Monday, May 21, 2018

going along for the ride

It was true with Isabel, and remains true with Charlie: the pace of my "progress" in riding depends almost entirely on my confidence in the saddle. So. Ya know. It usually goes pretty slow haha.

you're probably tired of hearing about our crazy weather lately, but it's not without its perks. like this berry pink evening sky
Charlie, for his purposes, began outpacing me in what he was ready to face in terms of skills development almost immediately. Like, from the moment he figured out the actual mechanics of how to jump a fence (which, in fairness to myself, took a little while haha) he's basically been cleared for take off ever since.

But we lingered at lower heights for some time anyway. Mainly because it was really important to me that Charlie learn how to make all the mistakes, learn how to recover from all the oopsies, in situations that still felt pretty safe and manageable.

And because I needed to live through all those oopsie moments with him (many of which were of my own creation, let's be real) to help convince myself that it would be ok. That he would be fine. And I would be fine.

With the idea being that eventually I would be aiming Charlie at bigger and badder things, and would need to know that he could be there for me when I inevitably fall short.

this horse.... has had some many oopsie moments. 
This might not be the right approach for every horse or every rider, but it has worked out really well for me and Charlie. He just feels so..... good right now over fences.

I wish I had pictures or video to share with you from our most recent lesson, but the threat of downpour conditions meant that everybody left their phones in the safety of the dry barn. C'est la vie. So you'll just have to take my word for it.

those oopsie moments, and his general soft sensitive nature, being a major contributing factor to the growth of my medicine chest in recent years. this particular array being all the many tinctures and tonics charlie got after his fair hill trail ride - treating everything from his minor splint, that fleshy puncture, and general hoof health....
Charlie actually hasn't been feeling spectacular on the flat lately - we've got a lot a lot a lot of bracing happening particularly in the base of his neck, and are struggling to really engage his hind end.

It's funny bc we've been doing a lot of conditioning work lately and that's really been paying off in his cardiovascular health and stamina.

But I guess that hind end strength won't come from anything other than purposeful "weight lifting" style schooling. Always must needs balance in any training program, I guess.

no new pics so here are some recent oldies of charlie looking like he knows what's up
So his lack of softness in warming up made me feel a little skeptical about what I would get in our first jump lesson with trainer P since... uhhh, early April??? My concern was entirely misplaced tho. Charlie was a superstar.

Seriously tho. Idk if I sound like a broken record but I just don't know how I got so lucky with this horse.

The exercises set up were really really cool, in my humble opinion. A long bending line. A short one stride. A triple combination of 2-to-2 strides, all oxers. And a three stride line. And Charlie just nailed all of his warm ups.

course diagram for any interested. most lines were compressed, except for that three stride across the diagonal.
Or, if we got to one a little funny, it was pretty easy to diagnose the issue as a function of my own riding. And thus, was easy to correct by just... ya know... fixing my own self. Like, half halting in the turn, putting horse in front of my leg. Looking for a forward feel to the fence, with lift through his shoulder. The usual.

So when trainer P put it all together in a course for us, she was happy to set everything around 3', instead of the mostly 2'9 we've been working on for months now. Small differences, but they matter to me.

from a two stride earlier this spring
And apparently they matter to Charlie, too. I swear this horse likes a bigger jump. He pays more attention. Eyes the jumps up himself, adjusts his stride himself. Lopes over like the easiest thing in the world. Literally all I do is keep my leg on and hold him straight.

The triple combination of 3' square oxers set at short two stride distances (30') was such an incredible feeling for me. Not only bc it's been literal YEARS since I've ridden anything like it.

But bc with Charlie, I had enough confidence in aiming him at those jumps that I could focus on the other little details of the ride. Like being present enough to catch and correct my left drift tendencies. Or to notice my right side position collapsing a bit, with right leg curling up (thanks new stirrup irons for bringing that sensation to my attention!).

Like, not just surviving the ride but actually feeling like I was a participant in it. Even if my role is minor with only a few lines lol....

also from earlier this year, charlie looking casual over a swedish oxer
Anyway tho the whole course rode like that. Triple combination to one stride to three stride, looping around to the final bending line when I see trainer P hustling over to the last vertical, adjusting its height at the last moment. Putting it up higher.

I can tell immediately that it's a height I haven't seen since 2015. And that Charlie's certainly never seen before. But.... Charlie nails the oxer going into the bending line, we hold straight for three strides and then turn to the vertical out, lope another three and just... sail over.

basically my favorite bronto ever <3
This horse, guys. What a feeling. And he just knew he was such a good boy <3

It might seem small in the grand scheme of things, to be so over the moon about *one* fence just 3" higher than the rest. But. Ya know. The way I see things? All that really matters is how excited and happy I can feel walking away from a ride.

And just like how I asked trainer P to pull out the measuring stick to proudly immortalize Charlie's first 2' jump, I still just get so excited with every new milestone for this horse.

Are you the same way? I know a lot of "firsts" (even the small ones) are a big deal for a lot of people. Mostly bc, at least for me, those "firsts" always kinda loom large in my mind. And it's such a rush to finally tackle them - especially if the horse makes it seem like the easiest thing in the world lol.

47 comments:

  1. 3' is definitely a big deal and should be treated as such!

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    1. thanks! it felt super easy for charlie after months of schooling the low end of N. that 3'3 jump tho - that one felt pretttttty cool haha

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  2. I don't blame you one bit for reveling in all of those milestones with Charlie! Those extra 3" are a BIG DEAL! <3

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    1. it's super exciting to be back to a place where i'm expanding my own boundaries in the saddle again, tbh

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  3. Those milestones are such a fantastic feeling :)

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    1. we gotta celebrate them all too, right? nobody else is gonna be any happier about it than we will be lol ;)

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  4. After all the hard work you have put in looking at the long game, you deserve to celebrate the milestones.

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    1. thanks!! i think the horse as been a little impatient too bc he seemed to happy during this lesson. seriously wish i had video!

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  5. Hell yeah! It's awesome to hit that milestone and it's even more awesome when it feels so damn good from a confidence standpoint. Congrats you two!

    Mindful of the fact that I've only had one horse I've jumped with, BUT I can say I love having a horse that both likes and takes the bigger jumps more seriously for the exact reasons you describe. It just makes life so much more FUN!

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    1. oh man, agreed completely. isabel was always kinda like that too - excited to jump and taking me to the fences.... right up until she wasn't. and that opposite feeling, that kind of "dead" feeling going up to the fence where the horse doesn't necessarily feel super committed.... that is *not* a great sensation lol. much preferred when the horse is really into it!

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  6. I'm totally with you- Hero and I's progress was more to do with my confidence than his actual skill level. 3' is super exciting and a big deal in my book!

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    1. thanks! and honestly i think that's true for pretty much most horse and rider partnerships. and as far as i can tell, that's basically all that matters anyway. bc why would the rider be doing it if they didn't feel comfortable or good in the saddle? plus, that feeling when everything clicks together is the best <3

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  7. wow he looks great over that swedish!!! dude i wonder how high the jump would have to be for him to start like.... trying... >:)

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    1. i know, right???? i so wish i had video of him through the triple combination bc the short distances and square oxers felt like they made him work a little more for it. and of course it would be awesome to see what he looked like over that final 3'3 vertical.... hopefully tho it won't be another month before our next lesson with P!!

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  8. Yay! Congrats on an awesome lesson!

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  9. I'm in this weird phase with May where we are trying to get back to where we were a couple of years ago. We used to cruise around 3' jumps, and now I choke at 2'3". However, I always try to remind myself that, when I got her, we couldn't do a 20M circle. hahaha. You have to celebrate the small stuff with horses because they will always keep you humble.

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    1. that's always the way with horses, isn't it? it's constant up and down, it seems. so i totally get it. and agree that we have to really enjoy the good moments bc there will undoubtedly always be some other less great thing happening with horses.

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  10. In the exact same place, except at much lower heights lol. I am leasing a been-there-done-that horse in order to get experience and confidence before my baby hits riding age, and we've been hanging out at 18" and 2' jumps since last year. I finally took him over a 2'3 jump last week and it felt amazing! I was so excited about it too. Sure, maybe it's only 2'3, but after having my confidence seriously shaken with a prev horse, it was so nice to feel like I am finally growing with a horse that I can trust to have my back.

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    1. oh man, getting in that mileage and experience and confidence building is so so so important - and yay for that awesome feeling of finally pushing it up a little bit and having it go so well! imo 2'3 is kinda a funny height in the move up process bc it's where a lot of horses will really actually start jumping - with actual moments of being fully airborne. definitely a whole new feeling!

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  11. I totally celebrate the little milestones. It usually took a lot of work to get there!

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    1. omg, so much work tho right??? lol....

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  12. AAWWWW! Congratulations :')

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  13. I totally get this. It's so cool when you feel that you and the horse are working together so it's just so damn easy. This is your year. I can feel it.

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    1. gosh i hope so! the horse definitely feels like a million bucks, even tho all sorts of little issues keep getting in our way. we'll see what happens!

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  14. Great job!! 3' is plenty big to me :p

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  15. Yes yes yes to ALL of it! I agree with your training philosophy. I feel like June and I will be sitting at 2' for a really long time lol. I want her to mess up there, not at 3'
    So glad Charlie is rocking it! He's such an honest, good boy! Glad he loves the bog jumps!!

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    1. learning how to mess up is such an important part of the equation haha, even for a horse who doesn't seem to care much like charlie! staying low for so long was super helpful with that ;)

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  16. Congrats on 3'! Getting there can be really hard. Getting past it can be even harder but I have total confidence that Charlie will soar you past it. If he makes it that easy, eventually you will stop looking at the jump and just keep telling yourself they are all 3'. It's what I do!

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    1. definitely - tho it wasn't the 3' that had me so excited this ride, it was that last vertical that my trainer popped up to 3'3 that felt just as easy that made me so excited. and that's the cool thing about charlie - i wasn't looking at these fences at all this ride, and actually asked my trainer to put them up. feels good yo

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  17. I feel you. Love those first times lol. Congrars on your first 3' with Carlie!!! So happy for you two <3

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    1. thanks! and i clearly need to work on the clarity of my writing haha - it's the first 3'3 that's got me so excited ;)

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  18. Congrats! I like celebrating the little things, it's all those little things that make up the big things anyway and it's fun to celebrate more often!

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    1. ha definitely agreed. hell, i basically celebrate whenever i show up and charlie has four legs, two eyes and two ears. let's be real here lol ;)

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  19. How exciting, every milestone is a big deal! Sounds like a great lesson

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  20. The trust level in going to a 3 foot course is amazing :) I'm so happy and proud of both of y'all

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    1. it's such a great feeling - esp when that last fence got bigger and yet i still felt 100% like "yep we got this!"

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  21. Big boys need big fences to actually try haha :) Can you do hill work to get that hind end doing more work?

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    1. we do hill work every week - i usually post the charts of our elevation profile outlining all the climbs per ride. hill work is so so so so good esp for cardiovascular health - getting the horse's heart rate up into that next zone without necessarily needing to keep adding speed. i'm thinking tho that it's not enough in and of itself (that comment i wrote above about needing balance in a conditioning plan). the cardio hill work is fantastic but charlie also needs weight lifting in the form of focused dressage work like transitions and collection work to really build the muscles up.

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  22. I celebrate every small victory I can... and usually the victories don't FEEL small to me!

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    1. yep and that's basically all that matters anyway right, that great feeling ;)

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  23. It's amazing how much difference 3" makes. So happy for you!

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