancelled entirely during the early stages of the pandemic, and many scaled down even after the season resumed. 

Volunteer participation rates dropped in conjunction with the shortened events calendar, and were further suppressed by would-be volunteers opting out for personal reasons. This resulted in an extreme volunteer shortage felt at many events, proving the quip "Eventing runs on volunteers!" to be a little too true. 

Competition venues stood on the frontline of this contraction, with the greatest financial exposure to cancelled events. Budgets already diminished by the pandemic also had to contend with reduced volunteer availability. This forced many venues to offer increasingly valuable incentives to volunteers - especially in areas where higher densities of events on the calendar meant more competition between venues for a limited volunteer pool. 

Incentives paid for by hosting venues often include:
- T-shirts, hats, or other logo attire
- Schooling passes or entry fee credits
- Meals, drinks and snacks*

(*Case Study: An Area II volunteer coordinator estimated that the food costs for all volunteers and officials over a 2-day show with 300+ entries ran about $3,000.)

Overall, the 2020 impact on volunteer participation demonstrated that eventing's necessary infrastructure may be unsustainable without access to large unpaid labor forces, and showed that individual venues often face the greatest financial risks in the face of systemic disruption. Additionally, many officiating event TDs may be reluctant to force cancellation of an event when too few volunteers arrive. This reality creates heightened risks regarding the safe observation of all cross country fences; and potentially leads to inconsistent competitor experiences across different venues.

The USEA Volunteer Incentive Program has therefore continued to build out its national recognition and awards programs in support of this critical component of events infrastructure: 


On an annual basis, the top ten volunteers are awarded for their contribution to the sport with a certificate and ribbon. This represents less than 0.5% of overall participating volunteers. 

Of those Top 10 volunteers awarded each year: 

- Two thirds (66%) have been recognized in the Top 10 in four of the last five years (noting that 2021 data is as of July and may change by year end)
- Just four Top 10 awardees since 2017 have only been in the Top 10 once. 

These numbers suggest that the same (deserving) volunteers are recognized each year for their contribution and service to the sport, while the remaining 99.5% of participating individuals do not receive national recognition from the USEA. The ten geographic membership-based Areas are encouraged to fill this gap, despite many volunteers not being themselves members.

The USEA Volunteer Incentive Program, however, also recently launched the Volunteer Medal Program as a means to report and appreciate lifetime contributions to the sport:


It is important to interpret these recognition thresholds within the context of standardized units of time. The Bronze Medal 500 hours is equal to roughly 12.5 standard 40-hour work weeks. The Silver Medal recognizes those who spent 25 standard 40-hour work weeks volunteering; and the Gold Medal recognizes those who gave 50 weeks of their time. 

Notably, this unit of time necessary to receive a Gold Medal by the USEA Volunteer Incentive Program is roughly equivalent to one year spent in a typical full time job. The US Census Bureau lists the annual real median personal income at $35,977 (as of 2019). 

We can therefore roughly estimate that this is the value of the typical American's working year, and that an individual paid to accomplish these jobs at USEA horse trials would earn a roughly equivalent income. Although, the federal minimum wage is lower, at $7.25 per hour. An individual paid the minimum wage would earn $14,500 for the 2,000 hours needed to receive a Gold Medal, which awards an embroidered jacket, pin and certificate. 

Currently, there are no recognized Gold Medalists among the 7,225 registered volunteer participants since 2017. 

If we continue using the US Census Bureau's 2019 annual real median personal income value, we can estimate that the Top 100 USEA volunteers each year since 2017 would have earned the following sums if they acted as paid employees. 

Estimated Value Calculation: Total Hours / 40 is standardized # working weeks; x($35,977* / 52) 
*The US Census Bureau lists the annual real median personal income at $35,977 in 2019.
The 2021 season is not complete as of this analysis.

Instead, this time (and its inherent value) has been donated to the USEA, its Areas, competition venues, and, ultimately, to the athletes themselves. For the love of the sport. 

It is important to note: This annual estimated value only reflects the hours recorded by the top 100 volunteers each year, however we see in the earlier chart that the volunteer base is expanding rapidly -- tipping upwards of 3,000 individual participants in 2019. Of these, more than 99.5% go unrecognized by the USEA each year for their contribution to the sport -- with the onus for more valuable awards and incentives placed on individual Areas and venues. 

Naturally, in the instances where individual venues address shortfalls in volunteer coverage by hiring staff, those salaries or wages would be paid directly by the venue rather than the USEA overall. This truth might suggest that it is outside the USEA's direct purview or mission to invest further in volunteer pipeline development.
The national organization is in a unique position, however, to put positive pressure on the volunteer pipeline as a means to further standardize eventing competitions and facilitate consistent competitor experiences. The asymmetry in value and investment uncovered by this analysis suggests that the USEA (Form 990s here and here) should continue to broaden its investment in the volunteer community by expanding recognition levels to better reflect the true value of volunteer service and scope of participation. 

Driving this program at the national level likewise reduces the burden on individual venues to budget for costly incentive programs, especially in dense geographic regions where many venues share the same volunteer pool. This is important to ensure all events in an area have equal access to sufficient volunteers to safely run events..

There are many ways to accomplish this expansion, including the following suggestions:

- Broaden annual recognition programs to reach a greater percentage of overall participants. Suggested reach of 10% of yearly participants. On average, the top 10% of volunteers each year log between 27 and 30 hours.

- Reduce the lifetime recognition thresholds, or add new categories. Suggested entry level to start at 100 hours, a level currently met by approximately 3% of all volunteer program participants.

- Offer randomized participation prize drawings, and consider special attention for volunteers who give time to multiple venues. 

- Consider creating a volunteer requirement for current competing members. 

A survey conducted on existing volunteers, organizers, officials, members, and/or competitors may offer more clarity and creative thinking in addressing the overall disparities uncovered above. 

Ultimately, the sport of eventing has managed to keep costs of access and entry relatively low compared to other equestrian disciplines -- due in large part to networks of dedicated volunteers. It is incumbent on the national governing agencies to recognize volunteers for their efforts and ensure the continued sustainability of our wonderful sport and community. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Thornridge CT -- he does it again!

I gotta say, I am LOVING Thornridge's combined test series this year. These events are basically exactly my speed right now. 

Really, what's not to love? It's a 2-phase show (dressage and show jumping) complete with ride times. They're inexpensive, typically very small (tho packed with familiar faces) and mostly cater to the lower jumping levels. Meaning, Charlie and I are often in the first division of the day -- so we're usually done and dusted before 10am. 

who doesn't love taking pics in sweltering weather with a horse who is actually literally asleep lol
Ooooh, and. It's a top class gorgeous facility less than 30min drive from Charlie's barn. The dressage court and indoor warm up arenas have the best good juju -- horses love them. And the little grass jumping arena is literally the actual cutest. It's bounded on 3 sides by shrubbery and woods, giving it a nicely enclosed feel. And the terrain is perfectly "barely-there" -- enough to make you pay attention, but not disruptive.

So. Yea. Loving it haha. And, ya know, it helps that Charlie keeps winning his classes there. Blue ribbons are always a nice bonus, let's be real lol. 

Mostly tho, I'm just really enjoying... not overly stressing about it all. Does that make sense? After trying (and kinda sorta failing) to move up for so long, endlessly obsessing and torturing myself over it... Well, eh, this year my attitude is a little different. 

they always have the prettiest ribbons!!
Like... Let's be real, ain't nobody from the Tokyo 2021 selection committee looking my way. My competition record, my successes and accomplishments will never be beyond "average" haha, but they are mine. So it's up to me to devote my efforts to the activities that will be most fulfilling. 

Right now, that fulfillment is coming in the form of easy novice show jumping rounds at local unrecognized shows. Which, as far as Charlie's concerned, might as well be the actual Olympics haha. Homeboy is a professional through and through, he is ALL business on show days. 

Which is so useful bc.... this particular day didn't get off to a great start. We were going solo for once, which meant I mayyyy have made slightly irresponsible choices the night before -- given that nobody else was relying on me. So. Ahem. I woke up hungover and disoriented at the time I was actually supposed to be walking out the front door. Whoops?

i spy with my little eye, sleeping ponies!!
Nbd tho, I knew we'd be fine. So long as the truck started. And Charlie wasn't alllll the way out in the furthest reaches of his pasture. Which, it did and he was not. So. Perfect. Got the horse in and fed while I hooked up the rig and packed (bc obvi was too lazy to do this the day before like normal..), then threw him on without even brushing. 

We arrived uneventfully, parked in a perfect shady spot right next to two friends, and I quickly got about swiping off the mud (yes, mud, omg wtf you filthy animal) readying ourselves for dressage.

the actual literal condition of my horse upon arriving on the show grounds lol #bathsareforsuckers
All told, my butt hit the saddle about 7 minutes before our ride time. Luckily, our perennial division mate (one of the friends parked near us, who was therefore aware of my tardiness) offered to ride ahead of me, giving me an extra 5min in warm up. 

Super generous -- obvi took her up on that offer haha. Tho ya know, it probably would have been fine either way. Charlie is Charlie. He knows the drill. He knows when we're at a show, and he has done that Novice A test literally zillions of times haha. 

pictured: a professional show pony, at your service
So we were ready to go ringside once our turn arrived. And ya know. It was a test, and scored slightly worse than our typical average for Nov A, mostly bc the judge wanted Charlie to be rounder. Which, eh, cool, but nah. I kinda gave up trying to ride the horse on the bit after determining that I kinda suck at it, by riding the horse backwards behind my leg and kinda rein lame in tests lol. 

Charlie felt like he had good energy (for him) tho, and was very responsive. We actually stepped into canter too early in the first circle bc homeboy knew what was coming lol. Kinda wish there was video, but will probably buy some pics when the photog gets them uploaded -- stay tuned!!

no pics from dressage (yet!!) but here's the test sheet itself
Anyway, after dressage I unbridled Charlie but left the saddle on, since we only had an hour to jump and I still had to walk the course. Normally we arrive early and walk before dressage but... Shit happens lol. Gotta say, tho, getting down the hill for the walk, and then back up again (omg it's a big hill, guys) just about killed me in the heat. And probably wasn't even necessary since there wasn't a single related distance on course.... But. Eh. I like knowing what to expect. 

So I huffed and puffed through it, then huffed and puffed some more (dear fucking lord) trying to dig out the disintegrated rotten cotton stud plugs in Charlie's shoes.... Yet another task I probably should have done the day before. By the time studs were in, it was definitely Go Time, haha. 

lol and here's charlie absolutely struttin on his way out of the ring after our round haha, still kinda sorta running away with me LOL...
So my division mate and I hopped on at the trailers and headed down to warm up, and then do our rounds! The third person in our class was already down there and had the warm up fences adjusted to height -- helpful when one doesn't have their own ground person lol. 

I think Charlie and I did 5 jumps total in warm up. Trotted and cantered the X, then cantered the vertical -- which we knocked down the first time whoops. Got that fixed, then cantered it again off each lead. 

Meanwhile, Charlie informed me in no uncertain terms that, "Excuse me, Emma, it's balls hot and there are a shit ton of biting flies in this field -- I know how to jump, so let's get on with it, yes??"

pictured: a horse who knows how to jump lol
also, yes, they use very generous ground lines. this ain't the olympics, guys, and that's a-ok!
And obviously, who am I to disagree?? So we cantered off to the ring and headed in to get our round done. Charlie flew around haha -- that excellent feeling of really pulling me to the fences, but still letting me have some say over speed and balance. 

Our technique has gotten kinda messy in the past year of spotty lesson schedules... But, eh, whatever. We got it done, and it was fun! The course was full of slightly tricky tight turns with short approaches to jumps, which actually nicely suits Charlie bc it helps keep him more on his toes vs dragging me straight across the space time continuum lol. 
Tho... You'll see in the video that we did get just a tad strung out coming back toward the in-gate over jumps 5 to 8. It worked out tho with just a couple taps but no rails. And, lol, also visible in the video is us clobbering jump 1, with the rail popping fully up out of the cups -- and my actual astonishment looking back at it when it didn't actually fall lol...

So yea haha. It was a clean and clear round, but could have just as easily been a 3-rail round with the PVC poles. Luck is a fickle thing, tho, so I'll take what I get and be grateful LOL. 

you can sorta tell that this fence had a slightly extreme angle to it relative to the direction of approach. charlie loves slicing fences tho!
All told, in our little division we lost the dressage but put down the only clear jumping round. Again, when the poles are PVC, this is often enough to snag the top spot. Woot woot, way to go Chuck for pickin' up them giant clodhoppers!! 

And, amazingly, we stepped off the trailer back at Charlie's barn before 11:30am -- a tantalizingly early end to a show day lol. Again, what's not to love? A great venue, inexpensive classes, *ride times omg*, plus friendly people and very inviting and doable courses. Literally what else do we need from this kind of event?? I'm already looking forward to the next one haha...