Thursday, August 13, 2015

softness v. effectiveness

Finally made it back for a lesson with Dan this week, after missing last week due to the Waredaca adventure with Alli and Austen for the DOC clinic. And it was another private lesson bc barn mate Kaitlyn's horse sprung a shoe. Boo...

I was thisclose to busting out the helmet cam but ultimately decided against. I wanted to have frank discussions about where my riding is right now, and didn't trust my nerve to do so with a recording device strapped to my face. So no media. At all. Double boo.

how sweet is this mare?
BUT. The conversation was good. We talked about an upcoming jumper show (this Sunday!) and what classes I should enter. The 2'6" is a no-brainer, and a warm-up 2'3" class is probably not merited since I don't have that option at events. The other offering is a a combined 2'9"-3' class. 

I've jumped 2'9" on and off for years (fairly consistently during my Rochester days, and regularly since late spring), but 3' is a newer height. Plain verticals aren't scary or imposing any more, tho idk about oxers (due to lack of mileage). And I've never done a full course at that height.

Dan's impression was that it shouldn't be an issue for us if I ride the way I do in lessons and don't just 'click off' in the show ring.

she looks tired, no? mare may or may not have checked out of the lesson about half way through...
So naturally when we moved onto warming up by circling over a single X, and Isabel was stuck behind my leg and we chipped in again and again, he told me that's what he meant by 'clicking off.' Ugh. 

The actual initial jumping exercises showed some improvement tho. We started with two bending lines - the purple/lime green (top left in the below pic) bending to the jump that's cut off on the right edge of the pic, then right turn to the blue-to-lattice one stride, bending left to the yellow/hunter green. Both bending lines were done in an easy 5.

i love one stride lines! from this line you can go to either of those verticals, 5 strides either way
After that we came down the outside line (yellow/hunter green to blue/yellow) in 5, right turn to the one stride bending to the purple/lime green. Now THAT turn was a little more complicated. 

Our first time through the 5 came up nicely, but Isabel didn't quite pick herself up (and I may or may not have been leaning on her neck) and we knocked the rail. On the second try I turned in the air over the lattice - not what Dan wanted. Third try I turned too late (there's apparently not much leeway in there!) and we added to bring down the rail again. Finally I made it happen, tho it was still a little stilted. 

same story here. both of these lines are 5 strides (might be 4 for a more forward canter)
Lastly he wanted us getting into xc mode - we were to develop our canter at the end of the ring seen above, come alllllll the way around on the left lead, then get a nice straight long approach to jump the purple/lime green diagonal single nicely out of stride, then continue on with a right turn down to a nice straight long approach for the same thing over this blue/yellow single in the foreground above. 

HA. We ate it a couple times over the first jump. And then over the second jump too. Ugh. Ultimately I mostly figured it out, tho Isabel had long since checked out (it was humid as all hell out, and the wet sticky footing wasn't making it any easier) so we called it a day. 

Here are a couple big takeaways and themes from the lesson:
  • When the horse is against my hand (esp in warm up), try to supple from left to right, at both trot and canter.
  • Dan warned me to not confuse softness for effectiveness. It is more important to be effective than soft, tho the best riders are both.
  • If your horse is already on it's maximum stride length (this came up especially during our final exercise), you have nothing left to move forward up to the jump.
  • In the 'preparation zone' (bc yes I told him about my DOC takeaways too), the rider might be collecting the horse and raising it's shoulders - don't just run downhill at the fence. I couldn't just sit chilly in the last few strides - I had to keep my leg ON and ensure her shoulders stayed up. I think this is was what DOC meant by 'managed maintenance' - I have to react if she changes or flattens.
  • Furthermore, I need to be a little more dramatic than I think. Meaning more dramatic change in horse's collection and balance - NOT going faster. 
  • In the same vein, and as written before, I should half halt into a turn, organize and collect with LEG LEG LEG - then go forward to the fence. This 'forward' doesn't mean running or changing the canter - it means having established the right canter such that I'm not whoa-ing to the fence - I should be jumping from a forward stride.
  • It's harder to balance a faster canter, esp if that canter gets strung out and flat. 
  • He echoed DOC's point about recognizing distance from canter, v looking for a distance and changing the canter to get there. I struggled a bit with this - mostly bc I kept just running Izzy at the fences. Oops.

So yea it was maybe not our best riding, but we made it over everything and I actually better understand some of what he's been telling me to do (esp w regard to the forward canter). Another quick takeaway (that I waited until he was gone to double check) was that I can't really take Dan's word about fence heights lol.

super scientific (scien-stick-fic?) measurement device
He's notorious for being a bit blasé about fence heights, esp at the lower levels - and nonchalantly referred to the heights in this lesson as novice/training when I asked about entering a 3' class. Well, I went back with a mostly-straight stick with duct tape at the 3' mark to actually measure.

One fence he's previously referred to as 3'-3'3" was really 2'11" on the dot, and one other was just over 3'. This might not seem important, but a few inches in height is a big deal to me at this point. And the very last thing I want to do is go into a 3' class thinking I've been schooling 3'3" when in reality I've been schooling <3'. Details folks, they matter!

looks like hind leg protection needs to be a thing for us too...
Meanwhile, upon hopping off I noticed that Isabel clipped herself pretty good at some point. Probably one of our iffier jumps. Sorry mare :(

My thoughts moving forward (in general, but also specifically for the show) are to just KEEP RIDING dammit. Don't get fooled into being 'soft and quiet' when actually I'm just allowing her to get down hill and flat. Keep my leg on, make decisions, and for the love of all things holy, organize and balance Isabel so that she can move forward to the jump!! 

22 comments:

  1. My trainer is a bit blase about fence heights too, but I'm like you: I wanna know how high I'm jumping, especially because I want to clear that 3' mental hurdle I've had forever! I'm tempted to start keeping a tape measure in my tack box, and measure the jumps after a lesson....is that weird? LOL.

    Even though you say it wasn't your best riding, it seems like Dan's philosophies line up with DOC's, which is great! Try not to get discouraged: this is horses, if riding were easy everyone would do it. It sounds like you're making great progress with Izzy, and I'm excited for your show this weekend!

    Also, I wanted to make a suggestion: as someone that just crashed a jump, I HIGHLY encourage polos, ankle boots and/or full hind boots on those hind legs. I've always been a stickler about leg protection in general, but even more so now that Roger and I crashed on Monday. Had he not been wearing boots, I shudder to think what might have happened. And, you can take a page out of SB's book and get creative with your polo wraps and/or boots! Just put something on Izzy's precious legs, she'll thank you for it :)

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    1. discouraged isn't in my lexicon ;) maybe the post reads more sour than intended but this was a good lesson. 'not my best' does not equal 'my worst' and any lesson in which training holes are exposed and i learn how to fix them can only be a good thing.

      re: the boots, i'm actually not a proponent of maximum booting every ride every time, and prefer a pragmatic approach. i usually only boot up all four when there's a higher risk for a hard knock (like on xc), or when she's got an existing booboo that i want protected, OR if she starts showing a tendency towards interference (which is why her fronts stay booted)

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    2. That's where measuring where things are on yourself comes in handy. 4' is just under my boobs, so you don't need a measuring stick, just hop off and stand by it.

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    3. haha i've actually tried it, but maybe need to find a better landmark bc noting 3' by my hip is actually harder than i thought it would be... i wonder what my belly button measures at??

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  2. Rough lesson! But one you have gotten a lot of good takeaways from. RE: seeing the distance out of the canter you have, try asking yourself, "Is this going to be long, short, or just right?" as you get 6-5 strides out... you'll get the feel for it eventually! Also, can you believe you're regularly schooling 3'+ these days?! You've come a long way!

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    1. ehh i think my writing made it sound rougher than it was? lol funny how that happens. the takeaways are excellent tho and i'm excited put them into action!

      re: the distance, i already do exactly what you say but Dan's whole point is to STOP doing that. he says seeing the distance should be the very last thing on my mind - it should just be 'the canter, the canter, the canter' and when the canter is right, the distances will be right. thus recognizing the distance from the correct canter

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    2. HMMMM I will have to try that different way of thinking!! TO THE GROUND POLES...

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    3. haha you and me both. ground poles are definitely in my future too - nothing keeps me honest quite like them!!

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  3. Once you get a better and more reliable feel for what is "collected" for the level of jumping you wanna do, the easier it'll be to realize you need to make adjustments. Riding seems to be all about gaining a deeper understand of something and having your eyes opened to how you've been doing it wrong the whole time. Gotta love that. ;)

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    1. haha i think that's pretty much it. it's still really difficult for me to recognize when my canter isn't right. and right now our only real test for whether it's right or not is whether the jump was ok. ultimately i'd like to have it figured out a little earlier than that!! lol

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  4. I do the same thing! I think i'm being soft and quiet, but then I let the reins slip and Cosmo gets flat and strung out. I guess i really just need to be softER and quietER. This was a great post for me to read, I have many of the same struggles. Thanks!

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    1. glad you found it useful too! it was definitely a much needed warning. i worry so much about being a noisy rider with a sensitive horse like isabel... and i think that *is* important to think about... but i can't let it impede my ability to actually RIDE haha

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  5. I'm in that really weird phase where 3' looks little and 3'3" looks giant.

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    1. inneresting. it's so funny to me how the eye develops. our plain 3' verticals at home look easy now too. but i have no idea what they will look like with fill or in any other arena...

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  6. Trying to find a distance is hard! I prefer to adjust the canter, lol

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    1. haha yea it's an ongoing struggle

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  7. "It is more important to be effective than soft, tho the best riders are both"
    This is gold. I start off my rides too soft and ineffective, and need to work on having "louder" aids that I then can quiet down as the ride progresses.

    I keep a measuring tape in my tack area because my trainer also is blase about jump heights and often over-estimates how high they are.

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    1. I tend to start off in an ok place, then devolve into a mess, then mostly straighten out again. It's a maddeningly predictable routine haha

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  8. I have become pretty good at telling height, trainer likes to tell me they are smaller then they really are lol!!

    Hard/not great rides are no bueno but make us better rides in the end :)

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    1. Lol I almost wish they would tell me they're smaller than they are. Sometimes I can fool myself, but not always

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  9. I'm like you too in that I want to know the exact heights darnit! Especially as they move above 2'6" for me, that's when I get nervous and have a mental hurdle when it comes to the numbers

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    1. Exactly! Knowledge is power right ? I want to know exactly what we are doing out there. Makes it easier to reproduce later too haha

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