Tuesday, January 19, 2021

state of the arts

We're kinda in an interesting place with jumping lessons right now. On one hand I feel a little like the prodigal son daughter returning to our Saturday afternoon group.... But, honestly, I'm really enjoying it. 

dusk lighting means blurry pics. think of it as 'artistic' lol
It's tricky to write about, tho, bc.... each week is sorta the same thing. Like, "Ok so we jumped around some interesting exercises set at relatively low heights, and Charlie was super!"

There's only so many ways to twist and contort that sentiment into new and interesting combinations of words lol. 

trying to make the jump look impressive lol
It's where we are, right now, tho. And, more importantly, my lesson mate's mom has been coming to hang out, help reset fences (for which she is an actual literal saint), AND -- she's become shockingly adept at capturing video of literally everybody in the group!! 

So. Obviously. When one has excesses of media fodder, one must certainly blog, lol.

it's easy to strike a pose when you're crawling along on the add stride haha
Really, tho, there's some backstory. These lessons are a huge part of how I've developed as a rider, and obvi how Charlie developed into the jumping horse he is today --- since trainer P guided us from the very beginning. 

I got to a point last year tho where I felt like we needed something a little more dialed in and calibrated to my particular (and very needy) needs if we were going to be able to successfully move up to training. So I shifted into a more individualized private lesson program. 

massively sloppy footing conditions explain the conservative pace
That program had slightly different views on how Charlie should go --- specifically as it relates to length of stride in canter. So it didn't feel like the sort of thing where I could keep riding with both trainers -- I sorta had to choose in order to avoid confusing Charlie. 

But ya know. For a lot of different reasons (many of which are very specific to me as an individual and rider), we still really weren't successful in moving up. And I still really didn't feel like I was getting the level of mentorship I seriously crave. 

this line stretched out a little this week, to i think around 21'
Plus I began to wonder if the big focus on stride length was really as important for our own particular training success as it was made out to be. Considering Charlie managed to cover a 72' distance in four fucking strides in our disaster of a show jumping attempt last summer*.... Haha... Yea I just am not convinced that's where our issues lie. 

(*For reference -- every line in the video below in which we get FIVE strides is 60'.)

much more room for bronto chuck
But ya know, the thing with coaching and training and mentorship is that, in my mind, if I'm in for a penny, I'm in for a pound. The whole reason I invest in the advice and guidance of professionals is because I don't know the answers myself -- and I don't feel particularly inclined to have to reinvent every single wheel haha, if that makes sense. 

So I basically follow directions. Usually it works out. But it doesn't always. And obviously there's so much more to training relationships than just expertise. 

lookin good, sir!
So.... Given the times, circumstances, and mental health considerations in a goddamn global pandemic... It made sense to get back into a tried and true formula. Riding with my buddies on Saturday afternoons, with a trainer who always has fun stuff set up and is heavily focused on developing positive experiences and well rounded horses. 

lololololol and then he just goes and steps over the next one
*neither this rail nor any other rails were knocked in this lesson
I don't really feel like I'm learning very much in these lessons right now. But.... Maybe I'm coming to understand that's not always the point. Rather, routine repetition and practice are valuable ends in and of themselves. Being able to jump around a variety of different styles of exercises is critical for staying sharp and relaxed in the work, ya know? 

It also serves as something of a proving ground, right? Like, if on one hand I'm sitting here saying "that exercise is not challenging for us," then... on the other hand, I better do it abso-fucking-lutely perfectly, right? Put up or shut up, ya know? And.... haha, it turns out, we don't always do it perfectly. So there's that lol.

second time was better tho!
But with that sort of mentality bumping around in my head, I've been trying hard to refine all the same stuff we've been chipping away at forever. Particularly with hand position over the fences, and committing to a forward feeling body position no matter what the horse is doing. 

I've also been working on straightness -- trying to jump the center of fences rather than always drifting left. And, obviously, keeping my legs longer and heel down -- rather than letting the leg get curled up in my patented death grip haha. 

pictured: a very add-stride canter
And Charlie, for his part, is responding beautifully. This is a horse who enjoys jumping -- no matter what. He's fun to jump and it's gratifying to feel how educated he's become. Sure, we both still make mistakes, but generally speaking we can kinda just lope around and step over everything. 

I probably still need to work a little harder at getting my canter better. Like if we're working on exercises set at shortened distances I still need to make sure he's up and in front of my leg, not just making the distance work by slugging around. 

makin it work tho!
This was a particular challenge this past week mostly bc of the disgusting footing... Which actually makes the helmet camera shots pretty interesting bc you can definitely see when he's being snarky and sucking back behind my leg in the helmet camera view wayyyyyy more easily than from the standard iphone view (hint: look for the raised head and pinned ears). 

(sorry mobile users, the blogger upgrade broke embedding functionality on mobile views, ugh)

Mostly, tho, to be perfectly honest... We're just having fun. I feel like this is sorta like the "boy scouts approach" to training. We may not be going crazy with anything right now --- but we're prepared for whenever that moment might strike lol. 

These lessons are keeping us sharp and honestly we're lucky to have such mild conditions to do even this much. So I'll take it, haha! 


  1. When I lived in Illinois my winter lessons were always like that- big group lessons that didn't seem as challenging as what we did outside in the summer. We were super limited by the size of our indoor arena (we didn't have a true outdoor, just a field so couldn't jump once the ground froze). There was only so many courses you could set up... but I think a little bit of repetition and working on those smaller things that might get overlooked were good for us.

    1. yea getting limited to an indoor can really make a big difference.... i'm hopeful we'll continue to get this mild weather but even so we're definitely already dealing with some mucky wintry footing boo

  2. Where I board now the lessons are kind of similar. I'm not learning new things, but honestly the old things are a straight up mess, so... focus where it's needed, right? Lol! Sounds like you're enjoying the work and your horse, and that's the whole point of this whole horse thing!

    1. ha yep, exactly... sometimes it's definitely nice to just keep it simple !!

  3. I love reading your posts because I find myself sayin "me too," "that's Cosmo," and "same." You're better at putting into words than I am, also more consistent. Since Cosmo is starting to slow down SLIGHTLY (ie, we're not going to show above 2'6" again probably) we've been crashing some of the lower-level lessons. They aren't so much about learning more or new, but about building and refining. Cuz you're right, if I'm crashing a ground pole lesson, I better crush every course. Which is really really hard. It's making me ride differently and allowing me the time to THINK about my ride more rather than get through it. And then when I do have a more challenging, at-height lesson, some of that same stuff from the ground poles emerges from the back of my brain!
    Any lesson with a good trainer is worth it.

    1. aw thanks <3 sorry to read that Cosmo's ready to step down in his competition level, tho tbh it's a real testament to your horsemanship that he's stayed so healthy for so long! and yea that's exactly right -- when the jumps don't really occupy so much of my attention and/or anxiety (let's be real lol), it's much easier to be more thoughtful and purposeful in what i'm doing. theoretically this will give me better muscle memory for when the jumps go back up again haha... fingers crossed

  4. What you posted is basically why one of my lessons each week is a group poles lesson. Like is it hard? I mean harder because poles are fucking hard, but it's not like coursing. But is it a great way to have fun with people - learn about them, their horses, intergrate with a barn - heck yeah. Is it a great way to polish up skills like stopping the right drift, forcing my heels down and fixing my NEW PROBLEM WHICH WAS THE FIX FOR MY OLD PROBLEM - yes. hahaha

    So I absolutely get why you are back in the group saturday lesson and I am glad :)

  5. Basics are always worth returning to. I love the comparison clips too- that's interesting to follow. In winter I think any consistent schooling is good. And Charlie looks like he's enjoying it.

  6. Basics always form the basis of my lessons, we are slow and steady wins the race kinda people. But if the basics are solid, the hard things can become really easy because the horse knows and understands what it's all about. Like My coach will put a challenge into a lesson and it is a challenge, but we get it done because the basics are solid. It's rarely perfect but thats because my brain freaks out rather than the horse getting something wrong! Basically I love the basics haha


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