Sunday, February 19, 2012

6 - Improving the canter - more video!

I got to ride AGAIN this weekend.  Two weekends in a row, in the winter; I'm feeling quite spoiled!  But, not for long, my husband goes hunting next weekend, so my horses will get fed, and that's about it.

This trip was amazingly different.  You wouldn't think it was the same horse, in more ways than one.  First of all, she had much more energy.  Perhaps during our last visit, she was too cold to move.  My horses often seem to feel frisky when the weather first warms up, but I would hardly call 35 degrees a warm up!  I lunged her for longer, for two reasons, one, to get rid or some energy, and two, to get her muscles working on the hideous canter.  She was unbalanced, even on the lunge line, but, after 5 minutes of trot-canter transitions (working on the verbal cues, to make things easier when I'm on board), she began to at least develop a decent rhythm at the canter.  She was also starting to depart better when I kissed at her, so, progress on both accounts, so we stopped.

We tacked up, western saddle with an english bridle and a snaffle, just like last time.  When I got on, I carried a crop this time, just in case my legs weren't enough to keep her collected.  My legs aren't as strong as  they use to be.  This became blatantly apparent when, after my ride last weekend, I was sore ALL WEEK LONG!  This week, there was no western jog in sight.  She was moving.  I did a ton of bending, some shoulder ins, lateral trots along the diagonal.  She was very responsive, and it was FUN!  She didn't look much like a pleasure horse, but, these exercises are good for her; we can work on stretching out and relaxing, later.

I finally braved a canter, reluctant to come down from the high I was on, from her spectacular trot, but, knowing it needed the work.  I warned the other girl that was riding, that, even though she was doing fine at the trot, things might get a little crazy.  I got ready to canter.  I sat the trot.  I was going left, so I shifted her haunches in (to the left), put my right leg on, and kissed.  She took a few speedy trot strides, and departed...into a decent canter!  I did just one circle and broke her down into a trot before things could fall apart.  She did soooo much better!

Last week, I had gotten into 2 point so that I could stay off her back, let her move forward, and let her find her balance without interfering with her.  She is still green, and hadn't been ridden in about 5 months.  It was a trick I had picked up from a Polish Dressage trainer when I was a teenager.  He did it with his young and green horses.  Getting off their back was supposed to be easier on their back, and was supposed to help them stay balanced.  This week, I sat the canter, and asked her to collect by holding her face while pushing with my legs, bending her on the corners, and guiding with my seat and legs every bit of the way.  It worked for her.

It didn't all go without a hitch.  A horse came in the arena, Dottie fell in love at first sight, and after he left, she spent the next 20 minutes whinnying, while I did walk-trot transitions, and bending exercises to distract her.  When I cantered her to the right, there was no one in the ring, and I expected things to go well, like they did to the left.  But, she was right back where she was last week, counter-bent, uncollected, and racing around the arena.  When we crossed the middle of the ring, she gave a couple BIG bucks.  She was unhappy with things, just as I was.  I was thankful to have saddled her Western, because I remember my thighs bumping against the pommels, and I wondered if I would have stayed on, had I saddled english.  I got her working back on the rail, right away, at the trot, and, although slightly nervous for a repeat performance (I have 3 little boys at home who need a fully functional mommy),  and asked for another canter.  I kept used my legs and hands to push/pull her together, and ta-da, a nice canter!  I cantered her immediately after her bucking instance, for training purposes, I didn't want her to get away with that type of behavior.  Heaven forbid, this become a habit.  But, I didn't want to canter her again, until their was someone near by...just in case.

As soon as I saw someone, I asked if she would video me at the canter.  A witness, and, if she bucked again, we'd get it on film!
I'm sorry no bucks, and it's not the embarrassing performance from last week, that would have been more entertaining.  But, here is the second ride/canter of 2012.  We're getting somewhere!

After much thought about last week's, versus this week's rides, I gave a good friend a call.  She had worked with the Polish Dressage Trainer, back when I picked up my 2 point-don't interfere- trick.  Was I using it appropriately?  We discussed Dottie, her canter, the potential need for a chiropractor, and her condition.  She wondered if I stuck with it, and were able to ride her 4-5 days consecutively, would her balance improve?  It's hard to say.  Maybe, but, with such a dramatic difference between rides, I concluded that Dottie simply needed my guidance.  Even in pasture, she doesn't look as balanced as her pasture mate.  And, since I don't get to ride every day, I don't have the option to just wait and see if she would figure it out.  I couldn't ignore such a dramatic improvement.  Once she is consistent, we could work backwards, with a goal of little interference, while she does a balanced canter!

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