Thursday, July 13, 2017

Charlie meets Dan!

So instead of having a media-heavy, golden-nuggets-of-wisdom-laden recap of a clinic with the legendary Jimmy Wofford... Instead of that, here's a relevant-media-light summary of a flat lesson with good ol' Dan.

From the perspective of the casual reader, this may feel like.... an unsatisfactory substitution lol. For me tho? It was AWESOME. And in the long run, probably more valuable to my riding and to Charlie's development than a one-off clinic.

picture from a year ago with his YEH horse Galileo. also the corner i jumped with Lion!
A quick history rundown: I took the occasional lesson with Dan in the summer of 2014 when he taught the trainers at Isabel's barn. We formalized the arrangement in 2015 with weekly lessons, and I wrote about why his instruction was so valuable to me here.

He was also instrumental last summer when things went downhill with Izzy, even doing a training ride on the mare (her only pro ride during my lease). Then when I finally stopped training with Izzy, I went up to Dan's farm a couple times for lessons on his 1*/prelim horse Lion. Including eating shit falling off of Lion that one time, whoops.

lacking pictures from this lesson, enjoy instead this picture of a completely orange woolly bear caterpillar
And actually - that was my last lesson with Dan. It was also the day I met Charlie - I'd gone to the ottb adoption facility that morning and then straight to Dan's for that ill-fated lesson. Charlie got vetted and came home a week later, and has ever since been slowly working on preparing for the rigors of training with Dan.

We probably would have started riding with him earlier, except the h/j barn where Charlie lives doesn't allow outside trainers. So the logistics have been challenging. But when the Wofford clinic was cancelled? I knew it was time: I'd take Charlie up to Dan's for their first introduction.

the old wive's tale says that this means we're in for a mild winter. somehow, i don't doubt that.
Being totally honest: I expected a jumping lesson, and was a bit disappointed that we didn't get past the flat work. Except - it was beyond a doubt Charlie's best work ever. He worked his ass off (literally) for a full hour and was so tired by the end, there's no way he could have even attempted jumping lol.

It seems like in the year since I've ridden with Dan, he's completely revolutionized his dressage game. Those of you who have been around long enough to read past Dan lesson recaps will be surprised to learn he didn't say "squeeze and hold!" once. Not once.

In fact he's got this entirely new vocabulary for teaching riders on the flat. New and nuanced ways of saying things, too. And a whole new tool box of techniques for softening the horse. He still wants to see the same picture - still wants the same outcome, but his ability to get the rider there has vastly improved. I used to refer to him as a better teacher of horses (vs of riders) but whatever he's been up to this past year has changed that for the better.

also i just ordered a couple new pairs of Montar breeches from europe at a pretty good discount (tho steep shipping). i'm in love with the material of these pants - and the cute sparkly details!
Anyway. Per my own usual style, I have a lot of explicit takeaways from this lesson on how to continue developing my ride with Charlie. None of this is ground breaking stuff, or like.... new information haha. But it's useful for me to write it all out, especially in trying to commit to memory exactly how Dan said it all.

Hopefully some of this might feel relevant to you too? Anyway.
  • We started with walk, then halt. Walk, then halt. Don't over think it. But definitely shorten reins. If Charlie gets distracted and braced in the halt, ask for give side to side, ask for roundness in halt. 
  • When walking forward out of halt, do not let go - keep hold, but it's a giving, soft hold - not a "wall."
  • Dan gave more instruction on my position than ever before: specifically, constantly reminding me to sit on my tail bone, with long legs.
  • Charlie's walk steps need to be shorter but more active. Definitely way slower than I think. But way more active behind.
  • I can use "strong" bend to brake up the braced, rigid neck - but must soften it immediately back. And must be conscientious to give with the opposite hand. So if I'm flexing the horse to the inside, that outside hand must be allowing the horse to bend.

charlie parked at the trailer, parked ring-side. i may or may not have had a pep talk with Charlie about not being an oaf and falling off the trailer ramp when we arrived and Dan was schooling a horse in the ring. bc yea Charlie has totally fallen off the ramp before. he got off like a normal, civilized being tho. and happily and quietly stood tied at the trailer too. phew! first impressions count yo!
  • Dan was very clear that the hands should not be like a wall - that the horse shouldn't "run into" the hands - but that the hands are a soft, holding place to push the horse into. That that's how we establish that conversation in the contact.
  • The horse must be very active behind, but slow in pace, and coming forward into the hand, not losing everything out the front like race horses are wont to do. 
  • Wait until the horse is round before asking for trot. He should step immediately into trot - don't let him kinda sputter into it, be crisp. Especially while schooling, must always be precise with transitions so that the horse learns that "this is how we do it."

there's no media from the ride, but you're just going to have to take my word that charlie felt the best he's ever felt before, and the most consistent at that. there will be a fancy dressage horse in there, guys. it will happen!
  • Also had me walk to halt, then really jazz the horse up to trot out of halt - but must be round and on the bit and coming from an active hind end. We kinda futzed it the first time, but the second time, Charlie nailed it - at freaking canter too, not trot. Goood boy.
  • Trot really needs to be a lot slower. A lot a lot a lot slower. Wayyyy smaller steps. But active behind. Always.
  • I can use hand to show Charlie the bend but must be able to give back and hold the bend with my legs, esp that inside (tho going right he wanted to see more outside leg).

and you know me, so super serious about dressage. just look at my face here. i look like i might cut a bitch if they dare interrupt Liz while she learns her test!
  • I need to post higher and slower. This was a big issue for me, needs a lot of work.
  • Squeeze the horse down to walk again when he's in a soft moment of roundness.
  • More of the same at canter, but probably smaller circles.
  • Dan wanted me to use inside leg and inside seat bone for transition. That's not exactly how I do for Charlie right now, but I'm gonna chew on it for a little while.
  • Charlie must be round and soft before canter transition, always.
  • But like. Don't take forever to get there. This work was exhausting for Charlie - don't lollygag around waiting for him to soften up before we can canter. Do something, change something. Make a difference. Slow him down. Soften him.

charlie got to take advantage of their very spacious wash stall after the ride too - tho he found it actually slightly spooky.
  • When the rhythm was right, Charlie would immediately go soft and lift his back. I'm not quick enough to hold him there with my legs, and he's not strong enough yet to really hold it for himself either.
  • It was kinda mind blowing to feel the moments when his back would drop and he would brace against - bc those were the outliers, the off moments, as opposed to feeling the fleeting moments when he 'got it.' 
  • Charlie was so tired by the end, it became really difficult to keep him from being strung out. And he started forging a ton again while we cooled out - something he hasn't done regularly in months now and is a sure sign of a tired, weak hind end.

so tired by the end that he decided to take a shoe off that night in the pasture to make sure he got the next day off. two weeks and two days since the last reset, for those of you keeping track at home.

This is going to be hard work for me to recreate on my own. I'll hopefully be able to get it in part, but Dan's commentary and timing re: what I was doing with my hands and legs and position were so spot on that it doesn't seem super realistic I'll be able to achieve the same results without the instruction haha. 

Also tho, it seems worth it to mention that I'm glad we waited so long before taking Charlie to Dan. This was a hard lesson, and Dan has high expectations for both horse and rider. This past year, Charlie had to go through a period of learning that, yes, he must work. We had to go through all that 'dinosaur in tar pit' stuff. And installing 'forward' first and foremost, before we could settle back and use that 'forward' for a greater purpose. 

I'm fairly confident that Charlie would have been less successful in this lesson had we not already laid the foundation through our work with jump trainer P and dressage trainer C.

at least the one that still has a shoe looks kinda ok....
But now that we're here tho? We are so ready for, and need so many more of these lessons. Way more. And like, jumping too lol.

Charlie had glimmers during this ride where he actually felt like a schooled horse. And that's exactly where Isabel ended up after regular lessons with Dan. And exactly the kind of feeling I want in a horse if I'm going to be thinking about bigger jumps or more competitive dressage tests.

The real trick will be figuring out how to make regular (or semi-regular) Dan lessons a thing again. I've got a couple plans tho. A couple ideas. Fingers crossed!

    43 comments:

    1. I like Dan! Those lessons will make the jumping so much easier. I feel bad about the shoe coming off. This is why Irish lives in bell boots. Sometimes he will manage to lose the shoe AND the boot but he seems to have settled down.

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      1. Ugh Charlie goes out in bell boots too. Tho it's curious that nobody noticed the lack of a shoe when they took his bell boot off again so it made me wonder if maybe they forgot to put the boots on when he went out. Sigh.

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    2. Yesssss. I think this is the first Dan flat lesson recap where I've nodded along with everything he said. Not that I thought he was a bad rider or trainer (omg no, quite the opposite), but just that this time his explanations were so much clearer and on point! Love that Charlie really got it.

      For me that idea of more RPM behind with less MPH overall is a big starting point for collection and a solid connection. If I can spin up the hind end without changing the speed of the gait, I know the horse is on the aids well.

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      1. Definitely. Slowing Charlie down up front while keeping his hind end coming forward has been my holy grail for.... Idk, however long I've had the horse. It's freakin hard! I loved how Dan was able to get us there tho.

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    3. Very fascinating recap to read! I'm sure the lack of jumping was a wee bit disappointing to you but as someone who doesn't really jump (and sometimes has trouble following jump lesson recaps haha), this was super interesting to me! Dan sounds like a really good trainer to have access to, so hopefully your plans pan out! :)

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      1. Glad you found it interesting too! I was super pleased with the takeaways and am mostly more relieved than anything else to now be able to think of ways to make this a regular thing. Here's hoping!!

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    4. I think I need a Dan ;) Sounds like an awesome lesson and definitely some good takeaways (for you and your readers)

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      1. Oh man I think we all need a Dan haha. I'm pretty sure I'd be an entirely different rider if I could get these lessons daily lol.

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    5. That sounds like such a positive, productive lesson. Charlie looks great in that picture, and sounds like he's going to start looking like that more and more! Also, what a smart horse to force a break upon himself. hahaha!

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      1. I will be so excited when that picture is more "normal" esp as we can continue to improve on it by getting more and more hind end engagement. In time! And yes Charlie thought he was super clever in forcing a day off. The goon!

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    6. Love your recaps. I always learn from them. Another lost shoe? That really sucks. 2 weeks and 2 days is not long enough, Charlie. Give your mom a bit of a break.

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      1. Srsly Charlie !! And glad you liked the recap!

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    7. I love this lesson! And I love hearing a pro evolving and still learning. This might be my favorite part of training a green horse-when you can ask harder questions and feel the back come up and your horse gives their best even though its hard.

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      1. I love hearing a pro still learning too, esp when I get to benefit from it lol. And it was great feeling Charlie keep pushing thru even when it was hard. Such a good feeling

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    8. It's good to have that trainer that you wait to step up to because you know they're going to ask for more. Sounds productive all around. :-)

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      1. Definitely! And definitely worth it to make sure the horse is ready

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    9. Got to love having an instructor who can make such a big difference in one lesson, sounds like some great work! Boo for Charlie tossing shoes

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      1. Yea having the right trainer makes such a huge difference. I just wish I could see him more often! Daily would be nice lol

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    10. i know youre sad you didnt jump but i think youll find this was a lot more valuable even tho dressage is stupid and boring (what? dont look here austen.)

      the 'slower and bigger' post to the trot is KEY.

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      1. Oh I'm thrilled with this lesson - make no mistake about it. This is exactly the type of work Charlie needs and I'm so happy to have help with it.

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    11. Oh man SO MANY GOOD WISDOM NUGGETS!! I secretly think these butt-kicking dressage lessons are the best kind of lessons.

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      1. OMG I love a good dressage butt kicking!!!!

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    12. Sounds like a great lesson! Good flat lessons are great sometimes even if they're not always what you want. Hope you're able to get in more regular lessons with Dan.

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    13. I find it SO interesting that a lot of your lesson take-aways are so similar to what I had in my lessons with Annie. I found myself nodding along to a lot of the things you said - quite a few points you explained much better than I did, especially re: showing them where to go, but still maintaining connection in the bridle.

      I'm so glad you had a wonderful lesson with Charlie :)

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      1. Definitely similar! Ultimately good flat work is good flat work right? And none of it is really ground breaking or new information, for me tho the delivery is key. The timing of the instruction etc. Having a coach that can not only tell me good stuff but get me to DO the stuff too, that's so useful!

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    14. I love your lesson recaps, it's like auditing a little clinic for me! So many useful nuggets to mull over. Bummer that the Wofford clinic was canceled, I've audited a clinic of his and it was awesome, the best part by far were his morning lectures so if you get the chance to clinic/audit him again don't miss those!

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      1. Ooh I always love a good lecture - often I actually prefer auditing for that reason, esp since I can be weird about jumping with trainers I don't know haha

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    15. Yay I am so happy you were able to ride with Dan again! Though it sucks that it came at the price of a cancelled Jimmy Wofford clinic

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      1. Honestly if I had to make the choice between the two for just myself, it would be Dan. But the Wofford thing would have been awesome and it was supposed to be a fun day with Brita. Oh well. Maybe next time!!

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    16. Sounds like a wonderful lesson, and you have worked so hard to get him there. I hope to continue to read more "Danisms" with Charlie in the future!

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      1. Ha I like the "Danisms" - and absolutely hope to have many more to write in the future too!!!

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    17. This is so awesome that I opened it twice!!! ;) I can hardly believe you managed to cram all those things in your head during one lesson, way to go. And good reminders for me too, to ask for correctness but make sure to reward good efforts and keep it appropriate.

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      1. Oh man it's honestly a real struggle trying to remember it all. I usually finish a ride and just regurgitate bulleted lists of every single thing that I can remember, to be formatted and edited at some later time. What I really need to do tho is remember to READ it all again right before I ride lol

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    18. Dan sounds even more awesome than before, I love how you describe your lessons in detail!
      So can you share where the breeches came from?

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      1. He's really stepped up his game and I'm excited to ride more with him! The montar breeches are from Hope valley saddlery in the uk. Shipping was steep, but very fast. Customer service was very good tho, and the price on these breeches was pretty good (they were on sale) so I picked up a couple pairs, including a new set of whites. Kinda wish I had gotten more tho!

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      2. Looking forward to learning vicariously through more lesson recaps! I use Hope Valley as well - got a great deal on my Tredstep breeches there, shipping costs are probably a bit better to Ireland though

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    19. Sounds like a great lesson.

      It looks kinda dumb but ever since Annie has started living in double bell boots we have really improved the length of time she keeps her shoes on. It used to feel like every 2 weeks she was pulling one. Doesn't work for everyone but a girl at the barn has a horse that literally pulls a shoe every 2 weeks and she finally gave in and now he is keeping his shoes on 4 weeks (which is amazing for him in the summer - we use different farriers as well).

      Looking forward to hearing about more lessons with Dan!

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    20. I love all teh points that Dan brought up with you in your lesson and I'm happy you found the lesson beneficial.

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    21. Yasss. SO many good points here. I'm going to be scribbling some notes down from this later this weekend. What a great lesson. GO CHARLIE.

      And also, that photo in the middle with Grif and your caption...I died a little laughing.

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    22. Yay! Yeah, hauling to lessons can be a bitch. But it sounds like it is SO worth it!! Yay for you and Charlie!!

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    23. Lovely breeches! I am absolutely in love! Ugh, don't think I could get any tho.... I already have too many pairs lol

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    24. You know the lesson is done right when both of you are POOPED at the end. I pick up a lot of tips from these lesson recaps you do!

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