Friday, November 5, 2021

endless circles (of the best kind)

It seems like no matter how hard I try, we can't break the cycle of shipping out for lessons. Siiiigh. Luckily, tho, while Molly came to our home farm a couple times this summer, we'd already established that she's generally in the area at other locations (like the first few lessons I had with her) reasonably often. 

And. Ya know. As has also been established, I'm quite enjoying these lessons --- especially now that we're past the "getting to know you" phase, and Molly has a pretty solid grip on what we do and do not know. So. We ship out. And we like it live with it, lol.

ignore charlie's forlorn expression, and instead peep that adorable cupola!!!
This time, we went to yet another adorable tiny private farmette not too far from Charlie's house. This place was CUTE omg. And boasts an indoor and outdoor. The outdoor admittedly looked teensy on google satellite images, but turned out to be pleasantly expansive (with very nice footing). 

random aside: charlie's full leather pads were swapped for rim pads this week, transitioning for wet winter ground 
Charlie (in his infinite sadness at traveling alone) came off the trailer a bit wide-eyed and sorrowful, but then seemed quite happy to arrive at the outdoor around back from where we parked. Molly was finishing an earlier lesson with a young horse, so we sorta moseyed a bit. Which was just the ticket for both Charles AND the young horse. Gotta love when that happens!

luckily the ground is hella soft right now, plus omg this footing was quite fanceh too ;) 
Even better, the young horse opted to stick around for extra exposure while Charlie got started with his own warm up. Not that Charlie can't cope with friends leaving.... but y'all know how it goes. We like to keep them happy, yes?

Anyway. For warm up, Molly was probably the most hands-off she's ever been. Which.... Isn't exactly very hands off, per se. But she kinda let us move out, and mostly just suggested changes of gait or direction for a bit, before digging into proper work at canter. 

farmettes in maryland are kinda wild, basically just a big back yard, right next to another big back yard...
Which, is actually something I really need to remember. In our own solo rides, I often trot for about 8-12 min before moving to canter. Whereas in this ride we sorta flounced around a little in trot and canter, before Molly dialed us in -- and Charlie felt amazing

Her instructions for this canter warm up: 
- Slight outside flexion down the long side, thinking about a longer stride
- More inside flexion on short ends, thinking about sitting on inside hind leg

eeeeee omg TUURNNNNN!!!
And guys.... It was like magic. I just tried to be as imperceptible as humanly possible -- and Charlie was so attuned. It's almost like Molly read my post about Mean Ol' Dressage haha, and knew I wanted to practice this stuff. But damn, what a proof of concept! 

ridden off both leads. obvi these lines are.... idealistic haha, but you get the point
Anyway, tho, from there, Molly took us deep into the heart of Dan2.0Land. Which.... probably from now on will just have to go by "Molly Land." Because... Yea, I said it last time and I'll say it again: these lessons are just like getting a Dan lesson from someone... not named Dan

And I am #HereForIt.

square turns, betches. by hook or by... block?
Anyway. Molly laid out a "Circle of Death" pole configuration, tho something told me she probably wouldn't make us do the full circle. At least, this time, lol. 

We started with a very Dan sorta exercise of just.... circling over one pole in the short end, repeatedly. Getting it right. Getting it even. Not reaching, not changing pace. Bouncy bouncy bouncy, Step! 

We did that off both leads, each time finishing with the quick change of bend that you see in the first gif. This was.... Harder than it looked lol. But Charlie aced it, obvi!

ok so this was a lot harder to diagram bc tracks overlap. arrows show for right lead, basically always choosing the wider more generous turns. same idea for left lead. lemme know if it doesn't make sense? also it's in the video so..... yea. 
Then we moved on to more conventional 'cloverleaf' type patterns. With Molly really really stressing the importance of square turns -- of riding straight into, but also straight away from, each pole. 

The idea was to stay soft and patient in approaching each pole, and to get our forward taken care of on the back side. It's pretty obvious watching the helmet camera footage that .... I was more "miss" than "hit" on staying straight and turning square on the back side... But ya know. That's what lessons are for!

omg molly finally pointed us at something with height(ish) omg
Our first cloverleaf pattern had us doing all the short turns (the red diagram above), tho when she actually added risers to the poles, we took more generous turns (the blue diagram) instead. 

And it was .... idk, refreshing? to do these little jumps with Molly. I always really really liked my lessons with Dan, but have never quite found similar jump coaching. Riding with upper level event rider K back when I was trying to move up to Training felt like we were sorta getting the same level of technical guidance... But it wasn't exactly the same flavor. She was all about big forward canter, never anything less than a 12' stride. 

"my legs are tired" -- charlie, for sure
Whereas Dan was always about.... Waiting. Balance. Slower than you think. Probably still a stride in there. But even strides. A canter with enough je ne sais quoi that you have options.

I never quite perfected his art (obvi), because things sorta fell apart with Isabel -- and then Charlie I think has only ever had a couple lessons with him. But.... the approach Molly wanted for these poles and cavaletti really felt resonant with that whole philosophy in a way I haven't seen or felt anywhere else since then. 

"go on without me, don't cry over my memories!" charlie, growing roots
Again, I really wish I had better media to share with y'all (or at least to study myself) bc the helmet camera really does not do justice to the work. But, eh, it's better than nothing, right? 

And it's exciting to actually jump jumps with a new trainer too. I always have a lot of anxiety about that, and am always so non committal.... And actually kinda made a little bit of a fuss about Charlie just coming out of his pads when Molly suggested jumping. Bc I really am.... like that lol. 

But, she kinda evaluated us as we went, and opted to pop in the risers anyway. And Charlie, bless his soul, even tho the first couple raised poles were in the territory he's most fond of literally stumbling over... Go figure, all our work in counter flexions, square turns, and balance meant he had all four feet directly at his service, and could demonstrate that actually... he IS a schooled and capable creature. 

Goooooood boy, Charlie!

hey tho, that spick 'n span trailer doesn't look half bad at this adorable little farm, eh? 
So. Another lesson in the books, and another lesson that only whets my appetite for more. It's a good feeling, I think. Especially for this time of year. So we'll see what happens, I guess! 


  1. That looks intense. I want to try it, without the height, lol. That farmette is beautiful too. I’m glad you found someone who fits.

    1. I’m a sucker for basically any and all ground poles lol — honestly, usually the simpler the better!

  2. That farm is a whopping 15 min from my house :) I rode there for years. Fun fact: I was the first boarder to ride in the indoor when it was built. Nice to see the new owners fixed up the outdoor ring.

    1. No kidding, that’s wild!! See all these cute little pockets of horse heaven are all new to me since I grew up and live in the city lol… that’s awesome tho (and esp since you are THAT close you def have to come for cider mimosas before it gets too cold). And yea the whole place looks very neat and tidy, with the outdoor in excellent condition despite all the recent rain

    2. Also super glad you found someone you click with! Should have said that first lol

  3. I'm so glad you found a trainer that is giving you what you've been looking for! It sounds like things are really coming together. What a cute farm! I'm always jealous of private farms that have indoors.

    1. i'm really excited about these lessons too.... tho, ya know, i don't want to get *too* excited bc... ya know... it's an intermittently available coach who doesn't even live exactly locally. i'd LOVE to settle into a solution that doesn't require shipping out all the time too.... sigh. maybe one day!

  4. What an adorable farm!! Glad you had a good lesson and a trainer you are clicking with!

  5. Uhm, I love these exercises, hot damn. Though admittedly I might get lost over that more complicated pattern lol

    1. Same!! I want to do more of this. I've usually only seen CoD at one end of the arena but having it out in the middle gives you so much more flexibility!

  6. I have accepted life with JT means shipping out once or twice a week. But I do worry about that stress on Yosh. Ugh.

    What a cool exercise! I will have to try with poles. Going straight is insanely hard in itself, so.... yeah.


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