In a nut shell? Charlie is beginning to find and hold a better balance under saddle. It's VERY moment-to-moment, but the moments happen more frequently and last longer.
They're also more predictable. This is kinda a biggie (at least to me), bc it speaks to whether I can ride to specific outcomes, as opposed to throwing all the noodles (literally) at the wall to see what sticks. The rhyme to Charlie's reason, the method to his madness, is crystallizing such that I'm better understanding how to reproduce results. (Note I didn't say I'm better at doing it haha - that's still a work in progress!)
Anyway. We had another lesson with dressage trainer C. I just love riding with her, and suspect Charlie likes going there too bc he's just always immediately the best ever. Maybe he loves the footing. Or the arena. Or C's stream-of-consciousness style teaching. Whatever the case, we leave these lessons feeling empowered, reassured and like we're making progress.
|other progress: charlie has graduated to being able to tie immediately after getting off the trailer!!|
- Pick the reins up and start trotting. Not asking for anything with the contact, just taking it.
- Ride on the inside track, just off the rail, to establish that I'm responsible for straightness and turning. And remind me that, in fact, I *do* have outside aids.
- We usually start off WAY drunk, as Charlie tries to pull back to the rail, or fall into the center. Nbd. Just stay the course.
- Trot large around the arena. One or two laps then change across the long diagonal. One or two laps, long diagonal again.
- After he's more warmed up, do short diagonals too. And maybe some leg yields from the quarter line.
- Occasional 20m circle at ends and through middle, but mostly just stay large.
- And stay on inside track.
This "inside track" idea didn't click for me at first - I mean, I did it throughout the lesson but kinda forgot about it while schooling at home. Bc it didn't seem like an important detail. But then I remembered and started doing it again. And. Guys, I think this is a key factor in helping Charlie settle onto my aids and stay even between them. (well, relatively speaking haha).
|our first few outings i tacked him while hand walking, but now he's cool to stand quietly at his hay basically right away|
In a related vein, I MUST be definite with my post. No shuffling around in the saddle, my up/down rhythm must be crystal clear.
This was very apparent in my next ride with Charlie (source of the ride pictures and arena wall video in this post). Charlie was FRESH haha. Even for him. Rarin' to go, and basically running at and breaking into canter over the ground poles I had set up. Except. Except when I remembered to really control my post and be very distinct with it.
|good pony at trainer C's barn|
So when Charlie's fresh like that, the trot kinda suffers but the canter is kinda awesome. Bc it's easy to get, even if the leads are sometimes wonky.
|new years resolution: obtain go go gadget arms!!|
or, ya know. strengthen my core and learn to slip the reins, maybe.
Like I still need to think about keeping my inside leg loose to bump bump against him, asking to bring his own inside hind up and under. But the rhythm is feeling way more settled even as it's more consistently forward and ground-covering.
The biggest issues in our trot when he's carrying on quietly like this are my own: I need to be softer and more stable with my arms. Quicker to give when he gives or let the reins slide when he lowers his head (rather than locking up and letting my entire upper body be pulled down, as in the above picture haha).
|omg legs for days, charlie! turning right is kinda hard tho haha - that's just a LOT of horse under me|
Meanwhile, tho, when Charlie's in a quieter mood, or maybe after a long walk break when he thinks (incorrectly) that he's done for the day, such as in our recent lesson with C, the canter can be a bit tricksier to get haha.
video of schooling ride clips here. it's a super short video, but i kinda love it bc it shows charlie in all his current forms haha, good bad and ugly!
Basically tho, I just need to focus on riding the transition. Charlie's front feet are in the way of his hind feet - partly bc his hooves are still very much in the "before" phase (another work in progress), and for that he'll be going in bell boots. But also partly bc, damn, homeboy has giant shoulders and struggles to pick them up. So I need more inside aids, particularly leg, in the canter departs to encourage that inside shoulder to lift.
The biggest, number 1 thing I've learned lately tho? I need to be patient. I need to wait Charlie out. Just ride through the beginning portion of the ride with zero expectations other than following the bullet points above. Depending on how the horse feels, maybe canter early. Especially if he's really sticky. Just have it out. Canter that big bad boy even if he don't wanna.
My knee-jerk reaction when we first transition down from canter and he's speed trotting, falling in and trying to break back into canter, is to pull down to a walk immediately and just shut that noise down. But if I'm patient - if I wait it out and just keep riding, suddenly Charlie kinda clicks and almost falls into my hands (but in a good way).
|at least i apparently have zillions of pics of him chowin' down at the trailer!|
C says she always makes herself ride 2 laps of trot after a canter on a green horse. Bc it often turns into more. Bc suddenly the horse tends to discover their back, and their balance. And that's when we really uncover Charlie's best moments (you can kinda sorta see it a little bit at the end of the video).
So. The name of my game with Charlie right now is "Waiting It Out." If I keep riding, and focusing on my own position and those bullet points... well. Charlie has a way of sorting himself out. For now haha. I'm sure the tactics will evolve again soon enough!