Saturday, November 25, 2017

shake it off!

Phew, thank god for the weekend! I hope those of you who spent the Thanksgiving holiday with friends or family had a nice time! And that the rest of you got to enjoy some black friday shopping craziness!

so cute. so dusty.
I didn't do any shopping personally -- rather I took advantage of PTO from work and the fact that my family is all local to Maryland (so no insane travel necessary!) by logging some solid day time pony fun. A rare treat outside of weekends!


Tho.... I recently discovered during our schooling rides this week that.... While physically Charlie is getting back aboard the "in work" train.... Emotionally maybe he needs me to take it a little slower. He's been a very, very good boy for the past few weeks - and notably happy in his work.

i just <3 this sweet guy. he's always eager to hang out!
But with dark week night evening rides limiting us in where we can ride (meaning: only the lit areas), and his rehab limiting us to flat work, I've come to discover that we've been too focused on dressage alone for Charlie's tastes. This presents in a horse who has been suddenly growing increasingly sour after being so good for so long.

no idea how i used to be able to get his entire body on camera while lunging. this lovely and flattering shot was the only time i got his face on screen lol
So.... That's cool, big guy. I hear ya. Maybe I need to remember that there's no rush and nothing matters if it's not any fun. So I went ahead and scratched from tomorrow's dressage schooling show and decided we'd just focus on playing and having a little fun throughout the long weekend.

headless horse + distracted, camera-wielding pilot who can't steer = missed the poles, whoops
So yesterday I got there mid afternoon to grab Charlie from his field (he was right at the gate too, score!), dust him off and toss on his jump saddle and hackamore to stroll up to the indoor for some play time. No real agenda, just maybe revisiting some of the ground work we did so often when I first brought him home.

there we go with the poles! still no pony head tho lol
First I pulled all his tack and let him wander loose around the arena while I set up some trot poles. He happily followed along with me before getting distracted by a particularly fluffy spot of footing - perfect for a quick roll!

dirty mirror selfies beat no mirror selfies, right?
Then I tossed on his rope halter and went through the exercises we used to practice all the time - that whole "hip-hip-shoulder-shoulder-back-forward" routine I wrote about here. And parlayed it in with a little practice on lunging over the ground poles.

aww, snuffles from charlie
The purpose here wasn't really the exercise or physical exertion -- rather it was just reestablishing various cues and open lines of communication, and seeking to make each cue lighter and lighter while still getting the reaction from Charlie.

So lots of transitions, never really doing any one thing for very long if he was getting the answers correct. Just asking a question then either praising or asking again. Asking for a yield of a fore- or hind-quarter here, getting a step and praising. Asking for a trot transition there, getting a circle then stopping and praising. Rinse repeat.

on week nights we walk up a long very dark driveway from the barn to the arena. it's a big farm so there's a lot of traffic in and out. so i picked up some hi viz reflective tape to try to DIY some road safety stuff. hoping these loops on splint boots might help?
Charlie continues to be a somewhat pressure-averse horse -- that's where the sourness crops up in our schooling. So it's really really useful to spend this time with him, asking him a lot of different questions and praising the bejesus out of him when he answers.

And he honestly kinda likes these games - he likes knowing that if he picks up his trot and pings on through the ground poles, I'll ask him to walk and tell him how clever and amazing he is. Which he naturally just soaks up like a sponge, with head low and licking and chewing. He just... wow he just LOVES being a good boy haha, even if sometimes that means being pushed forward and exerting himself a little bit first.

the tape works, but not sure it's really big enough to make a difference to drivers. 
I was pleased to see that he's remembered basically all the exercises and games despite not having practiced at all in months and months. He's also gotten a lot more even from side to side, whereas it used to be a lot more challenging to apply any pressure to his right side (he MUCH prefers me staying on his left, thankyouverymuch).

Tho honestly he's still kinda dull haha. He might always be. Charlie's work ethic is.... low. He's a lazy kinda guy, ya know? Not inclined toward exertion. But he does like to play a little bit. He likes being asked questions when he knows the answers already. And maybe it's useful to remind him (and me, let's be real) that all of our riding and training boils down to exactly this kinda game play: answering questions and solving puzzles. And there's always a correct answer. Always.

So for this weekend, my main objective is to get out and enjoy each other's company and find ways to keep us working together so that we can carry some of that attitude of play and fun and games back into our schooling too. We'll see how that works lol. It's always a balance, right?

27 comments:

  1. I love how considerate you are of his training and the emotional side of things for him. Its so easy to just try and push through and make horses do the thing, but when you take the time and teach the horse to enjoy the process, its pretty cool how hard they can start to try for you. :)

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    1. It's hard not to get carried away with my plans and ideas and goals sometimes, ya know? And it's frustrating when I have to back off from them. But then again scratching a show bc the horse just needs more time in his schooling is VASTLY preferable to scratching bc he's lame or out of commission or whatever lol. Like you say, it's so valuable to ensure they enjoy the whole process too!

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    2. I hear ya, Emma.

      It can be frustrating to have to back off from those pressures and then revisit the "old" stuff again too! haha.

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  2. Charlie is a lucky boy to have you!

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    1. Aw thanks. Sometimes I struggle to manage the sourness and wish he'd just .... Not be that way some times. But. Ya know. He's a good boy so we work it out !

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  3. Love how flexible you are with everything. It’s refreshing to see

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    1. Ha thanks, I try. Charlie can be so needy sometimes! ;)

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  4. I know that I tend to be a very driven person DO THIS ACCOMPLISH GOAL and while goals are great, I've spent a lot of time in the past few years learning to enjoy the journey. It makes a big difference to the horse too--C's pressure-adverse brain helped me learn to relax and let go, and that attitude definitely helps Zoe, even though she can take some pressure and be fine.

    TL:DR I love how meta horses are.

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    1. Yea seriously. Tho it's also useful to step back and see the full big picture. I also have goals in mind that are very important to me. The schooling show this weekend isn't a critical function of those goals tho - it's just a short term fun event that seemed like a good chance to practice new tests. But it's not really necessary, ya know? Next season it will be different so I'm hoping that taking the time now to keep Charlie happy in his rehab and return to work will work in favor of my longer term goals.

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  5. I'm in a very similar boat with Scout, especially now a few months post-cellulitus. I like how you said that Charlie likes being asked questions when he knows the answers already... SAME! Sometimes I fall into a pattern with Scout because he's been so good and easy that when he's not, or shows resistance I'm momentarily puzzled, and it's just taught me to maybe dial something back or be a little more patient. I love the shaky-shaky video!

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    1. Yea it can be a real shock when our easy going sweet geldings turn around and say NO! Lol.... Esp when Charlie and I first started getting serious about work I became really concerned about this attitude in him. At least now that I know him better it's easier to recognize a pattern and see what helps break the cycle.

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  6. Yes I hear you! Amber's difficult in that the more work we do, while she may get initially sour and bored, the more she wants to work. Just like Charlie she thrives on that "good girl/boy" praise, and these past 3 months of shows have taught me that even after an exhausting show, she doesn't want a day or two off. She was at the gate, waiting for me to take her out. So we'd go on a hack if we could (usually couldn't) or move that to Tuesday. That girl is like the energizer bunny lol. So with having to take a small step back with her stifle, I sort of have to force her to go slow. Lots of walking (which she finds pointless) but even then, she's just happy to be out and I'm trying to mix it up at the walk lol. Hope your Thanksgiving was great!

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    1. Aww haha poor Amber! She and Charlie lead such vastly different lifestyles - esp considering turnout and herd dynamics (Charlie is out with something like 10+ horses in a giant rolling pasture). So he definitely does *not* rely on me for his entertainment or activity on any given day. That can definitely be tricky to manage too, esp if the horse isn't physically ready for anything intense - as was the case during Charlie's post-surgery stall rest. Luckily tho there's plenty that can be done at the walk!

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  7. I definitely think ground poles help make some of the in hand training fun!

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    1. Yea definitely - they lend some visual reference point too that's easy for the horse to understand.

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  8. It's cool to see you do so many different things with him. I get stuck in that "WE HAVE TO FIGURE X, Y, Z OUT RIGHT NOW" and sometimes forget to just take a step back and take the pressure/demands/training off the table for a bit. Mental breaks can be fun - esp when you do something "weird" or "different" with them so they don't get too much into a routine.

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    1. yea getting stuck is definitely no good. i find the best way to avoid that trap is to always be really really REALLY clear in my own mind exactly what it is i'm looking for and why. there's no sense getting stuck in some sorta power play with the horse over a trivial matter, and horses learn in the release anyway so if i always know what the horse has to do to get that release -- and therefore learn exactly what type of behavior i wanted -- it helps keep things simpler.

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  9. I love your way of approaching this and making it fun. Occasionally I’ll do something similar but hadn’t thought of it the same way really. This is a great reminder to do more of this :)

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    1. thanks yea, i mean really this whole sport and hobby is supposed to be fun, right? and if we can't enjoy it while we're practicing how will we enjoy it while competing? i'm just hoping charlie will agree with me lol

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  10. Glad to see Sir Charles on the mend! I've got another month of turnout with Da Bird, who has turned into a marshmallow of fluff with his Eat All You Want Leisure Vacation, so I'm jealous that you guys are back at it. But yay groundwork! One of my two project horses, Genie, is doing her riding-readiness ground work at the moment. She won't be under saddle until the spring (she's a reedy and narrow 3 and a half right now), so I'm not in a hurry, just making the best of the good-weather days. Zipper, for his part, did his first canter under saddle over the holiday, just like a big horse, AND took my friend Trys for a spin while I hopped on *her* project horse Oasis. (We swapped project horses so that we could spot holes or weak spots in the other horse's training / the other person's riding. It was a super-educational outing and I think it's going to be worth pursuing on an ongoing basis.) Now we've got two weeks of rifle deer season, ugh.

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    1. yea it's such a relief to have him back in work! he's basically almost back up to full work on the flat -- physically at least lol. mentally he..... maybe got a little too used to the retired lifestyle!

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  11. Way to make things fun for Charlie! I struggle with giving up a plan once it's in my head, but have gotten better about going with the flow. So glad to see he's doing so well!!

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    1. yea i mean, i can basically never let go of a plan ever haha, it just sometimes gets re-imagined or broken down into smaller and smaller components lol..... semantics maybe?

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  12. What a great approach! Play and positive reinforcement really makes the ponies want to show up for work (I mean sort of hahah, mine are a bit on the lazy side also).

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    1. ha yea i gotta do what i can to keep the big guy playing along! bc sometimes he's just positive that he'd be better off sitting around in a field forever!

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  13. I loved reading this post, meanwhile halfway through I was thinking... we horse-women bloggers truly do have it tough "capturing" the moments. I started re-teaching JLP to side-pass, and there were several moments that all I wished for was a second set of hands to re-watch what we were doing.
    Great job making work fun for Charlie Boy and reminding us all not only of the importance, but how effective it can be.

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  14. Well done with the hi-viz tape! That's a great idea and really looks workable. Also, Charlie's weight gain is still wowing me in this totally ermahgerdLOVE kind of way. He's just so damn handsome.

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