Thursday, August 23, 2012

Figuring it out - Canter Transitions


Things have been a bit slow at the moment; but I have been busy at the riding school, teaching the Tiny Tots class and in return…  Riding lessons!

It’s so nice to ride a horse that isn’t going to fuss, or freak out unexpectedly - I am really enjoying it as a wee bit of a break from my never-quite-know-what-you-are-going-to-get Joey lad! 

Also, I get to practise cantering!!  Haha.  I know, I know – I sound like a total n00b saying that, but it’s true.  When I had Copper I had to go back and teach him the basics of using his body and balancing himself with a rider on his back.  While he liked to canter, it wasn’t pretty, nor particularly safe as he’d race around like he was a motorbike on a racetrack, leaning over on a really sharp angle.  I’d have to lift up my seat and plant my butt over on the outside of the saddle to counter-balance his weight so that we didn’t go over sideways!

Needless to say, I stuck with walk and trot work before moving up to cantering.  The only problem is that we were only just getting to that stage when I discovered that I had outgrown him, so then of course I leased him out.

Whereupon I replaced him with Joey.  Hmm, young, green, unbalanced horse?  Huh.  Guess we’re back at the walk and trot….  *sadface*   Not that I mind all that much, but it does mean that I haven’t done any serious canter work in years. 

And as a result I found out that my canter transitions suck when I got a horse that knew the job and I couldn’t get a canter out of him.  : /  
I fixed that by changing the rein, for some reason I find the right rein canter easier than the left, then when I switched back I got the left rein canter lead.  However, I was still not satisfied with that solution.  

I had noticed that when first asking for the canter transition I was dropping my left shoulder down and I knew that was the problem, but I didn’t know why.   So back home I did some research and felt like a detective when I figured it out!

I was actually tipping my shoulders forwards in an effort to produce canter, however, in doing that, I weakened my driving seat aid.  To compensate I dropped my weight down on the inside to try and strengthen the inside leg aid.  Of course this resulted in my dropping the left shoulder, blocking the horse’s inside shoulder which he needs to be able to LIFT in order to strike off with canter!   Also, in tipping forwards, my weak seat would have allowed him to string out in the back so he probably couldn’t get his hind end under him to lift his shoulders up either.   *whew* 

While all of this was happening, my instructor couldn’t actually see my shoulders tipping forwards, but I am hoping that the solution for me will to be “sit back”, keep my shoulders upright/slightly back, and drive with my seat. 

We’ll see if this turns out to be the cure for my crappy canter transitions, but I know for sure what I am doing wrong so at least we have half the diagnosis!

See ya,


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