Monday, January 2, 2017

jumping into a new year

Our latest jumping lesson happened on NYE, so it still technically counts among my posts summarizing Charlie's progress as we close the book on 2016 and look forward into 2017.

For those keeping score at home, this was Charlie's third jump lesson. The last lesson was over a month ago, and his first was in the beginning of November. It's been hard to keep a weekly schedule with the holidays, weather, clinics, and all... but hopefully things will settle soon bc damn I just love these lessons!!

"whoa where did that come from?!?" - charlie, cantering a fence for the first time ever!
This lesson was fun bc it was a little mini-reunion, as former barnmate R hauled in with her mare Birdie too (of bridal-themed paper chase fame), visible in the background below.

And Charlie continues to be a cool customer about traveling. OF always has a lot going on visually - horses and people and hustle and bustle in basically every direction. So he definitely still looks around and whinnies. And I let him hand walk a lap or two around the driveway to take a looksie before tying him... but he was fine. Actually, maybe too fine haha, as he got completely and totally drawn in to eating this poor shrub next to the trailer....

"i <3 this shrubbery tho" - charlie
Anyway. I doubt that you care much about Charlie's tastes in foliage, so let's get on with the lesson haha.

Charlie and I had a fairly rough ride the evening before the lesson. Not emotionally upsetting (he's still too new for me to take anything he does personally yet, tho that'll surely happen eventually) but frustrating. We crashed into the wall of his sticky stuck resistance and I felt at a loss for how to work through it. The ride ended without resolution, and the horse came in from the field so grouchy the next morning that he lunged at and bit a barn worker. Not cool, bro. Not. Cool.

big bay club!!!! with extra set of grey ears
He was fine for me tho (we did a quick ground work session to see where he was at before putting him on the trailer) so I packed him up to present him to trainer P for her expert opinion. And she didn't disappoint!

big guy is figuring it out!! 
All the same tho, I kept our flatwork to a bare minimum, feeling a little hesitant about pushing him too much or tiring him out. Mayyyyybe not the right tactic... But I was just thinking about keeping it fun and focusing on playing with some colorful sticks.

meanwhile i just sit chilly and keep a finger looped through that neck strap lol
Which Charlie VERY happily did. And actually, we appear to have graduated to a new level in trainer P's book. There were no ground poles to start. No small pole piles, and no cross rails. We went straight to lines of itsy bitsy verticals and never looked back.

First line through, trainer P had me follow R and Birdie down the line, and Charlie happily landed from jump one cantering, reached jump two at a canter (which is a first for him), kinda had a "WTF" moment, then picked those legs WAY UP haha and jumped the thing. Good pony!

That first bold effort kinda set the tone and Charlie was basically pretty darn good for the whole ride, tho still with plenty of bobbles and flops and knocked rails. Obvi haha.

this is what a sticky go button looks like
It was esp useful for me tho, bc Charlie's sticky stuckness cropped up pretty early - you can see it in the video our first time through the short diagonal line, trainer P is growling and clucking at Charlie and he looks a little preoccupied with thinking about turning around to bite me out of the saddle.

Trainer P told me to kick him up into canter after the line and it kinda devolved into the "dinosaur-stuck-in-tar-pit" situation you see above - which was basically where our ride the night prior had ended. My convo with P as this unfolded went a little bit like this:

Trainer P:    Use your whip behind your leg.
Emma:        Ehhhh idk about that.
Trainer P:    Why?
Emma:        Well we just haven't gone there yet.
Trainer P:    No time like the present!
Emma:        ....Ok, if you say so!

aaaaaand this is how you apply some wd-40 to said sticky go button
Basically, P's point was that: Yes, I need to do everything I can to mitigate any physical issues Charlie might have. Yes, I need to be fair to him, and sensitive when something is new and hard for him. BUT. There must be a clear, firm line. And when Charlie crosses that line, I need to be prepared to use all of my tools to explain that certain behaviors are not acceptable. And napping back like that now officially falls into the 'unacceptable' category.

The great thing about Charlie tho is that he is not a dumb horse. Treated fairly and consistently, he responds accordingly. One discussion about re-drawing that line, and he was crystal clear and happily moving forward again. As evident in the video - the difference is clear between his first time through that diagonal and the next (which took place after the above 'go button greasing').

so stupidly proud of this big bay boy
Trainer P encouraged me to canter him off after every line of jumps, with no consideration for lead or whatever. Just encouraging him to land and go forward. Which he then happily did every time. The purpose here was twofold: A) establish forward, and B) get his body moving in more of a 'jumping' way.

Bc. Of course, the whole point here was setting Charlie up to figure this whole 'jumping' thing out. Which he totally did!!!!!


Trainer P likes to start horses over fences by trotting everything, and letting them figure out the 'canter' part on their own. The idea is that they will learn about landing cantering first, and eventually figure out to jump from the canter too.

Having us focus entirely on lines of jumps rather than single jumps also helped reinforce the idea for Charlie, since he would have the first jump to kinda do whatever he was gonna do, and then pull himself together for the second jump.

bc for every cute picture, there are 3-4 more that look like this haha
And whenever he approached a jump from the canter, my job was essentially just to sit there like a bump on a log (which I'm VERY good at, btw, not even trying to brag haha) while he sorted himself out. This led to some.... colorful moments. Like the above haha, where he basically just ran through the jump...

eeeeee but i love the cute pictures!!
The benefit to this approach is that Charlie has opportunities to experience every mistake in the book. He knocked half the jumps down. Stumbled over plenty of them. Tried launching over one or two. Nearly face planted a couple times for good measure.

And none of it is ever a big deal. We just come right on back and do it again, letting him learn from his mistakes without me ever needing to be responsible for setting him up perfectly. Because the reality is that *I'm* going to make plenty of mistakes too.... and if he learns from the beginning to be overly reliant on me... Well. We will end up running into problems later haha.

jumping big ponies over tiny sticks ftw
It's cool tho. He definitely started figuring it out. Once or twice picking up the canter a couple strides from the fence and totally nailing it (there's one jump in the video where P turns around to Brita after, asking, "Did you get that on video?!?").

And the gif above is from our last time down the line, where he just cantered on through like the easiest thing in the world. Got the correct striding and everything!


I really love this video too, bc you get such a sense of what our lessons are like haha. Everyone else in the group is working over way bigger stuff (you can see P building their courses while I jump around in the video), but they're all still super encouraging and cheering for Charlie whenever he gets it right. 

Like, you'd think by listening to the cheering that we were jumping around Rolex or something haha, rather than taking a giant horse over the tiniest of fences. But whatever - we gotta start somewhere, right? And I'm super grateful to have all the footage too. Plenty of stuff worth studying, plenty that needs work. But also plenty to be happy about. 

dinner at the trailer, sharing his slop with Riley lol
Here's hoping it won't be another month and a half before we get out for another lesson! And here's double hoping that the weather holds for continued outdoor riding!

Because so far I'm having a TON of fun figuring out how to ride this horse. And every time we have a good lesson like this, it becomes just a little bit easier to imagine what it might be like to actually event Charlie. That idea still feels very distant and vague, but I'm hoping we'll be able to take a crack at a full three-phase next spring or summer!!

53 comments:

  1. What a good baby horse!! He jumps so cute when he figures out where to put those big clodhoppers! :D

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    1. Lol at clodhoppers - that's so perfect haha!!

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  2. Emma. EMMA. You guys look SO good. I knew he'd be a quick, easy study at this jumping stuff - he just seems like a natural! And I absolutely love your nice conservative position as you ride him over everything right now. That first photo especially. Charlie's all "WHOA BOY WHATS THAT HOLY..." and you are the picture of chill with your position. He's so lucky he ended up with you - even when you gotta play bad cop when he crosses the line and tell him to move his hiney forward NAOW. Lovelovelove this jumping update - very much hope you're over for another lesson super soon.

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    1. He really is such a good boy, and has been so easy to work with. Like. I'm making tons of mistakes and he generally reflects them.... But he also reflects when I correct myself too. It's helpful!! And yea haha I definitely am staying in the backseat for the foreseeable future - homeboy trips WAYYY too often for me to feel safe anywhere else lol

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  3. Oh my gosh, LOVE! Yay for big horses jumping little sticks, and for applying wd40 to that go button, lol.

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    1. Haha I think he likes the sticks too!!! And everything is easier when we aren't fussing about going forward. Funny how that works lol

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  4. Awwwww I love watching baby horses figure things out! What a solid citizen he is.

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    1. He's definitely figuring it out, one giant step at a time!!

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  5. He's really starting to figure things out! Great coach for helping you draw clear, fair lines. It is so hard when you are trying to figure things out along with teaching a horse and then add in loving them to bits--advice on where the heck to draw those lines is gold.

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    1. Yea I was really happy to have trainer P there to tell me to buck up and get the job done. I've been a bit too enabling of certain behaviors and that's just not gonna fly with a big horse like this. Everyone is happier and SAFER with clear boundaries!!

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  6. That top picture is everything. "ME CHUCKLEESSSSS"

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  7. Charlie wins life again! His kick out is also perfection.

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    1. Ha right? He was very offended!! Oh well, c'est la vie Charlie!!

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  8. Looks like it's going well! And also sounds like Trainer P has spot-on advice, to keep you guys on the right track. So glad you had a successful outing.

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    1. Trainer P is basically the best ever -
      She's seen it all, done it all, and always has a useful perspective!! Plus she's got a tried and true method for bringing these greenies along.

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  9. Yay you! I learned the hard way about not accepting the stickiness and am now paying the price for that.

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    1. Yea.... I feel like this is something I will be periodically addressing for a while...

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  10. Bwahaha I loooove that first pic - look at those legs!!!

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    1. Haha I was sitting on him looking like, "Oh there are his knees. Wow."

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  11. Awww he's so CUTE tho! I love that phase where they are just figuring everything out and trying to push your buttons and see what they can get away. It's so rewarding to see them learn and grow!

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    1. I love it too - he's cool to watch too bc he really does figure things out quickly!

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  12. Squeee!! look at his knees and everything! :)

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    1. Eeee I'm so stinkin pleased with him haha!

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  13. You can see the hamster wheel turning from "What is this?" to "I got this!" Go Charlie Go!!!

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    1. Lol exactly! Tho it's kinda equally funny when he's like "I got this I got this OOPS NOPE don't got it!!

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  14. OMG!!! he looks AWESOME! man hes going to be a beast to jump.

    I hate sticky go buttons. i'm like please just go I really don't want to have this fight because I hate bucking.

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    1. Ugh yea I was kinda avoiding having that talk with him. But avoidance is definitely not the answer. Luckily once he is on board with going, he is actually pretty sensitive!!

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  15. Yay! I love letting him just figure it out. Trip, jump, stumble and reset and try again.

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    1. Haha basically! Just again and again and again forever until he's actually maybe consistently jumping like a normal-ish horse haha

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  16. What a good pony! I love that first picture.

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    1. ha he kinda didn't know what to do with himself for a minute there!

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  17. Even with the sticky moments, what a great baby!!!

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    1. so far so good!! tho i guess as of Jan 1 he's 8 now, so not much of a baby!!

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  18. Aw, good boy Charlie! He's like "deez jumps are too small"!

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    1. ha good - i want it to feel easy for him ;)

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  19. Did you give a cash tip to the barnworker Charlie bit? He's sure looking good.

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    1. thanks! and to my knowledge, cash tips aren't really customary in this area for barn workers. at least, i certainly never received any in my years as staff!

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  20. He already looks smarter in that final gif going through a line than Bobby does right at this very moment! Such a clever pone!!

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    1. so clever :D he and bobby share some things tho - like those same lovely mule ears haha

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  21. I happen to be very interested in Charlie's preferred foliage.
    I was also fighting a dinosaur slugging through tar on Saturday. What was it about this weekend and slow, almost dying motors?
    Teach me your bump on a log ways. I spend a lot of time flailing.

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    1. ughhhh the tar pits are the worst tho, right?? and re: the 'bump on a log' ways, two thoughts (only one of which might actually be relevant):

      1) i'm convinced that the relative size of horse v rider impacts how 'quiet' the rider appears. i always looked like a hot mess on my 14.3hh arab, but visually appear maybe less flailful (a word now) on this 17hh guy. not convinced my actual riding is different tho haha.

      2) for basically the entire video i have a finger looped through the neck strap, which forces me to be more mindful about rein length bc my hands are corralled into a more fixed position. this in turn forces me to be better about holding my own upper body up too (sorta) since i'm not moving in every direction all at once with my hands lol.

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    2. Okay, thought #1 is probably 100% true. I look much better on my 15.3h gelding than on the 13+/-h fjords.
      I don't ride with a breast collar or neck strap because 'dressage' but I did learn to ride with my pinkies resting on the saddle. Might have to revisit that a bit.

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    3. ehh the neck strap is a newer thing for me. my trainer requires one for anyone jumping, and while my last mare wore one (technically it was her martingale neck strap), her size/confo v my size etc meant that my hands were usually farther forward than the strap, so i didn't use it much/ever. on charlie, the strap is in a much more convenient place so it makes more sense to use it.

      another thing that crossed my mind tho is related to other convos we've had about sitting the canter: trying to find that 'looseness' in my leg and avoiding pinching with my knee - feeling more like i'm standing in the stirrups (but without bracing) has actually helped me transfer more weight down into my legs and therefore stay (maybe kinda) more still with my upper body. maybe. haha. idk.

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  22. So cute! He reminds me of Hero with his awkward jumps.

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    1. haha right? Hero basically constantly reminds me of my friend's former lease horse Wick (they look so similar too!) and my trainer is always saying that Charlie is learning to jump the same way Wick did.... so yea it all comes full circle lol

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  23. He looks like he's liking the jumping part. Maybe not so much the go part, but the attitude certainly seemed better after a bit of ass-kicking. I'm impressed that you manage to get to so many lessons.

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  24. Eeee Big Baby Chuckles is looking like he's making some huge strides! (Pun 100% intended)

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  25. Eventually he'll learn what to do with all his legs at once lol

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