Thursday, March 22, 2018

holding my breath

I have about a million thoughts rattling around in my brain right now. Possibly the result of getting through my actual work a little too quickly this week, while simultaneously needing to lie low bc of the latest snow storm. Too much free time for an idle mind!

Typically, in the past I'd take advantage of this little blog platform to spew forth all those random ideas and thoughts and plans and wishes and what not. Lately, tho, I'm finding myself more hesitant and reluctant to commit words to paper blog.

this is goose
I'm not a superstitious person by nature tho. Maybe a titch cynical in the grand scheme of things, but still pretty hopelessly optimistic in my horsey endeavors. Which makes it a little odd that I'm nervous about even whispering about our show this weekend.

Because.... Oh yea, we're entered in a show this weekend. If you were paying attention to my Events Page you'd know that, bc I keep that page pretty updated to help my friends and me stay organized. But I haven't written much else about it.

goose is a big boi lol. and he loves him some sunshine
The entry was sent in a while back, along with some of those other cross derby entries. Back when I had every reason to believe Charlie would be sound again in plenty of time. Luckily, as of my last time checking him (fingers crossed, touching wood) he is, in fact, sound. The "plenty of time" bit wasn't quite what I'd hoped for but.... well. It is what it is.

he's sweet and clever too, tho i definitely feel better about being in close proximity since he got his tusks off haha
The reality is that Charlie's been in very regular work throughout the winter, and has been doing fantastically. Obviously February and early March were a bit of a wash bc of that whole nail business.... But we still managed quite a bit of hacking in between abscesses. And the horse gets pretty extensive daily turnout so.... Ya know. He's probably fine.

one of my favorite views <3
We're entered in the BN at Loch Moy, one of my favorite all time venues. Charlie's been there a number of times already, and competed thru their full spring series last year as he made his eventing debut. Notably, however, we still haven't technically gotten to do BN there before.

wandering around the farm, per usual
Our competitions last year were all at intro/elementary, which hold stadium and cross country in separate areas so those divisions can run concurrently with BN. By summertime I was looking longingly across the fields to the main xc course, eager for our chance to get out there.

Alas, tho, as you already know our fall season had barely begun before it ended early for Charlie's splint extravaganza and resulting surgery.

saying hi to some of the ponies
Finally, it's looking like we'll get our opportunity this weekend. Tho, haha.... I guess anything is possible between now and then. Not least of my concerns is the snow storm Maryland just got, tho the venue is confident the grounds will be ready to go in time.

The weekend's forecast looks mostly promising, but with just enough sketchiness to keep us obsessively checking every few hours lol.

this farm is literally crawling with shetlands
And naturally I worry about our general readiness, as might be imagined. Literally zero aspects of our riding or fitness right now are where I wanted to be. I think it's ok tho. I think it'll be fine.

Obviously there are zero expectations in the dressage ring, beyond hoping that Charlie will be more or less the same horse he is at home. And he's usually a pretty reliable guy. I'll be pleased if we end up with a middle-of-the-pack performance, but unsurprised if we are bringing up the rear instead.

honestly i'm not sure anybody even knows exactly how many there are. but it's a lot haha. they're very sweet tho!
The jumping parts I also feel pretty realistic about in terms of expectations. Charlie did something like 8 million grids this winter (only a slight exaggeration). While he's had some unexpected time off since then, the two times I've jumped him since The Nail made me believe he remembers those grid sessions. His muscle memory is developing.

Sure, I'm still 100% fully capable of missing a distance to spectacular result lol, and won't be surprised if we have one / a few rails. But the idea of 2'6 stadium round with Charlie feels pretty comfortable right now. Ditto the xc course, most of which Charlie schooled in the arena in January.

charlie for his part seems pretty cool with all the other critters
And, per usual at these schooling shows, nothing is timed. So if Charlie needs to trot or walk on course, or pause for a sip at the water.... That's all totally kosher. As is bowing out should he feel like he doesn't have it in him, tho again I expect him to be fine.

So ya know. Yea. I think the riding parts should probably be fine. Honestly the only thing I'm really nervous about is.... being disappointed again. Something happening to ruin the day, whether that's a weather-related cancellation or a soundness problem with Charlie, or something else I haven't even dreamed up as a possibility yet.

he keeps an ear on goose tho, just in case lol
Bc otherwise I'm pretty freakin excited. For all of it.

Excited to condition all my tack and boots. To wash Charlie's tail and groom him to sparkling. To pack the trailer and set out my clothes the night before. To pull up the venue's long driveway and feel the butterflies begin fluttering. To walk my courses and finally swing into the saddle for our rides. And most of all? I'm so so so excited to cross a finish line with Charlie again.

Charlie is everything I dreamed of in an eventing partner, and feels poised for a big 2018. Anything is possible, sure, but cross your fingers for me that this weekend gives us the chance to get back out there and enjoy kicking off the season!!

And in the meantime I'll be going through all my little pre-show rituals and routines. Checking my list and cleaning things up. What are some of your favorite things to do in preparation for a show? Especially if it's been a while? Have you even dusted your stuff off for the season yet or will it still be a little while before your own opening event?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

8,000 happy pictures

So I know it's been a bit of a roller coaster around these parts for the last six-ish weeks. As exhausting as it can feel trying to keep up with the highs and lows, I promise it's a thousand times more exhausting to keep living through them.

don't mind him, just trotting all cute up to his lil log <3
A wiser, more rational person might suggest that I diversify my emotional investments a little more. So that one single facet of my lifestyle doesn't have such power to send me spiraling when things go wrong.

i never promised cute trot jump pics tho haha
But..... Well. What else can I say? I'm too addicted to the highs. Even tho the good moments with Charlie have come hand in hand with many sad or upsetting or disappointing lows, I still just live for these moments where everything *clicks.*

looking gung ho over the little raised log!
They are the fuel that keeps me going. Keeps me coming back for more. And makes me push myself to be better so that I can seize on whatever opportunities Charlie presents to me, even if it makes me a little nervous.

and off across the field to the brown ramp! and yea... sorry not sorry, photo quality is what it is today. 
And that latest opportunity was a gorgeous day in the high 50s. Excellent ground conditions. And a horse who had been hacking around the hills for the past week and a half, waiting to come fully sound.

charlie says it's too sma
Charlie was finally back to 100% on that hoof at the end of last week, and we were able to immediately get back to conditioning work. Plus I rode him in a lesson over the weekend for trainer P to assess. She put us over a very few jumps and Charlie was just.... so so so good, like he never missed a day, let alone six weeks since his last jumps  <3

the handsomest 
So with the forecast this week calling for a wintry return, with a few inches of snow, plus sleet and icy rain spread over the week.... Well. I just knew that this was my chance to just get out there and knock the rust off. Aim Charlie at a couple carefully chosen fences and just... let 'em go!

This would be only his second time schooling our home course since moving to the farm last July. The last time he schooled out here was also the last time he schooled xc on terrain since August. Since then we had one run at Fair Hill, then the arena schooling in January.

actual handsomest tho. hands down.
And Charlie did not disappoint! Brita kindly agreed to wait around so she could ride with me (and take video, thanks so much girl!) and we set off for an easy long slow walk warm up through the fields.

ok you caught me, i'm obsessed.
Then there was nothing more to do but move on to trot and canter, and then start jumping things! Considering Charlie's current level of fitness and the day's warmth, I wanted to be very picky about what we jumped. Very few repetitions, but make each effort count.

In all, we jumped exactly 9 times, plus two trips up and two trips down a bank. I didn't bother with the ditches on this particular day bc Charlie's been playing with them somewhat regularly lately, including doing a bunch of them the day prior while we were out doing trot sets.

the juxtaposition of the house jump and the actual house in the background here makes me giggle a little
I also opted to keep the jumps we worked over at BN. Didn't really want to spend time or effort on smaller jumps (aside from our first warm up logs), but also didn't really feel like this was the day for working over new heights. BN height is stupidly easy for Charlie, but we've still got lessons to learn in polishing up the whole picture. So I'm cool with it.

large horse being freakin adorable imo
Honestly each jump rode pretty freakin well for us. It felt like we had one of those airport tarmac guys out there for us, ya know the guys who wave around the neon orange wands? Helping the planes navigate around the busy terminals? Well that's what it felt like cantering down to all the jumps, like one of those guys was signaling out our proximity to the fences, like "1 - 2 - 3 - Jump!"

also occasionally looks (and goes) like a race horse too lol... esp headed back toward the barn!
The moments in between jumps were...... Haha, a little more feisty. Charlie has always been a very barn sour horse, he always knows which way is home. And this was his first time truly schooling in these fields since really settling in to the farm as "home." Plus we have literally been hacking the fields daily for.... a couple weeks now. So he knows which way is which for sure.

new jump for us! nicely substantial (for bn) log table thingy
Meaning.... He had a very strong draw towards the barn. Not rude or naughty or scary.... But very strong. And occasionally pretty fast too. He never looks fast in video, but he sure as shit does in person. And definitely feels fast. So you'll just have to take my word for it ;)

no scope no hope
It was good tho. He was so good. I just freakin love him <3

We jumped some really simple stuff: a couple logs to start, then the brown BN ramp that he's done once before. Then into the next field where we practiced a nice three stride line that he's also done before (tho that time it had a different, slightly bigger out jump).

this jump is mentally tough for me, with a drop on landing to a steep-ish descent. 
We moved on directly from that to a log table thingy that was added to the course (with N and T versions too!) after Charlie did his splint and had surgery. It's a good sized table for BN, but nothing we can't handle. It was definitely high on my to-do list tho, esp as a "new" jump for us.

charlie was freakin perfect tho <3  (except for that whole running down hill back to the barn  afterward thing.... lol)
Then I was just going to do another little house he's seen before, and a simple triple bar that's a style he's seen before even if he hadn't jumped this exact one. Except then I saw the above log drop fence and realized that was probably the better bet for us.

It's a bit of a frightening jump for me - not insubstantial in size but also with a pretty decent drop and downhill landing. I jumped it before with Izzy but it had all the check boxes for a "scary" jump with Charlie, esp bc it was going downhill straight toward the barn. Definitely more interesting than the other little house lol.

that feeling when you try to use your body as a sail to slow the horse down lol
Charlie was great tho. For all of it. Again, I can't stress this enough -- the jumps themselves were perfect. Exactly what I needed. The space between the jumps was fast and furious, but never out of control. Charlie always eventually came around, it was just slow to develop.

splish splash!!
Which I'm cool with. I legitimately trust this horse implicitly. I have so much confidence in him, even when I don't have it in myself. I know he's going to be a good boy, and I know he's safe. Plus he really showed how much he's matured over the last 18 months this ride - esp with respect to his education over fences.

simple triple bar
We had some long spots and some deep spots, but nothing actually ugly. Nothing that he wasn't able to adjust for and handle well, and that I wasn't also able to anticipate and stay with him. I'm cool with it lol.

then more trot bc cute
Possibly will need to experiment more with bits at a later date tho.... For instance I picked up a waterford pelham ages ago but haven't tried it yet. I'm also curious about jumping him seriously in the hackamore, since he schooled the ditches/banks/water so well in it a couple weeks ago.

We'll see tho. The reality is that so much of his "pull" comes from his homing instincts, aka the barn sourness. Take him away from home and to a show venue, and those issues disappear.

easy up!
Anyway tho, after accomplishing each of the jumps we set out to do, there was nothing left but to splash through the water and play up and down the banks!

then even more cute trot bc obvi
We've practiced this a fair bit since the ground has dried up and Charlie's definitely got this particular water complex figured out. Let's just say he's come a LONG way since that first time I tried to drop him down a bank into water..... (and you should totally click through the link just for that epic helmet cam gif haha).

to an easy down!
I still haven't cantered him off a bank yet. And the little bank peninsula thingy up the hill that jumps onto a slope still kinda freaks me out (as opposed to the bank into water that is by definition a more flat ground). In time, tho. In time.

and also a more exuberant down!!!
All of Charlie's time off since late last summer has had me second guessing myself, and my choices. Feeling like maybe I haven't capitalized on opportunities when I should have, for no reason other than being nervous or whatever.

Deep down in my heart, tho, I know the choices I've made for Charlie have been fine. He doesn't mind that we're not "there" yet.... bc, as I must constantly remind myself, there is no "there." Rather it's the process of getting there that is so fun and exciting to me.

this is a picture of happiness <3   such a good boy!
And it's hard to argue with the choices we've made when Charlie can come off a long winter filled with layups and rehab and then even more silly time off, and yet come out to play like a better schooled horse than he's ever been before.

He's caught on to the game, he likes it so far, and it's easy for him.

Meanwhile, taking it slow has had advantages for me as a rider too. I trust this horse so much. And it's finally helping me trust myself too. Trust that I can get us out schooling and make good choices. Tho obvi it helps having a solid base of support in Brita there too haha!

So for now, I'm riding this high. And loving every moment of it. All my grandiose plans fell apart for getting out and about for a winter series of derbies. And who knows what the season ahead will hold for us. But right now? Oh man, this horse is FUN.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

tall drink of water

Yo horse so tall, he can't even fit his whole height into a single frame.

It's not tall horses' fault that they think they're the center of the universe, they just can't see anyone else!

What does Charlie do when he sees an airplane coming? Duck.

What happened when the tall horse went to hang himself? Nothing, he couldn't find a high enough ceiling. (plz don't hang yourself tho, Charlie!)

That horse is so tall, he tripped on a rock and hit the moon.

What do Charlie and Bode Miller have in common? They both look like they're wearing skis.

Charlie so tall and clumsy, he airballs more free throws than DeAndre Jordan.

How do you make a tall horse look more awkward? You can't.

Yo horse so tall he has to take a bath in Niagara Falls.

What do tall horses and chopsticks have in common? They're awkward at the most inopportune moments.

Charlie so tall I can't go anywhere without seeing him.

What's a tall horse's worst fear? Ceiling fans.

Yo horse so tall he uses the Empire State Building as a toothpick.

Tall horses: The giraffes of the equine race since the beginning of time.

Charlie so tall he did a back flip and kicked Jesus in the chin.

Tall horses: They look like slinkies when they run.

How do you make a tall person horse angry? Pick them up in a smart car trailer.

Charlie so tall Yao Ming looks up to him.

Yo horse so tall he tripped in Michigan and hit his head in Florida.

Yo horse so tall he's actually somehow sound again. Miracles!!!

All jokes dutifully gathered from ye olde google. Sources here and here. Did I miss any good ones??? Lol, happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

getting excited about other things

I like to think of myself as mistress of my own destiny, for better or worse. It's easy to become flustered or paralyzed by choice, sure, but I try really hard to resist that. When things aren't going well, or when I find myself not quite satisfied with outcomes, I start thinking about what I, personally, can do to change the situation.

I wrote a little bit already about some of those options for Charlie's current undying abscess. Namely: Option 1: Go full helicopter mom and throw every manner of ridiculously expensive diagnostics at the horse. Which, you better believe I've been talking with vets and trusted advisers during this process.

The reality, tho, is that.... sure, we could take rads. But.... I mean, we already know the hoof is real sore. We could try to block it to make sure nothing else is also sore but... it's also pretty hard to block an extremely ouchie foot. I may pursue further evaluative measures when the hoof gets better just to be sure, but really the most realistic course of action is just letting the abscess do what it's going to do. And try to keep Charlie as comfortable as possible in the meantime.

my volunteer prize for winning Sara's february drawing!! very pretty packaging from Grey Horse Candle Company
Option #2?? Lol... that would be the whole "fly completely off the handle and buy a second horse" idea. Which, wow. So tempting. There are so many pretty horses out there, guys. So so so many. And I did really love the restarting journey with Charlie.... wouldn't it be fun to do that again??

But. Ya know. Resources like time, money and energy are precious commodities. So for now all my eggs stay in one basket. Tho I won't rule out being impulsively foolish at some later date lol.

So where does that leave me? Sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn't really my favorite activity. I need stuff to look forward to on the calendar. And sure, I still have all sorts of fun shows and outings planned, but Charlie's proving that I can't just rely on our own outings for positive excitement.

and it smells delightful - sweet but soft. can't tell you what, exactly, it smells like bc i'm shit at identifying scents.... but i like it a lot! i've actually purchased these candles as gifts before but this is my first one to keep, and i love it!! thanks Sara!
So. Enter Sara's year-long Volunteer Contest. It's no secret that I love horse shows. LOVE. Whether that's just hangin out as a spectator, or helping out my friends at their competitions, or actually participating as a volunteer. I love it all. Plus, my local combined training association has volunteer requirements to be eligible for year end prizes. So volunteering is a no brainer.

Usually I can hit my requirements just by doing the fun local schooling stuff at my own barn or hosted by my local association. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed stewarding the xc warm up ring at a USEA show last year. Really surprised, actually, it was a blast!

Given that volunteerism is one of my goals this year (I'm aiming for an event in 7 of 12 months this year), and the fact that Sara's doing monthly drawings, I decided to be a little more proactive about seeking out volunteer opportunities. So I hit up the USEA volunteer portal* to search for upcoming events in my area.

(*You need to create an account if you don't already have one, but it only takes a second and is then super easy to use. and no, you don't have to be a USEA member - I am not, for instance)

I decided to sign up for a bunch of small schooling events at Loch Moy, bc they have awesome volunteer swag bags with t-shirts, stickers, food, and xc schooling passes. Bingo!

There were also a couple upcoming FEH/YEH qualifier events that looked awesome, but all the volunteer positions were already filled. Which made me realize, if I wanted to do cool stuff at the bigger events, I *had* to be planning in advance.

Luckily, my calendar-obsessed self already tracks dates of all the events that look like something Charlie and I might want to do, so it was just a matter of cross referencing that against the upcoming events listed on the USEA's website and picking what looked interesting.

Scribing for the YEH jump phase? And the FEH conformation phase??? Uh, yea. That sounds fascinating. Especially as someone who fully acknowledges that developing my eye for quality, skill, and style in a horse has not always been a priority.

So yea. Putting stuff on the calendar gets me real excited haha. Ideally, Charlie and I will have our own competitions too, obvi, but I'm also really excited about the idea of getting some new experiences (and hopefully new knowledge!) at some of these events later in the year. It's stuff to look forward to, ya know?

Do you also like volunteering? And did you sign up for Sara's contest? Have you used the USEA's volunteer portal? Or do you mostly just sign up to volunteer at your own barn's events? Or through your local association?

Volunteering, for me, has been a great way to get familiar with a new sport and learn more about levels beyond my experience. Plus, ya know, watching pretty ponies do amazing things is pretty inspiring. Esp if the ponies and/or rider don't look much different from me and my pony haha. What are you favorite things about volunteering?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

passing time. in pictures

So let's see here. Last we heard from our hero, we were letting the Olympics Selection Committee know that he's a serious contender. Especially if Tokyo 2020 is gonna be won over the merits of walking down 18" banks. We got that in spades.

i love cheering on this team! pc Austen Gage
So what all has happened since then? Lots!!! This past weekend was Loch Moy's third and final winter series cross derby. You may recall Charlie and I went to the first one in January with Brita. Then last month I hauled Brita and Rachael's horses in my trailer, since Charlie was lame.

lots of happy horses in the sunshine!
This month... Well. Charlie is not sound again. Yea. Tho Rachael was bringing another friend's new horse to hang out and soak up the atmosphere, so Brita's mare Bella got to enjoy her first solo trailer ride. And she was great!

brita made us these adorable laminated equipment packing lists for horse shows!!! how cute!!
I had planned to bring Charlie anyway, sound or not, since the money was already spent and he could benefit from hanging out at a show. But we nixed that idea when he went all three legged again. Sigh.

aw she also made us team hats in our colors. #socialeventing
pc Austen Gage
So ya know. Being at a horse show with friends and watching them have a great time isn't really the worst way to spend a Saturday, in the grand scheme of things.

esp when those friends are badasses
This abscess stuff tho has gotta stop. It's really grinding me down. I'm just so.... tired.

from our last night time ride!!!
Charlie was so so so good for our rides once he came sound again from that LH abscess. I wrote all about what we did leading up to that awesome mini pretend xc school (ditches banks & water, yo!) last week. And he was just so good, my heart was just singing with joy.

yea he continues to be really goofy about soaking lol. no this was not on purpose.
We continued on with that theme through another dressage school - cut a little short bc the arena became very crowded. But it was short and sweet, plus trainer P was there to see how Charlie was going after not having seen him since he first went lame on the LH. And she thought he looked great!

but hey, if he's comfortable, then whatever!
The next day I went ahead and told new upper level event rider trainer K that we'd be good to go for our weekday morning lesson. Our first since the whole nail impalement four weeks prior.

ponies. bc just ponies. they make everything better with their goofy little noses and floofy manes!
Alas tho, Charlie was.... not sound. And in a new and weird way that has me a little concerned. Methinks his entire hind end has grown sore from constantly compensating from one sore hoof after another. In any case, we nixed the lesson and I just worked Charlie out on the flat instead: transitions, leg yields up the wall, raised poles. Trying to engage and stretch his hind end.

horse show prize treats!
He didn't really work out of it, tho. And perhaps the lameness was the precursor to the next day, where he was basically not weight bearing on that left hind hoof again. With a practically visible digital pulse. Poor horse :(

trainer P and her big BIG dressage horse!!! she says he's 17.5hh lolol
So.... Verdict seems to be that LH abscess hasn't actually resolved yet. Sigh. Luckily he wasn't super duper crippled for very long on it, but he still hasn't come sound yet either.

just bc you're size giant doesn't mean you don't love wither scritches!!!!
Tho naturally I'm still spending just as much time at the barn. Luckily doing fun things too, like scribing at an in house schooling dressage show. Where I got to watch a lot of friends go through all their tests!! AND! Got to watch my jump trainer P take one of her horses through his third level debut!!

charlie's also been keeping company with some of the other patients. like this poor very sick mare
I loved getting to watch that, and especially getting to sit in on all the judge's commentary. This particular judge is wonderful - I scribed for her a couple years ago and it's honestly like a mini lesson. She was quick to point out certain movements in various tests (including the eventing tests) that would prove to be the difference makers for winning scores.

and it's shedding season too!! can't have a blog without obligatory hair shots, right?
And quick to provide insights on how certain movements should be ridden etc. I liked it a lot! And apparently trainer P feels similarly bc she had specifically wanted to ride her first 3rd level tests on this horse for this judge, to get honest and constructive feedback on how they're doing.

plus obligatory selfies from hacking out, always gotta have those!
Mostly tho, it just made me eager and simultaneously bittersweet. I wanna ride some tests for this judge too!!! :(

because we've certainly been hacking
In time, tho. For now, Charlie seems pretty sound at the walk again so after finishing up at the show I pulled him out to go wandering around all the fields in the sunshine. Because dammit, if you're sound enough to be turned out, you're sound enough to cart my ass around the pasture.

and exploring
Charlie, for his purposes, was quite happy to do so. Per usual. Sigh. Such a good boy. He even volunteered to trot a couple steps, tho not particularly soundly. So we repeated the same adventures but with the addition of some friends the next day too.

and hacking and hacking. so much hacking.
I'm definitely grateful for the saddle time. And honestly just being able to enjoy my horse. So. Ya know. That counts for a lot. I'm greedy tho haha and I want more.

We'll see. I kinda want to go all crazy helicopter mom and start throwing ridiculously expensive diagnostics at what is almost certainly an abscess. Or ya know. Just fly entirely off the handle and buy a second horse to have another saddle to sit in. But, knowing my luck, then I'd just end up with two lame horses who break my heart haha. So.... yea.

For now, we're just passing the time. I've got a couple upcoming events on the calendar (like fox hunting! and our first horse trial of the season! and the one after that too!!) that look a little less likely with every passing day. But ya know. We'll see. I gotta say tho, the extra daylight hours definitely make everything a little bit better!