I’ve realized that while I may be nearing my 48th birthday, a mature adult in most circles, yet in rider years, I’m still 8 or maybe 10. You see, I’m still learning everything. And, with a four-year-old horse, who is also still learning everything it has been such pandemonium in our training sessions of late. That includes a good, solid canter depart.
My trainer has me in lunge line lessons every ride to help me build my seat and perfect our canter. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with lunge line lessons, it is a bit like riding on a carousel horse – a real, live carousel horse that has no constant speed or direction except high-speed and a seemingly round circle. What I’ve realized is that Carter and I are free-flowing as one on the lunge line – I’m flexible, my legs are loose, my hips are loose; Carter canters when I think “canter”. Did I say “on the lunge line”?
Now, once that lead comes off – game changer! My trainer says “canter” and I go into freeze mode – elbows lock, hands clench, legs brace his head comes up and we’re back to a fast trot. Try again… wrong lead. Try again… not so much. That is, until a little motivation comes from the animated carousel engine (or my trainer). She has this little trick that contains a little hop, skip, and a jump, one arm raised with the other bent behind her and a little “hup, hup, hup” (put that in simultaneous motion and you might recall the repelling police from The Blues Brothers movie, except she’s on the ground) It works like a charm. Every time.
This weekend, however, the story changed. After the lunge line free flowing perfection. I tried solo to the left… good. We got it again and again and again. Turn to the right. Fail. Cow kick and head up fail. Now, mind you, we had a canter previously – but it wasn’t collected, it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t even close to pretty. So, my trainer says “let me on him for a minute”. Attitude correction time. She knows he has my number. She sees when he is channeling his four-year-old self, which she’s coined the “four-year-olds make me cry” phase. She hopped on and he started his shenanigans “I don’t wanna and if I throw my head up, my Mom goes back to trot” – she wasn’t having any of it. She gave him a little flick of the whip, he had a little temper tantrum … and that’s when she realized that it’s not that he’s angry, he was confused on which lead to take. After a few rounds of transitions, I hopped back on. AND…
Wait for it…
We had a breakthrough! If I use my inside leg in front of the girth, FIRST, then follow with a hip forward, THEN outside leg and hold on to the bucking strap he is off on a GREAT canter, on the correct lead! BREAKTHROUGH! Not only was it a great canter, it was a perfect canter. “Now that’s an FEI four-year-old winning canter” I heard from the center of the arena as my eyes were popping out of my head because yes, we were on the right lead, but we were also SO forward that I thought he was getting his Thoroughbred on and thought we were in the races. We cantered, and cantered, and cantered… transitions to canter, transitions to trot… all forward, all channeling “hup, hup, hup”
Best Canter Ever!
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