Sunday, June 23, 2013

The canter pole, or 5 steps backward.

One of the good things that came from my HT a few weeks ago were all the compliments I got on my position, confidence (ha, little did they know!), and a few compliments on Annie's flying lead changes.

Wait a minute.


Apparently.  I had pretty much decided we would just be doing simple changes or "counter cantering" as she would never figure it out.  So now I have a new goal. 

I found this excellent video of a rider teaching her horse changes.  I like the use of the pole to help with the jump in the change, and the guide rails to keep the horse straight.

So I set up a pole in the middle of the ring and set about cantering over it. To the left we were reasonable.  To the right... well I'm glad nobody was there to see it.  The few times Annie actually steered well enough to actually make it somewhere near the 9 foot long pole we ski jumped over it.  So much for working on lead changes.  We just needed to work on cantering without falling over.

I've been working on contact in the transitions or the more basic version of "can you please put your nose somewhere not straight up in the air?"  Annie has a lovely immediate halt (SLAM!) from the walk or the trot, I drop my seat, still my back and she stops.  Ask her to stop on the bit and she has a hissy fit (look, rhyming!).  She grinds, pulls, and shuffles until she gets enough rein to stop with her nose up.  I half halt, drop my seat, close my hands on the reins without pulling, put my leg on.  Squat.  Negative squat.  Just pulling.  I started holding onto the bucking strap to keep her from pulling the reins loose, at least it would give her some space to work in. 

She one upped me by physically pulling me out of the saddle and over the cantle.   

Oh, this will not do.  Not only is it ugly but I don't want to make a hard mouth and I'm obviously not getting through to her. 

I've also noticed that she tries to slam to the stop whenever she hits the bit and I think that I'm teaching her to stop by my hand which is sort of what I want but not really.  I don't want to half halt or accidentally grab on the way to a fence and have her obediently stop.  Lord knows we have enough problems. 

So I reached into my spare tack trunk (one of three) and pulled out my German.  Martingale that is.  Although I wish I had a stuffy German dressage master in there for help.  I like the GM because it is a self correcting tool.  When the horse is where you want them the martingale dangles loose, but when the horse hits the end the pulley action is immediate and self correcting without any hand use from you.  I end up using it for 3 or 4 rides and then pack it away again.

So on Annie it goes. At the trot every time she hit it she would try to stop so I had to remember to keep my leg on.

I had a really hard time getting her to pick up her canter because the martingale gently insisted on keeping her head out of the sky.  Not cranked to her chest mind you.  I took 3 canter transitions to the left and then gritted my teeth and turned to the right. 

Let's just say that when she tripped over the pole and came up on her right lead I praised her and called it a night! 

I put it on again the next night and it didn't come into play except for a few times at the trot so I'm hoping that it will be a gentle and easy way to explain to her that what I want is not bad and is actually possible. 

I will ride in it again on Monday then ride in my jumping saddle Tuesday and just do some hand galloping, then leave it off Wednesday and see what we've got. 

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