Tuesday, February 14, 2017

amps + damps

Incremental changes have been key with Charlie - in getting to know each other, in helping him adjust to his new lifestyle, and in tweaking his dietary needs. It's all still very much a work in progress, tho.

two forms of signal amplification shown above: treats! (for positive reinforcement) and tall boots! (the better to strap my spurs onto!)
The cool thing about him being a delicate, hot house sensitive flower (albeit, an extremely quiet and shrinking-violet-esque type flower), is that small adjustments can have big effects. 

my saddle may not be to everyone's tastes, but damn do i love it. and this Arc de Triomphe girth, handed down from Wick, suits it perfectly! also: half pad in pic above shown with front shims.
Lately I've made a couple small changes that have totally altered our riding landscape. Of course, with a horse as green and changeable as Charlie, it's entirely possible this improvement would have happened anyway.... Or it may not last.... Maybe, maybe not. Who knows.

but.... charlie apparently didn't share my sentiments. this cheapy fleece Ovation girth is much preferred for its dampening effect and distribution of pressure. le sigh. also: half pad above shown without front shims.
I've been playing with my saddle's fit, including changing gullet plates and experimenting with shim and half pad configurations. Nothing is quite perfect yet, but Charlie's back has been changing shape as he adds and drops muscle, so we're just kinda playing it by ear. For now, the best fit seems to be: medium gullet plate + pro lite half pad with thin front shims.
 
we spend a lot of time chillin by the trailer. he likes cleaning up all the loose hay bits!
While I think that's helped, a much more noticeable improvement stems from swapping his fancy gorgeous anatomic leather ADT girth for a simple fleece lined Ovation girth. This makes me..... sad haha. But it makes Charlie super happy. For whatever reason, both Isabel and Charlie seem to prefer the soft flexibility and freedom of these girths, despite my wishes to dress them in more 'stylish' leather.

The delicate princess gets what he wants tho. And since we've switched to this girth, my giant oaf of a dinosaur hasn't gotten mired down in a tar pit once. And - like magic - we are suddenly back to striking off simply, almost-drama-free, into both leads.

trusty little nubs! thy name is amplification!
The last little adjustment is one I already wrote about - adding spurs to the mix. This has also necessitated moving back to riding in my tall boots instead of the river boots. Since adding the spurs, I've ditched carrying a dressage whip or crop - and haven't missed it once.

you can't tell me that's not the cutest face. also we finally introduced cantering on the lunge!! both leads too, good pony
Charlie is fantastic with these nubs. Combined with his increased comfort in the new girth, we've seen vast improvements in his 'resisting being driven forward.' Not to say that it's totally gone - bc, remember, that's a fairly entrenched behavior in the big guy - but we have since had entire rides where it either hasn't cropped up at all, or only appears as a momentarily raised head and pinned ears.

canter poles and cross rails and cones, oh my! we practiced over this the day after free jumping to reinforce the idea. charlie was taking no prisoners and attacked it, good boy!
The spurs are great for me too, bc they force me to be more aware of my lower legs. More responsible for ensuring that every aid is purposeful, and has a beginning and end.

As I've said since day 1, my favorite part about riding Charlie is that for such a green horse, he really is so sensitive and so ready for me to deliver the best possible aids and cues to him. It's true with any horse but it's especially true with Charlie: The better I can be, the better he goes.

little mound of doom. we like to ride and hand walk up and down that random bump in the grass often. it's good practice on challenging terrain for the big guy!
So it's been really refreshing to have found some tweaks that improve the 'dinosaur stuck in tar pit' behaviors so we can get back to feeling like I have a sensitive, forward horse who responds to the slightest changes in my seat, weight distribution, or leg position. There's hope for us yet!

Have you ever made some slight change with your horse that entirely changed the way he went? Whether through equipment or supplements or physical maintenance? Anything that kind of made you wish you had tried it ages ago??

26 comments:

  1. Just want to agree that he does in fact have the cutest face ever.

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  2. One thing my trainer pointed out to me recently was that I'm not nearly as effective with my leg/heel in my Dubarry boots vs. paddock boots/half chaps! I didn't realize that my leg was sort of dull in them! I second the baby, nubby spurs:)

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    1. yea my trainer equates the river boots to 'sponges' on the horse's side haha. i love them for their convenience and comfort, but they're just plain old not great for nuanced riding i guess...

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  3. I don't think I could ride in my river like boots. And totally agree that it's probably easier to be more accurate with a regular tall boot so I see your trainers point and think it's funny to refer to them as sponges.

    Small accurate changes make big differences for Annie too and be better I am the better she can be too. :)

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    1. i've gotten into the habit of wearing the boots bc they're convenient and warm and i never care about getting them muddy or wet or snowy or whatever.... plus pull-on > zip-up in my lazy (lazy) world. but yea... the reality is that they're just not as effective.

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  4. I agree - he has the cutest face. Is it possible to take a bad picture of him? He looks so manly and regal in every shot!

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    1. nope, not possible! he's objectively beautiful 100% of the time!! ;P

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  5. It's really great you are flexible to change things up so often

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    1. i'm totally a creature of habit... but i'm also not particularly married to any one singular product or approach or whatever. i just like to find something that *works* and stick with it!

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  6. I've changed some little things... right now Bird's down a bit in weight (extra winter work more than usual and I've upped his feed but not before he dropped a little weight) and I've been using a nonslip pad under his saddle to improve fit until I get him buffed back up. Early on, his bit went from full cheek snaffle to french link snaffle fairly abruptly (there were Headflingings of Disapproval) but he seems fairly happy there now and is progressing with Stretch Down Over Topline and accept contact. Boots vs. paddock boots/half chaps vs. sneakers (I am going to Pony Club Hell, I'm sure) doesn't seem to matter much, so if it ain't broke...

    I like reading about what works, what doesn't, and the changes you make to suit Charlie better -- it's interesting seeing him change and develop, too.

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    1. ha i always like reading about what works and doesn't for other horses too. esp bc so often i'll think something is "just the way the horse is" when in reality maybe the horse would go better with some modest modification...

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  7. Oh yes the trial and error is a constant for all our growing Cobs. Roscoe is really sensitive about saddle fit, so I am limited on what pads I can use. I love how a horse that big can be so cute :) Glad you are having good luck.

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    1. ha i love that he's so giant and so adorable simultaneously too!!! ;D

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  8. I love finding one simple thing that ends up changing everything! So funny how something seemingly unrelated can sometimes change their outlook on life!
    For Charmer, it was a change of bit. As soon as I started using shaped mouthpieces, he became a way happier horse! Little to no bucking or bolting now that we have switched all our bits to shaped

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    1. thank goodness for finding a bit that works!! that's something charlie hasn't seemed particularly picky about... but i also haven't experimented a ton. he's still got a lot to learn in that department anyway tho

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  9. The smallest of changes can cause dramatic behavioral changes in Stinker's world. One of the more ridiculous ones was my attempt to ride in paddock boots and half chaps. He has a strong preference for tall boots. I don't know what it changed about my leg, but he did not like it.

    A more positive one was the addition of magnesium. It really helped settle him and take the edge off, but I don't think you have that problem with Charlie.

    PS Charlie is adorable and I am so glad that you are figuring out the keys to forward motion :)

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    1. ha yea omg plz no more taking any edges off charlie - he needs every edge he's got lest he melts into a squishy gelatinous puddle of chuckles lol..... also that's funny that stinker said "no" to anything but tall boots!

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  10. I've had a couple of horses prefer that fuzzy girth but man it just gets so narly looking pretty quickly. Good thing they are afordable--it allows me to keep a spare clean one for shows.

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    1. Ugh yea they get especially trashed crossing streams on trails or when schooling water on xc. Oh well. At least they're machine washable too!

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  11. hmmm interesting that the girth helped. I just bought new spurs for runkle... I've been avoiding them because they make him suck his nose behind the vertical never to be seen again. I find the dressage whip is much less offensive to him, but it's just NOT ENOUGh when we jump.

    i LOVED this line: More responsible for ensuring that every aid is purposeful, and has a beginning and end.

    so, so true. with these pokey sensitive ponies we run the risk of nagging them to death. no one likes to be nagged :P

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    1. ugh nagging is my #1 nasty no good dirty habit.... but i can't help myself!!! my comfort zone definitely entails basically burying my heel into the side of the horse and never ever letting go.... which... well. that helps nobody lol. remembering to take my aid *OFF* and give the horse a chance to carry on himself is so so so hard for me! but so important for ponykins....

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  12. It's so nice when a little change fixes a big (ish) struggle or issue. That's my favorite kind of fix, although those are often the tricky ones to think of in my experience. You're so flexible and thoughtful about experimenting with changes to see what works and what doesn't! I definitely struggle with the fact that I've known Val a long time and a lot of things I don't even think to play with these days.

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  13. MOUND OF DOOM!!!!
    I like the way the saddle looks!

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  14. So glad the spurs are working! It's interesting how with some you can eventually take away aid enhancers and still get the same effect (and for some you can't). I'm glad you're slowly figuring out what works for him

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  15. Ugh that ADT girth is so gorgeous, shame Charlie doesn't like it

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