Wednesday, December 23, 2020

footwork season

One advantage to being back on the weekly lesson train is that it provides more of a natural contour to my regular riding plans and scheduling. There's more of a predetermined rhythm for lighter vs harder work days, etc, ya know what I mean?
it was sunny and green here, right up until it wasn't
Not that it really matters, tho, bc let's be real.... Covid Winter isn't exactly an inspiring landscape and ambition has been on the backburner for months now LOL. 

charlie just loves his window <3 it's covered now tho for the winter
But we *do* eventually wanna do fun stuff again. And in the meantime, obvi I still love riding and playing with my pony. So we carry on. 

royal makes a cameo in the video below --- ooh and punky too, haha... hahaha
All this makes for the perfect recipe for lower-key lessons focused on basics like good footwork. Which.... is 100% fine by me, considering how much Charlie enjoys and is benefited by grids. 

the dusk lighting is pretty even tho it means blurry still shots haha
Two weeks ago we had the last outdoor lesson of the year, and focused mainly on that line of bounces you saw from the week before that. We warmed up over the same longer lines again too -- but that really wasn't the focus. 

Which.... was maybe a good thing haha, since I still was kinda clinging to the add stride like a security blanket LOL! 

good boy, chuck
Charlie was super good tho. We worked through a little one stride grid next (none caught on camera, sadly), and while we did actually make one heinous mistake at one point (resulting in a 2-1 effort instead of a 1-1 LOL), Charlie mostly gave the little jumps quite nice efforts -- jumping very straight with lovely bascule!

i admit to finding the height of these bounces slightly intimidating this week haha
Again, tho, the real focus of the day was the bounce line. We built it up very progressively -- starting with a single jump and placing pole. Then our group sorta Follow-the-Leader'ed through again and again as trainer P built up the elements with each pass. Until finally it was back to four individual jumps set at bounce distances.

charlie didn't care tho <3
And actually, she raised the jumps a bit more than I expected. Nothing particularly aggressive (bounces really do not need height to be effective) but still an ask. 

Charlie kept on chuggin like a good boy, but I could tell he was getting tired. Normally he will jump straight if I can be bothered to ask for it, but by the end he was definitely leaning harder and harder left. It meant I had more contact on the right rein than is desirable in the grid (ideally the horse should be more free to use his head and neck etc), but eh. It was fine. 

it's so funny to me how each of the three horses are so different. if i were pinning that train as a class, Royal definitely gets the blue. Punky gets an E for Exuberance tho!

The bounces are just so so so good for Charlie. It's one of those exercises that's completely self evident to the horses. He doesn't need me to tell him if he did good or bad through the line -- and frankly these exercises are best left almost entirely to the horse to execute (vs having the rider try to micromanage). 

And all the while, they really help the horse use his core, hold his balance, and adjust his posture to be more uphill. Sure -- some talented riders can accomplish all that just through their own aids. But.... There's something to be said for the education that comes from tackling these sorts of exercises. 
surprise!! it snowed haha. we're traversing the field here to avoid the ice-slicked driveway
Which, again, is useful bc.... Just a couple days later Maryland was hit with the edges of that massive snowstorm that swept up north through NY. Coupled with the frigid temps that followed, we were basically covered in a thick treacherous sheet of ice for days afterward. 

well hello there, indoor arena -- it's been a while!
This made it pretty difficult to do just about everything on the farm -- especially if it involved moving horses around. The driveway was straight up impassable in places. But... Y'all have seen the maps so you know there's also plenty of non-paved surfaces too. 

So luckily we were able to crisscross around a couple different pastures to make our way up to the indoor (leading the horses in hand, obvi) reasonably safely for last week's lesson.

narrow raised poles on the diagonal
To be perfectly honest.... I generally avoid the indoor at all costs. They replaced the footing last year with a very nice, very high quality textured sand. But.... It's just too deep imo. The arena is only 20x40m anyway, which already makes it hard to get a big horse moving forward. Add in the footing and... yea, it's just about not worth it. 

Luckily tho, they've been planning an overhaul and finally received the shipment of new fiber material. I guess they're going to remove some of the sand and level the whole thing to a shallower depth. Then add the fiber -- which I guess creates more stability and firmness to the base? Whatever the case, the way they described it sounds pretty great so I'm excited!

long line of trot poles with alternating sides raised
That's still for the future, tho, and for now we still deal with the suboptimal conditions. Combined with a week of horses being basically trapped by ice, we opted for a very very elementary lesson structure: just walking and trotting cavaletti exercises -- staying large around the arena, or following gently sweeping turns across the diagonal. 

frens <3
This was another good lesson for playing "Follow the Leader" and we basically nose-to-tailed it around and around, through and through again - using figures of eight to change directions and work both sides equally. By the time it was all built up, we had something like 9 trot poles in a row, with alternating sides raised. 

At first, Charlie kinda tried to zoom through bc let's be real, homeboy was HYPER after nearly a week of barely moving at all. He even tried to canter through a couple times bc #overacheiver lol.... But once he figured out the trot he actually really lifted his back and pushed through -- adjusting and engaging as he went. 

i spy with my little eye -- bales of new footing!! apparently i'm not alone in finding the current depth a little.... off-putting. looks like they're gonna upgrade the whole thing!
THAT'S the feeling I want in this horse! So often he kinda just Charles Smash!'s his way through difficult obstacles haha, but it's nice to feel like he can actually think through and try instead. 

So I definitely foresee more of this type of stuff throughout the winter. It's not quite as sexy as jumping big upright barrels or giant square oxers or whatever lol.... But it's honestly pretty fun, and perfect for where we're at condition-wise too. 

Anyone seen any good cavaletti patterns I should send over to trainer P haha? We're definitely on the hunt for ideas and inspiration around here.... 


  1. Abject curiosity, are those bales of TruTex?

  2. Eros some days just CANNOT with the raised cavalletti like that. I have a few clips of him Eros Smashing them. Certainly wakes them up though! And I agree, all that gymnastic and cavalletti work is SO good for them!

    1. lololol i usually put charlie last in line when we do the 'follow the leader' pattern through these exercises to give trainer P the best chance of resetting everything we clobbered before another horse comes through... sounds like he and Eros might be birds of a feather in that regard!

  3. I'm glad the footing is getting addressed because it doesn't sound great to ride in, hopefully its much better after the fix! Sounds like a good exercise with what you do have though!

  4. That sucks the footing in the indoor hasn't been right, and I'm glad they are addressing it. I'd kill for an indoor most winters (actually this winter too just for the lights!)

  5. Gosh that all looks so FUN. I wish I had a teleporter to just *pop* over there with Grif or Q for a lesson like that.

  6. That sounds like a great exercise to work on Charlie's trotting from behind. :)


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