Tuesday, June 6, 2017

chronological collections

I gotta admit - it was pretty awesome this past weekend to settle into our regular lessons knowing that our next event isn't for a little while. Don't get me wrong - I'm freaking thrilled to be able to compete again: I LOVE horse shows. Love. Can't get enough of them.

And at these low levels, with a green horse, IMO it's reeeeeeally difficult to overdo it so long as I keep an eye towards consistency and building confidence. These easy low key show miles are so wonderful for developing the horse (and rider).

BUT. But. Damn, May was busy. And it kinda got to feeling like "prep prep prep" for the shows, at the expense of having time to dive into whatever 'green horse' training issues arose.

i have zillions of variations of this exact shot with isabel. now it's charlie's turn to walk this path!
Being totally 100% honest here, tho: Charlie still really needs steady, slow and purposeful training rides. Like, rides where the biggest focus is walk-halt-walk-trot-walk etc etc etc. Where we're working on steady rhythm no matter where we are in relation to the gate.

trainer P spent about 25 full minutes massaging / flexing / otherwise palpating charlie's poll. bc 10 months post track and his body is still recovering. it's a long road, y'all
And I've had a couple rides in our home arena at Charlie's barn that have sorta reaffirmed the fact that his barn sourness in that arena simply can't be ignored (trust me, I tried). The draw to the gate has been in Charlie's repertoire since day 1, tho it has evolved in how it presents over time.

But it's morphed a bit into an issue of my own creation. My wishes to 'ignore' the gate sourness actually turned into tacit avoidance.... Which only masked the issue but did nothing to resolve it and maybe made it worse by inadvertently reinforcing his idea that "we only go near the gate when it's time to leave so the gate must equal freedom!" And so, the draw grew stronger.

charlie <3's his new stall guard!!! and apparently <3's testing boundaries too. also. all those random buckets are 100% pony club approved, i promise. lolz
So ya know. Green horses are so good at keepin' ya honest! I can go from one day where Charlie's laying down his nicest dressage test yet, to the next where I can't keep a steady rhythm or straight line toward and away from the gate. Lol whoops...

Whatever tho. We carry on as always, just chippin away and trying to work on one thing at a time, in a manner that is progressive and makes sense. Adjusting and recalibrating, forever and ever.

hacking out through dramatic pre-storm skies!
Lessons have been going well tho too - tho stadium jumping continues to be the most challenging for me as a rider. Charlie has definitely figured out that game, thinks it's pretty easy, and will often build in pace on approach to a jump.

It's funny bc he's easier to jump at shows when everything feels just unfamiliar enough to make him slightly less bold. But in the arena at OF? It's a whole 'nother story lol.

Like in our lesson last weekend, when we trotted a small vertical to a long approach to an oxer. And Charlie just built and built and I could feel him running through my half halt but kinda decided to just let him go. Not trying to hold him off the jump, but certainly not moving him up either. And let him run right past his distance and basically clobber through the oxer.

Whoops, sir. Gotta be more careful! Felt like a good learning moment for him tho, haha.

we also resurrected the circus bridle!!!! and i didn't die!!!!!!!
The cool thing about Charlie tho is that he's not a dummy. And while that little moment didn't necessarily back him off or make him easier to half halt (as trainer P says, we kinda need a 'halt' before we'll have a confirmed 'half halt'), it at least reminded him that he's ultimately got to get to a spot from which he can make it over the fence. Preferably without needing to make a huge effort to do so.

We kinda continued that theme by working repeatedly through the same one-to-one grid as the week before, this time with just a little more height at the first element since he still wasn't super respectful.

Those 18' distances are SHORT for Charlie, but really really help him figure out where his body is. Esp with me being more purposeful about straightness after the run out last week, he really had no choice but to compress and jump from his hind end rather than launching flatly. Good practice!

i couldn't pic a favorite. just disregard how bad i am at squaring up a shot lol
Anyway, to finish out the ride, trainer P took everyone out to the freshly mowed xc fields for a little bop around. All their jumps are back from Jenny Camp and one of my lesson mates was dying to get out there, so why not, right?

I was.... slightly less thrilled, but more or less kept my lips buttoned haha.

And actually it was a pretty useful exercise bc trainer P really hasn't seen Charlie jump anything solid since before he started competing. Our first (and only!) couple schooling outings were all before Charlie's first 3-phase, and we haven't been out to school since then.

That's the nice thing about competing so often - the courses themselves serve as schooling. Especially at these low levels and especially at starter trials. The reality is that Charlie has jumped WAY more xc jumps in competition than while schooling, and much bigger (relatively speaking) too.

c'mon tho, what's not to love?
Another big development tho? I've chilled the fuck out, mostly. Relaxed a lot more. Now that Charlie and I have a couple runs in the books, I feel a lot better about what to expect from him, and from myself. I trust us both pretty well to make reasonable decisions and handle the obstacles in our path. It's a good feeling.

That feeling translated directly to this quick little schooling jaunt too - wherein Charlie not only did not require any leads of his own, but was able to give a lead to another struggling horse over some simple logs.

how charlie usually "plays" with his jolly ball (notice it quite literally under foot?)
And then later, when trainer P suggested I try the next level up of something we had jumped before, I just went and jumped it. Or when P saw that little brown Intro house from Jenny Camp but I pointed out the green-roofed BN house that had also been on course, reminding her that Charlie had already jumped that one too. So off we went to jump that instead.

Can I just pat myself on the back here for telling my trainer I'd rather jump the bigger version? For fucking once?? lol.... (it helped tho that Charlie nailed it, good boy!)

but apparently old dogs CAN learn new tricks!
That good feeling might be totally related to another thing I'm learning about Charlie: He's WAY easier to jump cross country right now vs stadium. This horse is not going to clobber through or climb over a solid jump the way he did that oxer in the arena (knocking furiously on wood lol). He regulates himself way better, and you can really feel him using his eye and setting himself up for the xc jumps.

That doesn't mean he doesn't still make mistakes or leave long or get a little underneath jumps too. But for the most part, he quite naturally has a much better read on the solid obstacles vs the airy sticks. So I'm suddenly finding myself game to jump bigger xc jumps than I would stadium jumps. Go figure.

charlie got a new neighbor in his stall block and was so excited he actually played with his ball for the first time ever! (that i've seen, at least)
Whatever the case tho, it feels really oddly relieving to sink back into this nitty gritty thought process of the every day schooling - the routine and mundane ins and outs of bringing along the green ottb in a new sport.

And in the process, I am feeling more and more like my old self as a jump rider. Things are coming a little bit more naturally. I'm not quite as anxious. And I'm making fewer mistakes due specifically to nervous tension, as opposed to mistakes just bc I'm an amateur who makes mistakes. Again, it feels good.

my handsome pony <3
We all know it's a roller coaster tho. Ups and downs and all arounds. So I like to enjoy the highs and good feelings when I get them! This is honestly maybe personally my favorite thing about blogging haha - being able to look back to see how my own mental condition improved or worsened with various riding experiences.

Can you remember moments when things felt like they were finally starting to "click" for you and a horse? Whether because the horse suddenly became more confirmed in his schooling, or bc you were able to overcome some sort of mental or physical hangup? Or maybe the opposite happened - moments where you can pinpoint when things began to disintegrate?

34 comments:

  1. I'm kind of obsessed with how perfectly black-tipped his ears are...

    And YESSSSS to you getting your mojo back! That's SO awesome to hear! SO so happy for you.

    For me, things "clicking" tends to be a combination of factors purely dependent on each horse's issues. For Grif, getting more reliable schooling made me buck up. For Q, getting in different tack so I can feel more secure through her spooking makes things better. And with Stan? I've just got to let go mentally. It's a neat combo of factors.

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    1. yea that's definitely a good point about the 'feel' depending on each individual horse. what i needed to feel from isabel to be confident is actually quite a bit different from the feel i'm getting from charlie - tho the need for repetition and practice is the same for both.

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  2. Shows = love. Prep and clean up though gets old when you have a busy fee weeks though! But those show miles are so good for horse and rider.

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    1. yea i mean the prep as it relates to packing and whatnot doesn't change meaningfully between our weekly lessons vs a one-day show, so that part never really changes for me or makes a difference. rather, it's the riding prep where each ride kinda has an agenda relative for the show, that doesn't leave a lot of room for actually addressing any unexpected green horse issues.

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  3. He looks really handsome in that blue halter. Yay for getting your Mojo back too. For me, clicking happens once I get past a really big mental block, because while there are some issues on Gem's part most everything that goes wrong is on my end. Once I do a task that I never thought I could then things tend to move forward quickly until the next mental snag.

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    1. yea i'm really similar in that way - tho i personally need a lot of repetition haha. that feeling of finally doing something that felt mentally or emotionally like some huge daunting task? that's such a GREAT feeling tho :D

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  4. It's great you're getting to feel like your "old self" a bit more! That's so positive! Charlie sounds like such a solid citizen, even though he's green. I unfortunately translated a lot of my previous horse anxieties to the new one, and it's taken a really long time to feel like we've bonded or that I can have any idea what she's going to do. Just keep finding those positives and you guys will progress so fast! He already is speeding right along :)

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    1. yea that's hard when problems with the last horse carry forward to create problems with your new horse. i definitely can understand how that might happen! my own goal was pretty specifically to avoid that, and we started work on building trust and clear communication with this new guy pretty much right off the bat, which has helped immensely in both of us learning what to expect from the other.

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  5. That's awesome- "no thanks to the little one, we'll just go jump the bigger one, thanks very much." Love it! And Charlie looks awesome in that blue halter. I'd much prefer to show, show, show than to school at home. But P is notorious for being pretty fantastic off the property, and super spooky at home. But I SUPPOSE schooling at home is important, too :)

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    1. apparently that's actually a pretty common thing - being better off property than at home. it always felt kinda curious to me, and i feel like i'm constantly having to explain to the folks at charlie's barn that 'i swear he's more trained than this!' lol.... but maybe it makes sense. i mean, he can see the barn *right there*, and his field and friends are also totally visible from the arena. so like, that definitely poses more distractions than some strange place he has no associations with. ah horses, it's always something!

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  6. Haha, the hackamore! It looks so tiny now...Its funny, I am kind of at the same place right now. Lessons were great and necessary, but the last two competitions are what really brought my own confidence up leaps and bounds.

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    1. yes - that's definitely my favorite feeling from competitions. somehow the act of going out and doing the thing at a prescribed event can really cement my feelings of security. like, YES, we CAN do this!

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  7. LOVE that you asked for the bigger fence! Woo! For me, the 'clicking' of certain skills comes more with knowing what to expect. How will the jump feel when we go over it, where is the takeoff point, where exactly is our path to and away from the fence? Having those items all well in hand does a lot to build my confidence, and sometimes it takes a turn (or five...) over a certain obstacle to really cement what the right feeling is. The more I do and the more I know what to expect in different situations, the better things go! It's when an outcome or response is uncertain that the situation starts to spiral downwards.

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    1. yea, agreed 1000%. knowing what to expect, knowing the feel, the ingredients for reaching a desired outcome... that's all exactly what i need to feel at my best - and the only way to get there is with repetition and practice. uncertainty is definitely what freaks me out too!

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  8. I love reading about all your progress with Charlie! You guys have come so far in such a short amount of time! It's it amazing though how much insecurities from other horses can come into play at times? Ranger is so solid when it comes to jumping (he'll jump ANYTHING as long as I actually point him to it), but even now, every once and awhile I remember that Batty stops and stuff and that little voice creeps into my head and says "what if?" I mostly can push it out, but some days it's still there...

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    1. yea... bad memories are definitely a struggle with a lot of riders. in a lesson last year after getting eliminated in an event and feeling pretty low about my riding, my coach dan quoted the following commercial basically word for word (it's funny and worth a watch), with the point being that in order to get better, we must be able to move on from mistakes and low moments:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyT-0sDQlKI

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  9. Hurray for confidence! I'd say you've progressed pretty quickly from nerves to trust. That's pretty awesome.
    I had a ride a couple weeks ago on Aria where we just clicked. I felt solid, she felt solid and the 'omg I'm riding a baby noodle' jitters were gone. It was a great boost to the riding ego and made me game for a lot more things.
    Nothing beats a good honest horse when it comes to a fearful rider though. Without Aria I wouldn't have had to balls to get up on Valeria!
    And it goes without saying, a huge kudos to you for wanting to do the bigger jump. I think that shows a growth in riding more than anything else. I'll do what my trainer tells me to do all day long but the real test is if I'd do it on my own. Can't wait to see where you and Charlie are in a few months!

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    1. so awesome that things are going so well with you and Aria too - and especially that it's carrying over to V! it's definitely such a good feeling to suddenly be ready to tackle new challenges! i'm not totally sure that jumping the BN house constitutes growth in my riding, bc technically i've been riding at the BN level or above for... ehhhh a couple years now haha, but sometimes it just takes a little while for me to remember that!

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  10. i got a jolly ball once. it turned into a large dog toy because my horse didn't appreciate it

    stupid jolly balls :|

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    1. ha yea... charlie is fairly mouthy and playful and will get all into whatever is hanging on his stall, so i thought he'd be a great candidate for stall toys. but... like so many others out there, the ball has mostly sat untouched, getting covered in dust and bird poop. le sigh.

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  11. Love the confidence!

    The click for me comes when it feels like you are talking to your horse, he's talking to you, and there is no longer that wall or really bad interpreter between you. You can teach, show, ask, listen, and your partner is receptive to it. I look more for those things than nailing a flying change for example.

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    1. i like that analogy a lot actually - and totally agree. feeling like i can think a thing, and adjust myself to convey that thing - and then feeling the horse understand and respond in equal measure. or even feeling if the horse is questioning me, or thinking about evading - but still being honest in his communications. that's so much preferred to that sort of "dead" feeling like you can't really influence what's going on.

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  12. Glad you are feeling more secure and relatedly confident!

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  13. Yay! Glad your confidence is growing :)

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  14. So glad you are feeling more confident! Building that trust after it has been shaken is hard and it does take a while, but you are on your way.
    For the gate sourness, do you only hop off away from the gate? I never hop off at the gate, always in the middle or end of the arena. We usually do our ride and then I ask for either a back or lateral movement and then hop off. If Mia (or App omg...) became gate sour, the gate is where we would work 10m circles, laterals, etc both under saddle and in hand for minutes and then relax as we went away from the gate. Or when Mia would randomly step out of the gate to the arena at the last minute bc it was open? Lots of pony beating to be had and then hard work afterwards until we stop away from the gate. It has worked for all of my horses, I hope it works for Charliepants.

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    1. thanks! glad you solved your sourness issues with Mia! naughty girl for managing to escape out an open gate!!

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  15. Yay for feeling more confident! I love lessons so much. It's kinda nice to be in "show mode" for a bit then go back to lesson mode to really work more on the bigger picture things as opposed to just "I need to work on x so I survive this coming event"

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  16. I'm so glad you're feeling more confident! It really sucks when you feel like you're flubbing through, and sometimes it just HAPPENS when things finally click and you're ready to do things you weren't a little while ago. Go Emma and Charlie! <3

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    1. ha i'd love to be the rider where things like that can just happen!! alas i have to work really hard and keep practicing.... ain't that always the way. good thing i actually quite like the work :)

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  17. Every so often I have moments where it clicks, but most of the time it's a struggle.

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  18. I often feel like I'm standing too close to the trees to see the forest, but sometimes I get a "Hey, we've totally upgraded" moment. Most recently, I realized that Bird can do a canter departure, politely, on the requested lead, regardless of the (gentle) slope of the ground and maintain same over terrain that is not flat for a nice ~30-meter circle. This does not sound like much, but the horse has to be in better balance and stuff to keep the canter rhythm going in the face of terrain. Bird couldn't do it last year and would fall out of canter or invert and flail when the slope changed. (Our working field has kind of a hump in the middle of it so you're going up and then down and then up and then down over the course of a circle. I try to think of this as a "feature" and not a bug.) But this year he's like NBD, I got this. Also, apparently repeated exposure wears away the "We can only cue for canter if it's flat or uphill" issue because now we can cue for canter wherever we want a canter. Yay.

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