Tuesday, January 2, 2018

jumping into the new year, again

So my new farm is kinda a funny place when compared to small quiet trail type barns like Isabel's barn. It's big, old, historic, with a lot of very serious riders there (tho of course still plenty of casual adults, weekend warriors, and kiddos with fuzzy ponies). It's the kind of place with a lot of "big fish," if you know what I mean. Including a few riders who work in the racing industry.

One of these folks recently asked me about Charlie - what he was like and whether he could be very difficult. Bc she does turnout at the barn and apparently Charlie busts some moves when he goes out in the mornings. That's.... news to me lol.

cavorting with known troublemakers.... that 3yo appy in the middle in particular is a bad influence, charles!
But like, honestly I really have no clue about Charlie in his natural environment. I've worked at so many barns for basically the entire span of my horse hobby, until Charlie. I never worked at either of the barns Charlie's lived at, and sometimes feel kind of sorry to miss out on that level of interaction and knowledge about how my horse carries on his daily life.

At the last h/j place, Charlie was on nighttime turnout all year round, so I actually only ever caught him from the field like.... mayyyybe five times. At this new barn he's on daytime turnout in the winter so I catch him anytime I ride during the day - like weekends or days off. And it's kinda cool! I get to see who he's hanging out with, and observe a little of how he behaves in the herd.

don't be fooled by his resigned expression - i swear he's excited!
Anyway, naturally I assured this barn worker that Charlie is, in fact, a very good boy. Sure, he's made the occasional move under saddle.... but 9 times out of 10 his most extreme instances of.... expressiveness are directly related to something buggin him.

Still tho... it's kinda hard to believe that this quiet, steady dude would be one of the raucous ones lol. Maybe she's got him confused for someone else. Or... ya know. Maybe Charlie's keepin secrets from us!

there's the excited face!!
Or maybe he's just learned a lot about himself in the past year, and about how his body can work in new and interesting ways lol. Almost exactly one year ago, Charlie had his third jumping lesson during which he cantered a fence for the first time ever.

It was a very exciting day! And the first time we really got true glimpses of what Charlie might possibly look like as a schooled jumping horse.

big horse jumps in sma arena!!
Of course, the video is of us jumping outside bc last winter was extremely mild. This winter.... not so much. We won't see temperatures above freezing for a while, and it'll take longer still for the ground to thaw and soften enough for jumping. So. To the 20x40m indoor we go!

wait, is that an arab?? or charlie being sassy about cantering lol??
Riding in this arena is tricky on its own - it's the same dimensions as a small dressage court. Then add jumps and standards, plus... ya know, six other horses and a couple people milling around. Maybe a dog or two for good measure. Bc why not, right?

sassy in the other direction too lol.... you gotta watch the video for the sound effects here - he let out the weariest groan after executing this simple change of lead lol
And yet.... Charlie honestly made pretty good work of it! The nice thing about riding in this ring is that I can ride him in his dressage snaffle without concern - it's not like there's any wide open spaces for him to really get rolling. Plus the walls kinda help force the question of balance, since it's really too narrow a space for him to careen around.

ha. charlie. i know it's a small jump but c'mon buddy!
And honestly it's crazy really, how different he is this year from last year. I think all of our practice with grids lately has helped Charlie in tuning up and knocking some rust off after our extended break from jumping... But still. He's just... easy. He just goes.

ignore my hands, just look at his cute face <3
The biggest struggle of this ride was first figuring out the distances in the diagonal lines, since they had been set for ponies earlier and trainer P couldn't really walk her distances normally since she was bundled up so thickly lol. So we basically sorta experimented a bit lol. Charlie didn't care - he compressed or extended as needed, more or less off his own eye.

wheee tight turns abound!
And I think he kinda forgot how to do lead changes over the rehab and recovery period, since he'd land on his right lead and hit the corner like "uhhh what the fuck do I do now???"

he jumped GREAT over this panel tho!! my head is almost above the mirrors
Mostly tho, he just... ya know. Jumped the jumps. Most of them were pretty small, which is kinda a bummer... but it's also kinda hard to set up anything really big in a 20x40m arena. The two that were set up on the outside rails for the full course were probably around 2'6ish, esp that oxer. Charlie liked that haha.

werk that bascule, baby!
And then we got another oxer down one of the diagonals (it was supposed to have been set for when we did our course but P forgot to adjust it, so we went back and did it by itself after).

he was happy to have something a little bigger to jump
For my part, literally the only thing I'm thinking about right now is pushing my hands forward (shortening reins as needed) and pushing my legs down. It's kinda a crap shoot at any given moment how successful I am in either or both of those things, but literally every single thing about jumping Charlie feels more comfortable and easy when my hands are forward.

My natural inclination is to want a looser rein with hands hanging straight down, no bend in my elbows. But that puts me in a position slightly behind the horse, and I can't see a spot for shit like that. More forward hands makes a big difference, tho I still need to get more bend in the elbows. One step at a time!


And anyway idk if Charlie's eye is really tuned up with all our grid work lately or what, but especially for the bigger jumps he was just spot on. Moved up really well to jump out of stride.

I expect it'll be tougher in bigger, more open spaces - he has a tendency to run past his distances a little bit. But still. Compared to where we were exactly one year ago.... it's crazy how much more polished he looks! (tho it's still kinda a far cry from two years ago, when I had one of my favorite hands-down jump lessons ever)


He looks like an entirely different horse! Like, sure, knowing where he is now it's relatively easy to see that through the rough greenness of his early days... But damn. I'm SO GLAD he's figured out where his legs are and how to get over a jump instead of going through it lol.

I'm also grateful to have a better understanding of Charlie's dinosaur-in-tar-pit tendencies since then, considering what a huge issue it had become. Keen observers may notice that I ditched the spurs and picked a crop up again - probably will write more about that later.

i just love this guy <3 and his tail too <3 <3
I wish it wasn't so cold this winter, and that we weren't relegated to the tiny indoor for all of our serious riding.... But I'm also really grateful to have the indoor. And that they recently replaced all the lights with LEDs so it's a LOT brighter in there now.

It's not the easiest space in the world to work with but we do our best. And Charlie's really figuring out how to balance himself a lot better. Case in point: when coming back around for that final diagonal jump in the video, we had to do a little loop up the long side cantering on the right lead - but cutting in around that oxer on the rail. So a pretty steep little counter canter loop. And Charlie did it like the easiest thing in the world. Good boy!

also look at this awesome canvas print brita got me for christmas!!!! even the cats approve!! (after a close inspection, naturally)
So. Ya know. It's not quite the same thing as galloping across country or schooling giant fences or complicated courses.... but it's fun. And it's good practice. And Charlie feels good and happy to be back to working over fences again. So I'm satisfied.

And it's a HUGE difference from this time last year, which is pretty crazy to see in the videos. Do you ever like to go back and look at pictures or videos from a year ago to see just how much has changed? I know sometimes we end up in holding patterns with horses for one reason or another... but it's cool when we can actually see a difference.

32 comments:

  1. Right now I am incredibly jealous of your indoor even if it is small. I love Charlie's excited face :).

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    1. this indoor is a game changer. i kinda miss the indoor at our last place bc it was a bit bigger (and charlie's stall was actually *inside* it, talk about convenience!) -- but any indoor is better than the no-indoor situation we had at isabel's!

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  2. Ye are both looking great!
    We’ve a small indoor as well and it definitely makes a huge difference in terms of being able to ride after work in the winter. And keeps you focused on being balanced.
    Also had to ditch the spurs recently when Dexter made his displeasure known during a canter transition that turned into a buck-fest.
    And I love having videos to be able to look back and see progress (even if the before part makes me cringe) it’s nice to know that the lessons and effort are paying off!

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    1. the videos are so so so useful for seeing more subtle longer term changes! and yea charlie was starting to fuss against the spurs too, but simultaneously needed a pretty big thwacking with my legs so.... yea we adapt haha.

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  3. i am extremely jealous of your indoor. If i want an indoor i either pay a lot of money for a lesson and haul to Emily or one of Sally's venues...or I just stay jealous :) I dont know when I will ride outdoors again and i passed on Sally lesson this upcoming weekend. IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE a high of like 12 on Sat. WTF?? SO i was like um nope. not doing it.Not paying almost 100 bucks and hauling in that LOL. I am glad Charlie is doing so great (and he looks great). Enjoy as you said I think once you are outside you will have fun stopping the beast HA! :)

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    1. ugh yea that's how it was at izzy's place - we had to haul out for any serious riding. i don't miss it! and yea i don't blame you for skipping the lesson, it's hard to justify the time and expense when riding is already limited and the weather is that crappy....

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  4. Funny how horses can be completely different in turn out vs under saddle.

    Man and jumping in a dressage ring is not easy, small or large. But wooooo Charlie! Back in the game! ❤️❤️

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    1. lol jumping in tight quarters is definitely tricky! i never really appreciated how much easier it was with isabel lol. at least charlie seems to not mind!

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  5. Charlie's Arab impersonation is spot on. Its good that he gets his kicks out in the pasture and is all business under saddle. Much better than the other way around

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    1. ha agreed! he's such a funny horse, there's a lot of different facets to his personality - like his grumpy old man side; and apparently this playful instigator out in turnout. who knew??

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  6. omg love the canvas print!!! he looks great there.

    one time i came into the barn and there was a chain on indys halter. and i was like .... what the f do you get up to when i'm not here, silly animal.

    good on you for making it around that tiny indoor. its been interseting and my indoor is much bigger than yours...

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    1. in a way, the smallness of this arena really kinda forces the question: charlie either must hold himself up and in balance or he *will* fall down. it helped that the majority of his rides last winter were in a similarly narrow (tho longer) indoor at the h/j place, so he's got some practice haha

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  7. It is very cool to see how well Charlie works in that arena! The tight space might be super helpful in further developing correct use of that bod of his!

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    1. oh yea the space is definitely helpful in that it's not *me* nagging at him to slow down and sit more around the turns - there are actually WALLS there to force the issue haha. and he's no dummy so he adjusts accordingly. isabel used to always get really really sharp with landing her leads when we would jump in here, tho charlie hasn't figured that part out yet. maybe soon tho lol!

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  8. I kind of love the tiny indoor at the barn next door! (It's maybe 100' x 60'.) It's rare that we set any jumps up in it, but it's perfect for schooling most dressage things and is very useful for practicing what a crazy warm-up ring will be like!

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    1. ha yea seriously, there are benefits to learning how to ride in small spaces! dealing with traffic is definitely one of them too!

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  9. He looked really good in that jump lesson! I loved his sass lol. Especially since his sass is very rideable lol. I do remember thinking when I saw that - wow that is small! Especially for Charlie! But he did fantastically in there. Way to go!

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    1. ha this particular brand of sass is more rideable bc i've fixed the things that were buggin him (thus producing some sass in the first place) and am now redrawing the lines on what is and is not acceptable in forms of charlie self expression. if he lets fly with one or both hind legs, or props up on his hind legs, he gets smacked. he's.... slowly coming to terms with this lol

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  10. OMG the picture with everyone in the indoor gives me anxiety! I guess it's good practice for navigating warm ups at shows though:) It's so cool to see how much he's come along in a year!

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    1. ha it's definitely GREAT practice for learning to focus in the face of surrounding chaos! it can be frustrating esp when others are schooling around when we're trying to ride through a course... but luckily most folks are pretty good about calling out where they're going!

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  11. The indoor never seems that small in the pictures but I guess that's because my mind imagines there's more room behind the photographer. Our outdoor arena is only about 25x60. so I've gotten pretty used tight quarters. Of course, we don't have 6 horses in there.

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    1. yea it's a deceptively small space, esp with the walls and mirrors and high ceiling it really doesn't look that bad. but it you figure it out pretty quickly when riding in company and trying to navigate around standards and poles and stuff.

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  12. He does have a nice tail! Dante can be a bit naughty when turned out, just the part where he's walking into the turnout and being let go. Other than that he's pretty uneventful. I think sometimes they just get excited to be out.

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    1. oh yea, for sure haha. charlie definitely gets worked up in his stall during feeding and turnout, so i bet he's got plenty of pent up energy by the time they finally let him loose lol

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  13. I love to relive early training days! I think it's a great mental reminder of where you are. So hard to see those little details coming together when you are in the moment.

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    1. so true -- it's easy to find current examples of charlie being clumsy or careless about the jumps and think that not much has really changed.... but wow yea he really has figured a lot out in the last year!

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  14. Wow, that is a REALLY small space. Kudos to you and Charlie for making it work in there. I would basically wait until everyone went home in order to ride. He is looking great!!

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    1. true story: the most crowded i've ever seen this arena was with 10 horses, five people and two dogs. plus pouring rain roaring on the roof. it was.... intense. and i ended up falling off, whoops! at least there's a gif tho, solid gold haha:

      https://fraidycateventing.blogspot.com/2015/01/sunday-snaps.html

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  15. Our indoor is the same size so feel free to pass along any good exercises for that size! And love that canvas!

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    1. the "course diagram" tag in my cloud in the sidebar has a lot of good illustrations for exercises, many of which have been done in this arena

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  16. He looks like a completely different horse!

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  17. OMG look at Charlie GO! He's loving the bigger jumps isn't he?! What a happy guy.

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