Tuesday, August 8, 2017

grid your loins!

It's no secret that trainer P from OF loves some grid work. Especially one stride lines set at 18' distances. She's pretty great at finding ways to incorporate them into most courses and exercises, and over the years has often even used them as a warm up for jumping.

puppy in a pony shadow!
The idea with these grids, as best I can understand it, is to kinda set the horse up to figure out his own footwork and own body. The rider is responsible for coming into the grid with the right pace (whether trotting or cantering in) and for keeping the horse straight.

calm down charlie!
Then the horse just kinda does whatever he's going to do, with the jumps themselves providing the education. With such a short compressed distance for one stride (18'), the horse must really compress his body and figure out how to rock back on his hind end and use himself more properly over the out jump. The distance makes it a lot harder to just blast through flatly.

starting work over the one strides
Charlie's had very limited exposure to grids before now - with just two lessons dedicated to the task. Like this one back in February when he was still learning what this whole jumping thing was all about (and actually that grid work helped Charlie have a few breakthroughs). And this one from June when he had a more thorough introduction to one stride grids.

built up to the full four fences
And actually - in most of the first introductions to grid work with Charlie, we've had a run out or attempted run outs. Which I totally get - it can be kinda overwhelming to look down a line and see nothing but a sea of poles and standards. Plus. Ya know. Squirrely green horses are squirrely.

dem knees tho!
Then, in more recent weeks, it's just been plain old too hot to really ask the horses to do that much gymnastic work. Combined with trainer P's limited mobility with a bum knee, the idea got put on the back burner.

i love his expression! 
But we definitely wanted to address it sooner rather than later. Charlie's really figuring out this jumping thing. He's gotten quite comfortable with it. Maybe even too comfortable - he doesn't even bother looking at jumps below 2'6 and can be too casual about it, but is not yet quite educated enough to bail himself out if he (or I, let's be real) ends up making a mistake.

and he actually did shockingly well in the 18' distances
Plus his tendency is to kinda leap at the fences, using his size and speed to get over, instead of really using his body to its full ability. This is naturally not quite ideal, and certainly not something I want cemented as habit.

too easy over the final haha
So to set up the exercise, we started by building up to three verticals in a row, set at 30' distances (so again, a compressed two stride). Trainer P left a pile of poles where the first jump would be, but only set up the second and third jumps of the line.

Charlie had to trot in, figuring out his footwork over that little pole pile before trotting the next two jumps. Then the pole pile turned into a jump and he did all three in a row, with two strides between. My biggest aim here was for straightness, given our history with run outs. This sometimes meant I wasn't as giving with my hands as I needed to be, a constant struggle. But we stayed quite straight!

and bc i like media overkill, here's his final effort
We didn't spend a lot of time with the two stride grid tho, moving quickly over to the one stride line. Which again started with only the 3rd and 4th jumps set up, and the first staying as a pole pile. Charlie had to trot in, figure out his footwork over that confounding pole pile, then continue moving forward to the single one stride.

Then we built up the second jump in the line. Rinse repeat. And then the first jump in the line - so four jumps in a row, 18' distances between them.

one day i'll be more trusting with my position, which will only make charlie's life easier. he seems to be making pretty good work of things despite me tho!
A few more repetitions and all four were set as oxers. Then continue with the rinse repeat nature of the exercise, with me working to enter the grid with the appropriate pace, maintain our straightness, but otherwise stay out of the goddamn way and let the grid do its job.


Obviously that last part (staying out of the way) is a real struggle for me haha, esp when we'd get into the grid a little dodgy... But actually I was quite pleased both with Charlie's willingness to stay straight. And especially with how soft he stayed through the whole exercise.

Unlike the last time we practiced grids in June, he did not start getting strong and racey on reapproaching the line again and again. He stayed soft to the bridle, trotted quite nicely, and seemed to be very very focused on the job. I liked it!

also, here's Goose the pig. bc why not
By the end too, he was actually almost slow through the grid - like breaking each movement into its own unit of time and space. Sit lift jump. Land step wait. Sit lift jump. Land step wait.

I remember from auditing Boyd Martin a while back that he was very insistent on getting the horses to jump "slower." Not necessarily meaning pace, per se, but actually in the act of jumping itself. He didn't want to see horses racing off the ground or riders rushing or moving too quickly with their upper bodies. Saying instead that horses jump the best when they leave the ground and move through the air slower.

I'm not totally certain that Charlie's work through that last grid was exactly what Boyd meant or wanted. But it felt worlds different from racing at and leaping over the fences.

It was also a really cool feeling to see Charlie be so focused in on the job - thinking so deeply about each step, while also seeming to really enjoy the puzzle. The sense I get from this horse is that he will tackle just about any problem so long as he thinks he can get the answer right. And the more stuff he sees, the more confident he feels in figuring out what's expected of him.

34 comments:

  1. When I used to jump I loved grid work. Loved it. I think because of the rhythm it creates. Charlie looks great through there. You have done some awesome work with him.

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    1. agreed - grids are so so so useful. creating rhythm, putting the horse in the place he needs to be for the optimum jump, letting the horse do everything himself and figure it all out for himself without needing to be reliant on the rider. so many benefits!

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  2. Boyd's comment about jumping slower is exactly what I see in the last effort vs. the beginning one. That's pretty spot on. His knees are so cute! I love the moments when you are both perfectly in sync with the exercise near the end - you're a really beautiful pair.

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    1. thanks! i was really happy with how well charlie tackled this exercise - and he just got better as we went. last time we tried grids he started to get more anticipatory and rushy, but this time he just kept chugging and kept thinking. it felt really good!

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  3. He looks nothing like the horse you brought home...in all good ways! I agree with Liz above, you two make a lovely pair.

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    1. thanks - i can't believe how lucky i got with this horse. he's just been such a pleasure to work with!

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  4. His form is really starting to look awesome over fences. He is really coming along! Go you!

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    1. thanks girl!!!! it takes a little bit of work these days to make him look cute over 2'6 (casual dinosaur is casual) but these grids really got him thinking! :D

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  5. I love watching him figure out his footwork! What a clever boy! Now I want to go jump grids!

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  6. I just love grids. I'm terrible about actually doing them, since I can't really change around my barn's arena and they aaaallllways have a regular hunter course set up. But when they are set up, or when we go to a jump lesson, I just love them. You and Charlie look fantastic! Big horse wants to jump big jumps!

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    1. i'm terrible about setting them up for myself too - just bc they are such a bear without a jump crew. like... first of all they take so many poles and standards, it's almost not worth it unless a bunch of ppl are on board. then you have to be constantly adjusting them as you build up to the full grid - super obnoxious if you have to do that all yourself. and of course, if you ride a charlie (like i do) there will naturally be plenty of knocked rails.....

      i get my fix when i'm on my own with just plain ground poles. one of my favorites uses four poles: pole - 9' - pole - 18' - pole - 9' - pole. so bounce, one stride, bounce. or you could keep it simpler and just do a couple in a row set at 9' or 18' distances without mixing and matching.

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    2. Yeah, we've had a small one like that set up at the barn for awhile now. Pole to 18" cavaletti to pole on a bending line so you can go from both leads. It was exciting at first but now I'm all, "Next, please!"

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    3. lol yea i know that feeling. why is it that hunter places never change up their fences??

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  7. I love me some gymnastics and grids too, funnily enough in the last two baby books I read the authors took opposing views of grids. Reiner Klimke thought they were pretty great (though keeping with his low and purposeful approach) and Litteaur was pretty certain most riders over use them. They can definitely be useful though especially in these learning stages for both rider and horse.

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    1. Yea definitely - I see a lot of value in gymnastic exercises too, but often cringe when I seem them unnecessarily complicated or aggressive in size. There's no reason bounces, for example, need to be very tall. It shouldn't be a physically punishing exercise. But these one stride grids at 18' are so so versatile and even at low heights can really help reset a horse to a good rhythm and carriage.

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  8. I have so much grid work baggage, my pulse rate goes up just thinking 'grid', but that looked divine.

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    1. Haha yea I hear ya. I kinda feel that way about bounces sometimes (have yet to try one with Charlie). I bet you'd enjoy how this trainer does them tho!

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  9. I'm a massive massive fan of grids! They help the horse, they help the rider, they're a great way to increase your jumping heights when appropriate, there's endless ways to set them up to work on different things! I just love them. Charlie is looking so so good! You guys are such a nice pair!

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    1. Such a versatile exercise for sure! I actually haven't used them much for increasing fence height since we seem to misty accomplish that through slow methodical course work. But it definitely works, esp for the horse!

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  10. I love(d) grid work so much. Charlie is looking fantastic. :-)

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    1. Thanks - hopefully there are more grids in your future!

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  11. I really loved grids - idk why. I feel like the horse just naturally keeps going with the movement and you don't feel like they're gonna pull a dirty stop. I mean, it does happen sometimes haha. I like them tho - they feel more fluid and I think as riders get out of our horses way more and let them find the striding.

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    1. Yea a well built grid definitely allows the horse to keep coming forward and execute the exercise with confidence. A poorly built grid can have the opposite effect too haha but that's life right? I love them!

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  12. He looks great! His form is really improving. And you could absolutely see him thinking, and slowing himself through the grid. Awesome!

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    1. Omg grids are so good for form! And for helping a horse to think for themselves. One thing P really likes to do is teach a horse to get his own answers correct vs rely on the rider bc the rider will inevitably make mistakes.

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  13. Neat! I've always been a bit fascinated by grids. Have yet to get back into jumping to try one... one day!

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    1. You should! You can also try with just plain ground poles to encourage the same type of carriage and rhythm to the horse.

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  14. I love grid work. I did a bunch with Nilla, but I rally should do more with Levi. Also, that pig is amazing, and I want to steal it.

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    1. yea grid work is so so so useful. and good luck with the pig - he doesn't stray far from his food bowl ;)

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  15. Who's the new horse??

    I jest, but really, he is moving and jumping like a whole new horse. I love his careful back end!

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    1. thanks - he really feels like a whole new horse too, i love it!!

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  16. Yay charlie! But also giant pigs freak me out

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