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!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Thornridge CT - Half 'n Half Edition

We're getting to the pointy end of Thornridge's annual Combined Test series, with just one more event left to go next month. Charlie and I have actually made it to all of them so far this year, except one that got rained out, and I've honestly loved it. 

These are kinda the perfect events for us right now, and the monthly cadence is useful for keeping us more or less 'in shape' during our current lesson limbo situation. 

collecting my precious on what proved to be a humid fall morning
Tho... Lol... Lesson limbo is not ideal, and I definitely feel like Charlie's and my technique over fences has suffered from lack of routine practice. At least the week before this CT, we buckled down and actually set up a little grid exercise to prepare. 

After reading about Kat doing a similar exercise with her TB Yoshi, I decided to set up a grid of extra large X-rails (think poles set to the top of the standards, tho the center of the X was obvi still pretty low). Originally I planned to do a line of 4 X's, but bleh moving standards sucks, so I just did 2 X's instead haha, set 18' apart for a short one-stride #lazy

Barn Mgr Mikey, signing off on our plans!
I figured this would be a useful exercise to help Charlie tighten up his form, while also being relatively easy to do without progression or a ground crew. There were also a couple other nice jumps set up in the ring -- including a two stride line to narrow oxer. So all in all, a nice set of options for our prep ride. 

And Charlie was super! He got to the line of X's and jumped the shit out of them haha, what a good boy. I really hoped that might be enough to maybe help us jump cleaner at the CT. 
in case anybody forgot how damn lovely this indoor is (used for warm up)
And obvi I was hoping our recent foray into first level dressage might help that plain 2018 Novice test (omg thoughts on the 2022 version coming soon tho omg) ride more smoothly. 

Which -- it did! It was the same judge from our June dressage show, so I was determined to show her that we can go a bit more forward in our paces. 

32.6% to beat our average -- and win the dressage! 
Charlie and I were the first in the ring after what was an economical but pleasant warm up, and overall the test went relatively smoothly. Tho, interestingly, I didn't really feel great about it. Kinda felt like I had a harder time sticking to my "new position" and that we reverted a bit. Honestly figured it'd be a last place score. 

For once, tho, we were rewarded for our steadiness and consistency (even if it was kinda 'consistently above the bit'), compared to the other two horses in our class. They were very nice horses, but maybe greener and a bit more inconstant in their carriage. Way to go, Charlie! 

ethereal misty mugginess
After that, it was an hour wait until our jump time. We'd arrived early enough to walk the course before dressage (my preference with such a short break), so we could relax and take it easy, getting the studs in and any other tack modifications completed at a calm pace. 

lots of horses find the hanging ferns and lettered panel (other side) to be spooky. not charlie, tho, he casually knocked this one with a hind
Even tho temps were cooler than they have been, the humidity was still enough to make me wanna keep warm up to a minimum. So we got down to jump about 15min ahead of go-time, and set about trotting and cantering around. 

guys we cantered on BOTH our leads this time!! in generally the correct directions!
Charlie was SUPER for the warm up. All the jumps arrived evenly in stride, nothing particularly tight or gappy. I even decided to angle one of the warm up jumps off our left lead, since there was a turn on course that I definitely didn't like, and was considering creative alternatives haha. And Charlie nailed that angle too, good boy. 

It actually..... Made me feel not great, LOL. Like I almost wanted him to clobber something... Our first two CTs of the year, we had rails in warm up then jumped a clean round. Then the last CT, perfect warm up, but 2 rails on course. So... I was superstitious. 

charlie was super through this gently uphill 4-stride combo -- look at those knees omg!!
But ya know. When it's go time, it's go time. So off we went to do the round after a perfect warm up. And naturally took the very first fence down with a hind. And this is a nice example (esp bc it's so clear in the video) of our technique being a little imperfect.

I could see that it'd be a little long, and am proud of myself for reacting and riding forward to what turned out to be quite a nice distance. But, even so, my position was a bit 'noisy' and probably contributed to Charlie tapping it out of the cups. 

proof: cantering the other direction on the correct lead lol, he even did his auto change for me!
No big deal, tho. These are PVC rails. Give 'em a mean look and they fall. Charlie 100% knows they're PVC too. Like, he's a good boy and he has a conscience and doesn't really wanna knock them down. But... He's also just a casual laid back horse. So... Eh, we get rails. 

Anyway tho, honestly he felt really good and moved around the course quite nicely despite it being a tad slippery. We adjusted for a close spot at Jump 2 going downhill, then Charlie aced moving up to a proper four strides through the combination from Jumps 3 to 4. I expected him to kinda run off with me here, but actually he was wonderful in the turn around to the pink -- heck yes for all that dressage practice paying off!

i did not like the turn from this pink to the outside blue line AT ALL, but charlie made it look easy
And he did a great job in the kinda not-a-great-turn from the pink to the blue outside bending line. The blue line walked in a direct five or bending six. In retrospect, knowing we'd have another tight turn immediately to an end jump (the orange uprights alllll the way in the back of the above pic), we probably should have done the add stride. 

But ya know... I've been trying so hard to ride more forward, that when the 5 was right there for us, I went for it. And it was great! But then we got to the orange hella awkward and Charlie saved my ass by simply leaving earth when earth needed leaving lol. I legit almost ate it, plus obvi we took that rail... Whoops... Charlie's a saint, tho lol! 

From there (referencing again the above pic), we looped right around to the green jump away, then kept tracking right and finished over the purple coming toward the camera. Charlie was perfectly pleasant to both those jumps, and voila! Round complete. 

eventually we'll get both the dressage AND the jumping on the same day, hopefully
Tbh I was disappointed. It's frustrating to make same mistakes, and I was disappointed at having two rails again. Esp that second rail, bc it was such a heinous jump (compared to the first where we had a good feeling at the jump despite the rail). 

I felt better after watching the video, tho (maybe bc the ugliest jump was farthest from the camera LOL). Like, yea it's not super polished. But it's actually fine. Maybe even better than fine, since frustration from not capitalizing on a winning dressage score is an entirely different perspective than being too crippled by anxiety to even try. Ahem. 

So. Overall, I'm gonna call the weekend a win haha -- time well spent with friends and horses. And with one more CT left in the series, maybe - jusssst maybe - we can put all the pieces together by then! 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

winter folklore: woolly bear edition

If you know, you know is honest to god a pretty incredible website.** But -- hands down -- my favorite noteworthy little subpage, tucked gently into the archives for just the special few who google this arcane bit of trivia.... is the page dedicated to: 
Woolly Bear Caterpillar - Winter Predictor Or Not? 

pictured: ALL the wildlife
The story goes, if you want to know what to expect in the coming winter, check in with your resident caterpillars. Specifically, the Woolly Bear caterpillar, who is typically black at head and tail, and orange in the middle.
According to folklore, the amount of black on the woolly bear in autumn varies proportionately with the severity of the coming winter in the locality where the caterpillar is found.  The longer the woolly bear's black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be.  Similarly, the wider the middle brown band is associated with a milder upcoming winter.  The position of the longest dark bands supposedly indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest.  If the head end of the caterpillar is dark, the beginning of winter will be severe.  If the tail end is dark, the end of winter will be cold. In addition, the woolly bear caterpillar has 13 segments to its body, which traditional forecasters say correspond to the 13 weeks of winter.

took this pic of an 'all orange' Bear in July 2017
if memory serves me right, this did not foretell a mild winter... lol
as evidenced by my not just one, but two rants on the subject...
Here in Maryland, we grew up understanding this to be nothing less than Accepted Canon -- the sacred principle by which we (and obvi, by "we" I mean me and my sister as small children, obvi) braced ourselves for the coming winter. 

9/12/2021 maryland
So, obviously, it's always something of an Exciting Moment for me when I spot my first Woolly Bear of the season. Which I did so last weekend just outside the feed room shed. 

AND!! It was this full-orange dude, undeniably signaling a mild winter to come! Yessss!!!

(Let's just ignore recent precedent described above, yes?)

9/14/2021 maryland
Except, hrm. Just days later, strolling out to the jump ring astride my favorite OTTB Charles... Well, I happened to spot this absolutely gargantuan be-furred beastie on the fence post.....

ok yea we definitely needed a closer look at this incontrovertible behemoth
Oy. Ok. That's a big Woolly Bear, guys. 

And not a single twinge or tint of rusty orange to be found. Foretelling a longer, snowier, colder, more severe winter ahead. 

9/16/2021 maryla.... wait, jk that's just resident woolly bear shetland stallion TT doin his daily constitutional...
sorry charlie, idk what it means either!
But what does it mean???

I gotta be honest, my heart is 100% set on a mild fall and gentle onset of winter.... Because it's my favorite season and who could deny me my own selfish whims?! But... It's also been a couple years since we had any sort of epically apocalyptical snow storms or deep freezes. 

Apparently we're all just going to have to wait and see, tho, since even our resident denizens the Woolly Bears can't come to a consensus on what to expect, womp. At least they're cute..ish?? 

(**Seriously tho, have you ever scrolled all the way to the bottom and perused all those many, many links?!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Trying on First 3 for Size @ MDA

The Maryland Dressage Association hosted another lowkey schooling show at Charlie's home barn this past weekend, and obviously Charlie and I decided to enter! 

We don't have the greatest track record at these events (which I expounded upon at great length while recapping our June show)... but they're super cost effective chances to get in front of a judge in the hopes of constructive feedback. 

lol barely entered and already kickin' up a {dust} storm!
Plus, I've been musing whether Charlie's a "First Level Horse" since the fall of 2018, but only actually rode him in his first (and only) proper first level test in summer 2019. During which, the judge not-altogether-gently ripped my fucking heart out

So. Ahem. That gave me some serious cold feet about it all, lol... ugh... 

maybe blurry + out of focus is a good look for us?? don't worry, there are some nice HQ pro pics too ;) 
But ya know. We press on. My philosophy on doing things with horses is that.... Literally nobody will ever care more than I do about what I do with my horse. And that goes both ways -- nobody is sitting there disappointed or whatever if I don't reach out and take a shot at my dreams. And... Nobody will ever care more than I will** if we do poorly, make mistakes, or 'fail.' 

How I feel about what we do is legitimately ALL that matters. Therefore, if there's a thing that I want to do? We do it! And if I don't really want to do any given thing? We don't. And ya know. It really is that simple haha. 

(**Quick reminder to anybody who needs to hear it: judgement or snarky comments are NOT the same as actually caring. Turns out, we are actually the only ones who obsess over our mistakes. So.... Don't, lol. Or at least, don't let past mistakes become obstacles to future fun.)

not a bad effort at stretchy trot, buddy!! also omg, look at my right leg behaving itself sorta!!
So this summer, knowing that it's been somewhat of a 'season of discontent' vis-a-vis actual riding lessons, I've been using our roughly monthly competition outings as yardsticks to check in on progress. 

And, particularly, these MDA shows have been the perfect 'proof of concept' for me to finally try on all of First Level for size. We rode tests 1 and 2 back in June, to reasonably ok effect, and then took a stab at test 3 this past weekend. 

not typically a moment in trot that i grab for pictures, but idk, i kinda like this one! dust makes it feel ethereal lol
pc Amy Flemming Waters
This past weekend was also an important landmark in my mind bc.... Well, uh, not to put too fine a point on it, but I've *completely* changed how I ride the horse since our last lesson with Molly K. And, ahem, that left *two* practice sessions between that lesson and this show to actually adjust and adapt to the new style with Charlie. 

But, haha.... This probably won't surprise any of you who have likewise experienced one of those major positional 'Aha!' moments in riding, but.... Turns out, Charlie adapted right fucking quick to the new style, and is quite the happy little camper now! Gooooo figure, lol.

just canter the horse and ride a circle, amirite? judge's comment for this circle: "reins long."
pc Amy Flemming Waters
Basically, the big takeaway from Molly was finally feeling how to get my leg OFF the horse. Trainers have told me for YEARS to do this thing, but.... Ya know. For some reason, I couldn't actually do it with how my legs hang (plus, obvi our bodies lie to us constantly, and my right leg has always had a mind of its own). 

But now I have an actual physical feeling to work with: like I'm riding with my toes pointed directly into Charlie's armpits. Like I'm riding as extremely pigeon toed as possible. It feels that way, tho in reality my toes are only just barely sticking straight ahead vs winging outward. 

Especially when I'm trying to focus on 18 things at once, like my shitty upper body and hand/arm positions. Or, uh, not making my horse rein-lame in the 10m circles. Details details, ya know? 

love that charlie wore his ears up in canter!! that's actually... not super common!
pc Amy Flemming Waters
The feeling is great tho, esp for turning. When I turn Charlie, the outside leg rotates toe more toward horse's armpit, bringing my outside thigh into contact to catch that shoulder. Meanwhile my inside leg is this supportive pillar holding the horse upright in his turn. It feels good, and Charlie seems to like it. 

Keeping my legs off also makes Charlie happy bc he finally has freedom to actually go forward. And when I *do* use a leg, whether it's asking for more activity, or a leg yield, he is more responsive than I'm used to, like, "Ooh, incoming message received!

The leg yields in particular are just... There now. Well. Ok, that's a lie. The leg yield left is "there" now, bc that's our stronger direction (since, ya know, the left side of my body is a myth and I've trained the horse using almost exclusively my right side), so the leg yield right is plain harder for us both. But -- bc my legs are off, when I put them on, Charlie just... tunes in and tries. Yessss!

might actually be having an ok time in front of the judge, for once!
Another feeling from the Molly lesson has "worn off" more quickly -- the feeling from that rubber tube looped from my fingers going behind my back. When I can remember it, tho, and access that feeling, combined with the new leg position, Charlie can finally pull me down into the saddle, deeper into my position -- vs pulling my upper body forward and seat out of the saddle. 

I can also feel these moments of position where like, "Ooh, yes, this is how I will actually sit the trot." Since.... sitting the trot is not really currently a thing I can do, let's be honest. 

d'aww buddy <3 he has such a lovely canter, one day we'll get scores to match! 
So this test was all about putting these pieces together. Trying it out and finding the limits, so to speak. I honestly was worried that it would be way above our paygrade, and contemplated dropping to test 1 or 2... But, our two solo practice sessions between lesson and show went really well, so we carried on. 

And once in the ring, I really focused on helping Charlie relax. He was tense AF during the June shows, bc he honestly doesn't really like dressage very much. We've spent so much time booting and chasing him forward, and then asking him to bring that big body of his into more precise smaller movements. It stresses him out, ya know? Esp considering, whoops, I've been steering him wrong all along. 

sweet pony <3
pc Amy Flemming Waters
So idk if this test 3 just flows well for him (which, I think it does) or if this new style of riding helps him feel more comfortable and trusting of the pattern, but he actually felt really good the whole way around! 

The test opens with a trot lengthening (which I did conservatively to preserve relaxation), then goes into a neat leg yield pattern. Leg yield rail to center line, then 10m circle, change direction and repeat. It's a simple pattern that Charlie picked up quickly. Only sadness is it starts with the right leg yield and left 10m circle -- Charlie's two weakest movements. 

True story, that left 10m circle (or it's half circle cousin we've seen in other tests) is the #1 place you'll see Charlie take uneven steps, since it's a difficult configuration for his own physical limitations. And it's always one of the first things in these tests, and therefore part of a judge's first impression of the horse. So... If the first thing a judge sees are irregular steps, they'll be on the lookout the rest of the ride. Which is what happened in that 2019 disaster. 

On this day, tho?? Charlie got a SIX (6!!!!) on that movement, with a comment saying "stiff in bend"! Way to go, buddy -- we'll take it! 

goofy candid shots will always be my favorite lol
pc Amy Flemming Waters
We then got our only 7 (aside from Charlie's gait scores omg) in the leg yield left, then the test carries on with the stretchy trot then walk and free walk. 

After that, you move into canter. I really like the canter patterns in this test, tho we didn't score particularly well since I biffed the one loop serpentine geometry (whoops) and don't ride Charlie very round in canter. 

Basically, tho, you pick up canter, go immediately into one loop of counter canter, then a 15m circle in the end of the arena, followed by a lengthening down the other long side. Change rein across the diagonal with simple change thru trot L to R (obvi Charlie aced this, tho the judge didn't like his frame), and repeat the whole thing in the other direction. 

The test finishes with a trot lengthening on the diagonal, then immediately turn up CL to halt, salute. This was *my* weakest movement, since we got strung out after the canter and I didn't fully prep for the turn and let myself get pulled out of the new position rather than holding strong. That will take time and practice tho, I'm just happy to know we can fix it. 

The scores are predictably low overall, with a whole slew of 5.5s sprinkled throughout. Esp the 5.5's on coefficient movements really hurt the score. But realistically, we were only 0.5pts away from 60%, and the comments are all very detailed and on-point. (And we should have gotten a -2.0pt error since I free-walked to the wrong letter, so, eh, we'll take it!) (And also, IMHO our canter-trot transition was quite nice and could have done better than 6.0 too....)

Especially watching the video with the comments captioned right there while it's happening is helpful to connect what I felt in that moment to what the judge sees. 

A lot of it tbh won't be something I immediately address. Esp re: getting Charlie more round + on the bit. Rather, my focus will continue to be my position and how I ride the horse, with the expectation that Charlie's connection to the bridle will naturally improve as a result.  

but here's the test itself for all y'all non video watchers
my inner mathematician would like to observe that 59.86% is baaaasically 60% haha, literally 0.5pts off....
Bc.... The reality is.... Charlie is my jumping horse, and he takes damn good care of me in that regard, even when I make pretty epic mistakes. Without careful oversight by a coach invested in our progress and goals, I'm wholly resistant to risking making him backward in the bridle, or making my bad hands too influential in the wrong ways. 

I'm not willing to risk sacrificing how Charlie takes care of me over fences for what would likely be only marginal gains in the dressage ring. And we already know from experience that it's not too hard to imagine Charlie getting backed off and behind the leg and bridle while jumping. So.... Yea. Thanks, but no thanks LOL. 

ribbons based on Danish method. <60% = 3rd place.
Obvi everyone prioritizes different things, so ymmv. For me, I'm finally feeling good about the path Charlie and I are on with our flatwork. It's not perfect or classically beautiful (lol), but it feels like progress that even Charlie himself can recognize. 

At the end of the day, I want the horse to know when he's a good boy. I want the work to be self-evident to him. Jumping is already like that -- I don't have to explain to the horse whether he had a good jump or not, he can figure that out for himself lol. But dressage... has always been trickier. I've always kinda felt like I'm picking on him. 

Here's hoping this new style and approach will really help in that regard, and give Charlie more space and freedom to actually enjoy playing with movements! This test, at least, felt like a good effort in that direction!