Tag

canter

canter, dressage, Second Level, shallow loop canter

Determined, yet Relaxed

This month we’ve been revisiting the shallow loop at the canter, a move introduced in Second Level Test 1.

Happy campers. Micah & I return to work after an injury-imposed break.

Happy campers. Micah & I return to work after an injury-imposed break.


Micah and I had been working on this movement back in March, before he was injured, and it was our nemesis. The loop to the right wasn’t too bad but to the left it was a nail-biting, gritty affair.
Work to the left has always been harder for Micah and I, both of us being less coordinated and strong in this direction. Looking back, I’m certain that while the move was physically more challenging for Micah in this direction, I was making things harder than they should have been by tensing up. I was trying too hard.
Micah went from thinking the move was difficult to wondering what the heck was wrong with me throughout it. Instead of imparting a confident “You can do this” attitude, my tension was giving Micah the impression that something potentially life-threatening was occurring. No wonder he was resistant.
At the time we were preparing for our first Second Level outing at a local schooling show. I wanted to do good so badly — but sometimes wanting to do good pushes us too far down the Type A trail, making us push rather than ask, demand rather than suggest.
When Micah was injured in April, it threw my plans of a show season out the window. There was a time when I wasn’t sure Micah would ever be truly sound again. Second Level didn’t seem so important any more.
In the end, this break from work was good for both of us. We spent the better part of two months at the walk and trot, rebuilding Micah’s strength and flexibility. I worked hard to help balance him through corners and maintain a moderate pace while putting as little pressure on his back as possible. On cooler days, Micah just wanted to ‘go,’ so protecting him from himself was a challenge.
I picked a fine, warm day to reintroduce the canter — taking advantage of Micah’s aversion to working hard in warm weather. He seemed quite surprised to be asked to canter again after so much time away from it.
Starting with canter work on straight lines only, in short segments, we cautiously increased the work, moving from straight lines to big circles, until the day we were finally able to canter ‘round the entire arena. What a gift — to feel my horse moving strong and balanced beneath me!
Our return to Second Level work has been so slow and systematic, Micah and I were both better prepared to readdress the once-dreaded shallow loop at the canter. Micah returned to the work stronger and more balanced than before. And the time off gave me perspective: I’d been making much too big of a deal out of this movement. If it failed, I could try again. If Micah got tense, I could switch to something else and then return to it.
Simply approaching the work with a fresh start and a more relaxed attitude brought us better success almost immediately. Now I look back in wonder.
Lesson learned: determination is a fantastic thing — but shouldn’t involve the gnashing of teeth, especially when trying to teach a horse.

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
Ride Like You Mean It
April 25, 2017
I Wish You Rode
April 11, 2017
dressage, dressage training, transitions

When Life is Beyond Your Control

As the poet Robert Burns so aptly put it, in his poem ‘To a Mouse’ … “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”
So went my week.
Here’s a photo of the two events that conspired against this week’s riding time.

Mom arrived the day after Al's achilles tendon repair. Chaos!

Mom arrived the day after Al’s achilles tendon repair. Chaos!


First up, my husband, Al, called me from the orthopedic surgeon’s office on Monday afternoon to let me know he’d be having his achilles tendon repaired first thing the next morning.
Since that was my riding lesson day, Al suggested I might be able to drop him off at the surgeon’s and have me pick him up after the surgery. Like that was a real possibility. When we got notice to arrive at the surgeon’s at 6:30 a.m., I called Natalie to let her know I’d need to reschedule my lesson. Canceling lessons is one of my least favorite things but Al needed surgery as soon as possible.
The surgery went well and my husband is now on crutches, unable to drive for at least six weeks. He’s also unable to do the many household chores I now fondly remember as being his domain. Our lives have been turned upside down.
The following afternoon, my mother arrived for a visit we had scheduled several weeks ago. She took the sight of Al on crutches quite well. We loaded mom and her suitcase, Al and his crutches into the car and set off for an interesting evening of adjusting to a new household routine.
One week later, I returned to the barn and was informed that Micah had been ‘quite wild’ in Hannah’s lesson on Friday. Fortunately, ‘quite wild’ meant ‘very forward’ at the canter. Nothing super naughty, but something worth correcting.
I’m assuming that Micah’s regular chiropractic work with Taryn Yates DVM coupled with time off is contributing to his new, more forward demeanor. He is thanking me for spending my disposable income on his behalf by behaving badly.
Back in the saddle on Sunday, I worked on reinstating brakes at the canter. My favorite tool is the canter to walk transition. We’ve been working on the lovely Second Level move of the canter serpentine, which requires the walk transition as you change direction. This movement is fun and great for training yourself and your horse to prepare for a transition. Highly recommend.
Unfortunately, the canter down the long side lacked the grace of the serpentine. Micah sees a straight line as an opportunity to take control, barreling along on his forehand. We worked on the canter/halt to correct this misconception. The next day my upper back and shoulders could definitely feel the effects. Micah is a big, strong guy.
Today, I returned to the barn eager to see how much Micah had remembered. I started off by trying to be much more exacting with everything we did, instead of settling for half-mast like I sometimes do.
I could hear Natalie’s voice in my head as we picked up the canter. “You’ve got to really ride it,” she said. And so I did.
When your life is feeling out of control, letting your horse get the upper hand only makes matters worse. I stayed focused and we had a really good work session, leaving me determined to work on making Micah more adjustable in the canter in each and every ride.
Thinking back, I know I see Natalie and Mari throwing in canter/walk transitions throughout their rides, all around the arena. I’ll be doing the same.
If your life is feeling out of control, focus on one thing you can fix and take pleasure in it. While you’re at it, remember to enjoy your horse and thank him when he responds correctly. Dressage probably isn’t his idea of a great time.

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
Ride Like You Mean It
April 25, 2017
I Wish You Rode
April 11, 2017
canter, dressage, equestrian, flying changes magazine, horse shows

Better Than Monday Night Football

With my first schooling show of the season less than a month away, it’s time to not panic. Sure, we just (today) managed a canter lengthening but it is, after all, just a schooling show – and we’re only supposed to do a few lengthened strides.

Each week I read through the tests and ask my trainer to help me with something I’m struggling with. There’s plenty to choose from.

I’ve also taken to watching youtube videos of real people riding the tests. It’s way more fun than Monday night football (or football any night, really). In addition to helping me to learn the tests, the videos help me keep a sense of perspective. These riders are mere mortals, just like me!

I see uneven contact in the bridle and want to tell Rider A to use her outside rein. She could also prepare her horse a little more for the transitions. He seems surprised.

Rider B is annoying her horse through the leg yield. I’m not sure what she’s doing wrong but he’s clearly pissed. I laugh out loud at his expression.

Rider C’s horse looks like a pistol but hangs in there through the entire test, even though the show grounds are directly under an airport – the sound of planes taking off is deafening. I’m proud of these two for keeping their focus.

Three cheers to this pair for  maintaining their focus, despite the show grounds being just under the flight path of the local airport.

Three cheers to this pair for maintaining their focus, despite the show grounds being just under the flight path of the local airport.

Unlike the videos of professionals riding perfect tests, I’m reassured by the humble efforts of these riders. They help me maintain my sense of perspective, when my stomach rolls at the thought of showing for the first time in six years.

In my finer moments, I’m looking forward to hanging out with the rest of the barn rats and giving it a good effort. Regardless, it’ll be more fun than football!

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
Ride Like You Mean It
April 25, 2017
I Wish You Rode
April 11, 2017
bucking, canter, dressage, equestrian, humor, raku, riding

Thanks, Chief

A raku pot sits on my dining room table, a reminder of the little quarter horse I owned for a year. My mother made the pot and had it raku-fired with some hair from Chief’s mane and tail. It’s lovely.

Unfortunately, by the time I got the pot at Christmas, I’d given up on Chief (more on that soon) and sold him. Fortunately, selling Chief was one of the best things I could have done – despite the fact that I dearly loved him.

What does a raku pot have to do with Chief? The dark lines in the pot are made by tossing horse hair into the kiln, when firing.

What does a raku pot have to do with Chief? The dark lines in the pot are made by tossing horse hair into the kiln, when firing.

Chief had been trained Western but I thought he’d make a good dressage horse. He had nice enough movement and was willing in the initial (key word) stages of our work. He liked change, going new places, and mixing it up in the work. He was a confident, excellent trail horse except …. Continue reading…

Related posts
canter, dressage, horses, humor, riding, transitions

Whose Legs Are These, Anyway?

I’ve known my legs my entire life, and you’d think we would’ve worked things out by now. When walking or cycling, my legs behave as expected. I don’t even have to think about what they should do, they simply go through the motions for me. It’s fantastic!

On the horse, however, things are different. My heels slide up, toes point down, and the entire leg slides forward. No, legs, no!

IMG_0427

Continue reading…

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
Ride Like You Mean It
April 25, 2017
I Wish You Rode
April 11, 2017
canter, dressage, horses, humor, riding, transitions

Big, Ugly Frogs

In Japan there’s a saying that goes like this: “Eat your biggest, ugliest frog first.”

I love this phrase, which I take to mean, “Tackle your largest problems before anything else.” When it comes to riding, transitions are the biggest, ugliest frogs in my itinerary. Nothing else shows off flaws more quickly, other than falling off.

Continue reading…

Related posts
You’ve Gotta Have Go
June 28, 2017
Ride Like You Mean It
April 25, 2017
I Wish You Rode
April 11, 2017