canter · lesson notes

Lesson Notes: Canter breakthrough, finally!

Just some brief outline notes to remember this lesson – it was an excellent one. Tris is finally fit enough to get some serious work done. I paced him a bit during the lesson but he stuck with me and recovered beautifully. Only uphill from here!

First things first: lovely gorgeous stretchy warmup, awesome pony. We walked and trotted on the buckle for nearly 20 minutes, and then I brought him back to the walk and picked up the reins. We did lateral work to ease him in, more transitions: shoulder-in, straight, haunches in, straight, leg yield off the wall, straight, back too the wall, straight…you get the idea.

In the trot we needed more forward so we worked on going deep into corners and coming out strong down the long side. If there was a flaw to this lesson it was that I did not install forward firmly enough and was too nagging with my leg.

Once warmed up, it was all about circles and getting him round and deep. Controlling the shoulders on the circle, getting him deep and over his back, increasing the activity of his hind end with my inside leg. Deep and firm in the reins but not diving.

The real meat was in the canter, though. First we did some circles and back to our counterflexion exercise at each “point” of the circle. As we went on it felt less like a whole body shift and more like a subtle moment of more straightness, and he got stronger and stronger through it rather than threatening to break.

Then WT (winter trainer, to differentiate from the barn’s main trainer, who is in Florida, sigh) suggested an experiment. Tristan has been getting so much stronger and more through in the canter – what would he do if I got into two point, up off his back, but kept everything else the same?

So I did. And it was a teensy bit of a learning curve, as he kept breaking, I was leaning a bit too much, and my brain clicked into jumping mode a bit and I wanted to shimmy up the reins and press my knuckles into his neck and GO…but after a few minutes of figuring each other out, I settled down into my leg, kept my hands down just in front of his withers, and reprogrammed my body.

He seemed happier almost immediately, and was surprisingly adjustable for all I didn’t have my seat – he did lose some of the straightness, but he gained in engagement through the hind end. Left, we made progress. Right? Right we had this one shining moment when his hind end connected up through his back and whooosh, there was everything we wanted, complete with a fleeting feeling of softness through the bit.

Then he broke to the trot, but he got SO much praise, pats, and he was done. His breathing recovered quickly and he was happy to go back into a stall with his cooler very soon.

Next ride, we’ll go back and forth between the deep seat + counterflexion and the two point + impulsion, and as we make progress we’ll start to marry the two together more and more.

(of course, we are getting 18″ of snow on Wednesday afternoon through Thursday, so who knows when that next ride will be? sigh.)

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