Tuesday, May 22, 2018

shifting grains of sand

For some reason I've been only really getting 1-3 lessons per month so far this spring, despite technically having standing appointments twice weekly, plus having a third satellite trainer always available for pinch hitting.

I guess it's been nice for my wallet to get a break. Esp with moving imminently, every little dollar helps.... But ya know. I also need a lot of help in the saddle lol. So there's that.

gosh i love coming to this barn tho!
Luckily all the stars aligned this week and I had lessons with all three of my current trainers. You already read about both jump lessons - the grid work + half halt school with trainer K and the bumped up course work (with Charlie's first 3'3!) with trainer P. Much fun was had by all!!

Actually since originally Sunday was supposed to be a show day, I had planned to skip the trainer P jump lesson and do a dressage ride with Trainer C instead.... But with the show postponed we were able to fit in both lessons. Silver linings!

dirty mirror selfies for always and for ever lol
Plus Brita wanted to come too - so we packed both ponies up and headed over to trainer C's farm TM. Home to one of my absolute favorite ever indoor riding arenas. Idk what it is about this place, but it's been magical for every horse I've ever brought here (and there have been a few now).

I expected Charlie to be pretty good for the ride too. Mostly bc he's just been plain old good anyway lately, but also bc he always does a little better off property where his gate sourness issues aren't quite as pronounced.

hey look, it's a trot!
Trainer C hadn't seen him in ages too. Last time was at the end of January. And the time before that was during our deep dark sour patch from mid winter, which I now recognize as being related to saddle fit.

So I was eager to show her what we've been working on and get a little help in honing in on a few issues. Namely, some of my own well-documented positional flaws. And Charlie's general suppleness - particularly in preparation for riding upcoming tests.

yep, still trottin
Trainer C zeroed in pretty quickly on some pieces of the positional puzzle. I've been working really really hard to change how I sit in the saddle since our last lesson, but there's still more that needs to be done.

Like, if you imagine that your pelvis is a bowl filled with water, my tendency is to pitch forward spill water out the front. I'm learning to keep the "bowl" more level, but the hardest moments for me to hold that position are in downward transitions. So that's a biggie that I need to start keeping at top of mind.

i like how happy he looks in these pics
Additionally, my legs - particularly that troublesome right leg - still swing back too far and get stuck gripping on Charlie's sides instead of bumping on and off at the girth.

On top of that, Charlie often wants to fall to the outside so I've gotten baited into riding more strongly off my outside leg (swinging back, natch) than my inside leg. Which isn't exactly correct. Like, Yes. I need the horse to feel straight between my aids: feeling each hind leg coming forward equally into each rein. But... I've gotten into the habit of overriding the outside leg aids. So more attention needed there.

and there's a canter too!
Particularly I need to really remember to keep those legs draped down and around Charlie's belly, imagining clicking my heels together underneath him, with toes pointed forward. Naturally this position comes much more easily when my pelvis is more correctly oriented in the saddle.

Funny how that works, no? Lol...

and even more canter! one day i'll learn to keep my leg underneath myself. one day!
For once, my arms and hands weren't a huge part of the problems this go 'round. Mostly I just need to shorten my reins more (needs less bagging in the outside rein esp!) while also maintaining an elastic bend in my elbow. Esp on a strong horse like Charlie, I don't want to give any appearances of a tug-of-war to the judge during a test, and locked-straight arms are a dead giveaway.

Charlie's also schooled enough at this point that I really can keep my hands closer together - vs the wide set I had adopted when he was so much more green. Trainer C also advised me to be reeeally careful to avoid pulling his head down. Obvi that's kind of a no-brainer, but it always amazes me what kinds of habits sneak in subconsciously when I go too long without a lesson lol.

aww, and still more trotting
Mostly tho, trainer C was pretty happy with how Charlie's developing. While he continued to show some bracing over his topline in this lesson (something we've been dealing with a lot lately), trainer C's opinion was that she preferred him being a little more up in his front end vs the low diving downhill heaviness that was so prevalent in his earliest days.

he's a handsome boy <3
And as always, it's a fine balance between getting him pushing up and forward from his hind end without devolving into running down on the forehand. Esp after the first canter or two, it becomes a lot more difficult to keep Charlie more balanced on his hind end. Just needs more work!

final halt, salute to trainer C lol
Trainer C didn't pick us apart too much in this lesson since we wanted to run through a test in preparation for upcoming events. But the feedback she gave will hopefully provide me with a lot of food for thought in our schooling rides these next few weeks. And. Ya know. Hopefully it won't be five months until my next lesson with her lol.

Our next test won't be about the dressage anyway tho. We'll basically just want to get through the test smoothly enough to do justice to the horse's training, but otherwise won't really be pushing for the top. Honestly the only thing I'll probably care about is actually riding his canter with purpose, bc there's no reason Charlie shouldn't be pulling better scores in his canter work if I would literally just devote one iota of focus to it haha, instead of just cruisin along in passenger mode. #goals lol

Mostly tho it was really reassuring to hear C say that the horse is on the right track. That he's developing correctly and that I basically just need to keep doing what I'm doing, only more. And better. As always lol.

Certainly a better rider would get Charlie there faster than I am. Or would maybe avoid some of the bad habits I know I'm creating within my own ride and in Charlie's way of going. But. Eh. We're getting along well enough these days as far as I can tell. Plus if all else fails, at least he looks good in his new fun faux croc skin brushing boots ;)

34 comments:

  1. That ‘still more trotting photo- I love it. He’s pushing up through his back and you looked so balanced. He’s building his top line bit by bit.

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    1. Thanks it really feels that way. He’s never going to be very flashy, but he’s very (very) slowly improving the basics of his carriage - and even tho the pics don’t look massively different over time, the change in feeling is really exciting!

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  2. "Keep doing what I'm, doing, only more. And better" HA! This is riding in a nut shell.

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    1. Lol ain’t that the truth. More. And better. Forever and ever. Haha....

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  3. You guys are looking really good! And ehhhh, I don't know about better riders getting horses somewhere faster. It is so much better for the horse to putter and take one's time, not to mention the intense satisfaction you have knowing YOU have done the work yourself (instead of handing the ride over to a trainer).

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    1. yea i mean, objectively speaking, better riding *does* produce a better outcome in the horse more quickly than.... otherwise. but ya know. like i wrote about yesterday, most of us don't *need* that better outcome faster. and might not even be ready for it that soon. like you say, there's real value in building a partnership by puttering and muddling through all that stuff together, even with mistakes and imperfections. and yup, it's definitely satisfying when the pieces click together and you feel like you know the horse inside and out!

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  4. He looks so good! I love his fuzzy breastplate. You guys are definitely chipping away in the right direction. I swear dressage at the lower levels is more like an exercise of patience. It’s like you’re working along, getting the basics, building strength, and then one day BAM! You somehow have a really nice dressage horse and you’re not sure how you got there 😂 or at least that’s been my memory of dressage!!

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    1. ha thanks - that's definitely how it felt with isabel too. one day we went from "kinda a hot mess" to "oh wow, that horse is pretty special!" obvi it helped that... ya know, isabel IS a nice horse lol. i'm not sure anybody's ever gonna put charlie on that same scale of "niceness" but ya know, i'll settle for developing him into a 'correct' dressage horse ;)

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  5. He looks great! It's nice when the stars align in that sort of way. I've been up to my trainer's twice in 4 days for him to get some flat rides in on P and while I love the feedback of where he needs to improve and what I need to do to help him, I struggle with knowing I have no way of replicating the way my trainer rides. Sometimes it's a hard pill to swallow. BUT at the end of the day, my horse is happy and getting better and I'm learning a ton. And isn't that the fun of being an ammy?

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    1. definitely, i *definitely* know what you mean. i'm kinda childish in that i don't really like to share my toys, and i esp don't really necessarily want charlie to learn my deep dark secret: that actually i'm kinda a srsly mediocre rider. and that, ya know, there are riders out there who *aren't* massively crooked or who don't pull all the time. bc right now, as far as he knows, how i ride is kinda just how riding is lol, and he doesn't necessarily need to know that there's a better way!

      at the same time tho, there's something really really important to be said for letting horses learn in clear black and white (ie, with a pro) exactly what's expected of them and how to go about their work. bc once they actually *know* that, it's so much easier for us to access that same ability in the horse even just as mere ammy mortals lol....

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  6. Wow the changes in Charlie - he looks amazing. And ugh the pelvis. It's the foundation for SO much positional stuff and is SUCK a fickle little witch sometimes. Things that seem so simple never are with it. Curse you, bipedal pelvis lol

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    1. i'm so used to how he looks now that i kinda just like... only see the fact that we're still kinda just plodding around. but then i flip back through older posts and pictures from even just this time last year and.... yea it's actually a pretty big difference. so i'll take it!! and maybe eventually if i can get my own body with the program he'll look even better!

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  7. You guys look fantastic! My "bowl" likes to tip forward too so I feel you. Lessons are so good for helping with those little tweaks we all need :)

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    1. oh man seriously! if i could take three lessons a week every week i'd be such a much better rider lol!!

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  8. LOL keep doing what you're doing but more and better. I feel this on a spiritual level.

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  9. With that breastplate he's basically Sam.

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    1. lol that may or may not have been exactly what i told my dressage trainer too haha..... #noshame ;)

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  10. He looks so good! You do too :D. He's looking like such a good dressage pony! It is definitely good to hear you've been doing pretty well and just keep on keeping on but more and better lol. I feel like that's riding in general haha. I'm excited tho to hear about the upcoming event!

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    1. thanks! he really feels like he understands better what our expectations for him actually are. he's always been a horse who is happy to answer questions when he already knows the answer - but the problems crop up when we ask him new things. which... obvi as a green horse has made for some challenging moments lol. but finally he seems to feel like he's got the answers for this level of dressage, and it's making him a lot more fun to ride in it!!

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  11. You both look fantastic! He definitely seems to love having his job and hurray for media to show where you've come from and see how much has changed for the better!

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    1. oh man i'm so grateful for the media!! getting good dressage media is pretty tough since i usually take private lessons (and therefore don't have other lesson mates to beg for video from like i do in our jump lessons!) so usually the only footage i get is from snippets of jump lessons, where we kinda have a different shape anyway, or from tests at shows - which are often a little bit weaker than our normal schooling bc #nerves and #tension lol. but it's so so so useful to get that visual check in on our progress!

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  12. The fight against anterior pelvic tilt is rough, rough I say!

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  13. You guys are looking great, the progress is notable :)

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  14. he looks great Emma, glad the lessons are coming along. He is so much more filled out and massive this year. Amazing. And great lessons are so much fun and a gift that keeps on giving :) he really doesnt look like the same horse anymore. Very FANCY :) The bowl analogy works for me until I actually get on a horse then it all goes out the window LOL :) But all kidding aside he looks great and so do you!

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    1. omg he is SO MASSIVE now haha, i love it!!! and i'm not quite sure i'd call him fancy at this point, but he's really just doing so well i'm quite happy with him, thanks! <3

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  15. Love that first picture; he's like 'nomnomnomnom NEED FOOOOOOOD'. And also-who cares about flashy-it's a nice to have but the horses who are quiet and well schooled are flashy in their own right, and I think, more impressive, because they (and their riders) don't rely on 'flash' to fake things.

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    1. ain't that the truth. if i cared about flashy i wouldn't have ever even brought charlie home lol. and yet, as far as i'm concerned he's basically perfect ;)

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  16. He looks great! What a great progress post! I think about that with June as well, how much quicker things would go if someone else were riding her. But really, that's not important, it's all about the journey, and I am happy with taking things slow!

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    1. yea totally agreed. it's definitely possible to smooth the road out, or get the horse going faster with a professional, but for what purpose, right? like at the end of the day, we're still the ones who have to ride them lol. plus, ya know, that work with the horse is so so fun anyway, slow going or not. you and june are gonna have a blast! ;)

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  17. I love reading your blog. It lets me have lessons vicariously through you.

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    1. ha i aim to please! also it's honestly so useful to write about the lessons bc it helps me relive them and theoretically commit more of the tools to memory

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