Sunday, October 31, 2021

no tricks, just treats

Happy Halloween everybody!!! Hope you're dressing up and eating candy and possibly scaring the bejesus out of some kiddos and/or bewildered pets!!!

not sure it beats the horse mask with isabel, but we'll take it <3
Obviously Charlie and I partook of some festivities too -- obviously haha. And while it's not necessarily our most original or creative effort, it was fun reprising our butterfly wings from the hunter pace at Tranquillity last month.

we needed the wings to help us stay afloat above all that mud omg
Naturally, I'm talking about the final Combined Test of Thornridge's series -- timed to coincide with the holiday and absolutely stuffed to the gills with adorably costumed kiddos and their fluffy fat ponies. Legitimately am sorry that I didn't take more photos of the cuteness, but you'll have to be satisfied with these teaser pics of Charlie instead ;) 

oh hey lookieeee -- a very special treat to end the series!!
(yea yea, only a class of one, but we #earnedit anyway -- more to come!!)
Because omg Charlie was so so SO GOOD!! What a star!! Sure, our pretty blue ribbon is more of a participation prize than anything else -- nobody else entered the novice CT, so I only had to stay on the horse and survive LOL.... 

But eh, we did better than that anyway -- a personal best dressage score (if you ignore Plantation in 2018, which was always a weird outlier) and a very careful steady show jump round in what was basically a mud pit of despair. 

running into fall like....
More on all that later, tho. For now, it's Spooky Season around these parts -- finally starting to feel properly fall-ish haha, complete with appropriately frisky ponies. 

ah yes, did somebody say fall friskies?? 
And while it felt like September and October flew past in a blur, I'm actually feeling pretty excited about November. Not sure exactly what's next for us -- probably finished with proper competitions for the season, tho we may do other fun stuff (hopefully lol). We'll see I guess. 

In the meantime, we're having a little Halloween pizza + trailer cleaning party (heavy on the cleaning part LOL) at the barn today, and will hopefully be eating lots of candy while we're at it. Anybody else dressing up the ponies and or doing barn festivities? 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

carrying on

I had an exciting volunteer opportunity this week, helping set up for an Area II event running tracks from starter all the way up to 3*-L divisions. It's a new venue for me, and pretty incredible to see just how much goes into the back end to make these big shows a reality. 

There are so many awesome takeaways from the two days I spent onsite, and I'll probably write more about it later.***

For now, tho, there was one simple (albeit niche) trick I learned, attributed to a very special man in the eventing community, Tremaine Cooper -- gone too soon.

(***maybe? does anybody else actually find this stuff interesting? I mean, obviously I do, and it's my blog so I can write about whatever I see fit.... but ya know, I do care sorta kinda a little bit about whether others are interested about these topics too???)

pictured: an underrated overperformer at basically every event ever:: the ropes
If you've ever been to a horse trial, you've probably encountered "ropes" --- barriers erected by some manner of stake or t-post, with twine spanning the distances. These ropes are generally intended to ensure both people and horses stay in their designated areas. 

the "Tremaine" method: a simple single twist loop, with a tail pulled through
Tho... As is natural where horses are concerned, there are always instances when horses simply, uh, decline any suggestion about where they ought to be at any given moment. Such as, horses disagreeing with a rider about a certain fence, depositing riders at said fence, and returning of their own volition back to the barns. Which often means... ahem, choosing their own path

For this reason, it's advantageous that whatever barriers exist between a horse and his barn at any given position, said barrier should either be entirely impervious to that horse --- or, 100% breakaway. Basically anything in between is not recommended. 

put that "tail" loop over the stake, and bam, you got yourself a quick release but firmly held knot!! these stakes are smooth fiber glass rods, hammered about 8" deep into the ground
We've probably all witnessed at one time or another, a horse bursting through a line of ropes. Sometimes they try to jump the rope, most of the time they just run through..... in both cases, often they end up dragging the rope until they can fully untangle. 

The purpose of Tremaine's tip above (and something you'll hear any good course designer recommend), is to attach the ropes to the stakes or t-posts or what have you, such that the ropes release from the posts in this exact sort of emergency. So if a loose horse ends up tangling with a rope, at least the stakes don't go along for the ride.  

not surprisingly, this stuff goes quickly when roping a course covered by 7 tracks
AND -- added bonus-- once the horse is secured and the event is cleared to go on, if your rope cleanly released from its stakes or t-posts or whatever, those items theoretically remain exactly where you left them. Which obviously makes resetting the ropes much much quicker and easier, ensuring the course can stay on schedule etc. 

the job goes quickly with an ATV!! Tremaine's quick release knots don't slip either, so one knot holds tension from stake to stake without allowing sag in earlier sections. they only release tension if the rope lifts off the stake (like if a horse gallops through it)
Imo, this is the sort of thing that made absolute perfect sense to me when explained. Very much a "Duh!" sorta moment. Except... Had it never been explained to me, I probably would have literally never thought about it at all, and would have assumed the rope should be securely fashioned to each individual stake. 

That's the beauty of sharing knowledge, tho, right? Of transferring that wisdom. This stuff isn't exactly rocket science, but isn't necessarily obvious at first blush either. And lord knows we don't need our horses suffering the consequences from reinventing the wheel each time, right??

ta da!!! who knew there were so many #hacks for even the simple stuff like roping a course??
Anyway, personally, it was extra special having the CD explain that he was showing me Tremaine's method. Which, sure, Tremaine undoubtedly learned it from someone else too.... 

Even so. This is how legacies carry on. I only knew Tremaine very very briefly, and not in such a way as he'd recognize me in a crowd or remember my name. But his memory is important to me, and it felt significant that this other CD is now teaching the next generation how to set ropes using the "Tremaine Method." 

And so, for the rest of you out there who ever have reason to set a rope -- if the pics aren't clear enough, hit me up and we'll keep the legacy going ;) 

Friday, October 22, 2021

more activity pls!

It's hard to tell whether this will be a regular thing or not (esp with winter and dark nights coming in fast...), but for now I'm enjoying these sporadic lessons with upper level event rider Molly.

She's getting a better grip on what Charlie and I do and don't know, and what we do and don't want from our rides. In particular, she was momentarily surprised when I told her we'd ridden 1-3 after our last lesson with her, and that it had gone well. I say "momentarily," tho, bc it seemed like she absorbed that information and immediately set about dialing up her focus on our basics. 

Today's "basic"? Activity. Every judge ever in the whole wide world who has seen Charlie go, has made at least one remark or comment about "Needs more activity." Plenty of trainers have said as much to me too. But.... How? 

For this lesson, Molly actually got us there through a series of efficient and practical exercises, paired with well-timed coaching. And it was great!! Really really a super lesson, with some really incredible feeling work from Charlie. Mostly what I need to remember are the feelings from this ride, so here are the exercises and steps we used to get there: 

looking confused at that weird thing on the floor outside the feed shed...
- 10 / 10 Exercise: 10 steps walk, 10 steps trot, rinse repeat. Forever. Admittedly I was not suuuuuuper precise about exactly "10" for each, and would sacrifice a couple extra steps to get a nicer feeling. Importantly, Molly coached me to use this exercise to slowly shorten the reins and bring the frame in with each transition. 

- 20m Square. Done in conjunction with the 10/10. Basically. Square turns, and again, and again. Forever. More or less on 20m-ish. But like, again, not super exact. Our purpose was the turns, specifically: preparing for them. And once we moved on to full trot (vs constant transitions), the idea was to feel like we were going to walk going into the turn. For Charlie, this meant actually walking some of the times. But that's fine -- that's good, that's the process. 

lol, wait a second...
- Slow. Slowwwerrrrr. Think, Dan C level slowness. Bc guys --- this was probably the closest I've ever come to taking a lesson with Dan... from someone not named Dan. Molly was on that exact same wavelength, which was cool bc I've always suspected this type of approach suits Charlie better than constantly chasing him forward. The slowness really helps Charlie develop his full power in the gaits, without losing balance out the front.

- Level 2 Bands: Oooh, and I was back in the resistance bands this time. She called these bands (they were purple) the "Level 2" bands, and they were a bit stiffer than what I've worn before. Molly first articulated each leg's various joints (esp around the ankle and hip) to ensure I was more or less loose, then belted me in. And yea, I was seriously belted in, from which I could sit virtually ALL the trot in this lesson, which itself was mostly in trot. Something I've NEVER done before. The bands plus how we got Charlie going tho.... It felt like butter

it's just mikey!! doin normal mikey things haha
Anyway. Forever and ever with the square turns, and the slow. And the idea to "think about walking into the turn, but don't walk." We got to a point where I could add inside leg (but not clinging!) and really feel that bouncy cadence from Charlie. Who, it should be noted, worked his tail off for this ride -- what a trooper! 

And what an incredible feeling! It was hard keeping track of all my various body parts -- where are my arms (Molly wanted me to bring my inside hand closer to Charlie's neck)? Was I sitting up tall and straight -- but soft? Was my lower back and seat relaxed and following, or braced? Were my legs drifting backward or staying at the girth?

So much to think about, but Charlie and I were able to find those moments of good feelings more and more often, and stay there a little longer each time. 

dusk comes earlier every night
Canter was a bit tougher. Our pattern was: while still on our 20m square, do a 10m circle in trot at X. Slowwww. Jiggity jog. But bouncy. Then proceed around the square back to A, and repeat. Coming off that second 10m circle, canter. Not a big motion, not a big aid, not a big swing or anything. Just.... canter. Maintaining more or less the same speed we were already trotting. 

This was... Yea, hard. We already know I wanna make big moves into canter. Plus I always kinda wanna chase Charlie in his first few shaky steps -- like, yes keep going Sir! So we ended up breaking a couple times, at which point Molly insisted we stay calm and immediately slowwwww down again. Nbd, it's ok to lose balance, but always ALWAYS reestablish that slowness again. (Again, the Dan vibe in this lesson was so strong, I loved it). 

It was also interesting how I definitely telegraphed to Charlie what we were about to do, bc our second 10m circle always lost rhythm and slowness as I anticipated asking for canter....

we've been treated to some gorgeously dramatic skies tho <3
Another interesting takeaway was that... Charlie hit our "struggle point" in this ride -- the inflection point where a ride shifts from kinda leggin' him on (warm up), to self carriage (the happy place), to suddenly plowing down into the bridle dragging me forward (tired). 

I kinda try to avoid that feeling, bc it feels like the point of no return -- where we probably aren't getting any more quality and risk devolving into a pulling match. I actually pointed it out to Molly when I felt the change in Charlie, saying "This is the feeling where we really struggle, when he just bears down into the bridle and flattens."

But then, suddenly, it passed. It was over. Charlie pulled up his big boy britches, and kept trying even through his tiredness. THIS, folks, is the difference (for me, at least) with being coached through the moment. And also, the reason why I'm not likely to repeat a ride like this on my own, and why I haven't pushed certain limits this past year during our solo adventures. 

ya know, it ain't bad haha
Charlie is a good boy and will do the things when I work for them. It's enough to know that -- I don't feel like we need to have this exact ride every single day. The lessons are there, the training is there. The horse is prepared to respond correctly to correct aids. 

And we can achieve those feelings together, albeit to slightly lesser degrees, in our solo work. It's just up to me to not muddy the waters too much, and especially to avoid the risk of souring the horse or getting him really backward in the bridle again by practicing some of this stuff poorly, ya know? 

All the same, what a good feeling. AND, even better? Charlie came out for our next couple rides feeling really fresh and happy in an energetic forward balance. I'm not sure when the next lesson might happen, but we've got at least one or two more judged dressage tests to ride this season (hopefully!) so I'm excited to keep chipping away. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

MDHT Jumping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

MDHT Dressage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 11, 2021

Returning again to the Maryland Horse Trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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