Friday, December 17, 2010

A Good Ride, and Cantering

I tend to post here when Halo and I do an event, or if I'm having training frustrations. We haven't had much of either lately, so it's time now to write about a good ride. I went out to the barn on Wednesday night. It was already dark when I got there, but there was a group jumping lesson going on, so all the lights were on in the outdoor arena. It was unseasonably warm, which was good because I forgot to bring a sweatshirt. I grabbed Halo out of the pasture, tacked up in English tack, and went up to the arena.

I hadn't ridden since last weekend, so I intended to longe. However, it's difficult to longe in the midst of a jumping lesson, so she only got about 5 minutes of longe line warmup before I got on. She was very mellow, and we did a nice warmup under saddle, mostly walking on a loose rein. As we were warming up, I observed some of the jumping lesson. I was watching a girl do a short course of jumps that included multiple lead changes. When her horse made an incomplete flying change (switched in front, not in back), the instructor reminded the girl to sit back when asking for the change. It was a light bulb moment for me.

Obviously Halo and I are not schooling lead changes. We're still working on getting the correct leads each direction on cue. Halo has a harder time getting her left lead, even though it is my good direction (supposedly). When the instructor told the girl to sit back, my light bulb moment was realizing that I have a tendency to lean forward when asking for the canter. My leaning is caused by two things - 1) leaning forward to indicate "go" and 2) nervousness on my part when I was first starting canter work with Halo.

I was nervous when I first started schooling canter work with Halo, and my body is doing what most human bodies do when nervous - curl up into the fetal position, which on a horse manifests itself as leaning forward. I'm not nervous any longer, but the habit managed to form over the past few months and stick with me. When I was teaching beginners, I would always start out explaining why you need to sit tall - because if you get scared and lean forward, most horses think, "go!" So in one way, it was effective, because Halo was picking up the canter and responding to my cue to go. But on the other hand, leaning forward was forcing her onto the forehand, and causing her to fall into the canter instead of making a strong transition from her hind end.

I decided to try out my new theory, that if I sat back and got out of her way, Halo would pick up the correct lead, and also have a stronger canter depart. What do you know - she nailed her leads the first time. Success! I was very glad for that jumping lesson, and happy to have a great ride on Halo. Hopefully our canter work will continue to improve from here.

Also, Halo is just shy of 15h now!


Kate said...

Sitting in a balanced position, not leaning forward or back, usually solves most problems like that - now if we could just remember to do it! Any movement or shift of weight we do can potentially interfere with the horse's motion. Nice you were able to be there for that reminder!

spazfilly said...

I know, I felt like such a dork! It is such a simple, basic concept of riding, but it is easy to overlook it when focusing on the horse. I should try to ride while lessons are going on more often. :)