Thursday, August 13, 2020

under my umbrella

As promised, I'm still working through mountains of media from the last couple weeks.... including actual lesson video from before our ill-fated show!!!

Resident trainer K often tries to snag a few clips, but it's tricky since she generally has her hands full haha. Obviously Charlie and I like to knock a lot of rails, which keeps her busy when doing coursework where the same jump gets repeated... Ooh, and also, ya know, the baby and baby accessories lol. Which, for this lesson, included an umbrella since it was raining.

basically a bombproofing clinic, amirite?
She managed to get a fair number of efforts this time around tho, and I'm super grateful. There's lots to learn watching the footage too - from both the good moments and the misses honestly. It helps me connect a feeling I have in the saddle with what it actually looks like from the ground.

Plus, watching a video on repeat helps me identify trends or patterns, or precursors to a mistake. Like, usually the "mistake" that leads to a bad fence happens somewhat earlier in the preceding moments -- the quality of the canter, balance in a turn, picking in the "preparation zone,"a moment where I hold instead of adding leg. You know how it goes haha.

the V poles kinda mess with my eye, but they're so good for charlie!! definitely need more of this
We mostly stuck with some basics for the lesson -- starting with a figure 8 ridden over a vertical with "V" poles. The exercise is progressive in that you start with just the plain vertical, then introduce the arms of the "V."

For a spooky, very careful, or green horse, you might even start with these poles as "guide rails" on the ground. Charlie's not any of those things tho, lol, so we started with them resting one end on the jump, spread out with a wide-ish gap instead of a point at the end of the "V."

After repetitions off each lead, the jump is progressively raised with the gap between the poles closed to form the point you see in the picture above. The whole point here (lol, puns) is to help the horse improve his form and technique over the fences -- specifically with encouraging a tidier and tighter front end.

my goodness but i love him
We've also seen the "V" poles used a lot in grids, where the spacing and formation of the gymnastic exercise helps the horse keep his whole body and striding in a better shape and balance, with the "V" poles keeping the horse straight and careful.

This is great for a horse like Charlie, who can be a little blasé about the fences haha. He's a massively capable horse, but his boldness cuts both ways. On one hand, he's very forgiving of my mistakes (and thus, an excellent horse to learn with). But... on the other hand, he finds these fences sliiiiiightly unimpressive lol -- and thus not always worth much effort or care.

believe it or not, this is a different effort than the shot above. points for consistency?
Case in point about Charlie being somewhat unruffled and carefree about the whole thing: at one point as we were circling back to the "V" pole, I noticed trainer K take off running toward her baby and was like, "Hm, that's odd?" as we proceeded through the exercise.

It wasn't until after we'd finished the cycle (quite nicely -- it's in the video!! as is K's oopsie moment, which you should listen to with volume on lol) that she said the umbrella went flying off the stroller right as we approached the jump. Like... presumably Charlie saw the umbrella haha, but he apparently didn't care at all. I didn't even see it -- like I noticed K running, but nothing else. So, uh, thanks Chuck haha, we appreciate your bravery!

Anyway, tho, the "V" pole exercise was pretty useful, as was the figure 8 pattern. Lately in lessons, Charlie's really figured out how to turn well without losing the canter. Like.... It actually kinda blows my mind haha.

This lesson wasn't even the best example of that compared to other recent lessons, but you can sorta tell in how we approached the fence and also particularly in the short turn after the fence (a la Doug Payne) how catty (sorta) Charlie's becoming!! Not that we were able to demonstrate that in an actual competition environment, womp, but it really is happening!

The video is helpful here too tho bc you can definitely see how I lost my eye a little when the vertical and "V" poles went up past T height. There's a couple spots where you can pretty clearly see that I needed to add leg rather than wait. At least the canter itself was good enough that while the waiting stride wasn't the prettiest, Charlie could still jump cleanly and in a good shape.

video here. tbh, whiffed it a few times to the V pole, but a couple bright spots in the line

After finishing that cycle with the figure 8 "V" pole, we just did two passes down a simple 60' line, vertical to square oxer somewhere north of 3'3. This specific distance is a really great exercise for me and Charlie bc 60' is generally hard to mess up too badly, but still a pretty good gauge for where you're at with your canter.

Which..... Our first time down the line we had a gorgeous shot in, then were jusssssssst a little bit tight getting out of it, whoops. And, haha, in retrospect, that proved to be a fairly accurate preview of what was to come in our stadium jumping round at the show.

We went back right away, tho, and fixed it pretty darn well imho, with Charlie showing off just how nicely he can skip over the fence from a balanced 12' stride.

Exhibit A: bright spot. god i freakin live for this feeling <3 <3 
It's funny tho, thinking back on this lesson with the memory from the show still fresh. After this lesson, I'd have said the biggest takeaway was from those moments in the turn to the "V" pole where I waited instead of adding leg -- and how I needed to trust the forward canter in the turn and keep riding the hind legs to the fence.

Because horse shows generally amplify and expose any soft squishy weak spots in your training, right? But, lol, turns out it isn't always exactly in the ways we expect... In this case, it was actually the example of jumping into a line with too much canter that proved to be our issue at the show, rather than not enough canter.

So... Ya know.... the signs were there, lol, I just missed them. It's taken me so so so long to let Charlie be more forward that I'm still kinda fixated on all the issues we had from not being forward enough. I guess it's sorta like a pendulum tho? Or like L Williams would say, today's solutions become tomorrow's problems. We have achieved foward lol. Now time to figure out how to temper it...


  1. Good boy with the umbrella, C! That second 4 stride in your video is...swoon, seriously.

    1. lol such a good boy about the umbrella haha. i think he just accepts whatever comes with the baby bc he's suuuuuuuper obsessed with the baby hahaha

  2. I feel like in riding I'm regularly just bouncing back and forth between extremes... Lol. Great lesson though, those V poles really got Charlie picking those knees up!

    1. 100% relate to swinging wildly between extremes forever and ever and ever ugh haha... and yea i'm always so pleased / impressed with how well charlie responds to grid work and gymnastics and form-focused exercises -- we definitely need to do more of it!!

  3. I had a very similar problem at my show where I didn't trust myself to ride forward momentum through the turn to get me to the next fence resulting in problems that forward momentum would have solved (and maybe a tich of outside rein)

    1. keeping the canter going through the turns is like my nemesis haha. it's like we can either sorta poke around the corner under powered, or wheel around like a dirt bike. one day, perhaps, there will be a happy medium!! charlie's definitely getting closer tho, at least!

  4. It never ceases to amaze me how Charlie just fucking steps over 3'0"+ fences like they're a stick on the ground.


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