Wednesday, July 18, 2018

riding yesterday's horse

Charlie is rapidly approaching his 2 year anniversary of transitioning from race horse to riding horse. His last race was Aug 9, 2016 and I met him just one month later on Sept 9, 2016. And, as you all know, he debuted here at 'Fraidy Cat Eventing ten days after that.

can we just pretend that the uber-long mane adds to charlie's aura of majesty?
He's my first horse, after years spent riding schoolies, project ponies intended to be schoolies (including a number of OTTBs in college), the occasional school master, some catch rides, and of course four transformative years leasing Isabel. In short: I've been waiting for this for a loonnng time haha.

lol it certainly makes him look extra fierce over this sma jompie!
And it's been a great two years so far! I think it's safe to say that Charlie isn't really "green" any more - at least, not in the roughest sense of the word. He's reasonably schooled to training level dressage work, and is pretty consistent through 3' coursework. I might even venture to say he's well schooled to grid work and gymnastics. Maybe, lol.

gotta be honest here: i have no idea why i like this picture so much lol. charlie looks like a friggin pony lol
Overall tho, it's been a while since I've had to ride him like a green horse. He understands the job, knows the aids, and is more or less sorta kinda reasonably compliant.

Mostly what we're working on at this point is refining the pieces. Making things smooth. Seeking greater degrees of consistency and discipline - wanting to keep doing what we're doing, but more. And better. Forever lol.

casual about the oxer
Which works for me, ya know? I don't have to tell you that I'm a pretty serious planner. I spend a lot of time just thinking things through. Visualizing how I want any given ride to go, what I want to work on and where we might encounter potential issues or obstacles. Using all our past rides as input for estimating what the future might look like.

The less green and more consistent Charlie becomes, the easier this planning and visualization process gets for me. Right? Like, the better trained a horse is, the more predictable he is.

mighty cute over the swedish tho!
Only... Ha, well. Sometimes this intense compulsion to plan everything out in advance gets me into trouble. Sure, Charlie might not be "green" in the broadest sense of the word any more. But he is still "green" in terms of his technical proficiency.

Meaning: every time we expand Charlie's (or my!) horizons, whether by introducing greater complexity to a jump course or dressage movement, he becomes green again to this new level. Obviously this may seem like a huge "Duh!" moment to readers out there, but it's something I forget again and again and again.

ooooh but hey, lookie here's more kinda awkward cantering pics ;) 
Because I get so caught up in my plans - riding the horse I expect Charlie to be based on the horse he has been in the past, and my interpretation of the factors contributing to his past performance - that sometimes I kinda miss the forest for the trees.

I miss the fact that, sometimes he's a different horse today than he was yesterday. And sometimes I need to adapt my plan to meet him where he is - and to change my plans on the fly if my expectations turned out to be way off base.

why so serious tho, charlie??
Obviously sometimes this can prove to be a huge problem. Like at Plantation where I kinda expected him to just cart my butt around the course like he had a Loch Moy, but he proved to actually need a much more decisive and firm ride than I had expected to provide.

Other times tho, his changeable nature catches me off guard in kind of a good way. Like when we went schooling at Shawan Downs and I half expected him to drag me around the grounds like he had at our season opener, but he was actually a perfect saintly gentleman about literally everything.

It's tough for me to not want to plan things out so specifically. I love knowing what to expect, and feel more confident when I'm familiar with a situation and have a plan for how things might unfold.

Simultaneously tho, it's becoming clear that I'm way too slow in adapting when Charlie comes out to play in a different mood than I expected. Like, we can both be moody - but I tend to hang on to things. To dwell. Mostly bc that's part of the process of digesting everything that happened previously to better understand how to either avoid trouble or reproduce success in the future.

Still tho, sometimes I think I just need to let go a little more lol.

ok you caught me - these may or may not be the most awkward canter pics possible lol. dis charlie's lerd chernge
June was a really crappy month for me and Charlie -- but that doesn't mean I need to go into every ride in July expecting the same thing. Especially bc sometimes Charlie comes out and does his job and casually just jumps on around like the easiest thing in the world. And it sure would be nice if I could sit back and enjoy the ride haha.

he jumps tho! and that's what matters! also plz to enjoy the trainer K cameo as she legit tries to air-kick my horse up over the fence for me lololol
Like this past week's lesson with upper level event rider K, where we kinda just cruised around small jumps focusing more on some interesting turns and bending lines than anything else. It was a group lesson with some new members, so the jumps all stayed small. But Charlie didn't care. Just loped on along through.

Even when we kinda managed to land on every wrong lead, or miss a few turns, he didn't care. Nbd. He even proved that he learned something from last week's lesson with Trainer P where we faced all manner of placing poles all over the place. During this ride we revisited the same raised pole to the oxer that almost killed us last week - with added bonus of having "V" poles on top of the oxer. And Charlie slayed.

And trainer K had to keep reminding me to stay forward with Charlie - stay soft with him and not be too defensive or too driving with my seat. Just let him keep coming, keep cantering forward to the fences.

quick compilation from the lesson here!

Bc I spend so much time visualizing how I need to ride Charlie when he's very strong and pulling me around, or when he's sluggish and recalcitrant, that maybe I don't ever really remember how to ride when... ya know... he's just kinda going along just fine, thankyouverymuch lol.

So ya know. It's good food for thought lol. Maybe I need to meditate a little bit on how to not overthink things so much that I can't recognize or appreciate the good while it's happening. If anything, this all reminds me a lot of a lesson I had with Dan under very different circumstances, where he pointed out that the "greats" all have short memories. Meaning: maybe sometime's there's a real advantage to not always be thinking about how things went in the past such that you're too distracted from what's going on right under your nose.

Hopefully this proves to be good timing too, as Charlie and I have a few fun plans this week. While I am still 100% committed to the discipline and consistency that I've been writing about all month -- it'll still be important to remember to ride the horse as he is in the moment too. Tell me I'm not the only one who gets stuck in this trap of over thinking every single thing??


  1. I'm a card-carrying member of Team Overthink! But I've worked real hard to try to become a member whose dues are overdue and way late in an attempt to be fired from said team lol. I'm not sure what's more work, overthinking or trying to quit overthinking about how to not overthink?! lol Short story, girl, you're not alone ;-)

    1. lol overthinking quitting overthinking about how to not overthink.... YUP that about sums it up, doesn't it????

  2. It’s so hard to put baggage down and ride the horse that’s under you at that moment. I’m not a dweller and barely find time to remember my own name most days let alone find time to think about riding when I’m not doing it, but I do tend to expect the worst and forget to ride what I have.

    1. oh man, sometimes i wish i could let things just slip in and out of mind like that! but yea, it's never any good when our expectations get in the way of letting good things happen!

  3. *raises hand* I too belong to the Over-Thinkers club. Honestly, for me it's about managing my overthinking not trying to elminate it. I've given up- at 54 it's so firmly entrenched that it's not going anywhere. the other day I had a terrible ride on Carmen (after writing about some great ones. Post coming about that). I knew I had to ride the next day so I would dwell and dwell and dwell on it. It helps (although still kinda dwelling on it). Shanea teases me about it which helps.

    My goal is to have the ability to read the mood of the day and then pull out the skills I need for that. For example spooky Carmen needs more leg and shorter rein, more things to think about then mellow Carmen. Sometimes I think that her name should have been Sybyil!

    1. lol that's such a blog thing -- we always end up with awful rides right around the exact moment we post about the great ones. sigh.... but yes, i definitely want to similarly have a goal where i'm reading the horse just as he is - not only in that day, but in that moment. as charlie has this tendency to "click" into gear sometimes at a moment's notice (or, uh, sometimes "unclick"...) and i need to be ready for that!

  4. I love to have a good overthink! It's so important to ride the "horse of today". Thank you for the timely reminder :)

    1. oh man, i think we all need that reminder sometimes haha, i know i sure do!

  5. That's something we definitely have in common, overthinking overthinking lol

    1. It’s apparently quite the club! We should get t shirts ;)

  6. Yup. Convicted overthinker here, haha!

    It's hard to break the mold, esp when you "change" or adjust the way you ride based off the horse you have (be it changes in training, expectations, or simply just riding the horse you have based on their attitude and sometimes let's be real... our attitude haha).

    1. Yea I mean we all want to be better and problem solve so we spend all this time focusing on how to fix a problem but then even when the problem isn’t happening I still kinda wanna be fixing it lol....

  7. Staying in the moment and riding the horse under me is a major struggle I have! I get pretty used to riding a certain way that it can be so hard to change especially when you always expect the same thing and then suddenly BAM the training clicks or what ever. The struggles of not riding heaps of different horses I think!

    Always nice to know we are not alone lol

    1. Seriously haha! Sometimes I wonder just how different of a rider I would be if I had five or ten to ride every day. Like I’ve gone through a lot of phases in recent memory of riding a lot of different horses, but not really at a high level.

  8. Being in the now is hard. I'm not good at it. I can focus on one thing but being influenced by thoughts or memories is so natural that it almost takes 100 times more effort to just react and exist in the moment as it does to exist thinking about the past. Good luck with figuring that out! If you find the secret, please share. ;)


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