Thursday, July 20, 2017

things Charlie can do now

I'm not sure I ever wrote about our last dressage lesson, but it was about six weeks ago. So. Ya know. The trend continues with not getting enough face time with dressage trainer C. Hopefully that'll change in the near future tho!

However we've been working working working away at home, trying to really help Charlie understand what I'm asking him re: carrying himself in a new way.

i seriously love this arena tho!
And remember when I wrote about our lesson with Dan, lamenting that it would be difficult to replicate that work without Dan's constant instruction? Ha! Joke's on me, bc Charlie apparently internalized that lesson beautifully and has been super game to keep chipping away at it.

So when we finally got back to see dressage trainer C this past weekend, I basically had a whole new horse to show her. Well, being realistic, she sees a whole new horse almost every time bc six weeks in Charlie time can be fairly transformative lol. 

charlie is saving those carrot flecks as a snack for later, obvi
But I was able to show her our latest "new normal" this weekend: A horse who is learning to be softer and light in the bridle, who is starting to have a half halt (until he gets tired haha), and is showing the beginning of what will be a very nice rhythm to his trot. We're finally able to slow the tempo down without losing the push from his hind end. And she liked it!!

he still stands funny, but imo he looks pretty good right now!
And decided to really test it out, play with it, see if Charlie will do tricks haha. Essentially: to begin pushing the boundaries on the horse's nascent lateral and longitudinal suppleness.

Things we played with in this lesson:

- Leg yield from wall to quarter line
- Leg yield from quarter line to wall
- 15m trot circles
- Pushing the trot out across the long diagonal
- Trotting across the diagonal, walking after X
- Canter leg yield from quarter line to wall
- Canter across the diagonal, trotting after X
- Canter across diagonal, counter canter half circle to the long side, then trot before corner

he fairly hilariously got very excited about this random mound of untouched grass in the parking lot
Which like.... that's actually a lot of stuff for Sir Charles! The leg yields and 15m circles aren't exactly new, we've been playing with them for a while now. But going both toward and away from the wall was new - tho occasionally we'd throw in just a straight track down the quarter line to keep him from anticipating.

All the work across the diagonals was new tho - both pushing him out and bringing him in for a down transition. He actually had one big trot across the diagonal where he stayed round, but also stayed really balanced as he opened his stride. It's not a medium yet by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a distinct transition both into and out of it. Baby steps, y'all, I'll take it!

"mmmm but it's so good tho!"
The counter canter work was the really exciting part too - bc Charlie just kinda.... did it haha. I was especially pleased with getting to practice it, as I had been struck by just how much counter canter everyone seemed to be doing at Windurra during our tour. Apparently it's an important exercise?

i'm pretty sure it's from some old pile of dirt or whatever that should have been moved ages ago, so charlie is just doing his part to keep the grounds tidy!
Anyway, tho, the biggest takeaways for me to remember from this lesson were that I need to be really purposeful with all my transitions now. Wait for softness, roundness, before asking for the transition. Always. And forever. That I need to continue riding my horse as he feels in that moment even as trainer C is calling out movements.

Charlie needs me to be very present for him right now, especially as he's beginning to understand the game - he needs reaffirmation, reward for good effort, and consistency in what I'm asking.

"dis my special grass!"
Really tho? He was so good! Trainer C was very impressed by how he just kept going, just kept doing whatever. And actually looked pretty pleasant in his expression while doing it. At one point she kinda joked that he looked like he was concentrating so hard haha. Good boy :)

I really need to get some new dressage media bc I'm dying to see what he really looks like. He goes so differently from Isabel that I'm still very much learning my feel for putting all the pieces together. But things are feeling really good.

It feels like Charlie kinda sees what I'm trying to get at now. He's such a thinking horse that once he understands the point, understands what I want, he just kinda does it. Which is obviously helpful haha. I'm actually really eager to see how it all might play out in our next competition too. We're still not quite consistent enough to expect a seismic shift in scores.... but I'm curious.

Anyway. Transformations, yo. They are cool. And it's really cool to feel when something starts to "click" for a horse. It's downright addicting haha, now I just want more and more! I'm feeling greedy haha. Do you ever feel that way? When something finally really starts working and you just want to keep going and going with it?

27 comments:

  1. Nice! I sometimes feel like I'm chipping away at a wall with a spoon and then suddenly it falls into place. You know, like all that work wasn't actually wasted. It's a good feeling.

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    1. ha i love that 'spoon into the wall' metaphor bc it's so fitting. and then suddenly the wall evaporates (only to be replaced by something equally imposing and seemingly impenetrable just further down the road lol). gotta take the small successes where we get them tho, right? :)

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  2. Oh man do I get greedy when things go right! And then 75% of the time I immediately try to replicate it and sometimes I'm rewarded and sometimes I'm left going, "Damnit Liz you should have left it be and ended on a good note!"

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    1. ugh yea i hate that feeling of going in for one last try and suddenly finding myself needing to go back through the training cycle again. bleh.

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  3. Sounds like a super productive dressage lesson, hooray!

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    1. super productive! he's always been reasonably reliable for showing up at our lessons (tho not quite as professional as isabel always was) but it's really cool that he's now getting to a place where we can actually *do* stuff too

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  4. hahahah indy stands the same way to eat. and not just grasses, hay and grain as well #tallhorseproblems #foreverfoal

    but on a serious note, looks like you got up to some great stuff. the counter canter circles will definitely help. especially in the jumping. counter bending is the best.

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    1. true story: charlie's shoulders were crazy uneven when i first got him, one was inches higher than the other. he's evened out a bit since then... but weaving and standing like that all the time don't help for sure. and yea the counter canter was definitely super fun - he really had to think about his balance and his legs!

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  5. It's is such a great feeling when the horse starts to get it. I love that and it's what brings me back for more. Charlie sounds like a great balance between thinking but not overly active brain power. His little hamster is on an ultra marathon instead of a sprint.

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    1. his brain -- ah i just love his brain! he is always *very* present, he's always watching, always listening, always observing. but he's not reactive at all. it can actually be very easy to miss when he's upset, or to think he's off in lala land (even when he's not) bc of his general quietness. but he's not off in lala land, he's always right there. and the more i can be there for him, the less likely he is to get upset or go unnoticed. such a good boy!

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  6. SO exciting!!! I love counter-canter, it's like a magic bullet for getting them to stand up and think about balancing themselves! Really helps my pony with his motorcycle tendencies. It is just so cool how Charlie has blossomed into a real live sport horse over the past year!

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    1. it really is such a great exercise! he's gotten some unintentional practice over the winter with doing little 'loops' to avoid lesson kiddos in the indoor, but mostly he's just got a great canter. it's so fun to see him developing!

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  7. Loving that you are starting to see more and more of that change! I know he's been developing and changing and molding the last year, but it's exciting to see it start to become more steady and more... realiable? Good boy :)

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    1. yea exactly - i like to think of it as him becoming more 'confirmed.' in an ideal world, i can apply one aid such that this one aid prompts the same response in the horse every time. and that he understands that this is the one answer for this one aid. sometimes green horses can get confused and start offering different answers, esp as we begin to ask for more and more, overlaying various aids etc. for now tho, i just want him to become very very confirmed in his understanding of what each individual component means. it's happening!

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    2. I feel ya, haha. The whole process can be a bit frustrating at times, esp because (as you said), greenies can confuse cues with something else and it leaves us having to come back to Square 1 again. And it's super confusing when you add more than one aid for sure!

      Before we figured out our "normal" trot, Annie was pretty confused. I was pushing her forwards, so for her that = fast but at the same time was half halting and for her that means = slow. So her brain was like "I do the fast thing... but... slow?" And then it all came together lol

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    3. Luckily I actually have not found the process of training Charlie very frustrating at all - quite the opposite, he continues to impress me with how quickly he picks stuff up!

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  8. Changes and new positive normals are always so exciting!

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  9. Aww yay! Sounds like Charlie is really starting to "get it"! What a good boy. That is such a great feeling :) -Kelly @ Hunky Hanoverian

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  10. Baby horses click so quickly on things! And there's so many things to figure out, they're changing constantly and understanding new things so often.

    Counter canter... oh counter canter. Mikey soured me to it pretty quickly as soon as I was trying third level. We cemented counter canter in him and he was not going to do a flying change for anything. I know you have an eventing goal for Charlie, and won't need changes until you go advanced, but my advice is don't neglect your flying changes. He seems to have a natural tendency to do them when you jump anyway (which is better than Mike did), but I'm really happy with my decision to introduce true counter canter and flying changes together with Penn. We did no more counter canter than the shallow loop before I made him aware that changes are a thing we sometimes do. I got lucky with Penn- he took to them very well and didn't really need to be "patterned" into them. Once he has a very solid understanding of changes, I plan on beating that counter canter to death, because it does have excellent merits haha. Obv this is straight dressage talking though!

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    1. ha the cool thing about charlie is that he is decidedly NOT a baby horse, he's 8 years old and already had a 4yr long career before i got him lol. plus i'm pretty sure he was born a wise old man anyway!

      and yea that's fair enough for a dressage perspective of counter canter v changes. that's just not where i am in my training. all of my eventing coaches to date have advised me to leave flying changes alone (even for jumping) unless the horse volunteers them, which, charlie does. his does 'skip changes' (late behind) when we jump, and i simply do not foresee working to improve that at any point in the near future, whereas counter canter can actually be a very useful exercise for him right now for things like building balance and straightness.

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    2. Absolutely! You have entirely different goals, plus he offers them anyway when it's appropriate jumping, so it's really not a big deal. I doubt he'd end up with the same issues as Mikey (almost 10 years of never being asked for one!). I consider Charlie a baby horse in his new career, even though he has life experience. It's all new learning happening :)

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    3. haha yea - i definitely consider him 'green' for sure. just not a baby. when i think of babies, i think of like.... 3-4yos, something i very (almost aggressively) *did not* want for myself lol. emotional maturity is my jam, and charlie is the man for that!

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  11. I'm so excited for you!! I'm working on a lot of the same stuff right now and it's so rewarding. I agree with you about getting greedy though and I also feel so motivated when things are going well :)

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    1. It's so hard not to get greedy haha- he's working so well I just want to ride all the time!! Lol

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  12. Learn the thing, do the thing - Charlie is just the best horse! :) I am having that great sort of steady chipping away at progress with Shiraz right now and it is very addictive!

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