Thursday, January 25, 2018

taking it back

A few weeks ago, I wrote that it seemed highly unlikely we'd be able to wear long sleeves and jump around in the outdoor arena this January. Happily, I appear to have been incorrect.

Tho, admittedly I'm also wearing a coat and scarf in the below photos.... but our recent break in the weather has meant a return to the big ring!! Yay!! Not something I mind being wrong about!

i'm just plain never going to get tired of his expression and ears <3
Anyway, Charlie's grand return to jumping around this arena coincided with our weekly lesson with upper level event rider K. To sweeten the deal, former barn mate Rachael was able to haul her mare Birdie in to join us too! Meaning fun with friends AND videos!! Double win!

even if he was a little lethargic and behind my leg -- look at that loopy curb rein!! who is this horse??
And an extra special added bonus, Charlie was channeling his inner hunter in a MAJOR way this ride. Like.... Seriously just loooooping along, popping over everything from happy little gappy distances. Taking leg to the base, and a mostly floating curb rein. Only thing missing from the hunteresque picture is his auto change.... That'll be back* in time tho, methinks.

(*considering he busted one out (!!!) in the middle of the line around 2:05 in the vid below).

the go button still works tho!
Honestly I suspect it might have been more of a function of being rusty, or perhaps the wet packed and recently thawed ground had him stepping a little more thoughtfully. In other words, I don't expect Charlie to always go like this. But it was certainly quite enjoyable to ride!

the swedish oxer featured heavily in our mini courses
It's so funny tho, I've spent so much time telling trainer K all about Charlie being strong and occasionally nappy. And... .sometimes I wonder if she just thinks I'm crazy, bc she hasn't really had a chance to see Charlie exhibit literally any of the behaviors I tell her we struggle with.

And this ride was basically more of the same (not complaining!), tho Charlie *did* give her a little peek at his inner brontosaurus. Our last couple courses started on the left lead, and at the end of the ride he finally expressed some annoyance about this - with a half-hearted kick-n-prop, before striking off into canter of his own volition.

charlie showing K an itsy bitsy baby bronto-stuck-in-tar-pit moment. she hadn't yet seen this side of him lol
Which, honestly, it was useful for K to see it with her own eyes (tho obvi I doubt it'll be the last time) so that my explanation of our run at Fair Hill last fall made more sense: When Charlie started napping out of the start box and didn't immediately snap out of it - resulting in our catastrophe of a jump at fence 3, the red table (of George Morris Critique fame lol).

the simple barrel oxer was also well-utilized, tho it turned into a swedish too later on
So I'm sure that little nugget is just gonna get logged away in her gray matter until such a day as we need to address it more directly. Bc for this ride.... again, Charlie was just easy.

We started by trotting over a placing pole to cross rail, alternating approaches. During which it grew to a vertical, then oxer. Then we cantered it. Charlie was foot perfect. Sorry if I sound like a broken record lol, but I have to make up for months off from his surgery where I missed out on getting to call my pony a majikal unikorn! So I'm making up for it today!

charlie was quiet but VERY good off my thigh/knee/leg aids
After that, we just loped on up and over the swedish oxer and barrel oxer, jumping in both directions. It's not on the video but one of these times we got VERY LONG OMG to the swedish haha and I actually maybe almost fell off. Twas fine tho. He's still perfect lol.

wheeeee more swedish!
Then just starting to put course work together, using the center line oxer we'd started on, turning to the line from barrel oxer to plain vertical in an easy 4 (~57' to start, tho she stretched it out later), then back around to the swedish. Then the same exact thing in reverse order.

all the jumps rode in both directions so the course was fully reversible
Then we added in a little complexity by creating two lines to the swedish oxer - one from a vertical on the outside that we sliced at a fairly extreme angle to make a straight line to the swedish in 6-7 strides. And a bending line from the central rainbow oxer to the swedish that rode in 6 with bend or 5 if you rode it in a straight line.

still a few, er, *fun* moments. i swear when my hands are back like that it's bc i've slipped the reins. pinky swear! if you don't believe me, check in around 1:20 in the video and watch my hands as we approach the swedish and i see that we're probably gonna add, but slip the reins in case he goes for the long spot instead.
Bless Charlie's heart (he's perfect, ya know), bc I've kinda gotten into the habit of slipping my reins whenever the distances feel a little long (tho at least I'm getting better about still going with him with my upper body....) but am rusty with the double reins and was totally disorganized as we hurtled down the line toward the swedish (above).

And he just went. Just goes to the fence, even with minimal steering or rein aids. Goooood boy, Charlie!

mostly tho, he was just spot on. being all adorably tidy up front to this swedish barrel even from a close spot
So ya know. It was good practice. I REALLY liked the feeling Charlie had this ride where I needed to keep my leg on to create more canter to the fences. Putting my leg on seems to be a critical ingredient in telling my upper body to commit to the fence too lol, go figure.

Esp bc I know Charlie's gonna go if I leg him up to a fence, it's easier to trust and go with him, instead of staying behind him in the back seat.


Definitely a good feeling. I also really liked a lot of what trainer K had to say this ride too. She wants to see the same kind of outcome as trainer P when it comes to balance in turns and straightness to the fences, but just has a different way of saying things.

You can hear it in the video, but she talks a lot about using my knees to give leg aids - which is really interesting to hear after this week's dressage lesson with C, who told me to start at the top of my leg and go down, vs starting at the bottom. So hearing my jump trainer also direct me to use thigh and knee in my leg aids is nice reinforcement of the concept.

yup he's a good boy <3
Honestly this lesson was just another positive step for us. Mostly pretty simple. Mostly easy fences. Just ticking off the experience; checking that the pieces are working reliably. Calibrating where we are after a heavy focus on grid work recently. And edging me back to where I want to be: slowly feeling stronger and more secure in my position, and more in sync with my horse.

And all along, feeling like these exercises are routine, bordering on mundane. Practicing known skills vs challenging ourselves with the unknown. Because boring is delightful to me right now. The unknown will come in time!

33 comments:

  1. These are the rides that keep us going- they show us what is possible and that gets us through the sucky times.

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    1. Definitely! Now if we could just avoid any more splint-induced sucky times that would be grrrreat.

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  2. YAY for a great lesson. It looks like Charlie enjoyed being back out in the ring! And omg I am the QUEEN of slipping reins at a bad approach (ask Sally). This is usually followed by me saying OH REMUS afterwards LOL HEE....i didnt realize how often i was doing it but if we are going to miff a jump I drop the reins since A) Remus will get me out of this mess without me touching his mouth and B) It is my OH SHIT go to moment. :) I love all the media and YAY for Rachael and Birdie coming too!

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    1. Yea it's just so easy to slip the reins and feel like at least I'm not hitting the horse in the mouth..... It's not great tho when there's more than one jump in a row!! Like at loch moy this weekend when I couldn't make the turns bc I didn't have any reins lol!! Oh well we will figure it out!

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  3. I feel like a broken record, but Emma. He. Looks. SO GOOD. I'm so happy for you!

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    1. Thanks haha I feel like a broken record too but it feels great. I'm loving it!

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  4. He looks great out there and like he is having fun. I swear horse back riding is like an abusive relationship where these moments keep you going through the bad ones.

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    1. He really feels like he enjoys it too, like he likes jumping and wants to go to the fences. I like it!

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  5. I had a few of those LONG spots in my last lesson with Ranger... Thank goodness for these horses who take care of us, right? Charlie looks VERY happy!

    Why is it freezing today?

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    1. i'm so tired of the cold. at least the sun is warming things up quickly, and it'll be much better tomorrow. also yes i love these horses who take care of us - charlie's basically just like, "hang on, emma, i got this!!! wheeeeeee!!!!"

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  6. Quiet hunter like rides from your eventer are rides to treasure and love and look back on when shit hits the fan later, lol. Sure, there isn't a lot of problem solving going on, but you're building a level of quiet that serves as a base. And I hear you on horses not bringing their problems to lesson. I can't count the number of times I've had some issue on my own, we head to lesson, and Penn is mostly foot perfect and we don't really get to address the problem because he's being good!

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    1. oh charlie brings his problems to lessons lol - we've had some of our biggest, knock-down, drag-out fights in front of trainers lol. the only difference here is that this is a new trainer - she's only seen us go four times before this, and only exclusively in the 20x40m indoor arena doing grid work type exercises. so... kinda a limited perspective for a big green horse like charlie!

      also i'm actually not sure the hunter ride doesn't promote problem solving - esp if you watch the video you can see charlie making adjustments in his body and carriage - esp after he knocked the one vertical down he really improved his efforts at close distances. just... in an easy going lope instead of launching like a rocket ship! i like it!

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  7. Looking good!! Ahhhhh so happy for you. I'm sure it felt like forever to get back in the groove.

    I've always been wary to ride in a scarf... I'd be the Isadora Duncan of the horse world..

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    1. haha, that's quite the imagery!! i love riding in scarves while riding actually - esp when paired with a vest. tho, yes, i carefully tuck the ends into said vest or jacket lol!

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  8. Man do I ever relate with boring being delightful! (can't wait to be there :P) And it all looks awesome! Also reminds me I need to learn to sit up and slip the reins rather that clutch desparately like a wild baby monkey when distances are off, hahaha!

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    1. here's hoping for a wonderfully boring season for you and Shiraz in short order!!! i like to clutch too, and definitely went through that phase with charlie (esp in the early days before i was quite so confident in his honesty at the jump) -- having a neck strap really helped me with that tho bc it satisfied my need to HOLD something, while also forcing my hands to stay reasonably forward.

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  9. I love lessons that are just a reminder of what you can do vs pushing the envelope to see what you will do, especially when you’re just knocking off the dust and getting to stretch your legs in the big outdoor!!! But mentally it seems to be good for horses confidence to perfect what they already know, I’m assuming that’s part of the reason you’ll see the 4* horses running Prelim their first time out down in Fla? Bc it makes sense to me!

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    1. yup definitely! considering charlie's done very little course work since... september, this ride was perfect for us! i wasn't expecting to get any rides like this until later in the spring anyway so i already feel ahead!

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  10. Yay!! Jumping! I love his expression, too. He's just so happy! I've had that happen, too. I'm like this is the problem - and then the horse never shows it to trainer. lol Definitely the unknown will come soon. You guys look great! And very cool about the knees - I discovered that with Amber a few months ago. I'd gotten into the habit of letting my right knee flop around. Once I tightened it, I could feel the difference immediately! (which doesn't mean I'm any better at a lot of things lol) So glad you guys are really getting to it!

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    1. the knee thing is interesting - the way the trainer is describing it in the video isn't just that the knee is tight or loose on the saddle, it's that the knee is an active and key element of the turning and balancing aids. particularly the outside knee in turns to a fence to help the horse stay upright. all my trainers talk a lot about using outside aids in the turn, and charlie is pretty tuned into that -- but i have a habit of applying leg aids starting with heel first, whereas in recent lessons my trainers are encouraging me to use my leg higher up - leaving my lower calf and foot able to remain a stable foundation beneath me.

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    2. That is interesting! I definitely haven't gotten that far with it - it's been more of a "hey that stabilizes things so much" but that is a very good point on the knee being utilized to turn so the lower leg is stable. I need to write that down because I have trouble with that lol. Makes a lot of sense! Not sure how I missed that. Thanks!

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    3. yea definitely. one sorta overly simplified way to think about it is pointing where you wanna go with your knees. like if you imagine standing as if you were on a horse, then pushing a knee inward, as if to close it on the horse, and seeing what that does to the rest of your leg positioning and weight distribution. at least that's how i visualize! the key for me is to also not *pinch* with the knee too lol.

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  11. Ooohh la la! You guys look great!

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  12. It's always nice to be wrong when its good things to be wrong about! I am really looking forward for your guy's first show this year, its going to be stellar!

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    1. thanks! and i'm hopeful! like, my expectations to start the year are always just about the basics... but i'm still pretty excited about where things stand right now!

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    1. it's definitely much preferred to the tiny indoor!

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  14. You guys are looking so great. I keep forgetting:
    1. That you guys had months off, seriously you picked right up again and
    2. He's a really big horse. Like his effort on these are kind of comical, and it really shows off how easy this level can be for him.

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    1. ha thanks! yes he's a very big boy. honestly that's why i was a little surprised by how polite he was with these fences - bc sometimes he can be a little careless around "small" jumps. small, obvi, being a relative term haha. i really do appreciate how easy it is for him, tho, even if it's taken me a while to come to terms with it. finally tho, despite the time off, we feel more in sync!

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  15. What an awesome lesson! It's somewhat shocking how many aspects of using one's leg in riding there are. At some point I started turning horses using my upper thigh and knee, and now I get a little upset if I'm riding a horse who isn't used to that aid. And then I later learned about using my thigh for a balancing half halt and I was like woahhh wait there's more?! And at some point I'm going to have to figure out how to actually put my calf on... are there leg parts I'm missing here?

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  16. You both look so good! And I am super insanely jealous you have no snow and decent footing haha! ;-)

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  17. So fun!!! I'm so jealous of your warmer temps. I'm also super impressed with how seamlessly Charlie has gotten back into jumping

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