Monday, April 29, 2024

a class all her own!

The combined test series at Thornridge is definitely among my favorite local schooling events for many, many reasons. 

It's a gorgeous facility with seriously good juju, everyone is super friendly and encouraging (it's supposed to be fun!), AND -- classes are usually pretty small, esp at the lowest levels where everyone might be selecting different combinations of dressage tests and jump heights. With the added bonus that Thornridge is *not* stingy about handing out blue ribbons haha!

this farm is legit the prettiest!
Don't get me wrong, I like going out on horsey adventures for the experience, not the satin. But... I also love the satin haha. Esp when Doozy finally won a pretty blue ribbon for her efforts this weekend!! Namely, being the only horse riding both the USEA Starter test and jumping 2'... But we'll take it!

doozy was slightly confused to be schlepped into a paddock instead of her normal turnout, but at least her pony compatriot Truly was entertaining!
It was nice to get out to a show with longtime barn mate Amy and her gelding Punky, too. She and I normally do all the Saturday morning barn chores (feed / turn out / mucking 26 stalls) and unfortunately weren't able to find anybody to cover or swap shifts with us... 

But eh, we're resourceful and determined, right? So we arrived at the farm way earlier than normal, got all the horses fed and turned out in record time (I'd also dropped hay in all the paddocks the night before to save time), then hit the road for our show! Then were back home just after 11am to finish with all the in-barn chores. Not bad!

even the parking at this farm is lovely!
Even more importantly -- we'd managed to get through all that without feeling rushed hurried or frazzled, and were basically in good relaxed spirits by the time we arrived at Thornridge!

show jumping is down a gigantic hill, so we usually try to arrive early enough to walk first, then get on with all the riding
Times were a little tight -- but warm up was more or less uneventful. Well. Sorta lol, Doozy did manage to breakaway from the trailer after Punky left... Strutted her stuff around the trailers for a minute or two before a good samaritan grabbed her, whoops. 

pictured: getting on with the riding!
But she settled down enough to get tacked up alone at the trailer, and then hand walk a few laps around the indoor to familiarize before I got on. Warm up was a little tough bc it's always a bit of a crap shoot who you're sharing the ring with in the lowest levels, right? Sometimes it's an experienced rider on a green horse, sometimes it's a green rider on an experienced horse... and sometimes it's green on green. 

cantering -- on purpose!
But Doozy did pretty well at keeping a lid on things and didn't rile up any of the other horses or freak anybody out. Tho I did warn folks when we would be cantering at one end just in case they wanted some space away from that noise haha! 

more or less managed to maintain most of our trot!
Then it was test time! We rode the USEA Starter test, my first attempt at this pattern. And I think I like it! It's basically a lot like Intro C except you walk in between showing gaits in each direction (vs Intro C where you get all your trotting and cantering done first before walking), and the canter is carried past the circle and halfway up the long side instead of needing to up and down transition all within one 20m circle. 

"trotting is boring... snoooore!" - doozy, probably
So I hoped the test would suit Doozy a bit better -- give her enough space to travel forward, but also give her that little walk break in between the speedy parts!

It also helped that she'd been in this ring before, and that (again) this farm just has good vibes. The judge was welcoming and kind (and more than a little generous in scoring** haha) -- but whatever the case, Doozy put together a very reasonable (for us) test!

(**Our 31.0% for this test is a bit less representative of where we are compared to the 45.5% we got at Fair Hill!)
(Also, no your eyes do not deceive you -- we are wearing our martingale and boots in this test. Bc #schoolingshows <3)

"rawr!" -- doozy, much happier to be cantering lol
We still need to work on keeping our shoulders square in front of us (something that would crop up in the jumping as well). And ya know. Doozy still thinks trotting is stupid and pointless lol. In her mind, we should either walk or run!! Anything in between is irrational. 

it ain't perfect but finally not so abysmal that i'm not afraid to post it
(pls still be nice tho!)

But I was happy with the experience. And the judge wryly noted after we finished that she was pleased to be a part of "the start of our journey" lol.

Anyway, Amy had managed to get all her jumping prep done in enough time to come watch our dressage, and then we went back to the trailers to grab Punky and ride down to the jumping together. My plan had been to just stay on Doozy the whole time, but actually given the level of activity and expected time before my round, I opted to dismount and let her graze for a bit.

onto the jompies!! hope you appreciately this lovely framed up shot of us haha
The jumping area down below was all new to Dooz - and includes the adorable little grass ring bounded on 3 sides by woods and dense shrubbery, and the warm up in a more open field. It can be a lot to take in, with horses in paddocks on the hillside above, horses moving back and forth from the warm up to the jump ring, and horses coming and going from the hill. 

we had some bloopers attempting this 2-stride combo. nbd tho.
Doozy did really well tho! Kept a lid on it and wasn't particularly inclined toward leaping about. And was very civilized when it was time to get back on (tho I enlisted the help of a nearby spectator just to be safe). 

And then she warmed up pretty decently! It's so funny, we really don't have a lot of experience on grass or terrain yet, and the whole area kinda keeps sloping down and away from the hill. Doozy figured out pretty quickly that turning sharply while going pretty fast on off camber ground was... not a great feeling. Yep, that's part of the learnings, mare!

was good over the panel -- it's got lettering on the other side and sometimes that confuses horses
The courses at Thornridge are always a little.... different from what you might expect at a horse trial. It's a small-ish and decidedly not-flat bit of grass, and they've figured out over the years where to put the jumps for best effect. So the tricky part is drawing a track from jumpable spot to jumpable spot in new and interesting ways. 

what a big girl!
They almost always have a nice 60' line up one of the 'long sides,' but this time surprised me with a 36' two stride. 

Doozy started her course quite nicely, agreeing to mostly canter in a steady rhythm (vs making a bid at the first two fences), but that little in-and-out combo from 3 to 4 caught her a bit off guard and she squirted out the side at the last minute, whoops. Oh well, nbd, we represented and she jumped through fine, tho squirreled around enough to fit in 3 instead of 2. 

Which like, fine, right? That's kinda a big distance for 2' fences, and plenty of other green horses fit in the 3. I was just happy to do it! Then we had another little blooper on the way to fence 5... All in the video mind you (with added sound effects for comedic relief..). Doozy is in season right now and has basically redefined the term, 'standing heat' lol. When she gets stuck, she's STUCK, and no amount of kicking makes a difference bc she's kinda freaky like, 'oooh yea, kick me harder!' It's.... really something.

was really solid to a lovely flowery finish!!
Ahem. Anyway. We unstuck ourselves and made it over five, and then had a nice little tour from 6 to 7 to 8, all in a nice sweeping "S" shape across the ring. And she did great! Actually really paid attention to each of the jumps, and seemed to have a lovely draw up to the final fence to finish. 

It felt really good to have a course that we mostly cantered, with jumps that were interesting enough to hold Doozy's attention (without being totally off-putting, 2-stride combo not withstanding). I want to be able to keep challenging the mare, but in a way that feels comfortable and that builds on her natural interest in the game. 

This felt really educational all around. As far as I'm concerned, every horse and rider will make all the mistakes eventually -- it's unavoidable. The nice thing about this event is that... It's not an assembly line of rider after rider. There's time and encouragement for each pair to resolve any little issues vs just having to pack it up to try another day. 

So we made it through our little dressage test and show jumping round, with two very happy and proud horses (Amy and Punky had a lovely dressage and jumped clear for 2nd place in their larger class!). To me, that's definitely a blue ribbon sort of day <3 <3 <3

Thursday, April 25, 2024

solutions: tack edition

It's been an evolving process getting Doozy situated with tack these last few months. Exactly zero of my (cough cough, many) saddles fit the mare when she first arrived, but barn mate Royal's saddle was good enough to get us going.

doozy and her ponies <3 <3 and rosette hiding in the corner lol
That worked out well enough for the first month or two, tho as Doozy gained weight and finally started settling into 'routine' under saddle work, it was time for her to get her very own 'beater' saddle. Thus I picked up an old but useful Beval from local consignment.

This saddle suited us quite well for another few months... But not quite as long as I'd hoped. Realistically, I've been so spoiled by Charlie's fancy French monoflap that fits me so well and gives me so much stability and support... Basically the moment Doozy gained enough weight and muscle such that Charlie's saddle could be more or less padded up enough to (sorta) work, I switched to using that full time.

poor scalped mare! luckily the bruising resolved quickly with no further underlying damage
All along, tho, the end game was always to get Doozy her own nice saddle. Key prerequisites were mainly around:

1) giving Doozy time to learn the job, esp re: determining the likelihood that she'd be a long term fit as my riding horse; and,

2) improving Doozy's overall condition (weight / muscling) such that any major investment in a saddle wouldn't be lost due to a growth spurt.  

county solution monoflap, pre-fitting
It probably won't surprise regular readers that, at least on Prereq#1, Doozy continues to prove again and again that, well, she's a pretty cool horse. I'm really enjoying the time I spend with her, and am excited about the future with her. 

On the second point, it's harder to be confident that things won't change significantly with the horse physically, right? Like maybe in an ideal world I would have waited to saddle shop until later in the summer when the horse would have had a chance to grow more on the grass...

But, honestly, the fitter didn't seem too worried on that point while assessing this lovely County Solution Monoflap (17.5" seat, narrow tree, wool flocked skid-row panels). She declared the saddle a fit, and estimated that it seemed likely to suit the horse for a long time to come.

the fitter bestowed her blessing, so i finalized the purchase!
From my perspective, it's an incredibly comfortable saddle - I feel super stable it, was secure competing in all 3 phases at Fair Hill over the weekend, and haven't seen any glaring red flags in the pictures / videos from our trial period. Check, check, and check

icee approves!
Settling the saddle question (at least, for now, and at least until we eventually ((maybe)) start thinking more seriously about dressage saddles....) is a huge relief, which naturally opens the door to the next question: how is our bridling / bitting working out for us?

Doozy inherited Charlie's erstwhile bitted jump bridle, fitted with a loose ring Sprenger KK, and we've kinda just left it at that. Except... Honestly guys, I dunno. She's such a sensitive horse. She's so easy to move around from a light touch. So responsive to general pressure -- like when tied or being led in hand, for example. But she has a hard mouth

speaking of potential solutions... we are experimenting with the hackamore!
At least in my experience, this isn't super uncommon in horses with extensive track careers. And it kinda depends on how they were trained, right? But a lot of OTTBs are more than happy to lean into the bit, gap their mouths or fuss with their tongues in response to bit pressure. Pull against a pull, etc. 

It's entirely reasonable to believe a better rider could retrain how Doozy interacts with the bit. Or that experimenting with different styles of mouth or cheek pieces might yield better results. In my (very limited / amateur) experience, however, sometimes it's useful to change the conversation entirely by shifting the rider's aids to a new profile.

I've only ridden Doozy in the hackamore once, so far, but already feel really optimistic that this bridle could be a difference-maker in helping her to understand how to slow down her trot and adjust how she's carrying herself (ie shifting from a 'pulling' balance to a 'pushing' balance) without getting into the inverted-upside-down-tug-of-war situation. Ideally, she can learn and get comfortable in a new carriage, then be able to reproduce the feeling in a more traditional snaffle bridle. Theoretically lol.

gosh she's cute tho <3 <3
Hackamores are definitely NOT for every horse -- esp horses that tend to curl or get claustrophobic or seem likely to pull backward from that type of pressure. There are other bitless options that might better suit those horses. Hackamores also don't offer much control re: steering lol... So ya know. Make good choices when bridling your horse haha. 

I'm excited about this little experiment, tho! Doozy is such a good girl, such a trier. She really feels like a horse who wants to do the right thing, color inside the lines. If she understands what I want, she does her best to do it. So ya know, I'm gonna do what I can to help be as clear as possible in showing her where I want her to be. 

This specific bitless option has worked so well for Charlie over the years, I'm already inclined to think it will work for Doozy too. We shall see! 

Do you have anything like a standard "starter bridle" that you like to use with all horses? Or a certain progression in experimenting with different options? Or maybe it just depends on the horse entirely? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Fair Hill Starter Trial

Doozy officially made her eventing debut at the Fair Hill Starter Trials this weekend, contesting the open elementary division -- 18" fences + Intro C dressage test!! 

It was a long day full of challenges, self doubt, and lots and lots of hand walking...., but ultimately a deeply rewarding experience. So let's dig into the details!

got to ride our dressage test in the big international ring on the Gallaher side!! 
We brought along another favorite young rider from our barn, with her sweet spicy little nugget of a lease pony Austin. You might remember this pony from many past adventures over the years -- both with this YR, and lessons and adventures with his owner** from even longer ago. 

Austin is just generally a good-vibey type pony to be around, with the advantage of being not a mare, so Doozy didn't get attached. Plus, our ride times were essentially perfectly shuffled such that they did their dressage, then we did ours, then they jumped, then we jumped, with enough time for everything that we could always accompany each other to each phase. Perfect!

(**Fun fact: his owner (who is about to go into her senior year of college, omg, time flies!), came along too so we all got to spend the day together!!)

for a horse who won't reliably just... trot, Doozy sure can pull out a walk when called for!
This meant Doozy got to hand walk in each of the riding spaces before her actual rides. She was a serious handful our first time through the tunnel while Austin did dressage... But I discovered tactics to keep her earthbound: She strongly preferred strolling up and down all the various pathways -- marching boldly toward the unknown -- vs walking in circles in a relatively fixed position. Noted. 

Regardless, she was much more self contained by the time we returned under saddle for our own test. Tho, not gonna lie. I didn't do a whole heckuva lot in warm up. Realistically she'd already hand walked for close to an hour, so physically she was loose. It was just a question of getting her as much onto the aids as she can be right now. Which... Isn't saying much. 

And ya know. Our test wasn't much, either. We walked. We cantered. And very occasionally, we also trotted, lol... The mare was lit up and leaping around and not particularly inclined toward introspection... But we did the movements in the correct order and stayed a little less crooked most of the time. That.... about sums it up LOL!

good girl <3
Again tho, I'm gonna be honest with you guys. Everything felt really really hard. And, as is my habit, I seriously considered whether we should just scratch the rest of the day. Fortunately tho, my friends are supportive but firm: "You can stop at any time, but you must start, first."

Also, realistically, jumping comes a LOT more easily to the mare. Plus, she was much more manageable in hand while we accompanied Austin and his YR first to show jumping (on the Gallaher side), and then over to xc in the Sawmill field. She's had enough experience now being around running and jumping horses that she doesn't pay them much attention.

walked Doozy past the crowded bleachers (positioned right at Fence 1, natch) before the whistle
All the same, we were a little late to our own show jumping round so I was fairly expeditious in the warm up. Again, we'd been walking almost continuously for hours at this point, so it was just a question of tuning her into, "Ok it's jumping time!"

Our first trip over the warm up X was a bit wild... but she settled for the second attempt, and then was very good over the vertical. I figured that was good enough, and we strolled over to the in gate to patiently wait our turn. Which, incidentally, she stood beautifully at the in gate -- a habit I will happily aim to normalize!

Fence 1 also featured major league standards lol
And guys!! She was so good for our round!! So so so so good! There were bleachers full of spectators and judges on a trailer and kubotas driving around and a generator buzzing and a PA system and horses in warm up and all the extra jump poles and standards they'd needed for the FEI classes stacked up outside the ring... So much stuff, but she just sucked it up and proceeded!!!

was kinda fun getting to ride around the 'fancy' equipment generally reserved for the major classes!
We are kinda in a tricky place in our training right now where we are on the verge of being able to carry a canter around to all the fences --- except she still rushes at times. So I'm in this constant head space of, "Do I pull her back down to trot? Or let her keep rolling?"

And you can kinda tell in the video that in some places I intend to trot... but then we end up in an ok canter and I let her just go on along. It's easy to watch a video like this too, and think, "Hm I really should be more allowing!"

look who just clocked right on around!
And maybe that's true... But it's also true that the horse just doesn't have a lot of experience yet. And when we arrived in canter to Fence 6 at a slightly funny distance, Doozy just doesn't really have an answer for that yet. Like, she has an exceptionally good eye -- but she's going to make mistakes too. Especially in a distracting and intense atmosphere. 

So we basically clobbered thru the fence, and then were a little funny to the out jump of that line. Nbd, tho. In retrospect, maybe I should have brought her back down to trot knowing that we were going into a line. But, eh, the mistakes are going to get made one way or another eventually. We're just learning as we go here!

ok we did have a little 'oopsie' going into this related line... eh, nbh
Tho lol... I do try not to make the same mistake twice in one class haha, and determined we'd trot into our last fence just to reinforce that slow 'n steady often produces a good experience.

Doozy was honestly great, tho. The jumps were small and easy -- it was 100% apparent that she felt like she understood the actual task, even despite all the other stuff -- the distraction of significant external stimulus. She's a brave bold horse and felt super confident around the course. 

And actually, I felt reassured watching the video too. Sure, any of us can pick ourselves apart mercilessly... But, eh, this video looks basically exactly as it felt, and it felt good

So ya know. There wasn't much left to do except hack over to the Sawmill field for our cross country phase. Doozy seemed a little confused when I didn't immediately dismount after the show jumping... Like, "Wait, there's more??" But eventually fell back into her power walk mode and marched right on out past the trailers. 

She was super funny in this field -- both while hand walking during Austin's xc, and while out there under saddle. For some reason, she was SURE that we were supposed to just... keep going once out into the field. That -- quite possibly -- the Promise Land Itself must be just on the other side of the hill!

Which... Actually worked quite well for my purposes bc I had two main concerns with our course:
1) Getting out of the start box and away from "home," historically a big issue with Charlie; 
2) Not getting run away with on the downhill turn toward "home."

first time leaving the start box!
Considering Doozy's internal GPS seemed to not be registering that "home" was technically behind us, and that she was, in fact, strongly inclined toward heading out up the hill and away... Well, that worked great for me!

Again we kept the warm up to a bare minimum -- two trips over the little log -- then went over to the start box to wait patiently for our turn. She stood like a pro while the starter gave us a 3min buffer to the horse ahead of us (since we could hear over the radio that there were some refusals and I didn't want to go blasting up somebody's butt when they were already in trouble, if Doozy took off on me). 

obvi a lot of the xc pics are hella zoomed, you're better off just watching the videos!
Doozy did not take off on me, tho!! She walked politely out of the box, picked up a trot, carried it nicely to 1, cantered away.... then came back to balance for 2... and on and on just like that all the way around the course!

Again, it felt like she understood all the jumps -- felt like she was looking at them and measuring them up, but not thinking too too deeply about them and definitely not questioning them. Just enough attention to not be careless!

We made it around all the funny little turns in the course (and there were a couple lol), and made it around the turn toward home without drama. We did kinda get cooking down the line from 6 to 7, a fairly straight downhill line... 

But it was nbd. I opted to bring her back to walk afterward anyway, tho, to approach what was kinda the funniest little part of the course: a somewhat significant terrain question for the level, imho haha, with a tiny little log. It also felt nice to take the little walk intermission just to help Doozy understand that it's not actually a race. 

Either way, she walked just fine, and once we got closer to the little downhill log, we picked up an easy trot and just proceeded!

From there it was an even steeper descent into the lowest part of the 'bowl' that makes up Sawmill field (where they have all the ditches and whatnot), and I was a little defensive to Fence 9 down there... But then we finished with a perfect uphill cruise to 10 and the finish line, and Doozy absolutely aced it!

clear over the last and thru the finish!
Plus she came back down to walk almost immediately -- at which point I *did* finally dismount and lavish praise on her.... What a good girl!!

It's crazy to say it, but that little trip around the cross country course was probably the easiest part of the day --- followed closely by the show jumping course itself. It's just everything else that is such a challenge with this horse haha. 

Tho, obvi, I mean "challenge" in the most endearing way. She's a handful, but she's not naughty, mean or bad. In fact, she's honestly really really good. And she's so brave, so full of herself, so entirely sure that She Knows Everything, and We Should All Just Listen.

And, eh, maybe she's right haha! So it was a good day. I'm glad we did it, and honestly it all went probably a bit better than I had any reason to expect. We definitely need to work on the flatwork, but all in good time!

Monday, April 22, 2024

Big Brown

Guys!! I'm officially an eventer again!!! Woot Woot!! And Doozy too!!

holy moly i'm at another horse show --- this time with iconic landmarks like the tunnel lol
I mean, I guess only if you count the itty bitties to be "eventing." Which, well, I do

And while it might not be a recognized level (or show), our classes were actually integrated into Fair Hill's Spring International wherein they hosted FEI classes, recognized national divisions, AND a starter trial!

stewarded the FEI dressage warm up rings on friday as a pre-game :)
A few details made this show particularly attractive for us. First up - I was already signed up to volunteer on Friday for the FEI dressage (as I do every year), which meant I could get the lay of the land and walk my courses well in advance.

who recognizes our spicy little pony trailer mate?! doozy has good taste, she immediately recognized him as Good Company <3
The format would also be a bit different bc of the confluence of integrating the starter with the international. Namely -- we'd park in the stabling on the Gallaher entrance (vs the fairgrounds... if you know, you know). And! We'd get to dressage and show jump on the Gallaher side too ---- fancy!!

passed through this tunnel no fewer than 8x throughout the day....
Sure sure, it meant passing through the tunnel underneath the road a whole bunch of times... But, eh, we had our spicy little chili pepper of a pony compatriot with us -- entered in the level above, which meant they rode earlier. 

So I spent legit ages hand walking Doozy around (in a chain shank while wearing gloves bc we are both #learningfromexperiences), meaning we got to familiarize with basically every single riding zone in hand first before having to ride there.

dressage judge commentary summed up as... "disobedient" lol, but actually the mare was a star who just doesn't understand the game yet
I'd like to say it was "worth it" to be able to ride dressage in the iconic international ring from all the 3* & 4* events predating the 5* (which now uses the arenas inside the racecourse on the fairgrounds). Buuuuut, y'all already know. Our dressage is marginally better than "disorderly" at present. Meh. We'll get there. 

First step is to 'get thru.' Which, Doozy did quite well, actually! Like, she definitely knows to stay inside the boards. I count that as a HUGE win!

this game, however... she gets this <3 <3 <3
Another huge win?? My friends at this show. I'm always so full of self doubt, so quick to say, "Ehhh maybe we shouldn't, maybe it's too soon, maybe it'll over-face her...." 

But everyone was so quick to remind me that all the jumping phases are ultimately just one jump at a time. And ya know, at any show, but especially at a starter show, you can stop at any time

tanking up after a #JobWellDone
At any moment, if I felt like we were spooling out or melting down... I could just... stop. Which, obvi we all know sorta academically. But it's always nice to have that gentle prod forward from trusted friends. 

So we went forth and jumped our jumps, one jump at a time. And it was good! 

so excited to be a participating member of the squad again!!
I'll have more to share later, obvi, complete with so many pictures and videos lol... But in the meantime, I'm just so pleased with this handsome red mare! 

And for her efforts, we earned a lovely and large brown 8th place ribbon --- suitable for this sweet mare, progeny of the great Big Brown. Feels kinda like a win, not gonna lie! Stay tuned for more soon <3

Friday, April 19, 2024

better is good

Happy Friday, everybody! It's promising to possibly be a busy weekend around these parts so I'm trying to clear the backlog off my phone while there's still time...

another day, another trial saddle. this is a county solution. wool flocked, stamped narrow, monoflap. 
Plus, ya know, we're still in the thick of saddle trials. Basically the same day I put the Custom in a box to return to the seller, another possible candidate got ready for shipping -- this time a County Solution. 

looks worthy of a proper test!
So naturally, I was eager to put the saddle immediately to work!! My barn mate and I headed up to the jump ring, wherein I actually set up a a slightly larger selection of jumps for us to play with --- 3 singles with one along the outside and the other two on diagonals, and a diagonal line measured for four strides that I figured we'd trot into for five.

actually set myself FIVE fences for this ride -- including a related distance!
And everything was set to verticals with some amount of fill, except for the related line of Xs. One of the jumps was even the set of random boxes that have been hanging out around the edge of the ring for the last few months!

learning patience, one step at a time!
I tried to channel our recent dressage lesson with C in our warm up, just focusing on slow and steady and never really letting Doozy get on much of a roll. It's hard to tell if it really worked or not, except that honestly the mare was generally quite good. 

plenty of fill + panels and stuff too!
Like she still wants to make a bid for all the fences, but seems increasingly willing to resign herself to trotting into things. I think we can and will get back to consistently cantering fences soon enough, but she just needs to learn that speed isn't the solution to everything.

we introduced the boxes too!! 
She's so brave, tho. It's honestly pretty wild. There's all sorts of clutter around the ring these days, plus various random poles strewn about on the floor... But she just doesn't care. Didn't even look at the boxes when I presented her to them --- just, ya know, proceeded!

tried to jump everything both ways, so every jump was 'new'
I think it actually kinda helped trying to string a few things together and build more toward 'course work,' too. Like, she didn't always know where we were going, but would tune in and balance up a lot more easily when she realized we might be making a turn into the unknown.

switched it up to a bending line!
Like when I was going to come back up the related distance the opposite direction, and Katie suggested to actually bend from the first jump over to the boxes to catch them from the other direction too. And it worked great!

was fine!
Like Doozy kinda made a bid at the first jump, to the point where Katie (who was videoing) actually just assumed I'd pull out of the line... Except that as soon as we made the turn, Doozy was like, "OH!" and settled into her stride to the boxes! Good mare!

starting to learn to work together a bit
I honestly didn't really spend all too much time jumping everything a million times either. Like, we got everything from both directions, tested out some skills... and then moved on. Bc I had another agenda item on the list --- catching a few xc jumps!

and ermagherd we snuck out to the fields for a couple quick efforts!
There are still loose horses turned out in all the xc fields, which is kinda a bummer... Normally the rough board horses get brought into sacrifice paddocks on round bales for the winter, leaving the xc fields open to easy hacking... 

But for some reason they stayed out this year. And naturally one of the herds was right in the field I'd hoped to play around in -- the field that contains the entire loop course for the itsy bitsies, plus the first, second, and final jumps for all the rest of the courses. There would have been a lot for us to try, but, eh, not with the loose horses.

this line of fences is technically the warm up ring for our events, but there were two good fences for us so it was perfect
Luckily, tho, the warm up area was free and clear of distractions, and had a nice natural log, plus a hanging telephone pole type thing. Doozy hasn't ridden out in this field in months, and certainly not since she started jumping. So this was basically all brand new to her, and she just clocked around like a pro. Good girl!

Time will tell on the saddle, but I'm honestly feeling pretty optimistic about the big picture right now. Doozy is still pretty hard for me to ride... But at the same time, it feels like she grows up more and more after every off property trip we take.

mare managed to damn near scalp herself in turnout somehow... ugh poor thing, it looks super sore :( 
pls honey, just be pretty!
One step at a time, just making things a tiny bit better slowly, so slowly... but surely. And as they say, 'better' is good!! 

TGIF, y'all. Hope everyone is looking forward to a great weekend!