Thursday, March 3, 2016

the great outdoors + retrospection

As mentioned yesterday, I don't really have a whole lot to say about our recent jump lesson beyond: it was OUTSIDE (!!) and super fun (!!!). And we didn't actually brutally mow down any innocent dogs. Winning, right?

seriously, what's not to love? 
That's not much in the way of compelling content... but, generally speaking, I really enjoy looking at pictures of this little red pocket rocket... so hopefully you'll forgive my lack of deep and profound insights from the lesson in exchange for low-quality video stills of Isabel doin her thang.

love the horse. do not love my too-long reins and subsequently broken wrists lol
I probably sound like a broken record, but Isabel has been pretty much the most fun EVAR to jump since we've come back from my injury-induced break. Aside from our first jump lesson back (the one stride grids of oxers... probably not the most fair thing for a horse who hadn't jumped in two months...), Isabel has been 100% GAME ON.

reins still too long. horse still too game to care
Specifically: Isabel feels REALLY good in the bridle, like she's very happy to push up in front of my leg and into the contact, lifting her shoulders for that big bouncy canter that can easily compress or lengthen, and with which we can jump from any distance.

airy square oxers = nbd
When we have this canter, there's literally no such thing as a 'chip' stride (historically our biggest vulnerability) - there's just occasionally 'deep' and 'long' spots. Even so, tho, when she feels so good in the bridle and the canter is right, it's easy to see the spot, deep or long as it may be, from far enough out to adjust enough to get there mostly nicely.

even smaller plain verticals are worth a showy effort
Now - don't get me wrong here, this doesn't mean that we're not still susceptible to pilot error.

I am still 100% capable of holding for the add when the step is more appropriate. Or, conversely, I don't struggle in the least with chasing the mare past her distance and pulling a rail (example in the video below lol). And - should I fail to do anything to adjust for a bad distance - Isabel might answer with a refusal.

caution panel square oxer!!! 
The thing is, tho, it's easier than ever to give Isabel a good enough ride such that she can easily get the job done well. Guys. I think this is what it means for a horse to be 'well schooled.' And that is... crazy talk to me. Absurd, honestly. Especially considering where we started.

wheeee!!!!
It might not seem like it from the outside looking in, but Isabel hasn't always been the easiest to jump - esp for a nervous rider learning to STFU while still being effective. She was never 'hard' in that she jumps the jumps and is incredibly honest. The tricky parts were her inconsistent rhythm, issues with straightness, and talent for getting fast while staying stuck behind my leg.

forward thinking mare is forward thinking
Again, these are things that could have been easier for a different rider to fix, maybe. But they were what I was working with. I remember watching the Anne Kursinski video series a year ago, during which she offhandedly remarked that the demo horse was 'well schooled.' That really struck me. I wondered, 'would Isabel ever be well schooled?'

I actually legitimately had a post on the subject sitting around in my drafts folder for ages, musing on what it means to be 'well schooled,' etc., and why I thought it might be beyond us.

mare could do it in her sleep
But now I'm starting to honestly believe we've maybe turned that corner, at least for our level. Check out the video below to see what I mean. Isabel just easily moves into a nice forward rhythm that's in front of my leg, and has a nice lifted balance in her front end.

Sure, at times we got a little too flat/fast - esp when I pushed her up unnecessarily to the first fence - and there are corrections to be made in my own riding. Generally, tho, Isabel gives a very clear impression of a horse who understands this job and could probably get it done with a dog or sack of potatoes interchanged for the rider.

February 2016 video here

So I dug through the archives to find some videos representative of our typical 'best' at the time when I lamented how we'd never be considered well schooled. Keep in mind, tho - these videos are from a year and a half into our partnership, and after 6 months of lessons. The very earliest days were... something else entirely lol.

First up: Video of our first full 2'6" course together. Some nice jumps, some... squirrelly jumps. The inconsistent rhythm is on full display, esp highlighted in our difficulties finding the in jumps.

November 2014 video here

The difference might seem subtle, but I think it's very real. Isabel naturally has a nice canter, but in these videos it's flatter, and kinda 'blah.' She's also consistently behind my leg bc I had zero feel for an elastic forward contact (still working on that, actually, haha) and wasn't adding a ton of leg bc she would just zooom forward out of balance.

Exhibit B is a video from that same fall - an easy breezy schooling ride that left me feeling great. And sure - Isabel looks mostly pretty good. But again she's kinda flat and behind my leg - as evidenced by how much effort she has to exert to pick her shoulders up over some of the jumps. 

September 2014 video here

The biggest differences to me are in Isabel's balance: the 'jump' in her canter, lift in her shoulders and push from the hind end. And the fact that she will push into the bridle and lengthen when I apply leg, instead of just going faster.

Plus, kinda the biggest of all: she will easily carry herself like this with minimal rider effort.

And it feels GOOD. My confidence took another hit after breaking my leg, and even now I'm a little tentative about the "bigger" jumps. But Isabel is decidedly NOT tentative and is carrying me forward and making it nbd even when I'm nervous. I pretty much luvs it, guys :D

This still leaves me with the question I pondered so many months ago, tho: How do you really define 'well schooled'? What does it really mean to be well schooled vs. green? Does it depend on the horse? Or the discipline and/or level? Can you be well schooled at 2'6" and simultaneously green at 3'? I'm curious to hear your thoughts!

38 comments:

  1. Yay, having these videos to look back on is awesome to track your fantastic progress with the wondermare ♡
    I think you can deff be well schooled at one level and green at the next level up - both horse and rider in fact. It's always a learning curve with horses, the moment we're susceptible to thinking we've "got" something they'll find a way to pull a fast one on us and bring things back a couple of steps...not saying this'll happen here as you've an awesome team of teachers helping you. I'm talking about my diva/dramamare redhead lolz

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    1. haha i think you're totally right about the horses pulling a 'fast one' on us the moment we feel lulled into a false sense of security! and i may or may not have relearned that lesson in my ride last night after writing this post, wherein this lovely canter that i keep gushing about was nowhere to be found ;)

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  2. You have done an amazing job with Iz! I love your little pocket rocket. I think as you continue to improve your dressage your jumping will keep improving.

    As far as well schooled goes I think it is totally dependent on the discipline and level. Well schooled to me means they know their job and need minimal input from us and you feel like you can put someone else on there and they can get the same results.

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    1. i definitely credit the dressage with a lot of isabel's improvement - esp her willingness to push into the bridle from her hind end. but yea - that 'minimal input' and being able to do the same work with someone different might be my ideas for 'well schooled' too

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  3. The difference in the videos is seriously night and day!! You should be seriously proud of the progress you and Isabel have made! I do think a horse can be "well schooled" at one level and not at a higher level, and that "well schooled" means that the horse will respond correctly to aids given for level-appropriate activities. A well-schooled horse knows their job and can do it well without confusion or tension.

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    1. i am seriously proud of this little mare - she just keeps on truckin! and i like your points about responding 'correctly to the aids' and without confusion or tension

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  4. Very nice and it's awesome you are having so much fun with her. Well schooled is possibly more of a matter of opinion than a clear definition. But you can be well schooled in one area, level or discipline and green in another. You can also be well schooled at home yet green at competitions. Or well schooled with one rider yet not experienced enough to be consistent no matter who is aboard. Those are just my thoughts. Maybe when I feel like we are well schooled I will have a better idea. 6yrs with steady and I think the moment I say we are well schooled the world will come crashing down..lol

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    1. oh man, we are having SO MUCH fun haha :D good points about home vs. away - i think that's definitely a very real factor for most horses. and i suppose you're onto something about the world crashing down - it does seem a little bit like tempting fate to write on this subject... but idk. i gotta lotta faith in this little red mare!

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    2. Oh I'm sure she's way different (by different I mean better ) than Steady. He's quite special in a different sort if way. I was just speaking for me. I grew up riding a feisty Arab and he was game for everything too! And so smart once he got something he got it for good. Ottb's not so much.

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    3. haha yea so you already know all about it then! still, tho, it's a very good point to not get lulled into a false sense of security.. it's a good subject for me to think on tho, as i tend to be a very micro-managerial rider, and thinking of my horse as 'schooled' might help me just leave her be to do her job

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  5. Man, I cannot WAIT to ride outside again! Lucky duck

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    1. it really is such a relief to get back out again. indoors are nothing short of magical, sure.... but nothing beats the openness of an outdoor!

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  6. You guys look so great! It's really nice to have old material to compare to. I agree that a huge part of improvement in her jumping comes from the quality of her canter! All that dressagin' is paying off in spades!

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    1. thanks! that's exactly what it feels like and i really couldn't be happier!

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  7. You've found the invincible canter! :D It's a lovely thing

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    1. I definitely love it when we got it!

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  8. Looks like soooo much fun!

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  9. :-) Glad you guys are coming back strong!

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    1. Me too - definitely helps ye olde confidence

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  10. Wow, you guys look awesome! You have really come so far! Looks like a blast!

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  11. You're both looking great- really confident and really excited!

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    1. thanks - i love riding her when she feels like this haha, tho sometimes she's perhaps slightly over exuberant lol

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  12. How wonderful! It's a great feeling when you, all of a sudden, give them the benefit of the doubt and realize that somehow, overnight, they grew up! I've experienced that a lot this past year myself.

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    1. definitely a wonderful feeling! and honestly i probably could have given izzy the benefit of the doubt a little earlier... but that's one of the side effects of being a nervous rider - i want to micromanage everything haha

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  13. You two are both just looking so awesome and comfortable out there. I too am wondering what makes a horse "well schooled." But I believe you must be pretty close!

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    1. thanks! she's really just the most fun evar!

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  14. Your release is ONPOINT. You guys look amazing. Don you just love adjustable, bouncy cantering

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    1. omg bouncy adjustable canters are BEST canters!!

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  15. You two look like you are having an absolute blast out there (and I love how her tail jumps every jump)!

    I generally think of well schooled as a horse that if you do it right, the horse does its job correctly and if you mess up within a certain standard deviation, the horse knows enough about what is expected to cover for you.
    And sure, you can be well schooled at one height and green at another, totally legit!

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    1. ha i love how her tails jumps too lolz. and yea i think your definitely hits pretty close to my impression too - esp the bit about how the horse can still make it happen even with a certain degree of rider error

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  16. In my experience, when the jumps go up the questions also become much more difficult. So a horse that is "well-schooled" and packs around 2'6 probably won't feel as solid going around courses at 3'. But being really solid at 2'6 will make moving up seem much easier than if you were just mostly OK at 2'6. You guys look great, and I bet as the jumps go up again, you'll find things much easier than they were before!

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    1. yup that's been my experience too. i can get away with things at BN height that definitely do NOT work at N lol

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  17. Hard work pays off! :)

    (And omg those dogs lol XP)

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  18. wow!

    You can really see how airy she gets now1

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