Friday, April 14, 2017

3 phases? CHECK

As promised, let's have a light-hearted Friday recap of Charlie's first real, actual, jumping jumps cross country school!

Of course you may be thinking, "Wait, didn't he school at Loch Moy that one time? And what about the other day at Tranquility with all those other horses?"

And you wouldn't be wrong - both of those maybe technically count as cross country outings, and the horse did in fact jump at least one (itsy bitsy) xc fence on each occasion. But today we're talking about our first true lesson - and an outing in which Charlie jumped multiple itsy bitsies. Distinctions, y'all. They is important haha.

bc riding with friends is the best
Some of my riding buddies and I actually made this a special outing - taking an unusual weekday lesson with Trainer P at OF. And it worked out pretty well.

Both the other horses are mostly confirmed at most of BN (one is ditchy and the other is iffy about water) and school N with some regularity, so both were perfect baby sitters for showing Charlie how it was done and giving him leads over his first few fences.

(Hilariously tho, Charlie's actually the oldest of the bunch, just by far the greenest. Birdie came off the track as a ~4yo and has been under saddle for just shy of 2 years, I think. Bella never raced and has been under saddle the longest. Tho I think Bird and Bells might be about the same age?)

itsy bitsy brush box!
Trainer P is a big believer in using lead horses, and letting green horses watch more experienced horses go. This works especially well for Charlie bc his race trainer also used leads often with him when bringing him back from his tie back surgery, after he had completely lost confidence in training from one-too-many episodes of bleeding and collapsed lungs. So he understands the concept of a lead horse and quickly gains confidence with one.

The method worked well for me too, bc I was basically useless in the saddle lol. It's just.... well. It's been a long time since I've worked on cross country. Same story, different day, right? It's just going to take time for me to get my own sea legs back. One step at a time tho!

isabel always loved this jump. charlie did too - says it looks tasty!
Charlie and I started by trotting everything - usually first with a lead horse and then once or twice on our own. First couple jumps were quite small anyway: a log, the above candy cane jump, and the earlier brush box. And Charlie was his casual, no-fuss self despite my nerves and tension.

We had one oopsie moment at a jump we attempted without a lead - the small, hay-covered box below. Charlie kinda sputtered to a halt to inspect more closely, then popped over no problem. I'm cool with it.

maybe that's what he was checking with the hay bales too? whether he could eat it instead of jumping it?
Then there was another oopsie ohmyfuckinggodwearegoingtodie moment when trotting behind Brita and Bella over the below coop. When Charlie, um, very inconveniently stumbled right before the coop and crashed into it. Like, actually splatted right into the coop and nosedived rapidly towards earth.

How he managed to pull his legs over the coop and save it is completely beyond me.... But save it he did. Good boy.

pictured: NOT dying over the coop. and i refuse to nitpick my position in any of these pictures bc dammit, it kept me safe in a crash and i'll take function over form any day (tho hopefully form will come eventually!)
We jumped that one a few more times, wherein homeboy was suddenly quite careful, thankyouverymuch, but also totally unfazed. Not at all backed off. This horse. He's just a cool customer. Nearly eats shit and dies? Nbd, just jumps a little higher the next time.

who remembers this rolltop? also pictured: everything getting better when we started cantering fences
We worked over a small roll top after that and kinda biffed it a few times in a row - I think Charlie was watching his lead horse more than the jump. Finally tho, trainer P told me to let him canter out after landing, then come on around and jump it from a canter.

And that's kinda when something *clicked* for me. I had not yet at that point just let the horse move out across the ground - we were constantly starting and stopping, and I was doing an awful lot of holding. Plus his trot just is not very good yet. It's not super balanced or even from side to side, especially on terrain.

ditch!!
But his canter. Ahhhhhh, his canter. Where I found myself gripping and pulling at the trot, trying to somehow force the trot into some semblance of shape with my hands, at canter I could just.... let go. Crazy. Trainer P is always complimenting Charlie on his eye too, and he did not disappoint in that regard with finding these little xc fences from a canter.

So that was definitely a useful feeling for me. I had been thinking that trotting in was our best bet - but my new game plan is to really just let the horse canter. If he gets strong or strung out, sure, we can come back to trot. But for the most part, canter is our friend.

banks!
We practiced over another faux ditch (which, just as at Tranquility, posed exactly zero issues for the big guy) and did some up and down banks both with and without a lead, then put our newfound canter back to work over a fun little uphill log.

yup, that looks like a happy horse to me!
That jump actually made me kinda nervous bc the ground rolls in fits and starts uphill, especially in the last stride before the log, and I wasn't sure how Mr Not Great On Terrain would do. Oh Emma. Have some faith! You'll see in the video, but Charlie locked on to this log immediately and nailed the terrain like he's been doing it his whole life.

brand new water hole!!! twas deep but he did a good job. he also tanked up drinking from it lol
Definitely a good feeling haha. And of course jumping uphill is great for me too bc it also forces me to let go. After that, we played in OF's newly renovated water complex a little bit (including trotting and cantering through!) before finishing up over another couple of logs.

wheeeee logs <3
Again it was just glaringly clear that Charlie was happier cantering in to fences. And obviously he has no problem at all with these tiny fences.

I got better as I went, tho more mileage is definitely needed for both of our benefits haha. Like I told Brita, I should probably be out doing rides exactly like this every 2-3 weeks right now, if not more often.


The video is a little longer than I usually like for blog purposes, but I'm happy to have it for the purposes of documentation. Plus, for your viewing pleasure, it's all action and is a combination of helmet camera footage and the iphone footage Brita snagged when she wasn't otherwise providing leads over fences. 

And of course, there's also gratuitous slo-mo of our splat moment at the coop. You're welcome. (pro-tip: turn on volume for the full body-slam effect)

#keepinghim
All in all, he was fantastic. I could have lived without the stumblesplat at the coop, bc, uhh, plz Charlie, let's not. Otherwise tho, the horse demonstrated a fundamental understanding of what this whole cross country thing is about. Lots to polish up, sure, and it'll be a slow road in introducing complexity and technicality (like stringing things together in close proximity), but it feels fair to say that the horse has the basics down for elementary cross country.

As a rider, I've got the basics too. I need to keep reminding myself of this. They're rusty and dusty, and I need to loosen the fuck up. But I do actually know what I'm doing. I've got the skills, knowledge and experience. Even when I'm feeling down on myself as a rider, all I have to do is look at this horse who is rising to every new challenge with confidence and gusto. He's all the proof I need: despite it all, we really are doing fine.

It feels good, y'all. Finally.

35 comments:

  1. I am so impressed with the two of you! Especially with how you finished after the stumble and how cool you both looked doing all of it. Way to go!

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    1. Ha in fairness the helmet cam footage really didn't pick up on my nervous energy at all - even I was kinda impressed watching it like - huh I don't sound nearly the way I felt! Funny how that works!

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  2. Woohoo Charlie! Good baby brain. And I agree that it's way easier to canter those fences. I have been told it's because it's easier to get the horse forward and in front of your leg at the canter but whatever the reason, I hate trotting new fences.

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    1. Yea I mean he's 8 so he should be fairly beyond baby brain antics. Gotta love the big quiet guy!

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  3. Good boy Charlie!! I have to say, I fall into this trotting into stuff pattern myself, or at least I did with Subi. My old trainer was huge with trot fences and when I first got him, we seriously trotted singles forever. But, I'm now one of the few people who love trot fences and will trot anything. But it's a hard pattern to break even years later? It's a security blanket? So hard to explain. I can even see distances better at the trot. It's crazy. But I think part of that also relates to riding a stopper too and the mental anguish of that... anyway, you guys look amazing!

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    1. Our reasons for trotting have more to do with encouraging Charlie to think about where his feet are at any given moment. Cantering these fences is nothing to him - he just exaggerates his stride and sails over, not needing to think about form or getting his feet under him or anything. Whereas at trot he actually needs to pay closer attention, so it's more educational for him. There's a balance tho, as always. And in this situation, the balance worked out better to allow him the easier jumping method (from canter) as he learned about new styles of jumping (cross country).

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  4. Charlie checking out the hay jump in the video is really cute although I know its not good that he stopped. He seems pretty confident out there.

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    1. Lol honestly I thought it was pretty cute too. And like, sure, technically we don't want any stops. But at this point in his training I feel that was perfectly forgiveable bc it was almost like he just had to slow down to fully think it out and understand it, then just continued on his merry way. Eventually he will learn to do that type of thinking a little faster, and spend more time looking and understanding the fence while approaching at speed. For that particular moment tho I thought he did a reasonably good job of thinking it thru and arriving at the correct answer, albeit slowly lol

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  5. GO CHARLIE GO! It just makes my heart happy to see you guys developing your partnership as eventers together! Charlie is such a good learner, and he looks SO pleased with himself! You didn't ride half bad, either. ;)

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  6. He looks awesome! XC seems like his thing.

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    1. it feels really promising, that's for sure! and it's like he suddenly gets way better about uneven ground when there are jumps involved. counter-intuitive but ima take it!

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  7. That looked like a lot of fun! Maybe he thought that hay jump was actually a lunch break? You are doing such a great job with him. :)

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    1. haha he might have lol - he did snack on some grass off the top of the bank when i first let him look at that too ;)

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  8. Woo! First XC outing and it was a success! Congrats.

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  9. I just love everything about this! So happy that you have found such a great teammate in Charlie.

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    1. thanks! he's really proving to be a wonderful partner so far!

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  10. Looks like such a fun first real XC outing! He is such a cool horse.

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    1. he's a good boy for sure, and it was fun! more fun in retrospect when it's over than in the actual moment, but we're working on it ;)

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  11. Woot! Go Emma and Charlie! Those little XC jumps look so fun...makes me really want to do more little things with Spot.

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    1. the littlest ones are the most fun ;)

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  12. Charlie don't care 'bout no cross country jumps! Or near death experiences! Such a superstar.

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    1. lol evvvvvvvvvery now and then i wished he cared just a liiiiiitle bit more tho ;P

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  13. Oh my gosh. So jealous. I really want to go XC schooling. Sounds like Charlie really liked it too.

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  14. so amazing and a fun looking day. Can't wait till you are doing the bigger jumps cause i think Charlie has this! He looks a natural! YAY. PS did you actually say you signed up for FH? Must know more...:)
    Gulp i am going to Windurra tomorrow. My stomach is in knots reading your blog cause..omg...LOL...Remus also stops to try to eat anything with grass or hay or flowers OR shies at them...depending on his mood. HA. FUN TIMES!

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  15. What a good boy he is! I noticed you are really elastic with your elbows (this is a struggle for me - so I commend you highly for that!). Sounds like a very successful outing :)

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  16. Yes yes yes!!!!! I love this!! I wish I could school so often, it would make both our horses bamfs.

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  17. You've done a good job with him! He obviously trusts you a lot and wants to do his best for you. You guys have a great partnership started!

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  18. Wahoo Charlie! He's such a good boy, so unphased by XC!

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  19. That slo-mo splat...he really whacked it, didn't he? But at least it didn't mess with him at all. He looked seriously awesome in the video.

    I'm both dreading and am excited to get back on XC. It's been like 5 months!

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