Tuesday, April 18, 2017

what's the big difference? xc edition

Charlie and I went xc schooling again this weekend, quite unexpectedly actually. And it was good. I'll write more below.

Isabel!!!!! from last year's epic blogger cross country meet up with Allison and Niamh
But there continues to be fairly major problems with my ride. And I think I've finally pinpointed the exact sources. Or, well, I think there's one central issue from which all other problems radiate.

wheeeeee Charlie!
Neither of the above pictures are really perfect, and I'm not claiming my position in the pic with Isabel is ideal - but I think this is the clearest example of what I'm trying to say. Spot the difference between the above two?

hands half way (ish) up the neck
From past cross country lessons with Dan, I've written the following about his instructions re: position:
Dan talked about the importance of having distinct riding styles between each phase - and that for xc he wanted my galloping position to include hands farther forward. As in, half way up Isabel's neck, with knuckles actually pressing into her neck. He used Andrew Nicholson as an example of a rider who really doesn't move his hands at all, and rather makes all his adjustments through his body and legs and core, etc.

And at our season opener at Loch Moy last year, I wrote TWICE about how on cross country, when I remembered to get my hands farther forward up the horse's neck, it was suddenly much easier to commit to the forward ride on the horse.

pictured: hands not where they belong.
Right now with Charlie, I'm really struggling to commit to the forward ride, to let him go. Mostly bc the faster he goes, the more obvious it is how green he is (naturally), and that's not necessarily a fantastic feeling.

pictured: such a good boy
BUT. He is a good boy. And he's doing well. He's trying hard and getting a lot of the answers right, despite his greenness. My thinking is that if I can just correct this one issue with my position, all the other pieces will feel a lot better. A stronger, more correct position will make me more effective in the saddle, which will make the actual riding easier anyway.

lol my hands are definitely in the category of "once you've seen it, you can't unsee it" .... blargh
also - spot the "fun" uphill roller coaster log line in the background!
So. That's basically the biggest takeaway from this weekend's schooling. The other big takeaway? Charlie got out there and knew exactly what was up. He was READY for it haha.

I was... less ready and taken a bit by surprise by the unexpected schooling (as evidenced by not having my helmet cam on hand!), but felt game enough. And I did in fact feel better throughout the whole ride than I had the schooling before. Small steps, y'all.

warm up logs! 
And I was ready to pick up where we left off the lesson before: with cantering in to all the fences and trying to trust the horse more. We warmed up over some little logs we finished with last week, including putting a bending 90* left turning line together.

roll top again! 
Charlie wasn't finding the greatest of spots, but we can attribute that to my aforementioned rider issues, and his greenness. The spots weren't all great, but he sure as shit didn't care. Good boy.

out with a bigger group this time, and doin good
It was pretty immediately clear tho that Trainer P was taking zero prisoners in this lesson. EVERYONE was held more accountable, and she pushed everyone to challenge themselves and ride more. Including three riders who schooled a lot of N stuff (and the occasional T element), and a fourth rider whose green bean was more of a level with Charlie (tho slightly more advanced).

same uphill log as last time
And trainer P didn't want to hear any of my nonsense. Tho she did let me start over a smaller log than she wanted, after I acknowledged it was for my own benefit and not Charlie's haha. But after that, it was full speed ahead. Skipping over the littlest stuff we had done last time, and adding in more "big" stuff (like a fun looking rail fence very early on).

in jump of the uphill log LINE!
And she made me do the uphill line of log jumps - which I jumped with Jasper on my first ever xc schooling three years ago, and then jumped a number of times with Isabel - most recently during our final BN in mid 2015 before moving up to N.

out jump. with horse's head and neck restricted by rider's hands. le sigh. 
Like. So I know this line of jumps. I know Isabel and I schooled it in 5, but aced it in 4 during competition. I also knew that Charlie was getting there in a long 5 and wasn't jumping well bc I was pulling on him. But even with two trips through, I wasn't really fixing it.

for context, a grainy clip of izzy doing 4 over the same line. compare to charlie in the below video
Because sometimes guys, it just takes me a long time to translate something I know intellectually into something I can actually physically do. (Which also explains why I repeat myself again and again - trying to commit this stuff to memory first, and hopefully muscle memory shortly thereafter!).

And the reality is that I'm simply not that same rider from 2015 any more. Which sucks but... well. Shit happens. If I play my cards right tho, Charlie will get me whipped back into shape!!

up banks = easy
Anyway, by this time in the schooling, Charlie was definitely getting really into it. I spent a lot of time cantering around before each jump and after each jump, so it was less "stop and start" and more "getting to know each other cantering over ground." But even so, Charlie would lope right on along until something resembling a jump crossed his sight line. Then it was ON.

down banks = slightly more challenging, at least for rider haha
Trainer P told me if I was too nervous, I could consider putting a pelham on him for our first full three phase HT this coming weekend.... But I think I'm going to hold off for now. If I can't stop myself from pulling on him in the snaffle.... it's probably not the right time to bit up.

Plus, again, I'm expecting that the correction in my upper body and arm positioning can fix these issues better than a bigger bit anyway. We'll see.

damn that is a long long horse tho haha
Trainer P said one thing tho that really helped me tho - she said sometimes the best thing to do with green beans is to actually be a little sloppy, a little loosey-goosey with the reins, and let them figure it out.

wheeeee flying through the water!
For whatever reason, "sloppy reins" resonated with me, and I was able to (mostly) force myself to just keep pushing my hands forward to the next little jump (not pictured, but a saw mill log in a fence line). And whadya know, Charlie held himself steady all on his own, without my constant pulling. Funny how that works lol.

fun (and shorter) video here! (sorry there's not more, I didn't bring my helmet cam and my lesson mates were often otherwise occupied jumping their own jumps lol)

Really tho, like I said last week, we just need more mileage. The horse is proving to be bold and brave, tho he definitely feels very green. So I need to continue allowing him to do his thing and gain the experience, but also fill in the gaps and be a more correct rider for when he does have a green moment or two.

so many pets. <3 him.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel pretty nervous going into this coming weekend. We're doing all three phases at Loch Moy in their elementary (2'3) division. I'm fully expecting the stadium jumps to be a little soft, and I've seen most of their elem xc jumps before and they're definitely on the smaller side.

The horse should be fine no matter what, I think, I just need to do my job. And remember to put my goddamn hands forward lol. The plan is to have one more jump lesson (probably in the ring) between now and the show, and depending on weather etc, I may be able to get in a jump school at home too.

me + my pony
We'll see. Mostly I'm pretty excited. And let's be real, this wouldn't be 'Fraidy Cat Eventing if I wasn't at least a little freaked out haha. But it's cool. Time keeps on chuggin' no matter what and I've just gotta keep doin what we're doin.

This xc school felt like good preparation tho. And we had another dressage lesson too that'll get it's own post probably (tho there honestly isn't a ton to say). So ya know. We're dotting all the "i"s and crossing all the "t"s. Like ya do. Maybe I'll get around to cleaning some tack too haha, or doing laundry? Eh. Devil in the details, and such.

58 comments:

  1. The idea of this fix is so simple and makes so much sense!! But deary me, Charlie's got a LONG neck compared to Izzy! As someone who rides a lot of short horses who have appropriately short necks for their size, the times I've ridden thoroughbreds with their appropriately longer necks for their bodies intimidates me...but at the same time makes me go, "Oh hey, that neck might, you know, keep me on through a dirty spook/stop...maybe I should get a bigger horse?" lol

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    1. Omg he is so long lol, like I almost want to make the excuse that my muscle memory is putting my hands where they used to be on Izzy bc damn they are very different sizes lol. Alas that isn't true either tho - as evidenced by bent elbows with Izzy and straight locked arms with Charlie. Oh well. Just gotta work on it!

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    2. Dude, I'll totally support your muscle memory excuse! You're really not far off from where you were with Izzy if you look at the angles in several photos. THAT'S JUST SUCH A HUGE NECK OMG CHARLIE. But hey, more neck = more to hug!

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    3. Lol I mean it's a nice story and makes me feel less bad as a rider, but it ain't true. Only angle I see is the one between my upper and forearm and it's gotta be closer to 90* as with Izzy than 180* as with Charlie.

      Totally agreed tho on the "more to hug" part tho!! <3

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  2. Good luck this weekend! Can't wait to read all about it. I'm sure you will do great and have fun.

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  3. very cool Charlie and sloppy reins are a trademark of mine. UGH. Charlie looks great and ready for the weekend! Can't wait to read all about it. Looks like it was a lovely day for cc schooling there too.

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    1. It was gorgeous out for sure ;) and I loved the idea of sloppy reins haha. Need to remember it!

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  4. I can yell HANDS FORWARD at you! Haha you use to yell at me so maybe I can pay that forward! 😜 Great Xc school and he was on and locking on those fences. Such a good boy and you were being much more bold!!

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    1. Omg he was locking on a little too well lol, I think he likes it!!

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  5. It is really cool to see Charlie out there being sensible in the environment, doing all the different obsticles without losing his mind and actually allowing you to now start working on details. I feel your pain, but kinda for the exact opposite problem. I am so happy to shoot my hands up the neck and bury my fingers in mane over every jump that I don't have steering on the back side because I am too busy untangling myself from Savvy's long mane, haha...ugh. But the great thing is that it is early days and knowing what to fix means it *will* get fixed as it all gets less green/terrifying! :)

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    1. Yea I mean, it's kinda crazy how we all develop our own weird little bad habits haha. And I also know the woe of getting tangled in mane!! That's a big reason why I always put a running braid in Izzy's mane when we jumped haha

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  6. You've got this! Charlie has a good head and you know exactly what you need to do. Of course, I fully understand that doing what you know is not always that easy. ;)

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    1. Ugh knowing v doing is like the most annoying thing ever lol. Thanks tho hopefully we can make it work!

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  7. The short reins thing is interesting. I have had people tell me the same idea, but in different words. To me it's interesting to see what phrases/explanations resonate more with other people. Mostly my trainer just has to say the same thing in 10 different ways until I get it, ha! He looks really super though Emma, best of luck this weekend!!!!

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    1. Thanks! And yea it's definitely always interesting to me too to see what different wordings work (which is partly why I ride with a variety of trainers lol). For me, just thinking about "short reins" isn't enough bc I'll straighten my arm and lower my hands (all in the valiant but misguided quest for "softness" no doubt) to make it *feel* like I've got full contact. When really, for me, if I think about where my hands physically need to be, then I will put them there and shorten my reins as needed. At least, that's the theory for now!

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  8. RIDING IS SO HARD, YO! But I'm super pumped for you guys to do your first full HT! You're gonna kill it!

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    1. ha thanks! i'm pretty pumped too. nervous? yes. pumped? also yes :D

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  9. I totally sympathize with a long neck! For me it makes the short reins really, really tough. You guys will be just fine this weekend though, and you'll have fun :) Just remember to breathe!

    The other thing I noticed between the 2 photos, and this could just be the lighting in the pics, but your stirrups look longer on Charlie? If they are, is that b/c of your ankle? Or am I just seeing things?

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    1. yea stirrup length is on my mind too. for whatever reason, charlie's build makes it easier to stretch my leg DOWN, instead of curling it up like i always did with izzy. plus i did in fact lengthen my stirrups when i started with him bc there's no reason to have galloping length stirrups on a w-t green bean. now that we're actually jumping and i'm getting tossed around a little bit, it's time to make adjustments. i shortened them a week or so ago, but may decide to go a little shorter still. we will see. the leathers are kinda old and crusty and stretched with uneven gaps between holes haha so i might also just need new leathers....

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  10. For me anyways, a shorter stirrup makes it easier to balance over the long neck and keep my hands more forward. If my stirrups are too long, I feel like I'm fighting my own position and it's easier to end up with my hands in my lap. Although, who am I kidding? Ending up with long reins and my hands in my lap are sort of my trademark and nemesis :D

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    1. lol yea i totally get it. i think for everyone, the answer to the "chicken or egg" question is a little different. for instance, i KNOW that i'm planting my hands at his wither (not coincidentally, at the jump strap). this hand position is unrelated to anything else beyond me purposefully (and wrongly) putting my hands there. short stirrups my help my overall position, and they might help me stay more balanced, but they're not gonna move my hands for me.

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  11. That's a long neck to get half-way up on - I can see why it's not easy to do. What if you put an elastic in the spot where you want your hands- kind of like a visual reminder? Easier to do if you are braiding - you can make that one a different colour. :)

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    1. haha i mean, i'm pretty sure i just need to bend my elbows ;) the "half way up" is more of a visual reminder vs a hard and fast rule (bc i sure as hell don't want to get all curled up and too far forward with my upper body, esp if he's gonna stumblesplat into coops on occasion!). the thing is that i'm currently riding with my arms straightened, unbent elbows, and hands down at his wither when what i really want is more of an unbroken line from the bit, through the rein, my hand and elbow.

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  12. "Mostly bc the faster he goes, the more obvious it is how green he is (naturally), and that's not necessarily a fantastic feeling."

    what you dont like when you lose power steering and feel eggbeater legs as your horse looks at all the things?

    WHAT A WEIRDO

    jk

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    1. lol i know, right? call me crazy but.... ehhhhh i kinda prefer having niceties like steering and brakes.

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  13. I get it, girl. I really really do. So glad you have a Charlie. :-)

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  14. I love that he's got such a great amateur horse brain. There's a lot to be said for a horse that can take a mistake and carry on without it ruining their lives. They're worth their weight in gold!

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    1. FOR. REAL. lol.... my #1 biggest most importantest objective right now is to make sure i don't give him any reason to reconsider that wonderful attitude of his. namely: i don't exactly want to find the limit of his patience and tolerance lol. gotta get my shit together!

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  15. SO fun! What a good boy. And I totally get the nervouseness. It's hard having a new partner! Especially one quite different from your last one!

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    1. yea it's definitely hard. i feel so rusty!! as evidenced by needing to go back and relearn all the same lessons haha.

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  16. He is such a good boy. Baby steps, like you said. Everything takes baby steps. Putting your hands in correct position does not necessarily equate to having to go full out to me. You can still work on controlling his speed with your body. Slowly increasing his speed as you both get more comfy and confident. Just my thinking. I hope you two can go out and have fun next weekend! I know how you feel with the whole not being the same rider thing. It is hard, but if you put the work in, you know it will pay off.

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    1. the change in hand position isn't meant to create a change in the horse's speed, it's meant to create a change in how i experience and ride his pace. in my current position, i'm getting a little too far behind his motion, so that he feels faster than he is (see the video of him adding in the line while i'm STILL pulling). if i can correct my position to stay more "with" his motion, the idea is that i'll be more comfortable with his natural pace and rhythm, which are actually quite good and would be better with less interference from me.

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    2. YES! exactly! I guess I miss read

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    3. yep. the relevant detail there is the quote from my trainer dan at the top of the post.

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    4. actually, if you're curious, the full trainer commentary is included in this video - both at the beginning and half way through.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcYbr_gmcG4

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    5. That is great! Ya, no I thought you meant that you felt that by putting your hands up in the correct position that he was going to go too fast/move out of y'alls comfort level. It can be a hard mental block for some to work through, even when you have a trainer telling you or you know otherwise. Which you stated. I was speaking mostly to your statement of struggling to commit to the forward ride and let him go because he is green. I was just trying to say the same thing in a different way. The happy spot will come with time. Y'all have really made great progress.

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    6. yea i hear ya. but no - i haven't been avoiding putting my hands forward on purpose. it's legitimately just bad practice, an error in my position. one of those things where you *think* you're being soft by having longer reins and low hands... but the reverse ends up being true. that same trainer, Dan, always lectured me on not confusing "softness" with "effectiveness." apparently tho i can still forget. the purpose of this post was to establish that i've finally remembered this positional detail, and will now work harder to make the correction. and hopefully this single change will make a big difference in how well i can jump the horse.

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    7. Good for you for recognizing and admitting it. You are one step closer to fixing it!

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  17. Yeah girl! You guys are on the right track and things will slowly but surely fall into place! :D

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    1. thanks!! the horse is honestly making it so easy for me - i just need to sit back relax and enjoy the ride!!! ;)

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  18. Look at him go!!!!! Ahhh so exciting about the show this weekend!!! It'll be great!

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    1. thanks! it's pretty incredible how well he's going -- like all pretenses of "helping him figure it out" are on hold while i fix myself bc he's clearly the adult here lol!

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  19. He's got this, you've got this! Have fun this weekend and get lots of media to share (:

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  20. Ha, I'm with you in that the horse feels like he's going super fast, then you see the video and it's like, "is this in slo-mo?" Nope. I'm just a wimp. But for real, you guys looks aaaaawesome, and I'm going to say it again...I LOVE Charlie!

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    1. gah, he's just wonderful, isn't he??? i just gotta keep doin him justice!

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  21. Good insight! I can so relate to "the faster we go the less control I have." Thankfully I'm only riding a 14.1hh pony so how fast can we go? Haha.

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    1. lol idk..... 14.3 isabel might have a thing or two to say about hitting high speeds on short legs ;)

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  22. Nothing to say, except you both look awesome! New horses are hard, and you're rocking it!

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    1. aw thanks! it's funny, he's being so good, i kinda keep forgetting that it's still all so new

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  23. You guys are going to do great on the weekend! Rooting for you :) I struggle with rein length consistency (and hand position) because my horses have three very different necks, it definitely takes time to adjust!

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    1. thanks! and yea switching around from horse to horse can definitely make it tricky!!

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  24. SO jealous! I want to go cross country schooling so bad, but everything here is mud. Would a neck strap help? I find if I have a spot I know I need to get my hands to, it helps.

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    1. i know it's hard to see in some of these pictures, but i've been riding with some variation of a neck strap for jumping since before i started this blog. izzy wore a running martingale with a neck strap, and charlie just has a plain old neck strap.

      in this instance, it is NOT helping bc it's too far back. thus the spot i need to get my hands to is half way up his neck.

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  25. I like Charlie's saddle much better than Izzy's. In Izzy's saddle, it looks like your knee is right on the edge of the knee roll. (At least in that one pic) In Charlie's saddle, your knee looks like it's found a happy and secure spot.

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  26. haha I definitely can't unsee it now

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