Tuesday, December 19, 2017

almost a year later, and he's basically a pro now

Well. Almost a professional haha.

Last February we introduced Charlie to the concept of "free jumping" as a means to help him better understand how his body operates in space relative to fixed-position objects like jumps. It was.... an interesting experience, and my post documenting that endeavor went by the alternate title of "Big Trees Fall Hard" (among others haha).

his herd moved to their winter field complete with round bale. all the horses are too excited about the rested grass tho to eat the hay, and have been wayyyyy back in the farthest reaches of the pasture every time i go to get charlie. he seems happy!
But he's come a long way in the last year, helped along by the fact that this horse really does seem to like jumping. So when my weekly jump lesson (moved inside from snowy ground conditions, boo) turned into a private, I was actually really excited for us to do some grid work reminiscent of that free jumping exercise all those months ago.

he was very sorry to leave his herd too haha, as evidenced by all his pitiful whinnying. he's got a very special sort of whinny bc of his tie back surgery, and i tried to catch it on video. only got the tail end but it's still kinda funny/cute to hear lol.
also i love how this farm is legit like 35 miles from baltimore city and yet there are still sirens in the background haha.

He warmed up a little blah and lethargic and behind my leg - but no real temper tantrums. My theory that the dressage saddle is a culprit of many of our recent dinosaur moments seems likelier and likelier. The jump saddle fortunately is still apparently in Charlie's good graces. Thank god! Hopefully that'll be confirmed by the fitter soon enough too.

also happy to do the jompies thing again!
And anyway, even without a sour attitude, Charlie's never really able to soften and give his best trot until after a little bit of canter. Which is where we end up in trouble when he's feeling sour - he's got to canter to feel better, but doesn't want to canter. Tricky balance!

But once he canters the world is ok again. As was the case in this particular ride, where he actually just went right on along with his business and warmed up and got to work the best he has in recent memory. Good boy!


not sure i'll ever not love this horse <3
We kept the warm up simple bc gymnastic exercises are taxing enough on their own. We trotted through some ground poles / cavalleti on the center line a few times (wherein Charlie almost got us killed just once by being distracted), then moved on to the skeletons of the grid to be built along the arena's long side.

one of his last trips through. i don't think he'd ever get tired of doing this haha
It started as just ground poles, then the middle element raised to a cavaletti sized vertical, then a second element also raised, then all three. Ridden a couple times in each configuration from both directions. Eventually they were all raised a little more, and the final element became an oxer (maybe around 2'3ish or higher, it's hard to tell lol).


Lather, rinse, repeat. We just trucked on through again and again. Little breaks occasionally in between, tho not too many breaks bc Charlie would sometimes forget how to horse if we let him sit too long lol. Like when he jumped through and just clobbered everything. C'mon buddy! Lift them legs!!

As far as I was concerned, this reeeeally felt like the perfect lesson as our second time back jumping things again. Charlie got to remember niceties like holding himself up and compressing his step and keeping a balanced pace.

ooooooh now this is an interesting development! fun fact: there weren't any stirrups on it when i went to hop up after the lesson to try it out. can you visualize me trying to hoist my ass up into a high-cantled dressage saddle on giant brontosaurus charlie from a too-short mounting block, with nothing to help except for a plastic jump riser used for a little extra height on top of the mounting block?? can you see that in your mind's eye? bc.... wow i'm sure it was a sight to behold haha. my hips might never be the same again lol
Meanwhile I got to focus on all those simple fundamentals that often get forgotten when otherwise careening around a course. Like: Keeping my legs down under me, pushing my hands forward, and asking nothing else of the horse other than straightness and forward. Letting the grid do all the rest of the work for me.

And go figure, when I helped with the straightness Charlie was likelier to land on his correct lead. He even landed on and jumped from both leads somewhat regularly, as opposed to avoiding that left lead like the plague. More evidence that the dressage saddle contributed to that issue....

happy tired pony post-ride <3
Much like that ground pole session we did last week, this was the perfect opportunity to just let the exercise kinda school Charlie, instead of me needing to manage every step. Definitely useful for both of us as we knock the rust off!

And anything that helps Charlie remember how to use himself better over fences has gotta be a win, right? Mostly tho I'm just so thrilled with how easy it felt for him (even some of the oopsie moments lol) and how happy he was to just keep on going and going and going.

Even tho he was definitely super duper tired by the end (he practically fell asleep standing in the arena after I hopped off), he never got grumpy about repeating the exercise. And kept trying the whole time. Yessss :D

Gotta love those gymnasties, right? Do you use grids in schooling? Does your horse love them as much as Charlie? Or maybe you're one of those who hates them, or has a horse that's stressed out by all those poles all jammed together? Is your horse super careless like Charlie or a little more... impressed by stuff like this?

38 comments:

  1. Man, I love grids. I have these great memories from being a kid of blasting through grids with no hands or my eyes closed. For a kid who was kinda fearful, grids were fun and freeing.

    Also, omg. I hope you bought your hips dinner after that affront. Lol!

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    1. Yea grids are definitely great for getting to enjoy the experience without a lot of pressure for sure haha. Like this was basically a free jumping exercise for Charlie while he happened to have a rider atop him lol.

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  2. He DOES love those. Look at his happy demeanor!!

    I love grid work! Lots of bang for your buck. Griffin adores it, too, and is really careful usually. Mistakes on his part usually stem from human error on my part.

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    1. Yea that's my favorite thing about grids too is that they just set the horse up to go and get it done very effective stuff!

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  3. yay a jump lesson how fun! So glad Charlie and you enjoyed it. Great job!! and ouch for your hips!! LOL Since i freeze up over normal jumps grids make my stomach twirl typing this right now. LOL I probably should conquer that fear one day. Maybe :) Love watching Charlie jump!! Can't wait to catch the live version next spring!

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    1. Ha you should totally do some grids one day! I find that they actually help me relax more vs getting nervous. Esp if you just start small - ppl like to make gymnastics so intense with a thousand bounces and fifteen different elements but like.... Who on earth has got the time to set that all up? Lol

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  4. Grids are my favorite!!! Chimi fell on his face the very first time he went through a grid (and it was just poles and an X) but now he sees them and leaps through!!!

    And at least it's your dressage saddle that seems to be the tar pit culprit so you can still do fun things like jumps and jumps and jumps 😂 Hope saddle fitting and testing goes well!

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    1. awww haha is it weird i'm kinda glad charlie's not the only one??? lol

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  5. that looks great!!! indy just recently did his first grids and while he was a rockstar i have no control with my leg/upper body. every time we do grids its tragically apparent

    i laughed at the mental image of your stirrupless climb onto your dressage saddle, and then cried a little because when i rode indy bareback for the first time i got up to the top of the mounting block and went holy crap... i think i need to jump??

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    1. ugh yea, at least to charlie's credit, he stood like a statue as i was hanging off his side like an actual monkey, complete with trainer trying to shove me upright into the saddle lol

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  6. Sounds like you'll have to jump all winter until Charlie finds a dressage saddle he likes. Oh Darn ;)

    He looks great! I am definitely going to copy you soon and let a grid do some teaching - and maybe I can focus on not riding like a lump. I think grids are probably a great tool for bringing a horse back from a break, the more I think about them. It's good to see you and the big guy getting back to it!

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    1. yea grids are so so useful for so so many things. this jump trainer is a huge fan of compressed one stride grids and finds a way to incorporate them into many of her lessons and courses just bc they're so effective for showing the horse how to use himself without needing to rely overmuch on the rider

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  7. I'm glad that Charlie has agreed to go back to work. He's so serious about it (well mostly). Hopefully you can get the dressage saddle sorted.

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    1. omg he is SO SERIOUS haha - he knows he has a job, whether he likes that or not lol

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  8. Ya! You two look great! Grids. They make my stomach flip. But I'm working on it. One of my past horses, Miss Tea would lose her mind when coach would change the grid (you know, the usual progression type changes of adding poles and changing height). She had severe pole fear and took note of every change until completely losing her marbles. Now I still get worried with every change even though Savvy doesn't care.

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    1. ugh yea that's totally understandable. izzy used to be pretty solid at grids -- but then we had a couple high profile incidents with long lines of one stride oxers (duly reported here on ye olde blog) and.... it kinda started getting me worried. luckily charlie is such a freight train that he can't really stop or turn fast enough to jump ship once he's started lol

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  9. I have a lovely Stubben dressage saddle that wants a new home for Chirstmas!! No? Anyone? Anyone at all?

    Charlie is definitely looking totes professional. You've come a long way, big dude.

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    1. lol he's such a good boy tho, i can't wait until we can do more exciting stuff!!

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    1. yea.... nobody's favorite. at least my current dressage saddle was kinda an impulse buy, starter saddle anyway. i'm not particularly attached to it, it's never been the best fit for me. hopefully something better will be easily found!

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    2. I've got a Stackhouse dressage saddle that's made for someone shorter than 5'10" ;)

      I'm a fan of grids, not such a fan of setting them though. Especially when I'm by myself and have to get off repeatedly to build them up, adjust distance or raise poles. And I'm usually alone, boo.

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    3. yea ditto - when im schooling on my own i tend to gravitate more toward ground pole exercises that offer varying degrees of technicality

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  11. You guys look great!! As a weird sidenote, I thought for like 0.2 seconds Charlie wasn't wearing a girth in your mirror picture. I saw the dressage girth laying across your lap and was like "ooooh?"

    Fingers crossed you can find a new dressage saddle that works.

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    1. ha good eye! yea i brought up the dressage girth so i could try my trainer's saddle after the lesson. should have brought the stirrups too lol.....

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  12. YAY Charlie looks great! And so not caring about that pole he kept knocking down LOL Pick up your feet, Charlie! Haha but he looked so good, and even though it was video, it looks like you two are so happy to be jumping again!

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    1. lol yea charlie has never brought himself to care about knocked rails haha. its fun anyway tho!

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  13. Looking super! Fingers crossed for a very easy saddle hunt.

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    1. so far i'm optimistic. i've got options for now and no immediate pressing need to either sell or buy. so hopefully that keeps it relatively stress free!

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  14. I haven't done many jumping lessons overall so I've never done grids. I do want to though. They sound so useful.

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    1. you totally should! when i'm on my own, i will just substitute ground pole configurations (the heavier the better so you don't have to get on and off to realign them when the horse inevitably stumbles through. one of my favorites is four poles, spaced 9'-18'-9' (ymmv) - good distances for trotting through for many horses, and also a typical bounce-onestride-bounce at canter. great way to check in on pace!

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  15. Uh grids are a no over here. Haha. Maybe next year. Or 2020.

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    1. aww haha c'mon now, what if Ms Z turns out to love grids tho??? they're such a good way to teach horses how to jump!

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  16. He's going through those grids super well!!

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    1. it's such a relief to see that he's remembered so many of our past lessons

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    1. he's just beggin for a real challenge, i think ;)

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  18. I love love love grid work. So basically, I'm right there with Charlie and jomping all the things. I think it is so helpful for horse and rider and makes for a much safer horse in the long run. So glad you had such a fun lesson!

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    1. somehow, even tho we're strangers, i have this very concrete feeling that you and charlie share equal enthusiasm for this type of jumping exercise haha. and i'm right there with ya! i love grids! eager to see the benefits play out on more fun jumping outings too!!! :D

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