Monday, November 19, 2018

returning to form

Charlie wasn't really off of work for particularly long in the grand scheme of things, considering his base fitness and general level of schooling. All told, he was off for about 3 weeks and has returned to a regular schedule over the past week or so.

charlie demonstrating unparalleled form and exceptional technique haha
As far as I'm concerned tho, I never really want to miss an opportunity to reintroduce good basics and foundations to Charlie. Like, realistically, he's a pretty educated horse. He spent months and months learning how to make every. single. mistake. in the book when it comes to jumping, so that now he's more or less pretty easy.

remember when i used to sulk about how he'd stick out like a sore thumb amidst all the glossy plump well-upholstered hunters at our last place??? yea, me either
All the same tho, I like setting ourselves up for success. Bringing Charlie back using exercises he not only understands inside and out, but that are also explicitly designed to get his body moving correctly. Meanwhile, using those very same exercises to help me get my own sea legs back, without needing to worry too much about "finding a distance."

ooooooooh long line of one-strides with bonus bounce poles!
So when it finally seemed like maybe Charlie was ready to return to our normal weekly jumping lesson with Trainer P, I shot off a quick text to her that morning asking if we could do at least a little grid work haha.

charlie's an old pro at this game
Honestly I kinda love grids. And Charlie really seems to love them too. He understands them. They're a puzzle he knows how to crack. And there's nothing that Charlie likes better than being asked a question when he already knows the answer lol.

barrels to "help" with straightness
Plus the exercise itself is so beneficial. Especially at shorter distances (my favorite are the one strides), it's honestly pretty hard for the horse to mess up so badly that he can't more or less get through the exercise. In other words, when built up in a progressive manner the exercise can be very inviting - and minimally punishing to any sort of small mistakes.

treble of two strides, with fun new brick boxes
Meanwhile the grids just passively reinforce again and again that steady pace and tempo, and the carriage necessary to hold it. The jumps don't even have to be large to get the effect. Honestly I'm pretty sure ground poles or cavaletti work nearly as well, tho it's nice to have at least a little bit of height just to keep the horses from smashing everything to smithereens haha.

bounce panorama!! also with straightness rails at far right of pic
Realistically speaking, I won't even lie and be like "oh I don't care about jumping big" or whatever. Bc I do care. Charlie's the first horse I've ever ridden that makes the "big" (to us) jumps seem so accessible. It's so easy for him. He's fucking giant and bred for world class athleticism. And, ya know, it helps that he sure seems to enjoy it! And this feeling in him makes me hungry for more, eager to see how far we can go.

full schema of the exercises. ridden L to R to capitalize on narrow finishers for straightness
top = bounce line; middle = one stride line; bottom = two stride line
But ya know.... I'm still kinda occasionally an unreliable pilot lol. I get nervous and tighten up. I make mistakes and bad decisions. Get left behind. Pull when I should kick. Ya know. Adult amateur stuff. 

punky demonstrates the bounces
And it's no secret that our 'margin of error' gets smaller and smaller as the jumps go up. For instance, Isabel could bail me out of all sorts of silly mistakes pretty easily through 2'6. But once the jumps got to 3', my mistakes really really interfered with her ability to get shit done. And so the same mistake at these two different heights could yield very very different results.

charlie thinks he deserves a bite of carrot. hint: he totally did and totally got one <3
Charlie so far has proved to have a bit of a larger buffer zone. Thank god for the greenest packer that there ever was haha. But the limit *is* there - it definitely exists. I *can* ride this horse to a refusal at 3' in the arena. And as everyone remembers from Plantation, he's not above quitting on cross country either.

just sorta cantering bigly down the line haha
So I view grid work and gymnastics as being somewhat akin to an "investment." It helps us get in sync, get in the zone, get that right feel for what needs to happen. It sharpens Charlie's eye and mine, and gets both of us moving together without overthinking it.

he loves barrels
And naturally I can always rely on Trainer P to take my request for "at least a little bit" of grid work and go whole hog with it. This lesson was a grid-palooza. And it was perfect.

lah di dah, just canterin' along!
Charlie only kinda futzed the bounces his first time down, and then maybe again toward the end when he was getting tired. And our first trip down the treble of 2 strides was a little tight. Plus I had to stay engaged and focused on our straightness. Other than that, tho? The lines practically rode themselves. Charlie ate them up like candy.

impatient for his friends to hurry up and walk back to the barn!
He got the hang of it all immediately, and seemed genuinely pleased with himself for being so clever. THAT is the feeling I want in this horse when we're jumping!

So here's hoping that this feeling translates directly to our course work next time haha. And that we'll both be feeling ready and equal to the challenge when the jumps eventually go back up again.

Do you also have a tried 'n true exercise that you always like to return to after some time off? Something that works really well for your horse to 're-calibrate the parameters,' so to speak? Or are you still working on figuring that out for your horse?


26 comments:

  1. I really like the incorporation of the barrels at the end of that grid! And I totally agree with Charlie, it's a great feeling to be asked questions you know the answer to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I kinda expected some of the horses to be a little “wtf” about the barrels after the long line of fences, but they were all totally fine!

      Delete
  2. I just need to say..."cantering bigly" is the best description ever. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lolol indeeeeed ;) and it so perfectly sums up how Charlie goes!

      Delete
  3. He looks so relaxed and happy out there. What a great way to bring him back to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely super happy! Exactly the feeling I love in him!! :D

      Delete
  4. i love grids. i can't wait for a) my jump saddle to arrive and b) for it to stop raining for like 3 days and we will be back on that grid train.

    your trainer is nicer than mine was, when she wanted to do straightness with barrels she laid them on their side in a bounce for us to jump. it got PRETTY INTERESTING.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooooooh skinny grids are nassssty lol! My trainer made one for us last summer with barrels and a chevron and our attempts at it were kinda full of fuckery haha. Actually that one definitely made the blooper reel of the compilation video I posted Friday !

      Delete
  5. What even is jumping? What is a grid? Ugh. Glad C was able to get back into the swing of things with minimal rustiness! Those grids looks like fuuuun

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. awww hopefully Pilgrim will be back in action soon!!!! maybe he will want to do some grids when he comes back too ;)

      Delete
  6. I love gymnastics. I have a bunch of different ones I like to use depending on what we need work on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. definitely! we almost always end up doing variations of mostly the same thing (almost always these compressed one stride grids haha) but they're really so useful!

      Delete
  7. He looks good!! This post makes me miss jumping

    ReplyDelete
  8. So glad you guys can get back to it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. getting back at it is the best part of having to take a break in the first place lol

      Delete
  9. I <3 grids too! So good, for so many reasons! I also really like this trifecta your trainer set up. Really gets the horses thinking and adjusting as needed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it really did feel like a very useful combination of exercises!! the horses definitely seemed to click into gear quickly, even as we switched from line to line

      Delete
  10. glad you are back riding and Charlie is doing well! wrap him up in bubble wrap :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ha seriously!!!! gonna need a lot of bubble wrap tho..... ;)

      Delete
  11. I hate grids, but with just poles/cavaletti and the barrels it would be fun :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. definitely! even tho i love grids, they're a huge PITA to set up, so when i'm working on my own i usually just stick to much simpler pole configurations. one of my favorites is four poles spread 9'-18'-9', so in other words bounce-one stride-bounce when ridden at a canter. i like these distances esp bc they work well for trot and for canter, and putting them together like that tests how steady you are.

      Delete
  12. So pleased you are getting back into it.I love grids too, they are so helpful for so many different reasons. our down time is also going to consist of lots of grids!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grids are so great in the off season! Esp in the winter when we end up stuck inside our tiny dusty indoor, grids seem to work the best in that space

      Delete
  13. Awww love it! You two look good, and I'm so pleased for you that you get to get back into it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks!!! it definitely feels good to be jumping again <3

      Delete

Thanks for leaving a comment! If you have trouble with this form, please email: fraidycat.eventing at gmail.