Wednesday, March 8, 2017

a series of daring adventures from a secure base

Thanks to NYT columnist David Brooks, who in a completely off-topic and unrelated editorial, wrote the above title phrase that manages to perfectly encapsulate my philosophy of horse training with Charlie.

The second half our our big weekend included yet another incremental, intermediary step in transforming Charlie into a show horse. And while yesterday's recap of his dressage show focused on performance, this outing swung back in the other direction to focus on experience and exposure. Or, in other words, an adventure focused on firming up Charlie's base training.

taking my giant pony for walkies around the new grounds. also it was goddamn freezing.
Riding buddies Brita and R are both signed up to compete in an upcoming eventing derby at Loch Moy, wherein they'll go through a timed jumping course over a mix of stadium and cross country fences that wind through all of Loch Moy's interconnected giant all-weather arenas. In anticipation of this upcoming derby, Brita, R and others from OF had signed up for schooling at Loch Moy with one of their trainers.

charlie got to tag along with birdie in R's trailer! 
The lesson itself didn't sound particularly enticing to me (we don't have an immediate enough need to jump solid fences that I was super interested in taking my green horse on his first xc experience with a new and unknown trainer) but the venue absolutely did.

also, Clark Montgomery happened to be on site teaching clinics too. how cool!
You may remember last week when I wrote about entering our first event scheduled for Loch Moy at the end of the month. Wherein I also wrote that Loch Moy shows can be BIG. So it's been my goal to find more ways to expose Charlie to higher and higher degrees of atmosphere.

he spent a lot of time staring off into the distance lol
So I opted to tag along for this lesson, with the game plan basically being to exist amid all the surrounding activity. It was perfect too - Loch Moy was bustling with groups coming in and out for schooling (our group alone had 3 trailers and others were constantly pulling in and leaving while we were there).

Plus Clark Montgomery happened to be onsite teaching clinic lessons. And all the various groups of horses were moving between the three main giant arenas on the grounds - with a few more visible on the xc course itself.

selfies!!
Our trailer arrived a solid 20min earlier than the rest of our group so I took the opportunity to hand walk Charlie around the grounds a bit. Around the whole trailer area, near the office, and even a ways through the middle arena (that's usually set up for dressage rings) so he could see further into the distance and inspect some of the jumps.

cool with the activity at the trailers
He was certainly happy to have that opportunity too, with lots of stopping to stare mixed in with the walking. Horses in the distance definitely transfixed his attention, tho I was happy to note he didn't seem particularly concerned with going toward or away from the trailer and new friend Birdie.

out a-wanderin while everyone finished getting ready
By the time the rest of the group arrived, Charlie was sedately settled in at the trailer with his hay net and water, tho still staring alertly (and majestically haha, always majestically) off into the distance. He was fine to tack up too and actually hilariously mirrored every other horse - whenever any of them would take a deep breath he would too lol.

eager to get movin and warm up!
He was also solid to get on, and we walked a few circles around the trailer area while everyone else finished tacking. Then off to the first arena - where they usually hold stadium. I basically kept Charlie walking the perimeter and big swooping figures on a loose rein for maybe ~20min while the lesson warmed up and started over fences. He was a bit distracted by staring out at horses outside our ring... but was otherwise fine.

birdie says she needs bigger jumps
We progressed to actual purposeful trot and canter warm up work in that ring for a little while before the whole group moved on to the next arena - going past the trailer area into the biggest of the rings where they normally set up multiple dressage courts (the same arena Charlie and I had hand walked earlier). He continued to be fine going around the entire perimeter - no difference shown going toward or away from the others. Just mildly distracted by horses in the distance.

casually observing two side by side GIANT rings
Same story for trotting and cantering through this arena. And I tried to be good about continuing to ask him for more. Asking for softness, connectedness, straightness, focus. We didn't achieve anything ground breaking - but it *did* feel on par with our current level of work at home.

I think the distraction could be an issue - but in the mildest sense of the word. He's doing everything I'm asking, he just happens to want to watch whatever else is going on too. It also feels like this will fade with experience.

bella needs bigger jumps too!
Anyway after ascertaining that the horse felt pretty damn great, I decided to pop him over a couple of the teensy tiny intro xc jumps. There were actually quite a few that looked perfectly inviting at this height, and others at the next height up that I'm sure trainer P would have sent us over had she been present....

we jumped dis!!!
But bc it was just me, and I'm a yellow-bellied 'fraidy cat, I just stuck to two quick efforts trotting over these itsy bitsies. And Charlie was perfect!! Did not fall on his face! Nor did he hesitate in the slightest. Saw the jump, understood that we were approaching it, did not wiggle, did not change tempo or rhythm, jumped the jump, landed in his patented World's Best Canter Ever and continued on with life as I pointed him at another.

we jumped dat too!!
Ahhhh such a good feeling!! A good enough feeling that in looking back on the ride, I know that we should have done more - tried more fences, tried cantering fences, maybe strung some stuff together. But that's exactly the kind of feeling I like to take away from an outing: a confident feeling like I know in which ways to push for more next time.

and WATER!!!!!
Charlie felt like a million bucks too. Definitely confident. In moving to the third and final lower ring (that's usually a mixed warm up / occasional dressage ring), he felt right at home with everything. And even got into the new water complex there with minimal hesitation. Then was able to go in and out all on his own, and even trot through!

such a good boy!
Which obviously was super fun. And is the source of our only video from the day haha, so I milked it for everything it's worth with these screen shots lol.

i call this 'ground covering' lol. also yes that's ice lining the water's edge. twas COLD.
But basically after going in and out a couple times and ascertaining that Charlie could in fact trot through the water without issue, I asked Brita to film while we walked in and trotted out over some ground poles.

wheeeee ground poles!
If trainer P had been there (or if I knew the trainer they were lessoning with better) I would have asked that she set this into a cross rail.... and now in retrospect I kinda wish I had repeated this exercise in the opposite direction too - trotting down over the ground poles and into the water. But again, see above re: preferring to leave an outing thinking about what more I would do next time.


As it was, tho, I just had so much fun. Grinning ear to ear. What a good pony! And you can really see in the video just how relaxed and confident Charlie felt. Sure he was slow to step in the water and needed to think it through a little bit. But it feels fine. And I'm cool with him knowing that I'm always going to give him time to think if he needs it.

Plus then he just trotted right on along, basically ignoring the water once he locked on to the ground poles. Homeboy definitely would have been happier if we had jumped more, methinks!!

i'm basically obsessed with this sweet guy
Even tho we had been riding for over 2hrs by the time it was done, Charlie just felt fantastic. Like he would have happily kept going and exploring, and doing all the things. That's exactly the feeling I wanted from him. He still doesn't really know what this game is all about. But he's maybe figuring out that it's probably gonna be kinda fun ;)

emma: "c'mon, charlie, be CUTE!"
charlie: "staahhp you're embarrassing me in front of my new friends!"
Actually, if anything, I think he'll eventually trend in the direction of getting pretty strong. Not out of naughtiness - but just plain enthusiasm haha. We'll see tho. For now, I'm straight up thrilled with him and am looking forward to our eventing debut. Especially if I can get there early enough to hand walk him around a bit, and then walk for basically ever during our warm up, I think he should be fine.

And of course I'm eager for our first true xc schooling lesson, hopefully to be done at OF under trainer P's watchful guidance sometime in the near future! Esp knowing how good he was for this outing, bc let's be real - I needed that confidence boost at least as much as, if not more than, he did haha. Do you ever feel that way too - like some steps in the training process are as much about preparing the rider as they're about preparing the horse?

51 comments:

  1. Okay that's it! I'm hitching up my trailer and driving down to collect Charlie and bring him home with me. Just send me your address, 'k?

    Seriously though- you have a gem.

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    1. Lol you can come on down to Baltimore but you're gonna have to pry Charlie out of my cold dead hands. I'm keepin him!! Lol ;)

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  2. That's my new favorite video of him. TOO CUTE. Also, is that Stella in a tallboy can?!

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    1. I just love his expressions lol. But no that's not a Stella - we aren't quite so fancy. It's a natty boh haha

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  3. Ha! That was my second guess, but I haven't seen their cans in ages so I just wasn't sure :-)

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    1. lol we'll just have to fix that next time you come to town!

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  4. Those areas are insanely huge! Charlie is the cutest, and a belated congrats on the dressage ribbons as well!!!

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    1. those rings are giant!! usually they get divided up into multiple smaller rings - like in that big center one they can fit three or four dressage courts, a dressage warm up area, plus a stadium arena. it's nuts!

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  5. Sounds like an absolutely fantastic (but cold) outing! I question the natty boh (but you're near Baltimore, so it's understandable) because my Utility Beer is Yuengling, but other than that it looks like it went great and Charlie is, of course, typically majestic (tm).

    I struggle with the "We should have done more" feels too, so I definitely know where you're coming from on that, but it's OK to do the planned objectives, finish strong, and end the day with the horse feeling like a champ. It's a lot better to do slightly less than it is to press on and hit the "we did too much and it went badly and ugh" point. I've done both and the "ugh" point is no place to be. *sigh* Live and learn.

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    1. HA yuengling is for when we feel like taking a step up in the world, when we're feelin a little fancier LOL! #boh4eva hahaha....

      seriously tho i'm in total agreement about very strongly preferring to leave an outing wishing we had done more, than regretting not quitting while we're ahead. bc i've been there too and it's not a good feeling. at least now i can look forward to the next outing feeling ready to push myself a little more, vs feeling like i'm going to have to take a step back and fix what i broke last time.

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  6. Aww what a good boy!! I totally agree about preparing the rider-that's why I've been having a pro show Frankie-I just don't think I am ready for it quite yet as I have trouble controlling my nerves.

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    1. ugh man i know that feeling. it's ridiculous. i have to work SO DAMN HARD just to try and feel a little brave. like making myself jump those two little jumps felt like a major accomplishment (even if i look back on it knowing it's kinda ridiculous). nerves, man. they're real!

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  7. Wahoo, his mind is so good for eventing. I love that nothing seems to bother him!

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    1. so far so good! i'm starting to get excited that he's showing an interest in the job!

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  8. What an awesome day!!! I love how Charlie just takes each new experience in stride, and HOW EXCITING that he is grasping this jumping game and going forth to Jump All The Things! And rider prep is absolutely necessary!! My pony can probably go out and compete Novice tomorrow by himself and do fine. It's me being a basketcase that's the issue here. So, baby steps to confidently competing Elementary and BN again it shall be!

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    1. yea i mean, that's the thing, tho, right? the reality is that *most* horses can go novice. like you watch some of Elisa Wallace's latest videos with her new ottb Indiana Chrome, who she picked up off the track after i got Charlie, and who she just ran on his first training. watching that ride... like. it's pretty clearly *not* a ride i would be able to give haha, but with the right rider the horse can get it done. and watching videos like that just further reaffirm to me that, really it *is* all about setting it up so that *i* personally can deliver the ride needed to accomplish whatever given level, since just about any horse could probably go higher than i can currently ride to anyway. and i'm cool with that, and cool with acknowledging that we stay low until *i'm* comfortable going up, vs staying low bc the horse needs it.

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  9. That water video tho!!! What an awesome boy and great experience! You do such a good job of setting him up to be successful, I love it.

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    1. ha thanks! ultimately i want a horse who knows his job well enough that he can get it done even when i goof. so far so good!

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  10. OMG!!! he looks AWESOME!! GAH im so excited for you guys. And how super willing he was to just take on the water. I know winters been kinda slow and poopie but you've very clearly been putting the legwork in to build up the bond.

    he's gonna be kickass.

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    1. eeeeee thanks, i'm so excited!! still kinda nervous about the unknown lol, but mostly excited. we've been working SUPER hard on building up a trusting bond bc frankly i need that in a big way to help rebuild my confidence. so far it's working out tho!

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  11. What a good boy! Also, his big trot is PRETTY

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    1. ha it's GIANT, that's for sure! seriously tho as i was trotting him through the water, i kinda felt like maybe that's exactly what we need to be doing to build his strength and getting him more lifted in his shoulders, bc it really improved his entire mechanic!

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  12. Could he be any cuter in that video!?!

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    1. lolz i'm sure he could try!! ;)

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  13. It's so great that Charlie is getting such a great and positive experience. I think good prep and positive exposure are key to enjoying whatever activity you and your horse are doing. I'll be exposing Aria to the show scene soon. Hope she does as well as Charlie!

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    1. totally agreed on preparation helping with ultimately being able to have fun. that's definitely how i like to do things! and i'm sure Aria will be great too - we almost never regret taking this time to practice in advance!

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  14. Go Charlie go!! He is clearly kicking ass at getting the miles in! And as much as that feeling of "Oh, I wish I had done just two or three more jumps!!" burns, it always burns me more when I'm like "UGH I shouldn't have tried that last thing that led to the melt down."

    I clearly have far higher beer standards than you do too, because I think the last time I drank Natty was eight years ago. Horse shows and camps I usually pack a Lagunitas or 21st Amendment six pack. Though perhaps I will have to consider the utility of Natty in this setting, since I'm mostly super tired and ready to sleep anyway... :D

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    1. lol yea beer standards aren't particularly high in these parts - tho each of my riding buddies goes for slightly different brews. mostly we just want something cold and refreshing while we hang out and unwind after what was hopefully an awesome ride (tho the same approach fits for decompressing after really shitty rides too haha)

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  15. I love the feeling of leaving somewhere and thinking "wow I should have done xyz thing". Sounds like such a positive, confidence building experience for both of you!

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    1. thanks! right now i'm basically 100% focused on confidence building. it's been almost a year since i've actually done an event - i need all the help i can get!

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  16. I just feel so happy for the two of you--I mean, you are preparing him for such a fun new adventure in his life and you are just being patient and setting him up so well for success mentally.

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    1. aw thanks - the advantages are definitely twofold right now too bc i'm as much being slow and patient for my own benefit. i just want to keep this 'excited' feeling alive haha. so far so good!

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  17. Love this outing!! You both have such a fantastic attitude and you set him up for success so well. <3

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    1. i very much want this whole thing to work out for us so here's hoping he can continue being successful!

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  18. What a great outing! His trot is amazing! Ground covering for miles and miles. Wow. I'm so excited for you and your future. Loch Moy is massive too. I'd get lost in the rings.

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    1. ha it's not that fantastic right now without the aid of water obstacles.... esp on uneven terrain he forges really badly lol. i have hope tho!

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  19. GO CHARLIE!!!!! I love all the little steps you take to keep him chill and make work less work like.

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    1. definitely!! i want it to be fun and easy for all involved!

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  20. Awww, Charlie, you so brave!! They grow up so fast!

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    1. lol right? tho honestly i'm pretty sure this horse was born already being like 21years old

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  21. omg, he is so friggen adorable. <3 him!

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  22. I always ride with the philosophy that my horse can look at whatever he wants he just has to be doing what I say, Ramone loved looking too and looking and spooking are two different things and I'm ok with looking. He definitely will work out of it :)

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    1. yea i tend to agree - tho only to a certain extent. as a green bean still learning his job he's allowed to 'settle in' as the case may be, and especially as he's learning to operate in new and unfamiliar settings. but once he's further along in his training, the little looksies around will actually lose us points in a dressage test (for 'distraction' and 'inattentiveness') so i also want to start planting the seeds that once he's had his little look around i'm going to ask him to focus in on me and stay present. like you say tho, this will come with time

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  23. Oh man! LOVE how he is progressing. Sounds like a really great outing!!

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    1. thanks - it really was. and i'm pretty satisfied with feeling like now i wish i had done more. can't wait for next time!

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  24. You guys are going to have so much fun this year! You've got yourself a great adventure partner for sure!

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  25. Perfect intro to the show environment! He's gonna be a great one :)

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  26. I definitely agree that part of training is sometimes preparing the rider!

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