Happy New Year to everyone! I hope your 2012 started off well.
On Saturday, December 31, 2011 I had a thrilling ride on Buckshot! It couldn’t have been better. I had found some good tips on the canter, particularly on how to tell what lead you are on, on Julie Goodnight’s website. I wrote them down and took the notes to the barn. I was prepared to use them. (What were the tips? She said to watch your own leg and hip, discreetly of course, as you canter, and the leg/hip that move farther forward reflect the lead you are on.)
After doing our walking warm up, Buckshot and I started trotting. He felt great- perhaps enthusiastic over the nice weather (in the 50’s and sunny) and the soft, sandy, dry footing. After several minutes of nice trotting, I readied my aids for the canter at the left lead: left leg forward, right leg back, left seatbone forward slightly, left rein lifted, kiss and push with seat. He took off cantering and I could instantly sense my left leg and hip went more forward than my right- hooray- left lead accomplished! I was thrilled! I guess that sensing my whole leg and its reaction to the canter is easier to me than sensing just my hip reaction, so her tip to watch/sense which leg goes forward more is easier for me to determine.
I tried a canter to the right and again, could tell right away that we got the correct lead! And I was able to keep thinking about what I needed to do: give with soft hands, oh, here comes a bend so I support with the inside leg, wow, he didn’t miss a beat around that bend, etc. As we did more cantering, we were able to go around the entire arena at the canter! A big accomplishment for us.
For our Saturday class, the BO set up cones and gave us a challenging canter pattern. It involved a) doing a full circle at the canter, and b) changing leads in the middle. I felt confident of us when we started the first time, and we did the full circle to the left. We came to the middle, broke to the trot and I flailed to give Buckshot the aids to the right canter. He didn’t get it, so I quickly broke to the trot (I even say the word “break” when I do it- more to instruct myself than him!), and asked again, and he got the correct, right lead! That was a wonderful accomplishment for us!
We did the pattern a few more times. The right lead is Buckshot’s weakest side so we worked very hard on it. We have more work, much more work, to do. But I was so proud of him and of us. The class then walked up the road to the other arena and did some work there. I wanted to just keep riding and working on the canter, but he was beginning to sweat a little, so I cut short any further work. I rubbed him vigorously with a rag to dry his sweat when we got back and untacked. As I walked him back to his pasture, I kept telling him what a great horse he was and weren’t we both great!! It was one of those light, wonderful, special days when a new technique works, and both Buckshot and I feel such enthusiasm and energy and love to work together! Thrilling and rare and special.
On Sunday and Monday, our rides were good but not as special as Saturday. We didn’t have quite the same level of success at the canter. But our improvement comes little by little. And I am very glad to see us making our small improvements. Riding well, and at the canter specifically, is very challenging. It doesn’t come easily, but we will continue to practice, practice, practice and I know we will continue to improve. I am quite surprised and pleased with our progress from a year ago.
In another area, our solo rides, we did well this weekend. On Sunday we walked through the entire trail by ourselves, but at times, Buckshot was reluctant. I carried a crop and just needed it slightly a few times. He listened to me and continued walking. I was very proud of him. The next day (crop in hand again) we walked down the road, and he became reluctant. I tapped him a few times with the crop to reinforce my “walk on” and he did walk. We got to the three-quarter mark and I turned us around and he happily walked back.
We did more work in the arena before we quit for the day. So I think we made real progress in our solo rides, and bless his heart, sometimes Buckshot is enthused about our rides and sometimes he is enthused at first, and then becomes hesitant. But he does continue to listen to me, and I hope, to trust me. He is a wonderful horse, and I am grateful to be his human!
I hope you started the new year off well! It’s going to be a great year, that’s my prediction!