Learning to master the Canter is quite a task, especially when your horse offers the hand gallop in place of the canter every time. I am ready to canter, I am, but so far what we have is at a minimum a hand gallop. We are doing Nascar turns, and I am quite frankly astounded that I have not come off more than once.

I like to think things out, and truly have a handle on each step before I attempt them. Broad understanding is the key to learning for me. So I pondered, incessantly, and pondered some more, I puzzled until my puzzler was sore. And then I watched some television, and the answer was a cellphone commercial. The one where the couple comes in with a baby, and whisper to the sales lady who, taking their cue, whispers right back. Get it?

I WAS YELLING! AND PIPPI WAS YELLING BACK!  So if I stopped yelling, would Pippi? It was certainly worth a shot. And this is not earth shattering, mind blowing stuff, but I must be asking her to go all out. Otherwise, why would she choose to work harder than necessary? Going with the assumption that its riders fault (cause most times it is) I had to figure out what I was doing wrong, or at least change what I do to find out.

Whisper softly to me.

Whisper softly to me.

And so the next day I had a plan. I lunged Pippi and waited until we had the most settled and evenly paced trot possible, and then I whispered (I actually whispered) “Cannnnnter” and then slightly encouraged with my whip. Ever so slightly.  I gave her time to think, no three second rule this time, just wait and see. It took her a minute, but after a quick head turn to me, she changed her gait, but not really her speed. Magic! And she just kept going, relaxed and committed. I asked for the trot after a while, and when settled we tried it again. And it worked again, and then it worked going the other direction. I was so excited, and knew without a doubt that this canter was going to be a breeze to ride.

I mounted up, and repeated the process under saddle after warming up. Waited for the perfect trot, sat the trot until she stopped waiting for a cue, and then moved my leg ever so slightly. I did not gather reins, did not take in a breath or steal myself for take-off. At first she had no reaction, beyond a flip of an ear, so I whispered “Cannnnter” and she got it. From a trot, we went to rocking on smooth seas. Circle after circle we sailed, and then my laughing got out of hand. We dropped to a trot, then a walk, and then I hugged her neck and we basked in it. After confirming this was not a fluke, and going both directions, Pippi and I were both thrilled. Pippi, because her rider learned something, and I, because I learned something. We can canter, well Pippi always could, but now “we” can. And “we” is what it’s all about for us.

Malin

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