Monday, February 13, 2017

free jumping Charlie

Alternate titles:

Big trees fall hard.
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Maybe we should stick to dressage.
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What we have here is a failure to ambulate.
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When we go high, he goes low.
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At least he's pretty.
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i can live with pretty
Ahhhahaha..... yea. So, lol, Charlie is a quiet horse. He is extremely laid back. It's his defining characteristic, and was ultimately the deciding factor when I found him fresh off the track, unstarted and body + foot sore.

i like riding in pretty places too
So far, it's worked out pretty well for me. I'm having a lot of fun with Charlie and he's perfectly suited  for my "Let's do all the things!" approach to horses.

quiet, thy name is charlie!
There's a downside to his casual, laissez-faire attitude tho. Namely, despite being a decidedly-not-dumb horse, Charlie doesn't think particularly deeply about obstacles that may fall in his path. Nothing really impresses him, and he's not super inclined toward exertion.

This can often create stumbling blocks (lol puns) in the training process.

bella looked great!!!!
spoiler alert: charlie reached neither this height, nor this form haha
Anyway. A couple weeks ago, Britt's post about free jumping her lovely new horse Smitty reminded me of when Brita and I sent Wick down a chute a couple years ago, and the lasting positive impact that had on Wick. That was the turning point in when Wick finally figured out what this whole jumping thing was all about.

he tried, tho. sorta.
Fast forward a couple weeks to when trainer P brought up the subject again in a lesson, suggesting that Charlie could benefit from the exercise. And when we learned that one of our regular ship-in lesson mates wasn't coming this week, we set the date. Charlie would learn to free jump!

ground pole champion!!!
I rode Charlie around the outdoor dressage court briefly to warm him up in all three gaits, then took him into the indoor to help finish setting up. We sent the horses through the chute first with nothing, then with ground poles, then each slowly built up to various configurations of cavaletti - 18' - jump - 18' - jump.

gotta watch out for those cavaletti tho.... they'll getcha every time!
Oh Charlie. He struggled a bit with this exercise. Ground poles were fine, but the big guy basically ate shit over his first cavaletti. He gave them a little more respect after that.... but not much. Once he kinda got the idea over two cavaletti in a row, we gave him a break to think about it while another horse took her turn.

c'mon charlie, this problem is not solved by slowing to a walk over the poles...
Then Charlie went through again and eventually built up to a ground pole - 18' - cavaletti - 18' - 2'6 oxer. And by that time he had basically figured out the drill and cantered right on through the exercise, barely registering the "increased" height (3 whole inches, whoa buddy!) on his last trip.

moving out with a little encouragement
So that was reassuring haha. When he actually pays attention and at least half-way applies himself, the work comes fairly easily to him. His form is good enough for my purposes and his canter appears easy to jump from. He's just... gotta... ya know... JUMP.

there ya go, buddy! there's that exaggerated canter stride we know and love!
In time, Charlie. In time.

and we have lift off!!
And in the meantime, we'll probably revisit this exercise with some regularity as Charlie continues to learn how to sort himself out.

Grid work is a common theme in lessons with trainer P anyway, but letting the horse go without a rider had the advantage of removing his whole "resisting the rider's aids" issue from the equation. Without a rider, Charlie had nothing to fuss or fight against distracting him from the task at hand.

video here, fail-tacular wipe out and all
(i was undecided about including the wipe out in the video bc i'm like 73% positive charlie's former owners subscribed to my youtube channel.... and.... while it wasn't a bad fall, it's also not really the picture i want them to have of their beloved race horse learning to jump. oh well. my adherence to documenting the entire training process won out, and the clip is included. tho i resisted the urge to add in gratuitous slo-mo..... maybe that'll crop up as a gif one of these days!)

The way I see it, everything seems to happen a little slowly in Charlieland - including his let down and transition from race horse to riding horse (we're just now at the 6 month mark since his last race). But I'm hopeful for some breakthrough moments haha. I'm both eagerly awaiting and dreading our first xc jumps. Methinks the solid fences will grab his attention and encourage more respect.... but I also would love to not ride one of those epic stumbles.... We'll see!

Ahh horses. It's always a trade off with something, right? I really love Charlie's quiet and pleasant disposition tho - and the time I spend with him is often the highlight of my day. So that alone is enough to bolster my patience in taking the time he needs to figure out what apparently does not come super naturally to him.

Have you faced similar trade offs with your horse? Has your horse needed extra time for skills development? Or maybe he's like Bella - plenty talented, but sensitive and needing help staying calm?

54 comments:

  1. Oh. Oh dear. Big tree falls very hard. And big tree doesn't seem to even give a damn lol!

    Stan is in the needs time to develop skills category, Q is in the "MARE, STAY CALM" category, and Griffin is in the "I love my human I will do anything ever for her and I will do it well because I am a magical unicorn" category now that we have moved out of his rebellious adolescent stage.

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    1. Big tree gave zero shits about his tumble haha. Which.... Maybe if he cared more he would stumble less?? Lol. And yea I can't imagine Q mare ever doing anything like that. Bc. Mares just don't haha

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  2. I loved that after he tripped he just stopped and was totally cool about it. I think I envy you Charlie because I have the 'anti-charlie'. If Carmen tripped going through that there would be huge dramatics and pissed-off shenanigans. So I do think it's a trade off- I have a very talented horse but one who's also super sensitive and dramatic. :)

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    1. The trade off is very real, that's for sure. For instance we couldn't ever free jump Isabel (tried. ONCE) bc she would just gallop away uncatchable after her first trip down the chute.

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  3. Poor Charlie! He ate some serious dirt. I'm in the same situation as Teresa. If Gem even scrapes the jump, even if I rode it perfectly and she was to blame, she has a major temper tantrum on the other side telling me how not cool that was. Its why I don't jump her. Its just not fun.

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    1. Yea I can totally get that. It can be a lot of work with the very sensitive ones! Or at least, a different type of work than with the oafs lol (oaves?? Haha)

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  4. If it makes you feel any better, we lunged Henry off of a bank this weekend and he totally ate shit a couple times because he could not figure out how to just DROP at first. He doesn't even have the green horse excuse, he just had the dumbs.

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    1. D'aww poor Henny!! Drops are hard

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  5. Wow, Charlie! He'll figure it out, though, and sometimes what's needed is a little exposure, a little break, a little more exposure... bite size pieces. At least he didn't get unhappy or flustered about the wreckage. Also, they look like wooden poles, but if they're pvc, some horses don't take pvc very seriously. Wooden poles have a little more weight and demand a bit more respect... I wouldn't bring 'em out yet, since he's only starting to figure out the game, but if he keeps on disrespecting the poles and they're PVC, a few sessions with wooden poles might be just the ticket.

    Bird... needs a rider who sucks less and more practice on the adjustable jumping canter. He gets pissy if I land too much weight in the right stirrup or if I'm off balance or if I make one of a million rider errors. He doesn't buck or anything, but he is head-shakey and pissy. Jumping right now has to wait until I have a non-mud field. I'm hoping that he'll be more physically mature (almost 6 now!) and fitter (6 miles on Saturday and another 8 miles on a Very Rainy Sunday, I have got to get some decent rain gear) this summer so that we can make some actual strides over fences.

    He's been in an Honor System Chute (we were too lazy to move the fences to the rail of the ring), said event memorialized in exactly one fuzzy cellphone pic: http://i.imgur.com/RGzjks0.jpg He was a trooper, but we ran out of time before he ran out of jump. Instructor was somewhat impressed with his effort, honesty, and athleticism.

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    1. Also, your tree/sun(rise/set)/Charlie picture is on point. That's a great shot.

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    2. We have had some gorgeous sunsets recently!! And if you are actually curious about how my trainer sets up jump chutes - take a closer look at the pics and videos bc the type of "pole" we used is pretty visible (esp in that shot of Charlie half walking, half dragging his hind end over one). They are definitely *not* PVC (agreed - that material is counterproductive to the purpose of this exercise, and is not nearly substantial enough to bring a horse Charlie's size to his knees), and they're not even regular wooden poles either.

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  6. Oh, Charles. Everyone (horses & humans alike) just has to learn at their own pace! He did look pretty cute by the end there!

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    1. He was on fire when I hopped him over some jumps the next day too - there's hope for him yet!!

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  7. I think we are all pretty much on the struggle bus for one reason or another. My past horse, Miss Tea, was a talented jumper but also had the crazy brain and thought ground poles were snakes. Savvy on the other hand makes me feel safe and gives me the warm and fuzzies but jumps like...well, a lot like Charlie right now. I would take the warm fuzzies + long road of training over the fear of dying on crazy horse every day. And the good news is your guy is improving!

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    1. yea i'm with you - i like the warm fuzzies, i like feeling safe, and i don't mind being patient with a slow training process when it's been so damn enjoyable along the way! of course i'm also hopeful that the skills development *does* come along eventually lol (and also doesn't ove the fear of dying by face planting over something solid haha)

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    2. I know. I've been on the falling horse. But take that image of him falling and throw a grenade on that sonofabitch. Its early days and he will find his feet with all the great stuff you are doing!

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    3. i really hope (and believe!) that you're right!! he may be wayyyyy too damn casual about some things haha, but he ain't stupid. i popped him over a little cross rail the day after free jumping just to reinforce that idea, and he FLEW over it! no touchy!!

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  8. Aww homeboy is going to need some knee pads! Total "dude, this wasn't like this last time" moment, and I love how he didn't panic at all over tripping. Just 'whatevs'. He looked so nice by the end!

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    1. lolz omg yes charlie needs knee pads!!! also yea, panic is not at all in his lexicon. i think he's been stumbling and tripping his whole life, and just kinda doesn't care (fun fact: his first race owners - not the folks who had him recently - did a full neuro workup on him bc of the stumbling. dude is totally fine, he just doesn't care...).

      but thanks - i was pretty pleased with how he looked by the end!

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  9. I can't lie, the fact the he ate dirt over a cavaletti is HILARIOUS. Poor guy, hahaha

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    1. lol right?? like i feel super guilty for laughing..... but..... i can't help myself!!

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  10. Poor Chuckles. Some lessons are learned the hard way. Lol. Hopefully as he gets better at using his body it will get a little more intuitive for him. But maybe longe him over the first few xc jumps. Just in case...

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    1. LOL i'm not gonna lie - that idea has DEFINITELY crossed my mind!!

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  11. Aww...he really did improve by the end.

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    1. yep he honestly did pretty darn well to finish!

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  12. I can sympathize with Charlie. Being tall is hard you have a lot of leg to coordinate and some times the neurons just aren't firing. ;)

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    1. lol watching the video in slow mo is kinda hilarious bc you can see the moment he sees the pole, and the choice he makes in handling it.... and how that choice was immediately obviously the WRONG answer lol

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  13. The more I watch his video and even the trip, the more I heart him. He's so steady and there's no panic or freak out. He just goes through it again and again. There's really something to be said about that

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    1. definitely agreed, he is one quiet, laid back horse. and i like that a LOT in him!

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  14. Hero says he understands, it's hard to get all four legs organized at the same time.

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  15. HAHHA oh bloody hell charlie. youre 17hh just bend your knees.

    I think it's smart you're doing some free jumping. It'll force him to figure out how to use his own shit. come to think of it... i should do some with runkle...

    last week in my jump lesson runkle plowed through a 2' vertical. straight up went through it. didn't even try to pick his feet up. he kicked the rail 5ft from the jump.

    i said to my trainer "I think I want to jump this thing? over SOLID jumps???"

    (side note: he was way better cross country)

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    1. daww poor runkle lol!! charlie's definitely just crashed into them before too.... never any fun! glad to hear runkle was better on xc tho - that gives me hope!!

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  16. He looks soooo mellow over everything though! Such a good attitude.

    When we free-jumped Murray he was jumping well over the standards up to 3', then when we raised the pole up to 3'3" he was like "oh, that three inches is NOT POSSIBLE" and just quit on us, so we had to go back down to 2'6" to get back up to 3'.

    I can't wait to see his next try!

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    1. omg so mellow haha. and, um, not giving the jumps any extra room haha. hopefully he'll keep figuring it out tho! and that's so funny about Murray giving such exaggerated efforts then suddenly quitting... they're such strange animals sometimes!

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  17. Oh dear.. at least he eventually got it and also jumped from behind. I remember the first time i free jumped Ramone he jumped everything like a deer.

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    1. lol yea the dear jump is it's own special little evil.... luckily tho, when charlie *does* actually jump, he does so with a very acceptable form.

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  18. Aww big guy!!! He had a great attitude about it all! Can't wait to do it before the lesson this weekend too!! Also I really like the picture of Riley and Bella crashing in the background while Charlie is just as calm as a cucumber....

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    1. lol so i actually have a whole series of Bella and Riley doing their little dance in the background while charlie's facial expression remains ENTIRELY unchanged haha. exactly zero shits given!!!

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  19. Maybe when it's crummy and raining tomorrow, I'll set up a chute in the indoor arena and see if Candy can figure it out! She is currently alternating between terror at ground poles and "oh yeah, these DON'T kill horses". Sigh.

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    1. haha maybe if we could combine Candy's abject terror and Charlie's "idgaf" attitudes we'd get the perfect horse?

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  20. omg the faceplant of Charlie. Haha! It looks like he did figure it out towards the end though, so good for him.

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    1. lol he definitely figured it out.... he apparently just has to learn the hard way sometimes...

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  21. It really is always a trade off, isn't it. He sure is cute his brain seems like a good one :)

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    1. always a trade off.... but i seriously <3 his brain!! here's hoping the rest of it catches up soon enough!!

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  22. While my guy didn't necessarily "wipe out" over jumps, he often took it upon himself to tank right through them. After a year and a half, he is finally learning that I would prefer him to go over the jumps. He is definitely talented, but it took him forever to figure it out!
    His fantastic ground manners and kind demeanor were my trade-offs, so I had something to tide me over until he learned how to horse.

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    1. ha that's hilarious, his sweet personality serving as 'something to tide me over until he learned how to horse' is EXACTLY what it feels like.

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  23. Poor guy! Honestly to me a chill demeanor is super important (probably the most important!). He'll figure out where his body needs to be with practice :)

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  24. Nolan falls into the Bella category for sure. Very talented, but also I need to control the gerbils running in his brain. He's very sure of himself, which is both good and bad. The NH trainer that met him immediately asked me how he was in herd, to which I responded, "he's the boss of every horse he ever meets". She told me that he desperately wants someone to be the boss of him, and so far, it's working with me! That said, after putting a few rides on him post-track, I basically turned him out for 2 months and only groomed and lunged him lightly. He came back on his first ride back like a super star. They are such puzzles!

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  25. When it comes to jumping Annie is for sure the talented smarty pants that needs to slow down. She also thinks she knows best in all things. I do really love that when I am not asking for anything she can tote a 9yo around, gallop down the beach, and tolerates bareback riding.

    Charlie kinda reminds me how Houston could be except that when he does actually jump he seems to actually use his legs. I'm sure he will figure it out! Atleast he doesn't hang his knees like my lovely magoo.

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  26. Oh Charlie! I just love him and the way he views life. My young horse and I are figuring that all out as we go. Slow and steady. His dam was and is a quick study at all things. Reading this, I think I am going to try free jumping my guy to help him with his body awareness and figuring out how to use himself. May help with his ridden canter work?

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