Wednesday, November 30, 2016

magic trainer dust

I bet if you looked back at all the times I've written about dressage trainer C from TM Farm, at least half would go something along the lines of "Gosh it's been forever since I've ridden with her and I miss it desperately!!" And so it goes.

My last lesson with C was in August, on her giant warmblood gelding Cole. And I've eagerly counted the days until she could meet Charlie. The main delay was the trailer: loading Charlie onto the Calico trailer was a two person job and that's just not feasible for solo travel. So the first order of business upon buying the Cotner was getting on C's lesson schedule!!

orally fixated horse will perform for snax!!!!
he's also not totally clear why i'm bothering him so early in the morning lol
There's no media from the ride so you're just going to have to take my word for it: Charlie was a star! He was immediately the softest over his back that he's ever been, and actually had moments where he could maybe have even been considered going on a contact.

Obviously this is all relative folks - you saw the pics and video from our dressage show, and no I'm not trying to say he morphed into Valegro the moment he stepped into the indoor at TM....

But. He did in fact go super well, tried very hard, and perfectly demonstrated to trainer C exactly what we're working with here. And naturally C had just the right kind of magic trainer dust to sprinkle on us to help Charlie perform to his very best!
side story: i hemmed and hawed about whether to leave his sheet on for the trailer ride, since it was so wet and chilly out. whelp. i chose poorly. one of the leg straps got caught on the butt bar closure on charlie's way off the trailer... at least he was very mature about it. paused long enough for me to see the problem... but there wasn't anything i could do to help him so he freed himself at the expense of the (new) sheet (rip). and immediately set about grazing at the new-to-him farm as if nothing had happened. good horse, bad handler....
Anyway. Dressage lessons are tricky enough to recap as it is. And those of you who watched our dressage test video from this past weekend already know that we're not exactly digging into the meaty cerebral nuances of pure dressage yet. So our conversation to kick off the lesson sounded a bit like:

Trainer C: "What have you been working on?"
Emma: "The most basic of the basics."
Trainer C: "Ok. So is there anything in particular you want us to look at today?"
Emma: "Nope, have your way with us!"

hangin in the wash stall mostly kinda sorta patiently! i normally tack up at the trailer but damn that rain was miserable
Rather than give you a further play-by-play narrative of how it all unfolded, I'm breaking it into three main categories of bullet points. Mostly for my own reference but who knows, maybe some nugget will translate for your own horse too?

Anyway. First up, and for my own personal gratification:

First Impressions of the Horse:
  • Loved Charlie's expression, observing that he should develop into a very fine looking guy. Saying she expects he'll have a lot of 'presence' and that these TB geldings always mature into very handsome faces. This reminded me of Trainer P saying Charlie has the build for a very 'elegant' picture. Fingers crossed I can do it justice!
  • Expects he's going to look like an entirely different horse in six months. 
  • Liked his brain and understood why I bought for the brain even if it doesn't come with much flash. She agreed that Charlie seems perfectly suitable for my purposes, tho also noted he's got a nice enough look to him that he would be easy to sell if we ultimately didn't mesh. 
  • Decided that the canter is his best gait.

inspecting all the mirrors in the new indoor!
Next up, all the various little tips and tricks and kernels of wisdom that I need to remember while riding:

For the Rider:
  • My legs need to seriously loosen up. Especially that inside leg. 
  • Think about it hanging around loosely to bump on and off Charlie's side to keep activating his inside hind, and keep him bringing that leg up and under himself.
  • Because I need to ride more forward. More. MOAR. 
  • Notable: she had me pick up a dressage whip partway through the ride. I usually ride with a crop but hadn't tried a whip yet (tho I carry one for ground work). I expected it to be a nonissue and Charlie agreed.
  • My outside hand needs to be basically irrelevant. Plant it low near the withers and keep it there. (I imagine it behaving somewhat like a side rein - steady but neutral).
  • Raise and open my inside hand (thumbs up plz!), but with reins short enough that my hand doesn't need to go drifting off into the stratosphere. 
  • Use circles in the short ends to establish FORWARD and BEND (forever and ever, amen), then work to hold that going down the long sides too. 

alllllll of them!! they're so much cleaner here than at our home barn haha
  • Trainer C was cool with the strategies I've been using for canter departs. 
  • Basically Charlie is funny about his leads. He has both, can pick both up nicely, but is occasionally sticky on one or the other (it changes). 
  • Often if I get the wrong one a couple times in a row, I'll just change directions so that it becomes correct. Then usually when we go for the next one it's there. We also used the h/j trainer M's idea of making half turns back to the rail to lead into the depart. 
  • Trainer C thought both were totally fine - but reminded me to always organize and bring the horse back to stasis before asking again if we biff it. That I shouldn't be contorting myself into a pretzel just to get the lead, bc otherwise he'll think that's what a canter depart is and I'll always have to do it like that. 
  • It's worth noting that by the time we got to the canter, Charlie was pretty tired and we struggled a little bit. C said tho that once you get the lead you want, don't canter around on it forever - make it quick and easy then apply praise.

this sure beats the last picture i took in this pose, with Ms Krimpet lol
For the Horse:
  • Basically if Charlie gets too heavy or too high in his head, he's probably not moving forward enough from his hind end.
  • He's got to be able to get his shoulders up and out of the way and bring his hind legs up and under.
  • Leg yields are going to be my friend for this.
  • Charlie's natural inclination is to be a LOT heavier than I'm used to - we will both likely need to do some adjusting here. 
  • When changing directions, Charlie's allowed to take time to change bend - even if it takes a full circle, let him go gradually if he needs it. That doesn't mean 19 million circles tho haha.
  • Tracking left is just plain harder - but he's basically just doing what race horses do. It'll take time but he's trying!
  • Charlie's hind end gets tired pretty quickly right now. 
  • He trips and stumbles bc he's shuffling and not stepping under himself. 
  • Damn, his true working trot is a LOT bigger/faster than I've been riding it. It's maybe a little outside of my comfort zone haha. C told me to take advantage of his power forward immediately after a canter to really settle into that bigger trot. 

temporarily stall squatting bc homeboy had to pee (#racehorseproblems) and trainer C wasn't about to let him desecrate her nice footing lol
So. This was undoubtedly the hardest both Charlie and I have each worked since we met each other two months ago lol. It was good tho. Charlie was very good. I'm really happy with him.

He's a VERY different ride from Isabel tho - and in some ways much more physical. I'm gonna need a lot more core strength if I have any hope of avoiding feeling like he's pulling me down out of the saddle lol. Rather, it's supposed to feel like he pulls me down into the saddle.

Trainer C always knows how to get the best ride out of me tho (and the horses too) so hopefully we're starting on that path of building the right muscles and habits in these lessons!

44 comments:

  1. Yay for lessons!!! I can't wait to see how Charlie develops. He is such a cool dude.

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    1. I can't wait too - tho I'm also eager for my own muscles to develop too haha so I can stop feeling like I need to hold his head up lol

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  2. That sounds great! I love what she said about Charlie and that he didnt freak out over the leg straps!

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    1. Oh man I was super relieved that he was cool about getting stuck and shredding the sheet.... He has given me no reason to expect anything else but still. That's not really starting off on the right foot at a new place!!

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  3. YAY CHARLIE"S FIRST C LESSON! I've been eagerly awaiting this. I really want to come ride with C one day. I LOVE your recaps of her lessons. I will be enjoying them especially more now that you're working through super basic things and moving upward since I'm in a similar place and thus nod along 10x more than before. I can't wait to see how Charlie looks in May!

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    1. Oh man she really is the best!! Hopefully I can get some video sooner rather than later to help catch more detail about what she is saying!! Regardless next time you're in town we should try to get something scheduled!!!

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  4. Very awesome!! And wow some of the things your trainer says must be universal cause i was checking it off in my head (forward, moving hind leg under, thumbs up, check check check) HA. Great job (And ummm wasnt your last horse like an arab?? I am sure Charlie is TOTALLY DIFFERENT like in a different country LOLOLOL) You couldnt have skewed farther away if you had tried. Enjoy him he sounds like he really will be great for you (core what core? LOL)

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    1. Ha yup 14.3h red Arab mare vs 17h tb gelding. It's a difference! And yup lol I'm pretty sure the most fundamental tenets of dressage are universal. Somehow or another I still need the reminder of having someone call it out to me tho! (And writing it all down, however redundant, helps too!!)

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  5. What a fun lesson for you guys! Trainer C sounds like a great resource.

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    1. She is pretty fantastic - I learn so much from riding with her!!

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  6. Yay for lessons with Trainer C! I always enjoy your dressage recap stuff and since Charlie is kinda beginner, this stuff is a lot more relevant to da Bird, who is still working on the whole contact gig. Like, that's our winter project.

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    1. ha yup, my winter project too!! basically according to trainer C, it's all that function of forward and bend. power forward, and bend, more forward, and bend. over and over and over. and at least in this case, it's more forward than i've been wanting to ride the horse -- we've been doing bending galore while schooling on my own, but it hasn't made much of a difference bc he hasn't been coming forward enough with his hind end to make it work

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  7. Oooo now that's one nice indoor arena

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    1. i love it there haha - and somehow horses just seem to love it too!!

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  8. C sounds great! I"m glad Charlie is proving himself to be a solid and sensible fellow.

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    1. so far so good on the solid and sensible front haha - hopefully we can keep it fun for him too!

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  9. Love!! You must be so motivated after that lesson! :D

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    1. definitely!! tho also maybe a little sore too haha

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  10. If that's a SP sheet, you can prob return it for a refund or a new one.

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    1. there's no 'probably' about it!

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    2. and therein lies the beauty of smartpak blankets.

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    3. Therein lies the beauty of everything SmartPak ;)

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  11. Can you send me that indoor, pls? And YAY for an awesome lesson!

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    1. this indoor is magical, i swear. horses get in there and just.... relax into their thinking caps. it's incredible lol. i swear there's some sort of dressage osmosis that happens there

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  12. If there is anything I learned from Megan is that you buy a nice canter because the trot can be fixed!

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    1. that's what i'm hoping for!! it's funny bc i wasn't even all that impressed with his canter when i first went to see him... but i absolutely love riding it and all my trainers like it too!! just goes to show what i know lol

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  13. really great writeup. a lot of the stuff i struggled with/worked on is the same as stuff you've detailed here. thats always interesting to me bc ive now trained... one horse from greenness and i assumed they're all weird and different but really its just different variations of move forward OFF the leg.

    the lead thing will work out better as he gets stronger. the first couple months i owned runkle i didnt canter cause it was a little too... flaily and unproductive.

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    1. yep it's basically always been the same stuff again and again. for me the challenge isn't so much that anything changes conceptually from horse to horse -- rather it's the feel and the timing and the balancing of one aid over another that seems more individualized to each horse, and that's the part that i'm not super good at figuring out yet. thank god for trainers tho!!

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  14. Awwww I love all this. So glad you have him!

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    1. thanks!!! i'm pretty happy with how things are going, and definitely THRILLED to be settling back into my erstwhile program!

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  15. He sounds very much like the mare I ride on Wednesdays - quite an adjustment wen you're used to the Bridgets and Isabels of the world! Keeping the big engaged trot after the canter is something we've been working on too. Who knew the best working trot was hiding there all along? :)

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    1. it's an adjustment for sure haha. i think part of the issue is i had it a little backwards in my mind. with isabel, getting the forward from behind had become easier and easier, and we were working on bringing the package more together, slowing it down but adding expression and power. so.... i kinda forgot with charlie that we needed the *forward* FIRST before i could slow it down and get that same power. this was esp hard for me bc his forward feels.... idk unreliable and not the greatest yet so i don't always trust it. but it's where we need to be so we gotta keep working on it!

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  16. That first mirror selfie of you two os the absolute cutest...

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    1. aww haha thanks! he's good at posing <3

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  17. Wow it's been 2 months already? I'm so excited to see your progress with him now that dressage lessons are in the mix. It's crazy how much difference more dressagey rides/lessons make--I say dressagey since like you said above, what you're doing now is more universal, but coming from a dressage background makes a big difference I think.

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    1. lol you know me - i'm basically a total lesson junkie and have been dying for my fix allll summer long. poor charlie - he probably doesn't realize what he's getting into with me! and it's cool, you can call it 'dressage' instead of 'dressagey' bc we are in fact riding with dressage trainer c for the purposes of learning dressage in order to compete in dressage tests ;)

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  18. Sounds like you guys had a great ride! Loving the arena and selfies. What a handsome man. So regal. You should call him Charles lol

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    1. haha or maybe sir chuckles?!? i feel like he needs a monocle, top hat and cane tho

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  19. Gosh, he is just in a permanent statuesque pose-so handsome! Sounds like a great lesson for him.

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  20. I love how Charlie gets similar praise from everyone -- he's going to be such a great horse for you <3 <3 <3

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  21. I've always heard that the best natural gait for a horse to have is a canter so I'd say that is a good thing!

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  22. Congrats on the successful lesson. Can you sew the sheet back together?

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  23. He is SO handsome.

    Also, leg yields are the bomb dot com!!

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