Sunday, February 5, 2012

Southern Pines - Part I

Apologies for the silence.  I wasn't pouting - promise!  I was in Southern Pines, NC and there was no internet connection where I was staying.  And since I can barely type on a regular keyboard, I didn't think blogging from my phone was such a hot idea.

Oh my goodness!  Where to start?  I left Friday afternoon immediately after clinical and got to Southern Pines about 6:30 PM.  The drive was relatively uneventful - the first 2 hours are all highway but once you hit Charlotte, you have to take Hwy 74 which has a speed limit of 55 with traffic lights.  Fun.  Anyhoo, 74 wasn't too bad even though I hit it at approx 4:30 on a Friday afternoon.  Once I got to Mile Away Farm (more on that later), I put Charlie in a stall across from his best buddy Alex, tucked him in for the night and headed back to Cherie's apartment to eat and sleep.  We discussed my launch into outer space over dinner and she was pretty mystified as that's very abnormal behavior for him.  Since cross country schooling was planned for Sunday, I wanted to jump on Saturday.

We got up on Saturday and headed to the barn to take care of her 7 horses and Charlie.  After getting everybody in and fed, Cherie had to go ride a horse for some longtime clients.  Once she was back, we took 2 of her horses out for a hack in the Foundation (basically a land conservancy that's huge and pretty much for horse and rider) and I almost had my second fall in the space of 3 days!  Prince (the horse I was on) spooked and spun right - I was so far off the side of him, I'm pretty sure I was parallel with the ground. Somehow I managed to save it - even Cherie was impressed!  The rest of the ride was uneventful because Prince really is a prince (more on him later!).  After getting back from our hack, it was time to ride Charlie.

Cherie is a big believer in keeping the horse on his or her toes and uses lots of rail and cavaletti exercises to achieve this.  While warming up, she helped my on the flat and breaking Charlie up laterally.  She had me focus on flexing him in and out, with a few straight steps in between.  Flexing is really about loosening the neck while keeping the hind end on a straight track.  As he becomes looser in his neck, I need to ride his neck lower.  I'm going to go into these concepts in more depth when I talk about my dressage lessons because they are borderline revolutionary for us.  After doing some flexing, we trotted over a pole pattern which consisted of 2 trot poles, one stride apart, to a four stride (don't quote me on this - I'll get the true distance next time I talk to her) bending line to a pile of poles, circle around a jump and come to the final pile of poles in the pattern.  I've explained this poorly but the point is you can trot or canter the pattern and because it is somewhat random, the horse needs to pay attention to his feet and the rider needs to pay attention to the line they are riding.

After the poles, we moved onto jumping some jumps.  We kept everything easy per my request as I wanted a positive, fun school for both of us before going cross country schooling at the Carolina Horse Park.  I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but Charlie has taken to occasionally porpoising after a jump.  Cherie figured out he doesn't appreciate me leaning on his neck after the jump so I need to think about landing with my hands wide (and not on his neck).  I also figured out how to get each lead over the fence - meaning he lands on the lead I want.  He's so easy once you figure out what he prefers - all Charlie wants is for me to keep contact on the outside rein, preventing his shoulder from bulging out and he'll land on either lead, no questions asked.  He's so smart!  Now, he just needs a smart jockey!

On Sunday, we went cross country schooling at the Carolina Horse Park.  Charlie was really good and it was a really great experience for him because there was so much going on!  There were tons of horses all over the place.  He was great at the trailer to tack up and was a little excited walking out to cross country.  Cherie brought Alex, her prelim horse, with us.  We went to the water first and he was great!  Trotted and cantered through on the first go around.  He's definitely not a horse horse yet!  He does not like to stand around - as long as he has a job, he's fine but the minute he's supposed to stand and watch Alex do big horse stuff, he got antsy.  I think the big things I took away from the schooling were 1) keep his head up - he likes to lean on the bit and gets heavy on his forehand, especially when he's tired 2) count and keep counting! and 3) it's ok to get the short one and at this stage of the game, it's preferred.  I hate the short spot but I have to trust that Charlie is athletic enough to handle it (and newsflash, he is!).

Monday, we hacked Charlie and Alex because they had done a lot on Sunday.  So they enjoyed a nice leisurely stroll through the woods.

Charlie's on the left and Alex is on the right.

Charlie and Alex really are best buds - they are too funny together.  They lived together this summer while Charlie was with Cherie and picked right back-up where they left off.  Alex is crazy fancy both on the flat and over fences so hopefully he passed some wisdom onto Charlie during their midnight chats.  Ironically, Charlie is 2 months older than Alex but Alex only raced 2 or 3 times as a 3 yr old whereas Charlie didn't start racing until he was 4 and raced about 10 times between 2009 and 2010.  He raced his last race on 10 Oct 2010.

Okay, that's it for tonight - I'm beat.  Spending time with Cherie always wears me out.  The woman is amazing; like the energizer bunny.  I have a feeling this will end up being a 3 or 4 part post because I learned so much this week - it's crazy!

Charlie and Alex's field at sunset.
PS Apologies for any typos as I just can't muster the energy to proofread tonight! :-)


  1. That sounds super fun! What a great opportunity.

    Any xc pics of your lovely guy?

  2. No because I suck! I had every intention of getting pictures/video but everyone from our group was on a horse. I brought my camera and everything! :( I do have video from one of our jumping rounds which I'll post tomorrow or the day after...