Tuesday, December 1, 2020

double header weekend

For the first time in what feels like ages, Charlie and I actually had a fairly busy weekend -- with not one, but two riding lessons!!

Tho.... To be totally honest with you, they were both, uh, fairly low key in terms of actual work lol. Alas, I have exactly zero relevant media from either, too. Boo. 

this is charlie's "tall horse" impression
Anyway, tho, on Saturday I somewhat impulsively decided to piggyback on to one of trainer P's early jump groups. It's been forever since Charlie's done any real proper jumping. 

Like we had those couple hunter paces, but probably haven't done a full real "course" since the Fair Hill Derby in August. And actually, our last jump lesson was also in August. So ya know. It's been a minute haha. 

it's really quite convincing haha
So I figured it'd be appropriate to start back small -- thus joining an earlier group than what I'd typically choose. Tho, uh, yea... I definitely thought I was joining like a 2'3-2'6 group and it ended up being crossrails with kiddos instead haha. Hahaha. Uh, whoops?

fuzzy ears in a very pretty little ring
It was still fun, tho. Fun to just get back into that rhythm of a group lesson again. Even if it was sliiiiiightly agonizing trying to be patient while the 8yos fumbled through learning the patterns and remembering whose turn it was.... lol.

Also I think it was pretty good for Charlie to remember that in some rides we go, and then stop and wait, then go again, then stop and wait again. It's been a long time since he's had to abide by that kind of system and he's gotten kinda opinionated about feeling when he ought to be "finished" with a ride. So again, it was sorta a useful experience. 

this side eye brought to you by a horse that's about to pretend-lose-his-shit
The jumps themselves were honestly kinda silly too, haha. The biggest thing was maybe an 18" oxer, and obviously Charlie was strutting like a peacock, so proud of his prowess over the little speed bumps lol. Even still, tho, the arrangement and exercises turned out to still be pretty beneficial. 

We trotted into everything in a nice polite balance, then halted straight after each little line. Then did some three-element diagonal lines where each individual jump was kinda on a different angle but we were supposed to find a nice straight line across all three. 

aaaaand that wraps up my relevant horse pics, so here, have barn cat + great dane pics instead
I liked this exercise bc one diagonal was a 4-to-4, and the other was a 3-to-4, so kinda a slightly lengthy overall distance for Charlie to remain polite and balanced. 

Esp with the jumps being so small, it was a good reason to really focus on the flatwork and treat the jumps more or less like cavaletti. Tho.... next time I'll probably just go back to the 3' group lol. 

clearly this cat rules the world!
Honestly, tho, I'm still just kinda taking things day by day and seeing how Charlie does as we increase his workload again. With winter coming on, it doesn't make much sense to be in any sort of big rush to go balls to the wall, ya know?

So we'll see what happens haha. All told, it just felt good to get back into that sort of riding routine again so hopefully we can at least keep that up!

no pics of our crossrail lesson from this weekend, 

The other big lesson of the week was planned a little bit more in advance, and required a quick little trailer ride over to my friend's absolutely charming farmette. 

or at least, that portion of the world not including jack russell terrier puppies lol
We signed up for another riding lesson with Molly K, using the equiformance resistance band training system. This was actually our third lesson with her, tho I never ended up writing about the second lesson and it's too far gone out of mind now to even try to resurrect it lol. C'est la vie. 

Like I wrote last time, these clinic-type lessons are intended to focus primarily on the rider's bio mechanics, using the bands as essentially 'posture slings' to reinforce correct alignment and help the rider better identify and isolate the appropriate muscle groups. 

here, kitty kitty!
Tho naturally.... After three lessons with Molly, we've kinda gotten a little bit away from the "focus on the rider" and started digging more into Charlie's way of going. Because let's be real here, there are few trainers around who can resist the deep need to, idk, "fix" Charlie. 

Poor horse, he just doesn't have a great way of going on the flat and it's made ever more evident by his size extra large frame. 

awwww he reminds me of my old gray tuxedo cat <3
Still, tho, it was good stuff. Molly basically worked me through some exercises intended to get Charlie moving his spine up and down and all around, of his own volition. 

First up, she had me trotting him around in a very jockey-esque position. Like, very, haha. She wanted me bridging the reins, with knuckles firmly planted right in front of Charlie's withers. And I was to really lean into my hands, with my upper body and hips directly above my hands. This took a minute for me to understand -- esp the leaning into the hands bit, since that's.... ya know, just ever so slightly fucking opposite of literally every direction I've ever rec'd before haha... 

very helpful with horse chores!
The idea tho was to allow Charlie's back to be completely free and unimpeded. And with my knuckles pressed into his mane, tho the reins were short enough to have a feel he was only ever really taking as much of the bit as he wanted -- vs me having any backward influence. 

The only thing I was to do with the reins as we went along was ever so gently (and while still leaning into my knuckles) flex Charlie to each direction. She had me flexing him to the outside down the long sides, and to the inside around the short ends. Very subtle flexion. 

lol this great dane was just about charlie sized haha
After that, we put the bands on (this time the green bands, since she thinks I'm kinda between the heights. green felt fine tho!) and kept going. Molly felt like my torso has gotten much better, legs sorta kinda better-ish, and hands still definitely suck. Idk what it is but letting my arms hang straight down is.... Just not how my fetal-y self wants to roll!

Anyway tho, we kept up the exercises focused on loosening Charlie's spine. This time, with canter. It was very much more of the same with the flexions, tho she wanted me doing more outside flexion with strong outside leg coming out of each corner. Really sending Charlie forward with his inside leg totally free to reach out. 

We continued the same feeling but next utilized just the quarter lines. So we'd come down the quarter line with almost a leg yield type feeling through the turn, focus on that outside flexion and outside leg down the line, then U-turn right around onto the next quarter line (arena is only 20m wide so these were roughly 10m half turns). Rinse, repeat.

Last exercise was spiraling at the canter -- but again with the flexion patterns. She wanted me spiraling Charlie in using outside flexion and outside leg, then spiraling him out using inside flexion and leg. But.... More spiral in than out haha. 

So I'll be curious to try repeating those exercises at home during our own schooling. Charlie's been kinda frozen in his spine for.... Well, the whole time I've owned him, if we're being honest. I'm sure a better rider than me would have gotten him more limber by now but... Well, we're trying haha. 

It's nice to have some new ideas for loosening up the stiff horse -- esp bc these exercises feel like they could be useful no matter whether Charlie's feeling particularly peppy or sluggish. Anyone else have any good exercises for improving a horse's flexibility?


  1. Look at you guys- two lessons in one weekend! I'm tired just reading about it.
    Carmen can get quite stiff and tight- usually in the base of her neck. I like shoulder in-10 metre circle-haunches in to get her to loosen. Others include:
    shortening and lengthening stride in all 3 gaits on a circle.

    the spiral exercise but really making sure that it's a proper leg yield.

    another good one (but finicky) is:
    shoulder in down the long side for 3-4 strides- walk out on diagonal for 3-4 strides, leg yield back to wall with the diagonal orientation
    repeat all the way down the wall.

    I bought a book called strengthen your horses core (or something like that I'm too lazy to go find it). It has some great exercises in it. One I really like is to ride a 8-10 metre circle on a long rein asking the horse to flex and bend the whole time. only pick up the rein to get the flexion and then let it go so that they get the stretch and carry themselves. sounds simple but it's hard. :)

    1. oooh nice! some of that lateral work is a tad above our paygrade at the moment lol, but we'll definitely be playing around with the concepts. tho that last exercise you described from the book sounds a lot like a lesson i did once with isabel, that was kinda a game changer for her. charlie is such a different type of animal that i've not necessarily thought about pursuing that same activity with him... but eh, maybe it's worth a shot?

      post about that lesson here, if you're curious:

  2. The BEST suppling exercise for any level of horse for me has been teeny-tiny serpentines down the long side (like an 8-loop serpentine, going to the centerline and back), in the walk. One pretends you're going around invisible bending poles. The goal is to get the frame as long and low as possible as one goes on. It takes time and feel to really make a difference using it, but it's useful!

    1. oooh nice idea!! idk how realistic it is for the big horse to manage 8 loops at this point, but the overall idea sounds super useful!

    2. My Friesians start with about 6 - it doesn't really matter, as long as you make a turn so small that they really do have to bend (once again, only in walk!) in order to make it comfortably!

    3. definitely --- lots of flexions on the to do list, we're likeliest to start with the similar concept but using a flexion pattern vs an actual turn or serpentine (bc uh.... yea, the horse is that stiff....). that's #goals tho!

  3. Really interesting about getting his spine loose while you lean on your hands. I can imagine how hard it was for you to ride the wrong way, haha. It's good Charlie was feeling good and impressed with himself after the kiddo lesson, gotta keep that self esteem up!

    1. dude the 'leaning on my hands' thing was.... very alien haha. definitely took a hot minute to understand what she really wanted. it almost felt like i was literally PUSHING charlie's neck down, which ya know.... maybe that helped him understand haha

  4. Interesting concepts in the equiband lesson, I WISH YOU HAD VIDEOS!

  5. Ohh fun! I've been joining some kiddo lessons with Shiny and it's actually pretty fun!
    The other lesson sounds great too!

    1. honestly it was super fun haha. i wish it went a little quicker in some ways since the kiddos kept getting lost but... still, very fun lol

  6. Your first write up about Molly and the bands made me host a clinic at my barn with her! I think the ride I had in that clinic was the best I've ridden in YEARS! I need to have her come back out:)

    1. Oooh that’s awesome I’m so glad to hear that !!! I really enjoy her teaching style - she’s got a great way of describing things and helping me achieve specific feelings. Here’s hoping you get opportunities for repeats !!


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