Friday, February 14, 2020

deceptively tricky lines

We're having an extremely mild winter so far, tho obviously even writing that out is tempting fate haha. Temperatures lately have hovered consistently around the 40s-50s during the day, and have stayed above freezing overnight.

That will probably change soon enough (February and March are our most typical "winter" months it seems), but combined with the near-constant rain lately it's meant that ground and riding conditions have been yucky muck.

charlie has the prettiest dad bod in all the land!!
But ya know. That's fine haha. A lot of people like to give their event horses time off over the winter anyway. From what I can tell, tho, most seem to be in a big rush to start the vacation around November or December -- when there's still perfectly good ground conditions for riding in my area. I personally prefer to wait, and let my horse's break coincide with the grossest dreariest darkest days haha.

To be honest, tho, I don't generally give Charlie a full and complete vacation unless medically required. He's a high mileage model who feels his best when kept in motion haha.

So for the last couple weeks since Oldfields, we've mostly been just hacking out, wandering the fields, trails and lanes around the farm. Occasionally trotting and cantering where the ground permitted, but mostly just strolling. It's been nice!

riding the bend to the rainbow standards, from which we'll land and bend back to the brick walls in the center of the picture
This week was time to pull it back together tho, starting with some more purposeful trot sets and reintroducing dressage schools into the mix. Then, finally, a jump lesson! And damn but this horse just felt great in his body.

I'm really loving these lessons with our farm's resident upper level event rider K, too. It feels like she has a plan for us, a vision. She comes to each lesson with a specific exercise for us that's specifically related to our particular strengths and weaknesses. And each lesson feels like it's building on the previous exercises.

There's been a progression, and I'm really diggin it haha. This summer we sorta started by working on getting that consistent 12' canter stride. Then that progressed to being able to balance within that canter to make short turns. So so so SO many turning exercises haha. But reeeeally focusing on that canter in the turn.

we've been practicing short turns to jumps. um. uh. can you tell??? lol.... long live the dinosaurs in tar pits!
And now, in this lesson, we're refining further. Not just keeping the 12' stride in a forward balance, and not just turning within that canter, but getting nittier grittier into changes of bend - multiple changes in a row. All in the same canter.

The kernel for this most recent lesson was planted a few weeks ago when we had two simple fences, separated by an indeterminate but lengthy distance, that were slightly offset. But rather than jumping either on an angle, we were to jump both of them straight on, and execute a modified "S" curve between them.

That exercise was actually really interesting to experience bc my immediate reaction was to shut the canter wayyyyyyyyy down. Which... Obviously was not the objective haha.

So this week the same concept showed up again, but at much shorter distances. Also thankfully at fairly small jump heights too, so we could just focus entirely on the task at hand without me getting excitable or risking knocking anyone's confidence if we made mistakes. Which... We did. Many, haha.

Again, the jumps were spaced at more or less indeterminate distances. And, believe it or not, this was maybe one of the first jumping exercises I've done in recent memory where I *wasn't* counting strides between jumps. Like, sure I was still counting my rhythm, but not the distances.

It wasn't until I watched the video later that I saw that they were basically all roughly ~5 stride lines (tho I'm fairly sure we did 6 a few times over the course of the lesson!).

All that to say - it's a flexible set up.

mostly straight at the point of the jump itself, but already preparing the next bend
Essentially, again, the point was to be more or less straight to each fence. To achieve the changes of bend promptly and smoothly. To be set up for your next fence prior to taking off at the current fence. To maintain a forward balance in the canter without letting the front end get heavy or strung out.

And it was fascinating. This very simple set up allowed us to make almost every single mistake. But it was always very apparent what the mistake was in each instance, and not at all in a punishing sort of way.

sorta kinda chipped this one, but the better balance in our canter made it nbd
At first I wanted too stagnant a canter. It made fitting in the bends easy, but the jumps were a bit too labored, too "up and down" instead of across.

Then I let the canter get too forward and escape out the front. The jumps had a nice forward energy with Charlie reaching nicely "across" them, but the bends sorta got away from us and we ended up jumping the fences at angles instead of more straight on.

lol i like this part of the video bc trainer K is immediately like, "YOU'RE FINE KEEP GOING!" and ya know. we were fine. this is exactly why sweet baby jesus blessed us with two feet - so one can be more disposable! (i kid, i kid!)
In order to help keep the forward balance without losing shape, I needed to be looking for a canter that felt like we could, at any given moment, at the drop of a hat, immediately circle left or right. While maintaining the same forward balance, of course.

Because it turns out, when Charlie's a bit flat and strung out, there's really only one direction his energy can go and it's directly straight ahead. Imagine the feeling of aiming a runaway horse at a wall and feeling like if he veered to either side you might fall off. That's an extreme example of all the energy running straight out the front.

this horse really has come so far in his own body awareness and balance
Instead, what we want is all that energy to be balanced underneath me, coming from the hind end. So that, no matter where we are in the exercise, I could feel like I could ask Charlie to circle in either direction and he'd be able to do it without requiring any major shifts in balance.

Or at least, haha, that's the goal, right? That's the holy grail. I'm not sure we ever quite got there, to be honest. And in fact, we never actually had a quite-clean run through the pattern. Like, for instance, this video was our last run through and I knocked a friggin standard down with my foot bc we drifted too far to the inside, whoops.

But.... the feelings were there. And I really liked how clearly this jump configuration laid bare those feelings. It was deceptively simple in construction, but definitely super instructive. I'd guess that even at ground poles or cavaletti height it'd still work. Tho with a horse like Charlie, everything is always a little easier when he has an actual jump to look at lol...

So yea. It felt like a nice test, and a nice exercise for getting back into gear. With any luck, spring will be here before we know it. Or, ya know, maybe old man winter will actually get around to showing his face first?? Who knows. Either way, we'll be ready!


  1. Yeah for lessons! Looks like a cool exercise to keep you challenged and working on the canter pacing/striding (insert correct jumpy-term here! lo).

    1. Definitely a cool exercise and fun way to get back into the swing of things !

  2. That looks like a really fun exercise.

  3. Sounds like a great lesson to really dig into what you've been working on. Since we're stuck indoors, all the courses have a gazillion bending lines and s turns and what not. I never struggled with these things on Jamp or Rio, but on Eros? SO HARD! He's the laziest animal on the planet, but he does love to jump. And turns into somewhat of a hunter type torpedo. But these are the types of things we're working on too.

    1. Omg hunter torpedo lol.... in a way tho that’s kinda how Charlie is. Like. He IS going to the fence. He’s gonna jump it. But he’s maybe a little careless and lazy in technique even has he gets strong and forward, so that’s where we sorta ended up jumping on crazy angles instead of bending to become straight again lol.... great practice tho!

  4. Lol KABOOM went the jump! That exercise looks like a ton of fun! I want to fire the videographer - I mean yay you got awesome video but boo my eye/stomach/brain connection lol

    1. lol we'll give her a pass since she was trying to instruct me and shoot video at the same time ;) generally if i had to pick one of those activities over the other, i'd pick the instruction. but i'm grateful she volunteered to grab some footage too - every little bit helps!!

  5. We haven't had a day of rain in February yet... I know we always "need it" but I'm not going to complain =)

  6. Super cool exercise! It looks really tough but in a good way! Glad you and Charlie enjoyed it!

  7. I’m glad that you and Charlie are enjoying the winter. You two look great, even with the crashing standard. 😁


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