Monday, May 2, 2011

Humming Improves the Canter!

This weekend I had a great time with Buckshot. We worked on patterns and our cantering. I worked on not overthinking the canter so that I would unconsciously improve certain skills – e.g., giving well with my hands, relaxing my legs away from Buckshot’s sides, and keeping my seat in contact with the saddle. I did this by adding another thing to do- humming. Buckshot has a powerful canter, and he can go from starting at a fast pace to a faster pace. Sometimes it is hard to steer him and sometimes his pace becomes too fast, and I have to shift quickly to “slow him down, now.” He’s not out of control, he’s just terribly powerful, as if to him, cantering is always supposed to be fast and powerful. We are much faster than the nice, regulated lope that I observe in western or reining horses, and I am not sure we will ever get that slow of a lope, but still, I want to slow his canter down to the pace I want.

So, after hearing our reining trainer tell a student, hum to your horse to slow his canter, I have been trying it. And it does help. Sometimes my humming is loud, out of key and somewhat desperate. I don’t try to hum an recognizable song; I just hum something random (and pretend that it is a song). By giving myself something new to focus my mind on, I somehow relegate the other three things I am doing to the back of my mind, and surprisingly, they don’t fall apart and become worse. Ever so slightly, I’ve improved at them.

On Saturday, we had beautiful weather, and Buckshot and I had the arena all to ourselves. We did our warmup and then did some trotting. I pulled my notes out of my back pocket (I have written down about eight or nine of our patterns and exercises so I won’t forget them) and consulted them. And we rode each of the patterns! What fun! Buckshot had good energy and we had a wonderful time. The swelling on his leg has gone down, and he just has a nodule under the skin that we are going to keep an eye on. And the flies, which are suddenly out in force, had taken a liking to his sheath and he was covered in bug bites, to which I applied Tricare wound cream. The BO and BOH were away at a reining show so I handled feeding all the farm’s horses (approximately 30 horses) in their absence. Overall, a lovely day.

On Sunday, we went to the reining trainer’s farm. I think Buckshot really enjoys going there now. He acts excited, but not scared or anxious, as I groom him (he sees the trailer located by the barn as I walk him to the main barn for his grooming). After I got him groomed, and we were waiting to load up, he walked around the stall a lot, then would exhale loudly and cock his hind foot. As if to say, let’s go already! I led him to the trailer and he loaded right up. When we arrived, I got him out of the trailer and walked him around for several minutes to stretch his legs. After we got tacked up, and mounted, he started walking with energy immediately, more so than he does at our home arena. So I think he enjoys the reining clinics!

The reining farm has a huge arena that I love to ride in. After doing our walking warm up, Buckshot and I trotted, a good, impulsive trot. Then we tried a few canters, and I hummed, and steered, and left the other three skills to my unconscious mind, and the result was: he cantered nicely slower, I rode him well, steered him better, and we maintained it nearly all the way around the large arena! Our best canter ever! I praised him lavishly! Wonderful! During the course of the clinic, which focused more on spins (which Buckshot and I don’t actually do) and sliding stops (which we don’t do either), I took him around the perimeter of the arena a few times. And when we cantered, it was wonderful! Good Buckshot! And good me- for using the humming technique!
Hope you had a nice spring weekend as well!


Grey Horse Matters said...

The humming sounds like a great relaxation tool. I sometimes used to sing to my horse Erik, another big powerhouse. Buckshot does sound like he enjoys traveling to the clinics. So glad to hear you had a wonderful time with him this weekend. Good for both of you!

Carol said...

Buckshot sound slike such a fun horse. Much better to be too forward than too slow. The power in his gait sounds wonderful. Isn't it interesting that humming can help? I used to hum to myself when I first backed Rogo, to help me get over my fear. I had no idea how he'd react to a person on his back (he was fine), but the humming helped me stay calm.
Great clinic again. You guys are so amazing! I look forward to reading about your progress ever week.

Story said...

I always just hum a single monotone note. I've never been able to carry a tune lol. That's really cool to hear that it's working so well for Buckshot!