Tuesday, June 13, 2017

the stories our pictures tell

As you might have guessed from the last post extolling Charlie's, ahem, distress about my poor riding, we had another jump lesson - and this time with pictures again!

For various reasons it's been a little tricksier to get media lately (mostly bc our dedicated partner in crime, Brita, has been busy busy). Have no fear tho, we've got pictures today!

and game faces. we also have game faces.
And for once? I'm actually pretty happy with the story these pictures tell. Obviously it's no secret that working with green horses can be challenging. Add in an amateur rider and... complexity increases. Dial it up such that the rider is totally out of practice and lacking confidence? And yea. It's not often going to look great.

his pricked ears make me so happy haha
Then of course, there's the double edged sword of pictures. And I KNOW I'm not the only one who deals with this. I obsess over media bc it really helps me visualize a feeling.

Usually I can remember what a specific effort felt like and why, so when I go back to watch the tape often I can see other things that contribute to the feeling but that I didn't notice in the moment.

horse had to think on his feet when the distances came up tight out of this 3-stride
Like how things unfolded leading up to a mistake - or maybe I felt the moment of a mistake too late - in the video I can see where things first went a little sideways. Maybe in an unbalanced turn, or one (or a few) too many pulls in approach to the fence. A moment where I pulled when I should have added leg. A persistent left drift that I fail to correct. Ya know, the usual.

Just sitting back to watch videos on repeat helps me internalize what's happening in a broader sense, so that hopefully I retain that information the next time I ride. It's my way of stretching out the lesson - of squeezing out every last drop of insight.

and esp had to think quickly into the 2 stride
The downside tho, and you knew there had to be one bc there's always a downside lol, is that I see the same issues even in moments that felt really good. Like I might finish a course feeling like, "Damn, we're really doin it now!" But then I watch the video and.... it doesn't look AT ALL how it felt.

My first competitive stadium course with Charlie fell into that category. I was thrilled with that jump round, but then somewhat quite unexpectedly disappointed after watching the video.

i'm pretty happy with some of how he's learning to use his body, but we still have a bit too much 'launch' in the front end and not quite the right 'push' from the hind
So I've tried to come to terms with that lately. Bc I honestly don't like the idea that watching the video could affect my feelings about a ride negatively. Like, yes, I believe in reviewing my rides objectively with the express purpose of constructive criticism.

But that's quite different from taking something I was proud of and suddenly.... deflating it. Rather, I've acknowledged that, right now, at this stage in Charlie's training, we're gonna look like we're gonna look. I just need to focus on that good feeling - and reproducing that good feeling. With the idea that the picture will improve in time.

this fan jump continues to give me grief tho. oh well, at least charlie likes it!
The thing is tho, I'm hoping that's starting to happen. Charlie continues to feel more and more confirmed in jumping. Like he understands what we're doing, understands how to find a jump. Usually knows where his legs are at any given moment.

We're dealing a bit with him rushing the fences and running past his distances - which, again, speaks to his greenness. He kinda gets excited about "seeing" a jump (so do I, let's be real) so we're still learning how to calibrate our combined feel in approach to the fence. I need to pull less, Charlie needs to wait more. Normal stuff.

so handsome tho <3
This particular lesson was very helpful for that purpose, too. We worked over four main lines - three related distances that each called for a slightly different canter, and one unrelated but still kinda related bending line.

We had a 30' two stride line - quite compressed. Then a slightly more open three stride line, and a very open four stride. Then an unrelated bending from the barrels to a long straight approach down to the fan jump.

i'm finally getting a little better about going with the horse. not perfect, but it's nice to see the progress!
Obvi for Charlie, compression is a bigger challenge than an open stride, so we spent a lot of time going through the two stride. And, since we also struggle with rushing, that long straight approach to the fan jump got its fair share of attention too.

barrels were adjusted in location and seemed to ride better here
We also had to do approximately 18 thousand simple changes of lead from right to left bc this course was a lot of left turns and Charlie always lands right (tho in the video you can sorta see me trying to throw my upper body around like that might help matters. hint: it does not). I guess the simple changes were useful tho in helping reaffirm our mission of : steady canter throughout!

i love how eager he is haha
Anyway it's all just working on more and more of the jumping basics.

Can we regulate our canter? Adjust our canter for compressed and open distances? Can we jump the center of each fence (ahem, Emma)?  Can we rebalance and half halt as needed early enough in our turns and approaches so that I'm quieting to a phase of 'managed maintenance' in the final strides, forward to the jump?

and bam, he jumped the SNOT out of this oxer. 
Quite happily, the answer to some of those questions is starting to become "Yes." And it feels good. Even more happily? I might be biased, but I feel like there's starting to be a change in the picture of me and Charlie as a team.

It used to be that the jumps where he looked the 'cutest' (think: snappy knees), I would look the worst. Usually bc we were launching from a great distance or had otherwise met the jump a little oddly, such that I was in disarray and Charlie was jumping a bit hectically.


But now we feel a lot more in sync, for better or worse, and it feels like Charlie is beginning to be more consistent in his own form too. I see a lot more grids and compressed distances in our future bc that longitudinal suppleness (his ability to sit back and lift his shoulders) is a weakness in the big guy (ha, as evidenced in the dressage test comments I'll share later this week lol).

And while there's still a lot in the video and pictures that I would like to improve upon in myself, and in my ride, there's not as much of a deflating feeling. Just. Ya know. More stuff to work on, as always.

That's cool tho, that's why we're here, right? For those slow and steady moments of progress, for that little scrap or shred of evidence showing that what we're doing is moving the needle, making a difference.

Do you like using video and pictures for the same type of self evaluation? Is it helpful to you? Or do you sometimes feel like it can be overwhelming or demoralizing?

42 comments:

  1. I enjoy having media and am scared of it all at the same time. I hate it when things feel good but look terrible. I am more wary of photos because they are a millisecond of time without context. All that said they are useful and show progression. I loved that video of you two- it's obvious that you two are partners in the ring and figuring it out together. He's really listening to you and you give him a nice supportive ride.

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    1. yea agreed about photos telling an incomplete story vs video - i definitely prefer video too, and would rather have a video that overall looks ok even if the frame-by-frame shots themselves leave something to be desired, vs a video that looks like a hot mess but with individual still shots that strike the right 'pose.'

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  2. You two look really good together and it is already evident that you communicate in a way he can understand and it hasn't even been a year yet!

    I love media but rarely get any due to riding alone. For me I generally get surprised because I always feel like a train wreck and the video looks better than I felt. Like when I jump and it feels like we are going a million miles and hour but really she is barely trotting.

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    1. aw thanks - he's doing very well on the communication front, and is learning that actually i might occasionally have something useful to say in the matter haha. also yea i know what you mean about having a feel that is totally separate from the video. in some ways, that's what video helps me with - aligning those disparate feelings so that next time i feel like we're going too fast, i can remind myself that, 'no we probably aren't.'

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  3. That oxer photo near the end!! I see huge improvements in both of you since your first jumping days together. Beautiful progress in a good direction with very frequent glimpses into what the future will hold more of - omg the oxer photo <3

    I both love and am terrified of media. With no easy access to a trainer, media is my best friend for improving and being better. I watch media of others and try to implement what I like in their position with my own. I still haven't had a jumping lesson so with jumping especially, I'm trying to mirror what I see in others. Media helps so much with tweaking that, though I'm definitely to a point where I really wish I had eyes on the ground that could also give me live feedback!

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    1. yea i feel your frustration. video helps a ton and definitely can fill in gaps when no other feedback is available. but nothing beats trusted eyes on the ground. you've heard me say before that i am seriously impressed with how you've been able to bring Grif along without lessons or professional guidance - he's doing so well!! but i also am hopeful that you'll find a good situation sooner rather than later bc i'd love to see what that could do for Grif too!!

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  4. #1 OMG his knees over that rainbow oxer! LOVE! #2 Cute pink tank top, I love it. #3 ahhh yes, media is such a double-edged sword. A sports psychologist once told me to watch a video no more than 3 times. The first time to get over all of the "wow that looks terrible!" feelings that we inevitably get when first viewing ourselves, the second time to really understand what's happening in the video, and the third time to pick out particular points for improvement and/or things that were done well. I don't always adhere to her 3-views-only rule, but it's an interesting way to approach media. It is DEFINITELY a challenge to manage the disappointment that we can all feel when a video doesn't look as good as a ride felt! #4 there are so, so many more moments in this video where you and Charlie are working together in balance. While it's not the smooth & beautiful picture you're working towards yet, the progress is SO evident!

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    1. thanks girl! that's an interesting point from the sports psych about only watching 3 times. i definitely do *not* follow that rule, and i'm actually not totally sure i agree. like, i don't necessarily think it's valuable to watch on repeat if all you can see are the flaws bc that's not helping anything either - it IS supposed to be constructive, after all. but in some ways, watching enough videos of myself kinda deadens those nerves that want to be oversensitive and overreactive to the 'omg we suck!' response, ya know? like i can peel back those feelings and get into the meat of 'ok what are the mechanics of what's really going on here?' - but sometimes that takes more than a watch or two to figure out. all the same tho, it's great food for thought!

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  5. My last blog entry was pretty much this lol Since I essentially ride alone, I have to rely on video for feedback. While we have plenty of cringe worthy moments, I stay optimistic that the overall picture is slowly improving. I'm a very visual learner so watching great riders is invaluable.

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    1. definitely agreed on learning from watching great riders. one of my coaches, dan, actually said tho to not so much watch great riders (like philip of boyd or whatever) on their top horses bc it's sorta gotten to a point where you can't even see what's happening. rather, he said to watch the top riders on their lower level horses - maybe their novice horses, bc that's when you can really see the riders working on schooling for correctness, and addressing mistakes and whatnot. i thought that was an interesting point!

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  6. I love videos and pictures, though have the opposite reaction usually. I'll think a test or a course was terrible, then see the video and be ecstatic that it didn't look as bad as it felt. I'm a die hard Type A though, so that's probably the reason :)

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    1. lol yea but that's the upside, right? like, nobody gets upset when it looks better than it feels haha. "damn, that fence looks GREAT but it felt like crap, grr!" usually the bad feeling only really happens in the opposite occurrence, where it looks worse than it feels.

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    2. You're just an uber perfectionist!

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    3. ha! nobody has *ever* called me that before. i often kinda feel like the anti-perfectionist, actually

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  7. I love this! You two are really ticking along on the progress train. I love his attitude-even when a distance isn't quite right, he seems to quietly make it work and carry on.
    I definitely find lesson video so helpful--especially re-hearing what the coach was saying, because sometimes during a lesson I may not absorb everything C is trying to tell me. But show video of a jump course makes me cringe. A course will feel great (or at least parts of it?) and then I look like a total stuffed monkey on a camel in the video. Disheartening to say the least.

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    1. thanks, he's definitely figuring it out! and i know what you mean about feeling the cringe watching a show video... honestly tho i try really hard to just let that go. i tell myself that our riding in competitions is a little bit like our dream world - slightly delayed, right? like, that whole 'when we're on vacation we dream of home, and once we're home again our dreams are still in vacation land'? like, my idea is that the way we ride in competitions is just kinda on a little bit of a delay, whether that's caused by nerves or whatever. however well we are currently riding in lessons and schooling, we can expect to ride a little not-quite-as-good at shows. maybe. idk if that even makes sense, or if anyone else agrees or whatever. but that's how i think about it and how i tell myself that it's ok if my show riding doesn't seem as good as the rest of my riding!

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  8. You guys look awesome! And also I think your progress with him isn't slow at all, he was still racing less than a year ago! You've made some damn impressive progress with him in that time!

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    1. thanks! a lot of these ottbs make for really excellent training partners, esp as many are very used to the concept of having a job and being in a regular program. that certainly helps matters move along!

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  9. I love all media for review, video and pics, good and bad. You gotta ride the ugly in the beginning and just slowly shape that uggo clay into something beautiful, preferably with the help of Patrick Swayze in ghost form. You worked with qualified individuals so I'm sure you guys will come up with great solutions getting Charlie jumping as his best self.

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    1. ooooooh yea, omg, somehow imagining patrick swayze helping me and charlie execute a course of jumps sounds REALLY useful lol....

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  10. Oh, I saw your jump video Sunday evening! I think one of the last paragraphs, when you said that you and Charlie seem to be a lot more in sync - I would ABSOLUTELY agree with that. When I watched your video, you didn't always get the distance, and you didn't always have the best approach at the fence, but I thought how much more TOGETHER you two looked in this video than in say the previous video in the rain. You two are learning each other and developing, and I personally think it really showed in this video. It is good to be hard on ourselves and challenge ourselves, but purely from an outsider perspective, I can see the changes that are developing. Sometimes I think that one step of change, that one step that just alters your track, even a little, is the hardest step to make, but once you find it, and once you're headed that way, you suddenly realize that things are really looking up :).

    I know for me I really crave media. Mostly video. I want to see EVERYTHING and I pick it apart like crazy. And I get really down sometimes too, feeling that it was awesome and it really wasn't and then feeling like something is atrocious and then watch a video and it looks okay. You just can't win. But it helps me to see, to be aware of what I'm doing and what I need to fix so that next time I ride I can keep it in the back of my brain.

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    1. yep totally agreed about using the video to be aware of what's really happening so that we can remember it next time we ride!

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  11. wow charles!!! he looks amazing. and you look so much more solid.

    media always helps, IMO. I have no idea how I look ever. It used to help the most when i swore i was going ~*REALLY FAST*~ and then saw the video and realized I was... losing a race to a slug.

    How it feels and how it looks isn't always the same thing.

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    1. i'm so proud of this big bay goon :D

      and yea, definitely know what you mean about the feeling not matching the visual appearance. it can be frustrating!

      it's interesting tho - and i was just thinking about this while reading comments after publishing this - but the whole advent of being able to watch all our rides on video is really so new. like, obvi that's kinda a 'duh' statement - but i'm wracking my brain and i think legitimately the first time i saw real video of me jumping, like actually jumping, might have been with isabel. bc of cell phone cameras. so like... i spent some 10-15 odd years jumping without ever really knowing what i looked like, save for the *very* rare photograph. and now i can't imagine training without that visual aid!

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  12. I hate watching videos of myself. I probably should do it more often and actually learn from it like you're doing, but it's just so demoralizing.

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    1. yea you're definitely not alone in feeling that way. mostly tho i think that we can control those feelings, that we can over come them or kinda just... get over it, since there's so much benefit to be had by objective (ie, *not* cruelly critical) evaluation.

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  13. Look at him go! He definitely loves doing the thing!

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    1. ooooh yes he does!! definitely makes it fun to ride!

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  14. Oh I sooooo know that feeling. It's tough to have a lesson and think, wow! That felt awesome, we were totally in sync, blah blah blah. Then you watch the video and it's so easy to be hypercritical of your own riding and position. But like, we're all amateurs right? Taking lessons with qualified pros and doing our best to make progress (which, btw, you guys totally ARE). So for me I love having video because it's great feedback, but I absolutely have to watch it more then once to get past the cringe factor and take away the useful stuff. Also I find that for me, the smaller jumps are actually harder to get right! My position and ability to ride gets better around 2'9-3' so don't beat yourself up over how the little stuff looks! Once the jumps start going up I'm betting Charlie finds his distances much easier and you'll be able to better flow with it so to speak!

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    1. thanks - i think you might have misunderstood tho, i'm quite happy with how things are going with charlie! "beat myself up" is not exactly in my lexicon, kinda the point of this post, actually

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    2. also.... just in general, i tend to disagree with the idea that the jump height is what improves the horse's understanding, or what improves the rider's ability. personally, i would like to see both horse and rider demonstrate a more correct technique independent of the size of the fences. specifically, i look for adjustability in the canter - something you can pretty clearly see charlie working on in this video (esp through the 2 stride). if the horse is making green mistakes (like rushing a fence and running past his distance) at lower fences, i'm not super inclined to just throw him at bigger and bigger things to either back him off, or teach him to rush at those too.

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    3. Oh I did not at all mean to imply that you (general you) should just yank up the heights before it's appropriate. Just that personally, when I (and whatever horse) are ready and safely jumping around 3ft that it is easier for me to maintain my position and ride better. At any rate, I totally agree in your assessment of Charlie's progress and what he needs, you guys have a good partnership building and certainly have plenty of qualified help!

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  15. I haven't made myself watch the videos from my last show, yet. Mostly because I'm not quite ready to learn the lessons in them. I'm still implementing the lessons I "felt" in them. If that makes sense?

    I do use video a LOT, though. It helps me see what a judge was seeing and calibrate what is playing well in the show ring. It also helps me figure out if what feels "good" is actually my horse lying his ass off to me about our straightness. Haha...

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    1. yea that's a great point about seeing things from the judge's perspective as a means for developing test riding strategy (something we can probably agree is quite different from actual schooling or training haha....). also yea i know what you mean about sometimes needing to focus on 'feel' before digging into the optics. there are honestly a couple videos that i trashed without watching much just bc.... it wasn't what i needed to focus on, it wasn't what i needed to burn into my memory lol, ya know what i mean?

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  16. I love having media, but in my case it's often because it's hard to get. But I'm like you that find a lot of value in watching myself as well as watching others media and rides.

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    1. Ugh hard to get media is the worst :( I think we should all have little personal vide drones that follow us around to record cool stuff at our whim. Or like, idk. At least dedicated barn rats or something lol

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  17. One day, I'll get consistent media of my riding. Or, really, any. lol I think the sum total of it so far (and I'm going back to my first lessons here in 1994 or so) is a handful of photos and a short video of me herding a mouse down the long side of the arena on horseback.

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    1. Omg. I would watch that video tho.

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  18. You guys look great! Well done.

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    1. Aw thanks! He's made it pretty easy so far!

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  19. I actually got video of my first jump lesson on Mae! I was super happy with how the lesson went, even though looking back at the video I'm realizing how far we have to go (and also how far we've come). I love these pictures that you're sharing though because it makes me nod in agreement. Mae is figuring out where to put her feet and how to use her body. She's pretty much trotting over the jumps, all four feet and legs going in different directions, and has no real concern over the low jumps we've done. We'll see how that changes throughout the summer!

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