Tuesday, December 13, 2016

problem exists between stirrup iron and bit

Ok so the issue with falling a week behind in posting is things are jumbling together and feeling like they're happening faster than they are. The reality is that yesterday's pictures were from two weekends ago, and today's post is about this past weekend.

Same topic tho, and same general story. So it all works out haha. Because ya I'm still talking about Charlie's flat work, still talking about riding him forward and with bend. Maybe if I hadn't written yesterday's post in advance, I could have saved some of the pictures for today. Oh well!!

this is charlie's 'existential crisis' face. he's contemplating all the life choices he's made that led up to this point
Anyway I opted to skip out on Saturday's jump lesson at OF, since we were already on the books for a dressage lesson at TM with trainer C for Sunday. Charlie will deal with two days in a row of trailering soon enough, but it just felt like a little much for the guy coming out of a week off while I was away.

And while I very much want to work more on jumping, dressage is taking the priority at this particular moment as we're preparing for Charlie's first clinic!!! So exciting omg haha. So. More dressage it is. For now. (tho we may have snuck in a fun little jump school that I'll probably write about later...).

So dressage trainer C got to meet Charlie for a second lesson, just under two weeks since his first time at TM. We covered a lot of the same ground as the first lesson, tho it was perhaps a little smoother since both Charlie and I knew what to expect: forward riding haha.

There are lots of good takeaways tho, and basically all of them relate to how I need to improve my riding to help Charlie along.

hey look, it's another picture of the lovely arena at TM!!

For Charlie:
  • He needs to be going forward first, and then I can ask for bend. He can't yet hold as much bend while being forward, so I can let him back off a little from forward if he needs to in order to bend when I ask. Then reward and ask for forward again. 
  • I had misunderstood, or not thought, about these being two separate things that should be asked for and rewarded separately, so this is good to keep in mind!
  • I should be giving Charlie chances to just 'carry me forward' while I sit and quietly allow, and then ask for more forward again when he peters out. Like little 'surges' of forward, with a chance for him to hold and maintain on his own in between.
  • Trainer C was impressed with how much more forward he was compared to last time. Funny how that works haha - turns out if I ask the horse for the right thing, he'll do it!
  • She had us start off going large around the arena right away, with only a circle here or there through the middle to help with bend. So we didn't endlessly circle at all through the ride. 

since we can only look at so many between-the-ears shots in one post, here's some examples of charlie looking stately instead. have i mentioned that i bought this horse mostly bc he's game for selfies?!?

For Cantering:
  • We worked on cantering pretty early in this ride, since it hadn't gone so well last time as the horse had grown tired. 
  • I shared that Charlie had been striking off nicely into canter totally accidentally while schooling, when I'd be thinking about positioning myself with inside leg at the girth and outside leg slightly back. Not at all intending to canter, just thinking about correcting my own position... but Charlie would take it as a canter signal anyway. 
  • This tells me that our issues with the (intentional) canter depart are basically all me haha. I'm doing too much, and probably not doing it very well at that, since Charlie has been volunteering very nice departs when I've just shifted my position (again, unintentionally). 
  • C said that she likes to accept whatever the horse volunteers and that I should just roll with it when Charlie strikes off like that into canter. 
  • For the purposeful departs tho, she had a specific exercise: Big forward trot up the long side, then turn down the next quarter line to leg yield over to the rail. Upon reaching the rail, turn immediately for a circle and ask for canter.
  • I need to be quicker with my aids - don't let my leg get stuck on. Rather I should just swing my leg back, ask, and be done. And give the horse a chance to act. 
  •  If he misfires into the lead or doesn't successfully transition into canter, just reorganize and ask again on the circle. Or repeat the entire exercise pattern.
  • Once he's cantering, do a full circle then ask for trot when back on the rail. No cantering forever and ever!
  • We repeated this exercise quite a few times in both directions, which I think is a great tactic for Charlie. He figures out patterns and exercises pretty quickly, so repetition helps him understand.

of course, like all else in my life, sometimes we fail pretty hard at the selfies anyway lol. what even are our faces in these pics???

Developing the trot from the canter:
  • I need to capitalize on Charlie's big trot right after a canter. Really let him at it. 
  • So for every repetition of the canter exercise, really focus on riding that trot up the long side so that we were asking him to canter from a good trot. And the trot itself got a little better each time. 
  • As he gets into that trot, it can feel a bit like running. But he is starting to find that really great balance and where the contact actually wasn't even that heavy this time around (like it has been before). 
  • We got maybe one full long side tracking right after a canter where Charlie was just killin it in this great big trot. Right up in my hands in the bridle, pushing forward, steady rhythm and quite straight. LOVE THIS. That's the feeling I need to shoot for!
  • C pointed out that she's known a lot of horses, especially young horses, who feel really unbalanced in their small trots and it can be nerve wracking pushing them forward into a bigger trot. But actually many horses tend to find their balance better in a bigger trot, and the smaller trot becomes better for it. 
  • Worth noting: we lose power steering a little bit in the big trot - Charlie's balance isn't quite good enough yet to hold himself in that frame and turn at the same time lol. #onestepatatime

ok, back to looking statuesque and elegant again ;)

Big positional takeaways:
  • The key for me will be holding my position and staying in the right place for Charlie - not letting him pull me out of the saddle or whatever. 
  • Which, I figured out in this ride, is all a function of my leg position. We already know that if I pinch with my knees, my lower leg will swing back and my seat will lift out of the saddle and I'm basically begging to be pulled forward haha. 
  • But in the lesson, I realized that all that strength in holding with my legs needs to shift into my core, that my legs need to be looser and more draped - they need to be longer - and stay under me, with my aids to the horse happening more quickly without gripping. 
  • I should actually be thinking more about practically standing in the stirrups - especially when Charlie is cantering, I must not dig with my seat (which is a nasty side effect of gripping legs: a seat that bumps up and down into the saddle). 
  • This will be a tricky adjustment for me lol. But the less I feel like Charlie can pull me out of the saddle, the more confident I feel - so this is definitely worth the effort!

aaaaaand then back to awkward.  the expression on my face here makes me lol. why so serious?!? charlie don't care tho. charlie's got grass and that's allllll that matters

Other odds and ends:
  • I should post the trot-walk transition, rather than sit it. I need to invite his back to stay up, and he's not accustomed to being sat yet. Just think about gradually slowing the trot down until it becomes walk. 
  • Leg yields tracking left are easier (way easier) than when tracking right. Which seems opposite to me considering tracking left is otherwise harder haha
  • One of Charlie's nappy resistant behaviors to the canter cue is to angrily fling his head downwards, as if to buck (but he doesn't actually move anything but his head and neck). C agrees that ignoring this behavior is the right tactic. She says that it's just a symptom of him 'whining' about going forward, and that if I get into it with him about the behavior, he's successfully managed to change the subject away from 'forward.' So my job is to just stay focused on asking for forward, and rewarding when he does it. Head flinging be damned. 
  • I need to ride with shorter reins in basically every gait haha. The 'box' in which I keep my hands needs to be smaller; inside rein shouldn't be so far away from his neck. And outside rein needs to just be steady and quiet. 

this guy is such a hound for food that he can barely get off the trailer before he's dragging me for grass. definitely preferred to some other trailer disembarking behaviors!

So anyway. Long overly detailed post later, and the gist is that we're still working on the most fundamental kind of stuff. It's fun tho. And C really does like Charlie. She likes his expression and his eye, but also his attitude too. She likes that he's so quick to figure stuff out and thinks we'll have a lot of fun together.

It's obviously a relief to get that reaffirmation, and I'm also just grateful in general to see these lessons already making a difference.

My #1 priority in horse shopping was to find a partner to go out and have fun with, who can get me back to doing the things I want to be doing with horses. It'll obviously be a bit of a journey before Charlie reaches the levels Izzy and I were working on, but that's ok. I'm just happy that, at least so far, all evidence suggests Charlie'll be able to go down that path too.

Ya know. Once I figure out how to canter him and whatnot lol. Or fix the steering so that it works when he's moving out too. Details details. Did/do you feel like you've had to work on your horse's basics for forever too? 

35 comments:

  1. You sound so dang happy- and you should! And yes-I've been in basic boot camp forever!

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    1. I'm just plain old excited about this horse haha. It feels REALLY good to be progressing again after months of feeling stalled for whatever various reasons.

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  2. Basics forever and always... I'm getting close to the two year mark of basics.

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    1. Ha yup I know that feeling too!!!!

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  3. Basics is basics. Remedial Jogging 4 Lyfe! While I'd really like to ignore the parts of the pyramid that do not involve Going Sideways Interestingly, turns out that you do have to work on crap like Rhythm (remedial jogging should be rhythmic and cadenced) and Relaxation (remedial jogging should be relaxed) and then there's Connection (so, y'know, that damn contact thing...) and on and on. We are about to the point where I can reliably get Rhythm and Relaxation. Connection is a work in progress and we now have intentional downward stretchy trot, so that's something. I'm working on contact, on softening, on not-flinging-head-about. It's not super exciting, but that's the winter project.

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    1. See that's where I disagree, I'd say it IS exciting. Esp bc when in figuring out the contact with Isabel, the more she learned, the *faster* she learned. So as we messed with contact she would suddenly figure out a bunch of other stuff. Or, maybe we would not talk directly about contact and move onto harder stuff (like riding thru a first level test or something) and BAM, suddenly the contact would be right there.

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  4. Such wonderful, meaty stuff here to dig into and practice and think about! Love it! Uh, my horse is 18 and I've been riding for at least 20 years and I'm still working on basics.

    So. The answer is yes.

    But the basics are really all there is - so as they get better, your standards get higher, and you develop a new level of 'basic' that's better than what you started with, without even realizing it!

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    1. So meaty lol. I may or may not sit down after my lessons and just tap it all out to catch the notes lol.

      And totally agreed about basics 4 eva haha. It never ends, it just gets better and better (hopefully lol)

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  5. OMG, is there something past basics? lol. Congrats on already feeling moments of improvement. It speaks well of the aproach.

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    1. ha maybe there isn't anything past basics - maybe it's just always this forever and ever lol. but yea i'm thrilled with charlie's improvement. trainer C has a great touch and is just so quick in getting these horses to understand and perform to their best!

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  6. Each little step of progress is exciting :) All the work you put into the flatwork will make the jumping all the better. Also how exciting a Dressage clinic!!!

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    1. i'm so super excited for this dressage clinic! the weather forecast looks ever so slightly foreboding.... but i'm hopeful. and also yea all this work on the flatwork should definitely translate to a happier more balanced jumping horse!!

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  7. I like the takeaways about the canter because those are all reminders that we need. The basics always anchor everything together

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    1. yea the canter is really important for me bc it's the gait i've struggled with the most since starting to ride dressage. it was isabel's weakest gait, and the gait in which my transition from an h/j type position and seat to a dressage seat was most difficult too. charlie will be easier, i think, bc his canter is better than isabel's. so i'm looking forward to really finally making progress there!

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  8. Omg. "Big positional takeaways" is pulled right from my brain. I'm going to make an effort this weekend to put some hours in on Ben and work on exactly that while cantering. Assuming I can get over my fear of cantering him, because getting canter time in only during my weekly lesson is never going to make significant progress (but the fact that I want to canter him is a huge step from where I was at the beginning of the summer).
    It sounds like you had a really good lesson on Charlie though. He's so cute I want to punch something. Especially his selfies. Adorable.

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    1. ha yea i definitely thought about your recent post while writing this. hopefully you find time to practice too!! i'm finding that even just catching the right feeling momentarily helps me figure it out. and the more i find it, the easier it becomes. PLUS. it also feels way better and more secure to find that position, so that helps with the confidence part

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    2. Fingers crossed! Just found out we are suppose to get buckets on Friday.
      But definitely can't wait to try. Now that I've felt it once I'm chasing that feeling. Hopefully we both have success!

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  9. Selfie level: championship. :)

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  10. I love this phase with young horses because such little things make such a huge difference! It's amazingly fun to watch them learn and progress. And I always find things to learn from young horses -- and your lesson write ups!

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    1. it's definitely a fun phase. so many 'firsts,' so many big, obvious gains. and mixed with fairly low standards and expectations, it's virtually impossible to avoid feeling like progress is happening lol. and agreed, this guy definitely has a lot to teach me, especially in how different of a ride he is from isabel

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  11. I soooo feel ya on the basics FOREVER!!!! Chimi was so weak in his hind end when I first got him and he curled like a SOB that basically the past 3 years have been trail riding and basics. Just this past monday in my lesson my trainer said to me- I think Chimi looks so much stronger in his hind end. Remember when you couldn't even ride him up or down a hill? He's looking great now!

    So yes- basics forever but one day it will pay off and you'll find yourself with a well trained horse!!!! :)

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    1. Ha yea the hind end weakness struggle is real!! Definitely looking forward to the day Charlie feels more "trained" too haha

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  12. You wrote a lot of words but mostly I just looked at the Charlie pictures. He's so handsome!! <3 <3 <3

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  13. I love that Charlie is working out so well for you :)

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    1. Meeeee too. It's a real relief so far, self doubt is an insidious beast lol

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  14. It's such a good feeling to hear someone you trust confirm what you felt and knew in your gut. The sky is the limit with you and Charlie! And btw...Quest is exactly the same when getting off the trailer; she scopes out the new sights and immediately beelines for the grass lol

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    1. Ha Isabel was like that too. And I'm totally cool with it! I would rather them think about food rather than spooking or anything else lol

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  15. It took me a loooooong time to be able to steer and canter Zeph at the same time! Basically I feel like I'm always working on basics. Basics forever!

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    1. Basics 4 eva!! Charlie can steer and canter simultaneously, but it's not in a good balance longitudinally. The loss of power steering comes when he's trying to shift balance back off his forehand. Sorta like shifting from front wheel drive to rear wheel drive. The canter depart is just its own special problem relating purely to my aid delivery lol.

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  16. I just keep going back to that first picture you posted on here. He just looks sooo dang handsome and that lighting makes it extra fun. I love hearing about his progress!

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  17. Hey! Your farther ahead than me... Can-ter? What is that? I can barely stear either.... Lol *nods* yes. I did this baby horse thing to myself. Sounds like your really well on your way!

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  18. He really is filling out now too!

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  19. Progress, hurrah! I am striving to catch up on your posts before the clinic recap...but life/work is so busy lately. Still, gotta make time to catch up on the Charlie goings-on. =)

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