Thursday, February 9, 2017

can you hear me now??

While we haven't been able to stick to a weekly lesson schedule with dressage trainer C from TM, we've managed to make it out often enough to feel good about Charlie's progress.

the barn at TM is so pretty - it's shaped like an "H" with big doors at every end and juncture, each with yet another scenic vista (or view into the indoor haha)
It's so funny bc in some ways, Charlie is a little different every ride. He is often one-sided, but which side is which can change sometimes daily. I see that as a good thing, bc while the horse has some ingrained musculature issues and behavioral patterns, these frequent changes suggest that he's still able to adjust and adapt.

i love the shiny wood paneled walls too!
On the flip side, tho, it means that we might spend an entire lesson trying to keep Charlie from falling left. And in the next lesson, the whole time is spent addressing his issue with falling right. It's definitely keeping me on my toes!

i tried to capture the pretty views out the windows too but the lighting was too tricky for drive-by cellphone photography haha. so.... i guess just take my word for it? 
This lesson in particular reminded me very strongly of the lesson I took with Grant Schneidman last year. Specifically: my own unevenness from side to side, and my inability to really fix my outside rein such that I can actually push the horse into it.

Basically, trainer C wanted me to be really very serious about not letting Charlie's right shoulder pop out while tracking left (my own personally more difficult direction bc I don't sit down into my left leg and seat). She wanted me to think of slightly counter-bending him so that I could always see his outside eyelashes. This way he'd stop "burying" that shoulder.

say hi, charlie!!!
And I had to be really very disciplined with my outside (right) hand. Because the moment I stop thinking about it, I push it forward and throw away the contact. This reminded me of how Grant had me actually grab the front of my saddle - tho C's idea was to tie some baling twine to the D-ring instead, saying that would allow my hand to stay in a more natural place while still giving me a way to keep it anchored.

It's kinda annoying to me to still be dealing with these same issues that have been identified and explained to me over and over again... but oh well. At least all my trainers can rest assured that I'll keep 'em in work! lol...

so freakin handsome, even if his clip is growing a little shaggy and moth-eaten with random rub marks
Anyway, while some aspects of riding Charlie are very changeable, others are a little more consistent. Like I've been writing about lately, Charlie's resistance to being driven forward is a common theme. Since we've been tackling the issue more directly lately, it's been cropping up earlier and more often in rides - but in less extreme ways.

It seems to happen most often right now when Charlie anticipates that I'm going to ask for canter - even when in reality I just want more trot. Trainer C encouraged me to be very clear in putting my legs on to get that 'spurt' of forward from Charlie, then leaving him alone to kinda putter out on his own. Then asking again for that 'spurt' forward. (Rather than, say, constantly nudging and carrying him forward).

dem some SPURS, son! long and with a smooth rowel at the end. also - check out that fun footing!
It got particularly messy tho when we returned to that same figure-8 exercise for the canter depart that we practiced in our last lesson with C. Charlie was super nappy and falling every which way with his shoulders as we figure-8'ed around (well, actually, our figures looked nothing at all like a figure 8 in all honesty).

the side eye was strong with charlie after this ride haha
Trainer C decided I was working way too hard and not getting the right response despite it all, and strapped her spurs on over my boots. Her fairly long spurs with a rowel at the end. Ha. Hahaha. Oh Charlie.

tools of the trade: requisite dressage whip and baling twine for anchoring my wayward right hand
The horse was.... surprised by this new addition. If he could use words, they'd probably have been something along the lines of:

DEAR GOD HOLY SHIT I'M GOING I'M GOING OH MY FUCKING GOD WHERE DID THAT COME FROM HOW IS THIS HAPPENING AHHHHHHH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I'M CANTERING

despite having extra hooks added to the trailer, there's just never enough hooks. hopefully this other baling twine contraption lasts too!
 Lol. Ahem.

And suddenly we had ourselves a great trot followed by a forward-thinking left lead canter depart. Funny how that works!! Tho trainer C, who typically sits at the end of the ring, kindly asked that I turn around her end a little early in case Charlie decided to let fly with a hind leg in response to the spurs....

nap attack for the baby horses!!!!
So that was perhaps a useful wake up call for poor long-suffering Chuckles. These aren't the right spurs for him at this point in his training (I'll use my trusty itsy bitsy nubs moving forward) but they did the trick in effectively changing the conversation from counterproductive bickering to, ya know, actually doing the thing.

Basically Charlie has to learn to move forward off the aids without thinking particularly deeply about it. Preferably off subtle and quiet aids. As Jane Savoie wrote in a well-timed blog post of her own, the "goal is to “whisper” with your aids and have your horse “shout” his response—Not the other way around!"

whoa guys - my horse is standing almost square up front while grazing!!!
To help instill the point in Charlie (lol puns), we finished the ride with a couple walk-trot transitions in each direction. The point being: ask for trot, and as soon as he gives me that nice forward trot that I want, allow him to come back down to walk. Repeat two or three times, then change directions and do it all over again.

the trailer parking area slopes ever so slightly at the end where mine goes, and i'm always 18 kinds of paranoid about it. there's something so unsettling to see the whole trailer shift and roll slightly as soon as i lift the hitch off the receiver... even with wheel chocks. hopefully this giant wood beam behind both rear tires will put my mind at ease about the trailer rolling off one day!!
Charlie was right on the money for this exercise haha, homeboy was woke up and ready to do as he was asked without hesitation, good boy!

He really is a very sensitive horse and has demonstrated a willingness to strike into canter from the most modest re-positioning of my seat and legs. As a self-described nagger, I really REALLY don't want to buy into Charlie's baiting resistance tactics and ultimately deaden him to my cues.

As always tho, the answer is being more consistent in my riding and more responsible for my aids. Le sigh. Maybe if I write that enough times, it'll become reality too?? lol... We'll figure it out eventually. And schooling rides since this lesson have been quite good!

Does your horse go in spurs? For similar reasons, or very different? Or maybe your horse would go through the roof at the merest hint of steel on his sides? How do you choose which spur is right for your purposes? Blunt or rounded vs something with an edge? Length? I'm always so curious how people choose their training aids haha.

56 comments:

  1. I have used spurs with Irish - not so much for forward but for bend. I haven't been brave enough to try them with Carmen. I need to get my parachute first....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha yea I imagine Carmen might have some opinions lol. And I know what you mean about using the spur for bend rather than forward - I think that's the more traditional application. It's funny with Charlie bc yes his issues are around forward, but not in the sense that he is slow or a push ride. Once he's going, he's GOING. He just sometimes literally disagrees with the very idea of going.

      Delete
  2. I've never tried spurs. I have used a crop and dressage whip lightly with Gem and you'd think I had a cattle prong instead. She held that grudge a long time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Shocking I actually use spurs. They look huge because they are swan necks but they are actually quite soft. I chose them because I kept scrunching my leg up to use my heel and I saw a post where Austen used them and decided to give them a try. My only complaint with them is they are quite long. When he has his nice swinging walk I have to be careful not to let them inadvertently graze him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep I have swan necks too that I used occasionally on Izzy. They're super long tho haha!!!

      Delete
  4. I giggled about Charlie's response to the spurs. I don't typically ride in spurs (mostly because I don't feel like my lower leg is always stable enough!) but I think it might need to be something I think about with Cinna. Last time I got to ride her I spent most of the time in the trot nagging her about staying forward, and that's NOT something I want to ingrain in her so early! Yikes. Horses man. Always keeping us on our toes.

    Interesting that Charlie was almost square up front in that grazing shot!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I honestly never thought my legs were reliable enough in holding their position for spurs too... But they became a regular part of the training kit with Isabel as she progressed in her education. I usually just stick with the little nubbies tho haha. But agreed that getting the horse reliant on nagging is definitely not the path I wanna follow!!

      Also I was pleased to see Charlie stand like that, but it really was just a very brief moment before his shoved his right front forward again. Oh well. Maybe he's changing his muscles... Maybe not.

      Delete
  5. spurs for the win here. Fat lazy qh (who was VERY lazy yesterday in our dressage lesson but steady and good so i couldnt really fuss:)) needs dressage whip AND SPURS. My spurs are an inch long and I was told by trainer time to get longer ones. I dont really use them for jumping anymore (HELLO Ground at Plantation HA) but to keep him moving they are needed. AND HA I am the same way parking my trailer with a slight hill in front of it so i have stuff in FRONT of my tires :) so funny how paranoid we get! :) Love the Charlie update!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha idk it feels like the paranoia is kinda merited tho, right? like, i seriously had visions of pulling up to the farm only to find my trailer unexpectedly chillin in the pasture, after having redecorated the fencing. like the barn mgr actually jokingly said i should park next to the field with the oldest fencing for that very reason... lol

      Delete
  6. #1 Charlie looks SO HANDSOME in that side-profile shot #2 "On the flip side, tho, it means that we might spend an entire lesson trying to keep Charlie from falling left. And in the next lesson, the whole time is spent addressing his issue with falling right." this is the story of my life!! But IMO it means the horse is trying new things and learning and changing, and we're changing too, and that is all good stuff!! #3 Yes. Spurs. I actually use longer knob-end spurs to avoid nagging - they get the point across quickly without having to repeatedly poke with little nubbies. But they're more a "move your ribcage/lift your belly" reinforcement, or sometimes "THERE'S THE LONG SPOT GO GO GO!" vs. just a forward aid. #4 EVEN GRAZING STANCE OMG!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i think the even grazing stance was more of a fluke than anything else, but it give me hope! and agreed that charlie's changing assortment of weaknesses and imbalances means that he's adapting and changing as he learns. it's a good sign!

      Delete
  7. It's been mentioned to try spurs on my boy but I just haven't done it yet... and I should. I have no confidence in my leg and staying quiet sometimes even though I've been told I definitely don't have that problem. Brantley tends to jump to the conclusion I'm asking for a canter and throws himself sideways and against my inside legs because he wants to throw his shoulder into the departure... have a little more of a poke to get his hind end over may help... I'm so glad Charlie is going well! He's so handsome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yea i know what you mean about feeling concerned about a quiet leg... that's partly why i use such small spurs - it reduces the likelihood that i'll accidentally goose the horse. having the spur on hand definitely helps get the point across tho!

      Delete
  8. I'm considering adding spurs when I ride William. For the exact same reason. I don't want to deaden him to my leg by nagging him and not getting a great response. And I don't always want to have to resort to my whip.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. agreed on not always wanting to use the whip. like. i would like to be able to get a willing response without getting to the strongest possible ask each time haha.

      Delete
  9. I use spurs with Duke, but we actually ditched them all last winter. He was SO dead to the aids, because I was chasing him forward with the spurs every single stride. Without them, we found forward again and he relearned that leg doesn't mean just forward, but sideways and bend too. We took them back in the summer and I had a whole new response to them. Softer, more forward and more lateral. It sucked for a bit without them but was very beneficial.

    I'm sure the rowel was quite the wakeup call for poor Charlie! He's looking great in all your posts lately and seems to be progressing nicely :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i like that idea of occasionally ditching the aid in order to recalibrate its meaning. i've been doing that lately by not riding with a crop or dressage whip while still being equally expectant in getting the right reactions from him. it's a good way to help prevent me from becoming too dependent on the aid instead of actually working on training the right responses!

      Delete
  10. I've actually never tried spurs (possibly because of my long history of riding hot, opinionated mares...) but I am considering it with Savvy for those moments she goes 'pony' on me, aka the strong 'I don't wannas'. Love your trailer hook setup, lol!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha idk, i wore spurs almost every ride for a long time with izzy and she was pretty hot and opinionated too lol! i think it kinda depends on the 'why' behind the spurs, which, incidentally, is the part i'm fuzzier on haha.

      Delete
  11. At least it's good that your trainers agree on what you need to work on. Good luck with the rogue hand! Sounds like a productive lesson.

    The idea of using spurs with Kachina is laughable to me. I don't even get to use my legs most of the time because I only have to think "trot" or "faster" and she'll respond immediately. It's more about allowing her to go forward than making her go forward. Unfortunately since I've never used spurs on my own horses, I basically don't know how to ride in them. I had to wear them with a school horse last year and my effectiveness went out the window because the spurs felt so weird to me and I was paranoid about accidentally poking the horse =P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ugh yea i'm definitely out of practice with the spurs!! and i know exactly what you mean about 'allowing' the forward - that's maybe the tricky thing with charlie is that when he goes he is GOING. and i need to be ok with that. we just have to get over this.... speed bump... before he actually goes. but then it is more like what you say - just thinking about what i want him to do and he'll do it. ah horses....

      Delete
  12. Ryon was okay, then went in spurs, then not because they were offensive (the spinny ones with rubber ends). Mae has ZERO need for spurs right now but things can change in the blink of an eye, as we all know. I love how you keep coming back to asking the horse a question and following through with the answer. I keep that mantra in my head all of the time now when I ride

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i try to keep that mantra in my head too lol - that's part of why i always try to write it like that, to really commit it to my lexicon so that i remember it always while riding. the horsemanship pro i've worked with is very clear: we should always know exactly what we are hoping to achieve whenever we ask the horse for something, and be ready to release and reward *immediately* upon getting the right answer. the approach definitely works!! (when i remember to follow it lol)

      Delete
  13. Spurs are great! My tall boots have spurs om all of the time, for in case I need them. However I am pretty lazy and don't put them on most of the time, especially here in the winter haha! App required spurs all of the time, TWH didn't. Mia is 50/50, she certainly needs a little extra sometimes, but I like to be able to ride without them so I make sure spurs aren't the only way they take me seriously. So....that is our protocol haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol yea i'm pretty lazy about footwear in winter too. actually i suspect that riding in my big fat river boots all the time has maybe not helped my cause. one of my trainers says they're kinda 'spongy' to the horse... oops. also agreed on being able to ride with AND without these external training aids to avoid becoming reliant. i try to do that even with crops/dressage whips too.

      Delete
  14. Nice lesson! I generally do not ride in them, but occasionally I pull them out when she is not taking my leg seriously or is dull. Normally she is pretty sensitive and responsive i.e. I put my leg in position and its tally ho without much contact

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's awesome - and that's definitely the response i know charlie can give too. i like that lightening quick sensitivity!! just gotta convince him that he doesn't need to have a philosophical moment about the 'meaning of leg' every single ride lol

      Delete
    2. haha right! He will get there. Consistency, didn't you say that?

      Delete
  15. they can be a useful tool in the right hands...or on the right feet

    ReplyDelete
  16. Spurs all the way! I ride western and have short legs, so it is practical to fine tune my riding/cues. When riding English I tend not to use spurs, but I don't ride English often enough. My horse respects the spurs (medium length, gentle rowel), but gets offended easily if I jab him or ask a little too forcefully. I might get a tail swish for a minor offense or little crow hop if he feels insulted. lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha yea.... poor offended ponies! i like spurs a lot for my short legs too - my tendency is to curl my leg up, making it even shorter than it already is, and the spurs help me keep it longer and draped. theoretically lol

      Delete
  17. Charlie sounds so much like Mr. Henry! It's so great reading posts about him because it gives me new ideas for my guy. I think spurs are in our future haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha that's awesome, yay for getting new ideas!!! i love blogland for that ;)

      Delete
  18. I've never used spurs -- lower leg still too floppy. Nick has been more go than whoa since Ride #1; with her the challenge is getting her to not be rushy and forward and vroom. Bird is the opposite. He's a kick ride, he is, and I have started carrying a Wand of Gentle Persuasion (aka The Beater Stick) for those days when he pretends he can't hear my leg aid. I feel guilty about this, but I'm trying not to leg-nag and instead leg-wait-reinforce. It's hard. *sigh*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. isabel would get rushy and flat but would somehow manage to still be behind my leg. the spurs helped to actually get her to engage her hind end without just running flat out... which felt counter-intuitive to me until i started using them lol. also tho, seriously thank god for the beater stick! i sometimes feel guilty too, until i remember it's actually WAY more pleasant for everyone involved if we can just get to the point and get a prompt correct response quickly from the horse without it having to be A Thing every time.

      Delete
  19. That's riding, constantly being told the same thing over and over again (or at least riding for me "Stop looking at the ground")

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha basically!!! i always tell my trainers that they'll always have a job for as long as i want to ride bc dammit, some things just don't stay learned!

      Delete
    2. OMG i told my trainer yesterday (she qualifies for sainthood i swear! LOL) how does she not get tired saying the same things (lean back, turn your thumbs out, elbows at side, leg at girth not behind, tighten your reins, move his haunches over, keep the bend, rinse and repeat). SEE I LISTEN I KNOW LOL (I just don't do! HA HA) God love good instructors! :)

      Delete
  20. Bahaha "DEAR GOD HOLY SHIT I'M GOING I'M GOING OH MY FUCKING GOD WHERE DID THAT COME FROM HOW IS THIS HAPPENING AHHHHHHH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I'M CANTERING"

    I have a couple spurs: I use a roller ball spur on a daily basis. I can use it like a blunt spur, roll it towards his hind end, or if I need a new sensation, I can roll it hip to shoulder (that's a good one- they usually go holy f!). I also have a set of spurs that are plain pokey ones, but their end is very square, not rounded. I used those at championships when he was being a bit dead to the leg and needed a new pokey sensation without the OMG response. Worked like a charm. I also have a pair of tiny smooth rowels that have yet to see the side of a horse. They were cheap, spin freely (unlike my old set of smooth rowels), and will be on hand if I need them for a day like Charlie had!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i have a pair of those roller ball spurs too (tho actually i'm not sure where), and a few other types of spurs (swan necks, some slightly longer but with a harder edge), but always seem to return to my comfort zone of the little nubs. two of my trainers highly recommend those smooth rowels tho so maybe one day? so many options haha!!

      Delete
  21. I used to use spurs until I had a clinician yell at me and then my own trainer was like: Why?

    The reason my horse wasn't going forward was not bc he was lazy, it was because I was using my leg incorrectly.

    Now I don't need to use spurs and only on rare occasions do I use a whip haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. awesome that you figured out it was your problem and not the horses that was causing the issue!!

      Delete
  22. I wear spurs a lot. Not all the time, but with most of my rides. When I am training a new response I like to have the spur for the very clear "this is pressure, this is not" and then I'll take the spurs off to check if the horse has the lightness I need. Basically I feel like often I can ride in a way that everything comes from my seat but if I get a "no thx" response I can change things immediately. I don't have any horses that mind spurs as long as I don't ride like an idiot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's a really fantastic way of phrasing... almost... like... you teach this stuff for a living haha. (lol i crack myself up).

      seriously tho - i think that's exactly the mind frame i need for charlie. he can be light, he can be WONDERFULLY light. but he's also got a fairly reflexive 'no thx' response in there that i need to be able to circumvent without getting mired in that tar pit every.single.time.

      'this is pressure, this is not.' i love it!

      Delete
  23. All this hard work is going to pay off later. I was much too kind to my girl to start...and now the battle is epic :) I ride in spurs 75% of the time. She's a smart pony and quickly realizes when I am without my spurs or stick. Normally, one reminder with either to let her know it's for real happening, and she's fairly honest. Forget them, tho, and she's like "Oh cool it's a vacation day :)"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. gosh i sure hope you're right! i'm pretty sure charlie's already got me pretty figured out and i often wonder who is training whom....

      Delete
  24. I don't even want to know what would happen if I attempted to ride Leo in spurs. Lol. I'm glad that they helped you with Charlie, though!
    One exercise that my trainer came up with to help with rider unevenness/balance was to remove stirrups from saddle, turn them into one giant stirrup loop, drape that loop over the cantle, and then ride with feet in stirrups like normal. Any imbalance would cause the stirrups to dramatically slide from side to side. It was super eye-opening for me!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'm slightly relieved that I'm not the only one that is struggling to deal with my own "physical" rider problems when tracking in a certain direction lol And love the simple transition exercise, it really works so well! Quest and I have been doing lots to get her brain back on me when she gets giraffe mode hyped up from our rehab canter sets

    ReplyDelete
  26. Twister goes in spurs sporradically depending on his mood. Sometimes just because he feels like ignoring me. Sometimes because I know I'll need a little extra umph when my leg dies out. Especially right now. I have no leg. No core. So we pretty much use spurs every ride. Sometimes because I know we are going trail riding and there is something he will balk at (which is just him testing me bc he has seen and done it ALL). Rascal needs to be introduced to spurs because he is SO LAZY and ignores my leg (my very weak leg) I can give him a swift kick and he's like "OH! I see you're up there. Nice to see ya." but then just putters around some more. I sort of want Sergio to do the spur introductions because I'm afraid he will REALLY wake up and I'll be bucked off lol

    ReplyDelete
  27. I had to ride my Paso in spurs. He was an ornery little beast that was wicked smart, right up there with Andrea's Dylan, and he would resist leg cues and crop reinforcement whenever he felt like it. Stallions definitely require conversations. Now, if I wore spurs, he was all, "Yes ma'am. Thank you ma'am." I just had to wear them. Didn't even really have to touch him with them.

    I've used them for leg aid reinforcement with other horses. I was trained to request lightly once, moderately once, and if the horse still wasn't responding snappily, out came the spurs. Or a quick tap of the whip behind my leg. Lily was abused with spurs by a previous trainer and still has the scars; she works great off of the whip whenever an aid clarification is needed. I'm kind of afraid to even think of ever trying spurs with her!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Annie was very much a no spurs unless you want to die ride until this year probably. And now I have started to introduce them slowly like you have to say okay I'm
    Done nagging you. I mean business please respect my leg. She doesn't always love it but it's helped me to portray a more clear and effective message at times.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Charlie's reaction to spurs is why I'm nervous to use them on Ben. I don't want him to go 'OMG. RUN!' Lol

    ReplyDelete