Wednesday, March 15, 2017

six months of Charlie

This week marks six months since Charlie officially became mine. Six months since I've unapologetically let loose my inner 12yo, whose dreams have finally come true lol.

and officially 7 months since charlie retired from racing. portrait by Alyssa Kelley
My horse shopping criteria was fairly broad - I looked predominantly at OTTBs who had been or were in the process of being restarted. Charlie was actually an outlier in that regard - he was just 4wks off the track and had arrived to the adoption facility a few days before I took the below photo. So they hadn't begun any work with him yet.

#alwaysbemajestic
But as a 2009 model with a distinctly quiet and laid back temperament, it felt like a relatively safe bet despite his extreme greenness. And so our little journey began!

his first bath at the adoption facility. look at that sweet face tho!
Obviously if you've been following along you've already got a pretty clear sense of where the horse is in his training. The gist? He's basically right around where you might expect a horse to be after 6 months of under saddle work with an amateur rider. Or, at least, he's more or less followed the trajectory I had hoped for (barring any major impediments or interruptions).

"pretty sure i might be certifiable, but i'm going for it!" - euphoric emma, about to bring the big guy home
Buying a horse in early fall was actually really great timing: We had all fall and winter to get to know each other with the goal of having a fairly established foundation come spring time. My absolute "shoot for the stars" goal was to be ready for a full three-phase event by spring. And honestly? We're pretty darn close (tho I'm now shooting for a two-phase debut instead).

Since the first six months to a year with an OTTB tend to be the most transformative, I thought today's post could take a broad inventory of where Charlie is in his education today and how I see each of these areas continuing to develop.

Things Charlie can do:

General Citizenship and Well-being:
Stands tied / cross tied quietly
Bathes / clips / vacuums no problem

first ride post-track!
Stands well for the farrier and vet
Gets along with other horses in turnout
Appears to have graduated from a 4wk shoeing cycle!!
Has grown more and more sound over time

first steel shoes. happy to say his foot has changed dramatically since this picture
Next steps:
Continue refining diet to meet nutritional needs and build weight
Stay on top of hoof care


Ground work:
Has learned some basics re: yielding specific quarters to pressure
Can sorta lunge, more or less


Is the best at carrot stretches
Reliably trailers individually or with another horse, and basically self loads


Travels well and can go to work in new and unfamiliar settings

graduated out of the stud chain within about a week or so of coming home #safetyfirst
Next steps:
More. Always more.
Attend bomb proofing and/or trail/obstacle challenge type clinics??

first ground work session
Flat work:
Can w-t-c with steady rhythm on a 20m circle in both directions
Learning the basics of contact and connection

almost looking like he fits in at the dressage barn!
Has simple changes of lead through trot
Undefeated International Champion Of The World at USDF Intro B

#winning!
Next steps:
Keep on keepin' on
Transitions within trot: compress + ride forward, rinse + repeat forever
Continue working on control of shoulders (esp for steering and straightness)

i can't take credit for teaching him to pose tho. #bornthatway 
"Cross Country":
Can w-t-c through open fields on uneven terrain


Has been introduced to small banks and water elements
Jumped xc-style fences in an arena


Can navigate natural trail obstacles (logs and such)
Is generally an all-round trail riding dream boat
Can lead or follow other horses, and can leave group and return without drama


tho sometimes perhaps he wishes he could leave *this* horse behind haha
Next steps:
Actually school xc
Introduce ditches
MOAR TRAIL RIDING!!!! :D
....Eventually gallop. Eventually. *gulp*

all trail riding, all the time plz
General Jumping:
Is basically the best at clobbering and stumbling through all the ground poles

not the first, but a very early cross rail effort
Hasn't been particularly impressed by anything yet
Reliably jumps stadium fences of all styles up to ~2'3 from trot or canter

first jump lesson + first oxer!
Reasonably proficient at lines of jumps and small grids
Can jump from and land on both canter leads, and can change leads over a fence


Next steps:
Work on straightness (line of travel is sacred!)
Build towards coursework (increase focus on rebalancing before corners)

same oxer as before, just three months later
So. Long photo-heavy story later, six months into this journey and the horse feels like he's coming along pretty well for my purposes.

Some things are going a little slower than they could, or than they would with a different rider. But that's cool bc let's be real: I'm trying to keep up and get my own sea legs back in this process too. And as Tracy reminded me a while back: Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. I'll take it!

And for my purposes, it feels like the relevant landmarks and milestones are cropping up about how I expected (while acknowledging my own limited experience haha). I can't wait to see what the next six months bring!!

Do you have any sort of 'milestones' that you use to gauge your horse's training level? Or like... prerequisites or skill proficiencies that you look for to ensure your horse is on track? If you've worked on restarting horses before, do you keep a general order or agenda for how you introduce new things, or do you kinda wing it based on how the horse responds?

51 comments:

  1. Happy 6 month-aversary! You are Charlie are doing great.

    I have not had trained enough horses to have a system- I've only owned 4 in my whole life but it seems to me that you are right on track.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I don't really have a "system" either and am actually not sure that there really IS a system for us regular folk who aren't turning over horses for resell ever six months.... I'm curious tho!

      Delete
  2. Go Charlie! He is progressing nicely. As far as expectations go, Stinker took those and nuked them. I don't like working horses with specific timelines. I do like having adjustable goals. It is really easy to fall into the trap of oh he is X years old or I've had him for Y years and we should be doing Z.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely agreed that age and time alone aren't necessarily strong indicators of a horse's likely success at any given level. For myself, I've tried instead to think about it almost like a resume or job description : what are the relevant skills needed for each step, and how does each skill set build upon the next.

      Delete
  3. I'm lucky in the sense that all of mine for the last 5 or 6 years have been 'starts' vs 'restarts' -- or unlucky if you look at it in the sense that I have to teach them EVERYTHING haha. And I sometimes fail pretty hard at that.

    I love the way you've been methodically building a foundation with Charlie and I think it's going to pay off super well for you guys in the future!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha yea it's funny bc you never realize just HOW MUCH there is to teach until you're the one responsible for getting it done!! that's definitely part of why i went the ottb route honestly... he already knew the stuff like how to lead and tie and generally be a horse among ppl lol

      Delete
  4. Aw, love this post, happy 6 months!! I think you guys are doing great, you seem much more methodical than I am/have been with my green OTTB. I think patience and time are the two most important training aides.

    Love all the pictures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aw thanks! patience honestly isn't always super easy for me but being super methodical right now is basically my self defense mechanism against extreme nervousness or lack of confidence haha. what can i say but that i like plans and they make me feel more prepared?!? lol...

      Delete
  5. Happy 6 months! Wahoo, he's done so much already!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Awww happy 6 months Charlie and Emma!! I don't have many green horse tips, but I love the way you've just been quietly exposing him to all sorts of situations and letting him build confidence about it all. He's such a solid citizen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks - the exposure part is super important to me, especially for my own self in growing confident about knowing what i've got on my hands with this horse

      Delete
  7. Happy 6 months! He is doing so good with you, we always doubt our progress and what "could have been" if they hadn't gotten an ammy owner but realistically, a pro wouldn't have grabbed them so we are giving them the best. It's a win for us, don't doubt and be overjoyed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha for sure! tho the chances of charlie being picked up by a pro were pretttttty slim i think - he's kinda old and high mileage, relatively speaking, for something so green. but all the same i'm always pretty sure that a more confident rider could get the horse going faster (provided they didn't go *too* far and undercut the horse's confidence.... bc freaking horses, it's always such a balance!)

      Delete
  8. I feel like I need to step up my general citizen work as William doesn't tie or clip but otherwise he's pretty much in line with Charlie's education. I to have been feeling like with someone else he could be further along but I"m having so much fun with him, I'm glad he's mine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. in the interest of full disclosure - charlie came to me knowing how to clip and tie. i didn't install either of those skills lol.... (one of the benefits of getting a horse who was basically a senior citizen on the track). but seriously tho- i agree 100% with having so much fun in the process that it's totally worth it to have him as my own even if someone else would do it better / faster / whatever. don't matter bc he's mine! :D

      Delete
  9. Six months already?! Happy half-year anniversary on finding Mr. Majestic!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i know it's kinda crazy... tho on the other hand it feels like he's been mine forever already haha. also i feel like "Mr Majestic" should be his show name or something lol

      Delete
  10. <3 (there's just nothing more to say--you guys are the best!)

    ReplyDelete
  11. So much happy progress in the last six months - happy six-month-a-versary!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! it's kinda funny when they're this green bc even the littlest steps forward can feel like a big deal lol

      Delete
  12. I can't believe it's been six months! You guys have come so far in such a short time period, I wish mine (that I've been riding for 2 years...) was as well rounded as Charlie. You've really put in a lot of effort with him and it shows :) can't wait to see what the next six months has in store for you and omg I can't wait to meet him in a couple months!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aww yay i can't wait for you to meet him too!! and honestly i say '6 months under saddle' above, and yes this *is* true - but it's also with a nod to the fact that he raced for 4 yrs and has been in some form of training since he was 2. so yea, all the actual 'riding' stuff is new but i had the advantage of working with a horse who already knows how to have a job. the scales would be undeniably much different if he was a freshly started baby for sure!!

      Delete
  13. I think he's a great find! May y'all have lots of fun adventures in the future :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! we're hoping for lots of great adventures too!

      Delete
  14. He seems like such a cool dude. My first 6 months with Annie were pretty low key but she was a lot younger - she went on some
    Trail rides, accompanied others XC Schooling and jumped some small logs and went through water... otherwise it was the same as yours with general be a good citizen stuff. We picked up full speed ahead with the second 6 months though because she was more than game.

    I really enjoy following your guys progress and know you will kick butt and take names at your first show!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! and i think you're right about the first 6 months really being about the general stuff. esp early on, the riding was more about 'going through the motions' than actually asking for anything big. just getting him in the way of understanding the job. here's hoping the next 6 months will bring more and more development! it's been so cool watching Annie come into own as an event horse too - i can only hope Charlie will feel similarly!

      Delete
  15. When you put it all down in writing he really has come far and done a lot in 6 months!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks! it's easy to sit and think about all the things we still can't do, but i'm pleased with his progress so far all the same!

      Delete
  16. Based on that first pic, I would have run over to see him, too. I LOVE his face. I'm so happy for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. aw thanks, i was pretty sold on his sweet face, not gonna lie lol

      Delete
  17. Congrats on your six-month-iversary! The time has flown by, but you've also managed to accomplish a lot since you got acquainted with The Majestic Charles. :)

    I haven't ever done a restart from ottb, but I have done riding readiness and first rides with unstarted horses. I have things I check to make sure they're solid at each stage before progressing to more work. Some of those things are horse-emotional (Is horse relaxed, comfortable?), some are skill-based (Does horse understand rein basics?), and some are physical (Does horse have strength and balance sufficient to complete task?). I feel pretty comfortable getting a young horse under saddle and going w/t/c alone or in groups, outside of a ring, has a canter departure, has simple leads backs up, leg yields, beginning to get decent under-saddle balance --nothing fancy, sort of basic riding, the kind of thing you'd expect from a thirty-day colt starting person. That thing there, I know how to do and I am reasonably OK with assessing what the horse needs to do his job, such as it is.

    For more-advanced skills, stuff beyond "left, right, go, whoa, don't kill me", I am more at-sea about assessment. I feel like I'm wandering in the weeds regarding "contact" and "consistent bend" and "reshaping the canter using seat, not reins" and "automatic release" and so forth. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that I'm learning the skills while trying to teach the skills, a state of affairs that absolutely everyone knows is... non-optimal. So I have to be more careful about checking for emotional/skills/physical readinesses. Also, I am aware that I don't necessarily KNOW all the readinesses needed for the thing, nor am I entirely sure I am providing sufficient support/clarity on the part of the rider to ensure success on the horse's part. Sometimes I am not altogether sure what success at Doing The Thing looks/feels/rides like, so, like, DID he Do The Thing? Or not? It's slow going over here, but I'm hoping to get some eyeballs on the ground this summer to help with that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. learning while teaching is definitely a tricky spot to be in. i felt kinda lucky in that regard with isabel bc even tho she was very "green" to the work, she was otherwise a trained and reliably broke horse. so that work with her has helped in translate to an even greener charlie. eyes on the ground tho have definitely been our saving grace too!

      Delete
  18. I think you've made incredible progress in just 6 months. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks i'm really pleased with him - so far he's made it pretty easy!

      Delete
  19. Charlie's made a lot of progress in six short months! Way to go!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks he seems to be taking to the work pretty well!

      Delete
  20. That's a really great statement from Tracy. Damn 6 months has really flown by

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. she's an insightful gal, that's for sure! i love getting that reality check from other bloggers who've been through it all too!

      Delete
  21. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast is my father in law's motto too. I'm trying to embrace it a bit more.

    Happy six months Charlie Murray!! I am loving watching you guys progress.

    When I was training Murray I would put down in my calendar whenever we did something "big", but a lot of these big things were really tangible jumping things. Jumped hay bales, jumped a coop, jumped a quarter round, jumped the barrels, jumped tires etc. etc. It's so much harder with ground work and dressage things for me, because I don't know what the "stops" and goals are (which is probably part of the reason I suck so much more at that!).

    ReplyDelete
  22. Yay happy 6 months!!!!! You guys are making huge strides and it's so fun to watch!!! Love it!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Yay congrats on your 6monthaversary. You guys are doing great and building a fab partnership

    ReplyDelete
  24. Charlie looks great! You guys have come a long way in 6 months! (And can I say I love your GIF of you guys jumping in the rain!?)

    ReplyDelete
  25. This post makes me go awwww :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. A+ to the progress report! It sounds like everything is going well, and I'm not at all disappointed in any of the OTTBs that I know. We obviously had a slight hiccup to our training due to "health issues" but she is progressing super fast under saddle. Trail riding will be a big one for us since that's one of my absolute favourite things to do out at my barn and jumping is another big milestone. I have a slight feeling that jumping is going to be NBD for her based on how she's done over some crossrails we've popped her over. Can't wait to see how the spring / summer shake out for y'all

    ReplyDelete
  27. Aww yes! Congrats on a great 6 months together!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I think you should be sooo pleased with where you guys are at after six months! I can't wait to see where he is in six more months after dominating the Area II show circuit!

    ReplyDelete
  29. You've done a lot of great work in 6 months!

    ReplyDelete