Thursday, May 17, 2018

forward + back

As someone who has tried somewhat unreasonably hard to lead the lesson-junkie lifestyle, it sure seems like I haven't had many lessons to write about lately! I blame Charlie lol.

all the cross country jumps strewn about our field were vivid in the eerie light preceding a mega storm....
As I've written, tho, Charlie seems fine on this lighter schooling schedule. He really seemed to figure a lot out this past winter, when we first began twice weekly jump lessons - one with trainer P and one with trainer K - and spent basically his entire rehab and reintroduction to jumping post-surgery doing grids.

Meanwhile, I had the pleasure of learning that my own confidence wasn't as deflated as I feared after the time off. And, more so, Charlie's complete nonchalance about everything has really rubbed off on me. Historically I've liked jumping twice a week to keep my confidence up. But... with Charlie it's pretty easy to just shrug, like, "eh he's fine, we'll be fine!"

srsly tho, all these jumps just got plopped into the field after coming home from shawan downs.... no rhyme or reason to it
But. Ya know. I still love lessons. And obviously still have a metric fuck ton to learn about riding in general and eventing in particular. (does it ever end?? i think not...).

So I was happy to finally fit in another ride this week with upper level event rider K for Charlie's and my first time schooling over stadium jumps since our last lesson before Kentucky.

never mind that, uh, our farm is hosting a starter trial this weekend and all these jumps need to, ya know, be on course...
Unfortunately it's been raining and storming nonstop here for the past few days so trainer K felt like the outdoor jump ring would be too sloppy. Nbd, I'm fine with the indoor. And I correctly predicted that this would mean another grid school - which, again, was fine by me.

also nvm that our weather has been all rain all the time, with no end in sight. case in point that giant storm cloud chasing us back to the barn.... i guess i won't have to worry about hard ground!
What I didn't predict tho was how K would dig into our flat work between reps to the fences. She's not usually one for a heavy focus on the flat work in warm up - which is a bit of a departure from trainers I've worked with in the past (like Dan, for instance, who was all flat work all the time). Tho her exercises typically invoke core concepts like adjustability and rideability. So it works out.

that is, if the jumps ever get moved ?? haha maybe we'll just be weaving a maze through one field for our track....
This time tho, it was really all about that half halt. Something that, uh, haha, I've really struggled in installing in Charlie. Well. Let's be real, it's arguable whether I even ever got one on Isabel even tho she and I got much farther along in our work than Charlie has so far.

She had us go about this in a way that was on one hand immediately familiar: a well known exercises of riding the horse forward and back within the gaits to develop that elasticity and sharpness to the aids. On the other hand, tho, she tweaked the exact mechanics of the exercise in a way that made it a little easier for me and more clear for Charlie.

charlie would probably be fine with that, honestly. so long as the buggies can't get to him!
Specifically: I always practice a lot of transitions in any of our schools. Trot walk trot. Trot halt trot. Trot walk canter. Etc etc etc. With the idea being to get a light feeling in the downward, then a spurt forward with horse in front of my leg in the upward.

She had us doing the same thing, but faster. Instead of doing a full trot-walk or trot-halt transition, she wanted me to just get almost there, then immediately ride forward again. Small distinction, but it made a big difference in how I was applying my aids.


So the idea was: as we would trot around the arena in between grid trips, I would find a spot to do this "3/4 halt" then ride forward again. Rinse repeat once or twice, then approach the grid (which was on the center line per usual - necessitating a half 10m circle to approach).

After a few trips like that, she had me also incorporate canter into this back and forth exercise. Circling the ring once or twice between grid trips and finding spots to do a near-walk transition, or canter transition, and everything in between.

Ultimately looking for Charlie to hold the same shape no matter which transition we were doing. And also incorporating a near "leg yield" feeling during each transition - really taking advantage of corners in particular.

he'll probably live tho, probably ;)
Possibly the most helpful part of this exercise was the fact that there was a grid in there too. Charlie isn't a huge fan of compressing or extending his gaits right now, and often can be fussy when I push him forward (ie, when I ask for that "spurt" forward in front of my leg). But having the grid there really helped out.

He likes jumping, he's always understood to move forward to a ground pole, cavaletti, or jump. Even since his earliest days with me, those types of exercises have always helped change the conversation from 'me driving him forward' to 'him having somewhere to go.' And it was the same for this ride.

Plus - the grid is instructive in its own right. Charlie doesn't need me to tell him if he did well or if he made a mistake through a grid, he can figure that out all for himself. So if my last little half halt before the turn didn't go through, or if he didn't respond to my forward aid after the turn, we wouldn't get the grid quite right and he'd be like, "Oh ok I see now" then get it right the next time.

So it definitely felt really productive. Mostly tho I just appreciate having a trainer there to just keep me on task, keep me focused on those little details in our ride that are hard and therefore easy to ignore.... but so so so worth the practice. That's what lessons are all about, right? lol...

25 comments:

  1. The storms and rain have been quite abundant! I LOVE the light that precedes the big ones though. Your photos show it off so well!

    I love the idea of transitions and half halts mixed with the gridwork - especially for a horse like Charlie who loves the jompies so much. Such a great point about the grid helping him to figure things out on his own, too. It sounds like a great lesson!

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    1. Yea it was a really useful combination, as was K’s instruction that I think less about a full transition and more about an “almost” transition before immediately going forward again. That for me was a difference maker in getting my aids on better. Really tho any time we can mix flat work exercises in between the jumps is fun to me!

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  2. That sounds like a lot of work with the grid in there.

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    1. Yup! High intensity + low impact = my favorite schooling recipe

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  3. It’s good that Charlie can learn through the grid and realize there is a reason you do what you do on his back. Anytime Gem would ignore me (which was most of the time) and then have a less than perfect result she’d get pissed at me like it was always my fault. It was sorta funny but prevented her learning that maybe just maybe she should have listened to my input in the first place!

    A heap of cross country jumps looks so out of place. I want to reach through my phone and scramble them up!

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    1. oh man, somehow that doesn't surprise me at all about Gem. luckily Charlie is a very trainable kinda guy, which has really helped keep things on an even keel as we both learn together. often he's even figuring things out faster than i am! so... ya know, i'm grateful haha.

      and yea those jumps all askew are definitely... odd. and i just learned this morning that the show this weekend is cancelled. ostensibly bc of the forecast, but i'm thinking their delay in getting things ready is a factor too...

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  4. My problem is, I start to really like the back and forget about the forward! Hahaha. Sounds like a great lesson and someone that will be super beneficial both in SJ and XC.

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    1. yea i mean, that's the real problem right? especially if i feel like i don't have a reliable half halt, it makes it that much harder to let charlie travel more forward. but if i can sharpen him to the half halt and feel confident that it's always there when i need it, it's easier to avoid falling into the trap of always riding backwards. theoretically haha #ridingishard

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  5. Are half-halts even real? I can't install them (probably because of inconsistancy but, meh). It is so great to hear you are in such a good place with Charlie. Knowing he's a good egg and having that feeling that he will probably be fine regardless is a pretty great situation!

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    1. dude i am CONVINCED half halts are mystical mythical enigmas that everybody talks about but nobody actually knows what they mean lol. or, uh, maybe that's just me ;)

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  6. Yay lesson! I'm glad you and Charlie are really getting it. He's such a smart guy <3 Also love the pictures in that light before the storm. I have to say I do kind of miss storms! We just get dust storms here lol

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    1. i kinda love the storms too! i mean, on one hand i hate that they interfere with riding plans or horse shows, but it's a definite sign that summer is arriving!

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  7. Glad you were able to fit in a productive lesson, even if the rain kept you inside! We'd be happy to take the storms off your hands, it's pretty dry here, haha. But the pre-storm light on those jumps is epic!

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    1. oh man, yea the dryness this season has been pretty intense. we were basically sitting on concrete here for the past few weeks until this wetness, so i'm definitely not gonna complain about it (even if it meant our show this weekend was cancelled, womp). hopefully you get some rain soon too tho!

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  8. Ohhh the 3/4 halt is so super helpful. That is exactly where I am at with Ellie in teaching her half halts and she is totally getting it. Also, something that stuck with me at my last lesson was when I ask for more trot and not let Ellie get rushy (in her little sewing machine trot haha) is to think about impulsion in her inside hind leg. That totally helped me get her more forward in a subtle way.

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    1. yup it's a great exercise! and such a good feeling when it clicks for the horse

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  9. That's a great way to break it all down for the big guy!

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    1. it really felt wayyy more suitable for charlie than other ways i've tried to incorporate the same exercise so far. for instance, the method i used with isabel in stephen birchall's lessons where we took the trot to almost half steps and held it there before riding forward.... that has not worked well for charlie yet. this idea of "almost" bringing the trot down to walk, but then right away moving forward again seemed to make a lot more sense to the horse, while still creating similar improvements in the quality of his trot.

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  10. Lessons are definitely for the small things. I can't manage to see everything myself. Any lesson I have I'm all about the "tell me how to do things" mentality.

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    1. yup definitely, otherwise why pay for them?? lol

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  11. Back in the days when I jumped, I totally would have tried to figure out how to string some of those jumps together JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE THERE OMG HOW DO YOU STAND IT!?!?

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    1. lol yea those jumps are definitely jumpable right now - or at least, some of them are. some of them might even work out for combinations tho i didn't walk any of the distances. only issue is they're on the part of the field that gets driven on the most, so the ground is seriously hard packed. plus mgmt prefers we don't jump in the fields after rain. hopefully tho they'll get moved into better positions soon!

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  12. I love focusing on flatwork with jumps added in -- it's honestly my favorite type of lesson.

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    1. mine too!! i feel like the horse and i can both learn a lot more this way

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  13. I relate so hard to the part about the chilled out horse chilling out your attitude.

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