Friday, September 11, 2015

inadvertent milestones

This week's lesson was an interesting mix of good and bad. Really mostly pretty good - but in that kind of way where you're purposefully looking for the good, rather than beaming uncontrollably.

Let's set the scene: the fencing is being repaired in one pasture, so the big gelding herd moved temporarily into a different pasture. On the opposite end of the barn. Meaning they use a different door to come inside for dinner. Which is obviously awful bc change is scary!!!!!

Lol. They were all losing their damn minds and screaming like obnoxious children. Isabel's usually pretty indifferent to that type of behavior -- but sadly she's not totally immune.

per usual (boo), no media. instead enjoy this pic of our very fat barn cat defying the laws of balance and gravity
Additionally, there's a large-ish horsemanship class that runs concurrently with my lesson that moved into the main arena since their typical 'dressage court' area is getting new footing at the moment. I guess that trainer forgot I had my lesson too, and he worried that my cantering around would distract his students (never mind that I'm basically not allowed to canter on anything bigger than a 20m circle...) so he moved his group over to the field.

So poor Isabel. Her herd mates and everything in the barn were acting like loony tunes, and she was abandoned to her doom in the arena with just me and Dan. And one solo oxer. No wonder she was a little distracted....

the light kinda makes the kitty's dual-colored face look quite strange here
This translated to a LOT more resistance in our flat work. Mare was distracted and braced and pulling out every evasion she has, and even got her tongue over the bit at one point. Dan had to tighten a cheek piece despite my bridle being technically fitted properly. Ugh. C'mon Isabel!

I'm pleased to say that I maintained composure and patience tho. That's another reason I love lessons - I don't get NEARLY as frustrated as I do while schooling on my own. It's somehow reassuring to have a professional there: I know they will help me so I just keep working.

Anyways we worked on the same stuff as always. Must have an appropriate walk first and foremost. Meaning a collected walk much slower than Isabel's typical ground-eating, over-tracking, rangy walk. I could use my hands to get there, but had to be able to then push the reins forward while maintaining tempo and speed with my seat and legs.

don't believe her snarky expression - she kinda loves all the attention involved with getting her feet done, and she especially loves the farrier's fan
Dan wants every transition to count - saying that the transitions we get while schooling are always better than what we get in the show ring, so we need to ensure the horse is habituated to correct and balanced transitions. He directed me to really push Isabel into the bridle right before the upward transition to trot so that she would step immediately into trot rather than walk faster.

We worked quite a bit on getting Isabel to soften into the contact. Mostly this was due to the aforementioned resistance, and we had a lot more curling this ride and I struggled to not ride with my hands first. He wanted a longer neck - it should feel like I can push my hands forward and soften such that she would also stay soft, rather than popping up and bracing.

During the warm up he periodically asked whether Isabel was even in both reins. The answer was usually 'no.' She likes my left rein, a very newly discovered habit that has likely been going on for ages. Lots of focus on her shoulders, and using my left leg to push her more into the right rein.

it's been so dry out that izzy started getting cracks around the old nail holes. farrier added roomier edges to the shoe to prevent further torque there
Really it was a LOT of pushing through her resistance. We had to maintain the same tempo always - with my seat and legs and post. Tho when we moved to jumping he encouraged me to also use more bend to help achieve softness.

The jumping actually went just fine. I was only allowed to approach the fence (just a single oxer) when I had the correct canter, so really we just spent a long time trying to develop that canter. It got pretty frustrating at times when we'd be careening around with Isabel completely against my hand. With each small circle I became more and more tired, but nothing could improve without me actually *working* for it, so it was a struggle.

When we did actually make it to the jump it usually came up roses bc of all that work on the canter. We started with jumping from the right lead until we were nice, balanced and straight. Then the oxer went up and we changed directions. The left lead is currently easier for us so developing the canter in this direction is much faster, and the jump required fewer repetitions to get the 'correct' effort Dan wanted to see. Oxer went up again and we changed directions back to tracking right. Then repeat with oxer going up once more and tracking left.

current state of isabel's scratches. appears to be on the mend. have switched from desitin mixture to MTG
To finish it out, the oxer changed to a plain vertical (again raised - now to 3'3") that we took from the left lead a couple times with no issues. I honestly thought we could have finished with that. That's the highest fence I've ever jumped that was not a part of a grid or line. And it was nbd.

But no, for the sake of symmetry we came from the right lead too. Oh, and the jump went up again. To 3'6" - easily the biggest thing I've ever faced. Here's where the 'inadvertent' part of this post's title comes in: the pinholes on the standards are labeled - except camp kids did the labeling and measured to where the pinhole itself stands, rather than where a 3" pole resting in a cup at that pinhole sits. So they are all mislabeled. I know this. I also know that Dan does NOT know this. (and as previously mentioned, Dan is very indifferent about heights at the lower levels, whereas I'm a zealot about measurements...)

only photo from the ride. jump looks even spookier in the post-ride darkness (also note the skid marks)
So I don't think the height was intentional (he later referred to it as 3'3")... but we jumped it anyway. However I was a bit preoccupied by it and missed my line a couple times. We still had the right canter and found the jump nicely - but were crooked. In an attempt to fix that I got too handsy and we knocked the rail - which pissed Isabel off (rightly so, sorry mare!). And then the wheels fell off when I kept taking my leg off to the fence and Isabel stopped twice.

Dan dropped the top rail to make it about 2'9" and we got over easily to finish.

Part of me kinda wishes we hadn't pushed it - maybe we should have quit earlier. But then again, we DID actually get it done a couple times and it really wasn't a big deal for the mare. And in fact it was yet another reaffirmation that my margin of error shrinks as the fences grow - the horse might still jump if I take my leg off to the 2'9" fence, but the same mistake at a bigger fence leads to a different result. That's simply a lesson I have to learn.

Maybe one day? Lol... sigh. Do you ever feel like you go a step too far in a lesson? Or is that generally just part of the 'progress isn't comfortable' philosophy?

20 comments:

  1. #1 - I would like the fat tortie delivered to my house, please and thanks. I want to hug her all day.

    #2 - Scratches definitely look better! That's some healthy-looking nice pink skin coming in!

    #3 - Definitely a good lesson, you learned things about the quality of your canter that aren't necessarily apparent at lower heights, and 'raised the bar' (har har) for yourself in terms of accuracy in your ride to the fences!

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    1. lol that tortie is maybe one of the fattest cats around. still quite nimble tho!! and definitely a love bug lap cat :) and yes it was certainly an educational lesson haha

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  2. I definitely think you can go to far in a lesson. Especially if the majority of the lesson is a struggle. It's happened to me and it's not a good feeling. It doesn't sound like the height was pushing it though. What it does sound like is that you worked on so many things to get to that point you both got a little flustered. It still sounds like it was a good lesson.

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    1. yea i think you're right - we both got pretty tired (and she got pretty mad haha) and that certainly didn't help, but we maybe both walked away having learned something. next time it'll be easier!

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  3. stay tuned.... rascal has terrible mud sores. like leg looks like it broke it's so swollen mud sores.

    and yes. jump height matters. down to the cm it matters.

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    1. aw poor rascal! hopefully you can get it under control asap :(

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  4. Unrelated to most of this post, but her tootsies look great! I had my guy done by our barn farrier and 3 days later the vet said yeah, his feet look like $hit. I was minorly mortified.

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    1. honestly i think lots of horses are struggling with crappy feet right now with how dry it's been... but i'm lucky that not only does isabel have phenomenal feet, but her farrier does excellent work. knocking on wood that nothing ever changes there!

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  5. Eh, you tried it and you guys weren't ready for it right now. No harm done. Too bad there aren't kickass pictures of clearing it straight or otherwise. ;-)

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    1. lol right? it's really bumming me out that i haven't been able to get media lately haha. maybe i need to strap my helmet cam to the fence or something

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  6. Ok... it is just me or is that cat's face a little crazy looking. The colour division is so drastic, wow!

    By the way... That looks more 3'9 to me than 3'3.
    3'3... for me.. Ok that is a pretty sizable jump but I will go for it.
    3'6... umm Yeaaaupp... starting to wonder why I do this..
    3'9... mm no. You go ahead. I will watch.

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    1. haha i feel very similarly. pretty much the highest fence i've ever set for myself was around 2'11" ..... but i have this trust thing where if the trainer tells me i can do a thing, i try it. usually the trainer is right but sometimes i surprise them... and yes that cat is crazy looking

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  7. I usually try to stop schooling or stop a lesson before I go too far; Gina is very easily upset and once she's gone over the edge, it's hard to convince her to continue on productively. For example, this morning I was practicing lengthenings...great once, on the second attempt, she cantered. I quit schooling them because I didn't want to drill and drill- she went forward, which is ultimately what I was asking, so I said, "Okay, Gina, we'll try it again another time," and carried on with something else.

    Moe never seems to reach 'too far' lol- he is always like "OKAY WE CAN DO MORE CIRCLES I LOVE CIRCLES JUMPS NOW?????"

    Congrats on better scratches and big jumps!!

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    1. different limits for different horses actually makes a lot of sense. the very last thing i want to do is undermine isabel's confidence - followed closely in second by turning her into a stopper. she's such a game mare tho, and has only ever really quit on my once (our second jumping lesson ever, and all my fault). i try to be sensitive about not pushing, but also tend to err on the side of not pushing enough. tricky balance!

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  8. Omg that cat is so cute, I want one just like that.

    As far as pushing past a certain point, I think you could think of it in both ways. If you never get to the point where you fail, you'll never know what that limit is and you could be capable of so much more but will never know. But then again, if you push to the point where you fail all the time, horse and rider will lose confidence. I think there is a balance. You guys have had such amazing rides lately, that failing every now and again because you pushed yourself is okay.

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    1. that's pretty much how i'm inclined to think about it (esp given your recent post about optimism lol). and our next planned jump lesson will likely not get beyond the 2'6"-2'9" range, so it'll be an excellent opportunity to solidify anything that might have cracked a bit under the pressure of this lesson

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    2. ^ What Megan said. Yes.

      Also, you are absolutely correct: the bigger the jumps, the less room for errors. Back in my jumper land days, my trainers discovered that I stopped chasing the horse to fences if they raised the jumps beyond 3'3". Which is how I ended up regularly schooling 3'6"-4' during my last jumping days. I *finally* started waiting for the jump. And that springy uphill canter that your trainers have been schooling you about ;) becomes a vital part of the approach to bigger fences. It is intimidating but SO much fun when you trust your horse and you nail it!

      Congrats on getting it done! :D

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    3. thanks - that's good to hear. right now i actually am in a weird place where i definitely make more mistakes when the jump goes up (nerves), but simultaneously i'm not adequately respecting smaller fences so i'm screwing those up too haha. but yea i do feel like we've got a positive enough balance of trust right now to make a couple mistakes and try to get it right before i start doing permanent damage to either of us.

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  9. Catching up on blog posts...

    "I don't get NEARLY as frustrated as I do while schooling on my own. It's somehow reassuring to have a professional there: I know they will help me so I just keep working." I like this. I'm the opposite, but you have such a good point. A really good point. I'm going to try to keep that in mind when I attend my lesson this Friday.

    As for pushing it...I think it's a fine line between pushing too far (is the horse at their limit or are you at yours? Questions I have to ask myself) and being uncomfortable (self doubt for me). I live by the whole "life begins at the end of your comfort zone" because I find that when I push myself hard to the point of discomfort I learn the most. But for my green horse, I have a harder time figuring out if the line of discomfort is going to help him learn or cause him to explode and create issues later, you know? Greenies are tricky though...

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    1. lol glad you like that point about frustration! tho in the interest of honesty i almost lost it in a lesson just last week so... it happens. but really, somehow i have a much longer fuse in lessons than otherwise.

      nice point also about pushing the horse's limit vs my own. i agree that they are different and that it's worth being cognizant of who is getting pushed to figure out if it's appropriate or not. it's perhaps a little easier in my case bc while isabel might be green to this level of jumping, she's still a broke horse who understands the game and isn't gonna get totally flustered or confused the same way a baby will.

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