Wednesday, August 10, 2016

from one end of the spectrum to the other

Thing I learned in my recent dressage lesson with trainer C: that lovely seemingly full-sized chestnut Gogo from last weekend's jump lesson was actually just a middle-of-the-road sized horse. They apparently come bigger than that. LOTS bigger.

In my never ending quest to apparently not ride any one particular horse twice in a row, I got the pleasure of making at new friend at C's barn. Normally she would have put me on that lovely gray Dutch mare Star (remember her from last January?), but Star had already earned her oats for the day and there happened to be a fully leased horse whose rider is away for the month.

dis is Cole
This tall drink of water sticks at 18.1 and has a fair bit of TB in him. He is the epitome of the gentleman tho - in fact I informed trainer C upon bringing him into the arena that he and I had already agreed - he'd be coming home with me to stay forever and ever. (never mind that he would never in a million years fit in my trailer lol). 

He was a real sweetie to groom and tack up (and was quite pleased to learn I had a pocket full of life savers), and once in the arena was just soooooo comfortable. Sitting on him kinda felt like coming home haha. Except that I kinda felt like the head and neck and shoulders in front of me were basically the same length as one entire Isabel.... 


He was cool to ride too in that he had his own motor (not that it stopped me from nagging him constantly anyway). C worked on me getting my toes more forward and bringing the entire back of my calf and thigh off the horse with every post - trying to get my leg to hang in more of that sorta floppy dressagey kinda way. Something that is SUPER challenging for me bc I want to wing my toes out and grip with my calves, curling my legs up in the process. 

It took a while but I maybe sorta kinda got a feel for it... will need more practice and thoughtfulness tho I think.

already bffs 4 eva
Once I kinda got my legs working in a more dressagey way, C had me start on trying to get Cole round. And. Um. That's basically how the rest of the lesson went. I wish I had something groundbreaking to share, but really this horse was just SO DIFFERENT OMG on the contact than Isabel.

He wanted WAY more weight in the reins and more movement of the bit. Like, I've never actually ridden a horse like that before. It was a struggle bc I'm so accustomed to Isabel, who will duck behind the contact, so I'm too quick in throwing it away. So then I swung too far in the opposite direction and just set my hands heavy against him and we kinda had a tug of war.

pictures don't do his size justice since he's actually quite nicely proportioned
It was really difficult to balance out getting the weight in the reins that he needed - but to keep it moving and dynamic. Tho it actually reminded me a little bit of what Stephen Birchall had said when I audited him last November about "rattling" the horse off the reins.

I maybe got little moments here and there - but honestly we never really settled into a true steady contact. My timing wasn't good enough to reward him when he got there bc all of the aids were so much stronger than I'm used to and it was hard to just turn that on and off.

these stalls are also very generously proportioned with fairly high walls, not that you can tell with Cole in it haha
I had actually set up a helmet camera on the wall to record the lesson. And it was interesting for me to watch.... But. There weren't exactly any exciting clips worth taking the time to edit and upload. It really truly was just me trotting in endless circles on a gorgeous giant dressage horse who never really actually got round lol.

picking one still from 45 minutes of footage of the same goddamn thing was tough. this is all you get. sorry, kinda
So it was kinda a bizarre lesson. The work on getting my lower legs hanging better has definitely stood out in rides since then, which is good. And perhaps the work on the contact will pay dividends too, even tho I never really mastered it on Cole.

I'm thinking that he's just a really REALLY exaggerated version of how contact works for some horses. It was certainly very enlightening on why just setting against the horse will never work tho lol. 

so here's a pic of a baby horse instead of any other compelling media!
It's kinda funny, in a way. Riding him made me start to think about how I've done better lately with greener horses (like Krimpet or Wick) or horses who have been out of work (like Noel). But horses who are pretty legitimately schooled and who are accustomed to a higher standard of riding (like Gogo, Cole, and let's not forget Rico, Pig and Star) have eluded me.

Have you had a similar experience? Where you can get better results from something greener vs something that already knows how things are supposed to be?  Thoughts on why that might be? Or is your experience the opposite?

50 comments:

  1. My experience always depended on the horse and their personality. Sometimes I could figure them out and get a productive ride out of them on the first go, sometimes it took several rides.

    It's wonderful that you are riding so many different horses. This is going to be huge for you: there comes a time when you've ridden so enough horses that coming back to yours feels like coming home...and easy! Or you realize that you want and need something completely different. You also reach a point when you are able to pick up on what each horse needs from their rider within minutes of getting on. It's a really cool feeling. I catch rode and exercise rode in exchange for lessons, all on horses that were not my own, for many, many years. I would not have been able to take on Lily and turn her into the horse she has become if it hadn't been for those experiences.

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    1. yea i agree about it being somewhat dependent on personality. Mr Cole here kinda listened to me futz around initially and decided that i was probably an idiot, and that maybe spelled the end of that - i was gonna have to be absolutely perfect to get his attention after that haha (a tall, perhaps insurmountable, order for me at present!)

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  2. I'm mired in the land of "Instructor says horse is ready to do contact; horse and rider are cluelessly flailing about". Lesson horses, I can do contact because they know about it. My own horse? Flailing cluelessly. We are working on it, but progress is slow and frustrating. *sigh* There is no magic bullet, apparently, so we'll keep plugging away.

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    1. oy i remember when isabel and i were stuck in that no-man's-land too. it was... not the most fun ever! esp since she was the first horse that i really learned about contact with, so there was much flailing lol. good luck tho - i'm sure you guys will get it soon!

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  3. OMG - I don't think anything really stuck after 18.1 hands! That is a BIG boy :)

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    1. omg he was GIANT!! but so so so sweet, very in your pocket type. i pretty much adored him lol

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  4. The bigger the horse the harder they are to put together in my experience. That said Annie is much more challenging than Houston ever was to convince to go on the bit, through her back, etc.
    sounds like it was a good experience for you!

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    1. definitely a good experience. i think some of this trickiness was size dependent (it reallly was an awful lot of horse!), but i am not convinced that size alone is the primary factor. for instance - Wick and Gogo are pretty similar sizes but both go into contact somewhat differently. isabel can be light as a feather and very quick to duck behind contact, but similarly sized Noel is a heavier feel

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    2. Agree with hillary, Ramone was very hard to put together, even though he wasn't a complicated horse to ride. I imagine an 18.1hh would be even harder.

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    3. i def believe that size can play a role in how easy / hard it is - but would argue that so could conformation (shorter or longer back, for instance), movement, or how hot or cold the horse runs. and that not all big horses are harder and not all small horses are easier. ie - it's not a direct correlation between height and ease / difficulty to put together, tho there is a relationship.

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  5. This is really interesting. I've never had a problem putting a well schooled horse together since I figured it out for the mare I rode in GA, but since that point I have only been on three that I can think of. All three of them belonged to trainers that I had ridden with consistently, so I think that was an advantage. Not to mention that I'm super tall so bigger horses still fit me well. I do agree with the above comment that larger horses are harder to put together. Hopefully you can sneak some more lessons with him, because he sounds fun!
    But last Jan when I got on a super fancy well trained horse I couldn't remember how to make her walk off...so there was that.

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    1. that's lucky that you always have such good experiences on schooled horses! i have found that they often have greater clarity on what constitutes a correct push of the button and what does not - meaning some of my more garbled attempts are deemed insufficient lol.

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  6. All I've ridden for the last 3 years has been green beans -- now I'm kind of wondering how it would even go if I got on something experienced! Haha.

    I'm definitely jealous of all the horses you're getting to experience right now, ultimately I think it's definitely helping your riding!

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    1. ha yea it's an adjustment switching from riding the same thing all the time to getting more variety. isabel actually stands as the only horse i've ridden consistently for more than a year, so that was a bit of an anomaly itself (i've never owned or leased before). so in some ways it's nice to get back to the variety haha

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  7. He is a big boy! The big horses are fun. Wait till you ride one that has the stride that makes you feel like you are double posting! Hard hard hard.

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    1. ha yea the WB Mocha i rode in college was like that - and so crazy uphill that it legitimately felt like scaling a mountain just trying to post on him. plus he took soooooo much leg omg you never for a moment forgot you were riding a gargantuan lol. this guy Cole tho - he was smooth and comfortable and just glided across the ground. definitely a nice ride!

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  8. Love his kind eye! I think sometimes riding a greener/less educated horse is easier because you can just tell them how it's gonna be, where as with a very well-schooled horse you actually have to, ya know, ride well for them to do what you're asking. A less well trained horse will sometimes just accept that what you're saying is right, even if it's... not.

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    1. yea that's basically the conclusion i'm starting to come to now haha - and it's not actually the most welcome feeling! i had come to think that maybe i have a clue when riding these green beans, but then good ol' Cole brought me back down to earth like, uh sorry emma but no you *can't* actually get me on the bit lol

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    2. Wish my leaser grasped this concept and that no, a schoolmaster will not do everything flawlessly, on their own, because they are still a horse...you have to tell them what to do PROPERLY. *eye roll*

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    3. admittedly it's a tricky (and somewhat humbling lol) concept!! kinda like the idea of watching someone go on a nice horse and thinking "well sure i'd be able to do that too if i had a horse that nice!" except.... sorry, no. nice horses need to be ridden too, and sometimes they apparently require a higher degree of precision and correctness. go figure!

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    4. Lol. Monica. I wish schoolmasters came with users manuals so people would realize that. There could be a disclaimer on the front that says "horse will only do what he's told. Will not ride himself for you."

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    5. haha i would LOVE a user manual!

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    6. I literally wish I could paste one on Yankee's neck for her, because the poor girl is frustrated she can't score above a 46. And I'm like when in doubt, MOAR LEG hahaha. Austen, thats hilarious though. So true!!

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    7. omg Monica - i can see the answer so clearly!! custom embroidered gloves: "MOAR" on the left hand, "LEG" on the right. if she's anything like me, she's always looking down anyway - and then the gloves will be right there ready to show her the way!!

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  9. Look at Mr. Giant McLargeHuge! I love him!

    But on a serious not, I really enjoy riding both the green beans and the more experience horses. I feel that spending time on a variety of horses can really broaden your abilities to work with whatever you get that day. Horses are so diverse and particular. Having a variety of 'answers' to help them can really change the game.

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    1. omg lol @ "Mr Giant McLargeHuge"!!!! haha! and i'm in absolute agreement with broadening my toolkit by working with all different kinds of horses.

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  10. What a gorgeous, massive horse! In my quest to own all the big ponies, would they care to give him to meh? hahaha!

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    1. haha you'll have to pry him away from me first!!!! he's apparently one of the most popular horses on the farm, such a sweetie!

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  11. Haha, I have a hard time adjusting to the greenies I occasionally ride because I spend most of my time riding my two very experienced horses. I usually end asking too much of the green horses. (That's why I'm trying to be extra careful with Candy!)

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    1. it's so interesting how we all get so habituated to our ways of going. i feel like i have the opposite problems from you - i'm too easy to settle for mediocre from a good experienced horse rather than demanding more bc that's how i'd approach a greenie learning a new concept.

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  12. You are ready for Stamp now if you ever make it out this way, he's also 18.1. :)

    I really haven't gotten to ride a lot of horses that understand contact besides my own so it's hard for me to say. When I was riding Willow she seemed to catch on pretty quickly to it once we worked on it at the walk first - she's not green but her owner just doesn't ride her on contact so she was new to the concept. Stampede was a green horse when I started and I remember struggling a bit to teach him contact at one point but then a very wise woman at my barn (who passed away a couple years ago sadly) said that I just needed to ask for the contact all the time not just sometimes and from there it was pretty smooth sailing. I will say though that of the very few people who have ridden Stamp besides me only one has gotten him on contact so maybe that's a bad sign?

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    1. wow i didn't realize Stampede was that tall! good point tho about always asking vs only sometimes - that definitely played a big role in figuring out the contact with isabel too.

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    2. He has a tall owner so we balance each other out. That's also why the jumps always look small in my show photos, lol.

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    3. ha yea that makes sense! he's such a handsome guy <3

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  13. I think I would feel very intimidated by a horse that big! Sydney is 16 hand and that is just right as far as I am concerned!

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    1. he was so sweet tho - really a total gentle giant!

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  14. I totally know what you mean and I think its because the schooled horses just have so many more buttons.

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    1. maybe. i kinda wish those buttons weren't so sticky tho!

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  15. So cool to try a different type of ride. I bet you learned more from this ride than you realized! That's always how it is for me. I think it was terrible and awful, and then a month later I find myself using all the things I learned. Haha

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    1. oh definitely - i'm quite happy with the lesson and have been thinking a lot about all the little pieces that worked or didn't work. obvi the intensity and strength of the aids needs to be adapted to the horse, but it definitely added clarity to why certain things have worked with isabel when maybe i hadn't really felt the distinction as clearly before

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  16. 18.1 is huge. That horse should be in jumpers, not dressage. He could just step over everything. How cool that you're getting to ride all these different horses.

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    1. haha yea he is pretty big. pretty sure he already did his stint in the jumpers. he has full siblings who evented too. it's pretty hard to keep these giant guys comfortable jumping at the highest levels tho i think

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  17. I grew up on a horse that NEVER took a true contact and basically lived behind my leg/behind the vertical. She also never stopped moving, so we made do. It's taken a whole series of VERY different rides as an adult to start figuring out what people mean when they say "contact" and how it means different things for different horses. Quite an adventure!

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    1. adventure is the perfect word for it. it's weird bc i'm personally more comfortable on forward thinking pull rides compared to push rides... but despite isabel's hotness she's technically a push ride and she's what i've learned contact on. so it's kinda playing out differently now that i'm experimenting more with other horses haha

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  18. Way back in my lesson days, I remember it taking more than one ride to really feel comfortable on a new horse. I think there's also something to be said, regardless of size, of how the horse is built and feels comfortable moving.

    I'm trying to be less of a size-ist, but I would steal Cole in a heartbeat. I think you need a TB. :)

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    1. haha i definitely agree about needing a tb ;) one day, one day!! but yea, also agreed on taking some time to figure a horse out. some are easier reads - but generally, yea it gets a little better with every ride. esp since i tend to be a little conservative my first ride (or few) on a new horse

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  19. I feel like more experienced horses have had longer to set into a particular style of riding, whereas the greenies are a bit more adaptable as they're still continuously learning!

    It's amazing how quick you adapt as a rider though and I imagine that the next time you ride him (if you ride him again) you'll surprise yourself.

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    1. i think you're right about them growing accustomed to a certain style as they become more schooled, vs a greenie (esp a horse like krimpet who gets used in lessons) who don't really have much of a baseline

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  20. I'm late to this, but I also have the experience that I am better at riding younger, greener horses than I am at riding more schooled ones. I think it's because most young horses are in a similar place and need similar thin sand respond to similar things. But once a horse is more schooled they have WAYS that they want to go and THINGS that they need you to do. So you have to do those THINGS right in the WAY the pony wants. And that is especially hard for me.

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