Tuesday, November 21, 2017

charlie attends "take your dad bod to work" day + impresses all the ladies!

Meaning, Charlie went to his first true lesson since having surgery to remove a broken fragment of his splint bone six and a half weeks ago. We went to dressage trainer C's farm TM for a lesson focused on "dressage as physical therapy."

the big guy is back to work! he actually broke a sweat for the first time since before surgery lol
Trainer C was thrilled to see Charlie's current physical condition too. As I've mentioned previously, Charlie put on quite a bit of weight during his confinement to stall rest. We purposefully never cut his feed despite the drastic cut in exercise, and Charlie acquiesced in packing on some bulk.

also his first trailer ride since coming home from the hospital. he had been a hot goddamn mess on the way back from new bolton - weaving like crazy in the trailer the entire time and was covered in a thick white full body foam. so.... i was a little nervous about how he would be in the trailer for this lesson. verdict? homeboy was FINE. phew!
Mostly in the form of a hay belly haha, but also just general fullness throughout his hind quarters and neck. Naturally he lost a lot of muscle at the same time but that's ok. We can rebuild that. And frankly he looks the best he's looked since I brought him home.

practicing our longitudinal suppleness via halts and downward transitions
The hope, therefore, is to work to keep this weight on him even as he returns to normal turnout and working conditions as winter sets in. So far, so good on that note. Even just in the last few weeks of getting back to using himself in a more "dressage" kind of way, Charlie's slowly transitioning from his "dad bod" to having "dat bod," lol. Again, I'm happy haha.

trying like hell to get that weakest-link right hind to play along
Anyway. Body condition tangent aside, let's get back to talking about the lesson. There's no media from the lesson itself, but Brita was kind enough to capture some moments from our ride the day prior. So you can enjoy those fairly representative shots of how we go right now while I talk about trainer C's thoughts on moving forward.

the stall rest set us back in bringing that leg up to spec, but he's trying! getting him stronger will only help.
It was essentially a very basic lesson, wherein we focused exclusively on the most fundamental aspects of walk and trot. But we worked our tails off for sure!

aw but i love how good he's been lately
It can be boiled down to three main topics:

-   Charlie has effectively baited me into overriding the right side. #shocking
-   There's more to 'leg yielding' than I've taken advantage of
-   Square turns are our friends, particularly when tracking right

more downward transitions, in preparation for another immediate upward transition
Let's start with the leg yields, shall we? I told trainer C about my idea of essentially "restarting" Charlie on the flat during this rehab period and she was 100% on board. She asked if I had been doing much lateral stuff in the process.

and CANTER OMG!!!!! yay charlie!!!!
Which.... honestly I've wanted to but haven't had much luck, mostly bc we've been doing a lot of our riding in a crowded indoor with jumps and wayward lesson ponies scattered everywhere. We've done the occasional leg yield from quarter line to rail in most of our rides when possible, but not much more than that.

he actually really likes playing with walk-to-canter transitions and feels so pleased with himself after doing one
C wanted to up the ante a little bit. Especially since we're limited in intensity and fitness, drilling into more complicated walk movements was a good focus. Her idea was that I should leg yield Charlie along the walls. Instead of going quarter line to rail or vice versa, with Charlie's body more or less parallel to the wall but his direction of travel on a diagonal, she wanted Charlie's line of travel parallel to the wall and his body on a diagonal.

actually all he really wants to do right now is canter lol. which is great bc it means he feels good and is eager to go go go. physically we're still keeping it light tho, but soon!
Meaning, at the walk:

- Either his haunches in toward the middle, with his chest facing the wall at about a 45* angle, while I needed to also be very clear in facing the wall and staying straight in my body, and keeping my outside leg on and hands carried up and slightly to the outside.

- Or his shoulder in toward the middle, with his haunches traveling down the wall at about a 45* angle. Same concepts of rider straightness applied.

i'm not sure how clear this diagram is, but it essentially shows how we rode this exercise while staying more or less on a circle. just aiming for a couple clear steps along each long side before turning to come back around again.
This exercise should not be confused with "shoulder in" or "haunches in" -- rather we're definitely looking for straightness in Charlie's body and four distinct tracks. Which, honestly we can only really get a step or two at a time right now. Which is fine. It's also much easier to achieve when the haunches are in and his chest is facing the wall.

omg so excited about ground poles tho lol. look at this chunky monkey sit down and attack the pole!
In both cases tho, I need to remember to think about cutting my corner early and putting Charlie squarely on a diagonal line (either toward or away from the rail), but then holding that straightness while pushing him down the rail instead of traveling across the diagonal. The idea here is to start parsing Charlie's various body parts out so that he can learn to move each quarter a little more independently.

and compare to a similar stance from last march - where not only was he much skinnier, but also wasn't really sitting or pushing himself in the same way he does now. i like the progression!
Naturally this was pretty tricky work, but I suspect that once Charlie understands it as more of a "game" it'll be easier to reproduce. I'm excited to practice more of it tho! Once we solidify the concepts at walk, we'll introduce it again at trot.

eeeeeeeee he's gotten soooo much beeeefier now tho!!!
The other big concept: Square turns at trot. This isn't anything new to most of you, but is basically all about moving Charlie's shoulders fully around each corner using just my outside aids, and without him drifting out to the rail. (we aimed to work on the inside track for all of this - always staying 3-5 feet off the rail to ensure I was responsible for our straightness on the outside aids instead of the rail).

Ideally each turn (as in, the 90* turn from short end up to the long side) should be accomplished in about four trot steps. My inclination was to kinda quit a stride early before Charlie's shoulders were fully on our new straight line (these 'square turns' being essentially the juncture of putting two straight lines together) and let him sorta drift the rest of the way.

happy man back at the trailer post-lesson
This is where my habit of over riding the right side was most glaringly obvious -- especially tracking right when I had a REALLY hard time pushing his shoulders around the square turns with my outside (left) aids. I want to pull my inside/right hand way out and to the inside, and bring the outside/left hand pushing up against his neck and over his wither. When in reality, I should be a bit opposite in my hand carriage.

also happy to come in from the field for treats, snuggles and rides
I also need to keep my outside leg more down under me, instead of letting it get stuck curled up behind me. Really tho, the big theme is straightness on the outside aids. I'm ok on the right side, sorta. But when my left side is on the outside it's one big struggle bus. Tho, ironically, trainer C likes his trot to the right better than his trot to the left right now haha. Go figure.

tucked in for the night in his surprisingly cozy stall
Hopefully all this work will help in my overarching goal of creating a more supple, limber Charlie who is capable of carrying each of his body parts independently. It should also help in ultimately getting him more and more engaged through his hind end. Which is much needed at this point bc he lost a lot of strength particularly in his right hind, always our problem child.

Charlie's got all kinds of hind end baggage and wonkery from getting sandwiched between two horses during one of his races, according to his race trainer. Plus that whole "being long as a bus" thing naturally makes it that much trickier to bring the hind end up and under. But we already know from pre-surgery times that Charlie grows sounder and stronger with more work.

We've got another 2-3 weeks before Charlie will be cleared for lift off over fences, so until then we'll continue to re-introduce the canter and hopefully dial in more on some of this lateral work. And maybe some more ground pole work too just for funsies ;)

If one thing is certain tho, it's that Charlie really appears to be enjoying his work right now. Seems really happy to go out and do stuff. So hopefully we can keep him engaged and enthusiastic about the work as he gets more and more fit!

38 comments:

  1. Beefy Charlie looks amazing. I love it. I had totally forgotten about the leg yielding down the wall. That is a great exercise. I will have to try it with Carmen.

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    1. it's uncanny bc i had just been thinking about using more of the wall to help with our leg yields, but trainer C really broke it down into an easier and more effective exercise. definitely worth trying!

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  2. Charlie looks fantastic. Wow.

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  3. Charlie is looking very nice. Glad he's coming back into work for you eager and willing!

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    1. thanks, and me too! he's always gonna have that little streak of sourness in there, i think. but so long as he's having fun we're all good!

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  4. omg look at his little qh butt. cant wait until mine comes in in the mail :P

    your 'three main points' are like the story of my ENTIRE FREAKIN LIFE. I use those circle exercises a LOT. it's hard for him.... because I really want that right hind and he really does not want me to have it!!

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    1. ugh yea. charlie just thinks it's an awful lot of work and isn't so sure he ought to really have to do it lol

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  5. May and I do A LOT of that lateral-type work. It really helps her get her hind end under her and loosens her up where she gets tight rriiiigggght behind the saddle. We typically warm up with these, then move into traditional leg yield going just from the quarterline to the wall slowly, then the center of the ring to the wall slowly, then trying to get bigger, fuller steps from center to wall. (or back the other way if she starts anticipating.

    It really does help get her engaged behind without her turning into a freight train. Charlie looks great though. Fingers crossed that he stays a bit on the "fluffy" side (at least at a Charlie-level of fluffy)

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    1. yea it's definitely a useful exercise - and one i played with to great effect with isabel. not sure why i hadn't tried with charlie, aside from the typical "it's easy to get baited into other conversations even when your best intentions are to work on engagement" lol.

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  6. Take it from me! I'm a lady, and I'm impressed! 😍

    I love leg yield along a wall. It's so damn useful!

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    1. lol thanks! and yea i think my favorite thing about it is how clear it is to the horse what we want -- the wall is super useful in keeping them from escaping or "faking" it like they can otherwise do.

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  7. he looks AMAZING. Like a totally different horse. YAY. I am so glad he is eager to get back into work too!! YAY CHARLIE! (and Emma too) :)

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    1. thanks, i'm super happy too! it's super obvious that he wants to jump jump jump haha, hopefully soon enough!

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  8. I'm working on square turns at the walk and holy mother is it hard to turn that outside right should - we have the opposite problem as you and Sir Charles!

    He looks fabulous - looks like a whole different horse from a year ago! Not just in weight, but how he carries himself. Go you! (And Charlie, I guess he gets some credit here too).

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    1. definitely like a whole new horse, i love it! and yea those square turns at the walk are way harder than they sound lol, but so worth it!

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  9. Haha we are also working on square turns at the walk using turn on the haunches to make it a literal pivot. That lateral work is so important for suppling mind and body and building dat booty!

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    1. yup that pivot action is definitely what it's all about. so hard to achieve tho! at this point i'm not too picky about whether charlie stays "on the spot" with his haunches so long as he gets that shoulder moving. we're definitely all about that suppling mind and body tho!

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  10. So glad he's getting back to work more and more!

    It scares me sometimes how much Charlie sounds like Stampede - he would only get filled out on stall rest because otherwise he's a busy body. Just bought him some alfalfa hay to try to fatten him up more, ugh!

    The fun of square turns! I do a triangle at the walk making the turns almost a turn on the forehand while continuing to walk. Great for getting the horse thinking about moving sideways off the leg before I move on to shoulders in, haunches in, and leg yields at the walk. I love working on that kind of thing because you can always feel a difference afterwards!

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    1. ugh yea that's so hard when they can't hold the weight bc of shenanigans in turnout! luckily charlie is basically as quiet as they come in the field for the most part. he just... hangs out and eats. so really the only challenge there is making sure there's always stuff to be eaten, esp in the winter!

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  11. Bulking season!

    Those windows at find level are so interesting to me, because the barn is lower or nestled in hill? Dunno but super cute

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    1. yup it's a bank barn built into a hillside, so the entire wall of the barn on charlie's end has the ground at window level. the advantage here is that it's super effective at climate control -- the ground stays a relatively stable temperature in both summer and winter so it's always pretty comfortable in there.

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  12. Wow!! He sure has bulked up!!

    Annie has bulked up a ton too and I'm loving it.

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    1. it's such a relief to see them finally looking so healthy!

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  13. He looks incredible Emma! Glad to hear you guys are getting back into lessons and more demanding work! I love these exercises, you've given me lots of fun things to play with.

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    1. yay! i think my favorite things about these exercises is that they're easily adaptable to the horse's level of training, and don't need to be so rigid as to be inaccessible to a green bean!

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  14. Oooo a very useful exercise! I shall have to try that too! Amber has become so much better since I started baby steps of haunches and shoulder work to where at a jog before the show I put my leg on her not even intending for anything to happen and she jogged an itsy bitsy half pass lol.

    Also, I love his Dad Bod! I think his weight looks so good, and I'm crossing my fingers it'll last for him!

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    1. it's definitely so useful to get the horses a little more tuned into 'leg as lateral' instead of just only ever meaning spurting forward

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  15. Love how he's progressing through his rehab, and so glad he'll be cleared for jumping soon! I think he looks great all beef-cake, like. Once you get back out on XC though, he'll lean right back out!

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    1. ha i hope not! my goal is to keep this weight on him for as long as possible!

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  16. I wish people complimented me when I just sat around and ate food all day. ;)

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  17. He's looking so beefy!! I love it!

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    1. oh man he has always been a big horse but he seems GIANT now lol

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  18. So like, before this whole weight gain thing I was like "fuck...hes so big!" But now with his weight gain I'm more like, "holy fuck. He's so big and wow so magnificent" Damn does that weight gain make him so much more impressive. How do you sleep at night knowing he's the handsomest?!

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    1. lololol.... how do i sleep at night? well, my friend. well ;) but yes - magnificent is the perfect word lol. i mean, he's still a clutzy goon who will swell up if you look at him sideways and can trip over the merest pebble in his path... but at least, yes, he does look magnificently impressive while doing so!! ;)

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  19. He is beefy but it looks great on him! Going to steal some ideas from this post for my own exercises :P Glad you guys are back on track :)

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    1. oooh you totally should - it's a fun and useful set of exercises!

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