My lesson last night was a typical average lesson. There weren’t any fabulous new exercises or eye opening discoveries. The best thing was that Eli was very forward for most of it due to being at a new place. I love taking him places. He is generally always “on” and doesn’t give me any problems.
I have a canter problem. I can’t. I can counter canter till I’m blue in the face. I can do harder figures in counter canter than I can in true canter. This is a problem, a big problem. My trainer says that it’s rare to find someone that finds something more difficult to be easier. We’ve analyzed it till my brain is mush. I do something different in the counter canter . . . it’s likely I DON’T do something. I plant my position (for fear of switching leads) and I think I just stop fighting things in a way. Now don’t get me wrong, we can do true canter. We just can’t do it for very long. First level tests require quite long spurts of canter. Other tests seem to break it up more. For example, the serpentine in 2nd level (2nd 4?) where you do a simple change every time crossing the center line . . . we can do that! The first 1 canter where you canter basically the whole arena with a 15m circle in the center – nope! Not happening. We will break. Why? Well first of all I lose my hips. I don’t keep them in front. I tend to lock my arms somewhat and not follow. Though I don’t buy that 100% because I feel like I lock them more in counter canter and we have no issues there. I don’t keep the outside rein short enough especially on short sides and circles. Now even when I focus on these things, we still lose the activation and break. And when the activation starts leaving, I push my hips back and try to “urge” on the canter. That is BAD! I’m trying to stop doing that. Even when I stop, we will still break. It’s a mess. We have a much better canter than we had years ago. The quality is better and it’s more collected and less on the forehand. We just can’t sustain in. It’s becoming rather depressing.
So last night we warmed up quite a bit in the trot. We did some loops and half pass. Eli was very forward and very honest in the hand if not a bit a strong. We’ve been focusing on watching where he breaks – sometimes the poll is not the highest and it’s the 2nd vertebrae. We’ve had some interesting lessons focusing on this. One was very forward, very honestly broken at the poll, but REALLY forward with no half halts and just a bat-out-of-hell canter. That lesson was fun! Then Eli changes his mind and instead of going low would like to be a giraffe, so then he has to be ridden low. He likes to keep me on my toes! Last night he was honestly broken at the poll. Which I expected being at a new place. We did have some issues after the walk breaks . . . he thought he’d like to be a giraffe again. I’d rather fix the giraffe than fix the broken 2 vertebrae issue honestly.
Last night we worked on significant half halts in the trot. Then we duplicated them in the canter. That is really hard for me because there’s a fine line in that half halt so that we don’t break. I did well for the first 2- 3 then we’d lose it. Not complaining though because in general I don’t ask for that much half halt in the canter . . . we try to go forward and maintain the gait! We also work on counter flexing at every “point” on the circle. There are 4 points a circle right?! We counter flex for one stride at each point. We do this in the trot and in the canter. It really helps the canter. It also shows me when I let my reins get too long. It’s enlightening that sometimes I keep my reins short, but I let my arms get long. If I do that in the canter the activation is gone and we fall on our face and break.
We spent a bit of time working with the whip. Eli is scared to death of the whip. It took me quite some time when I got him to get him use to a dressage whip. He could always see it in the corner of his eye. I had to start with a bat, held at his shoulder and work my way up. To this day his reaction to the whip is still fear. As a result it’s not something that we can really use a tool in our training, at least not on a regular basis. I threaten him with the whip and just move it like I’m going to tap him and I get a reaction. He’s so incredibly sensitive. I do not let many people ride him with a whip, because if they forget and treat him like a normal horse they will likely end up on the ground or in the next county! Last night my trainer had a short lunge whip with the tassel wrapped up. I would halt Eli and he would come up and pat him and rub him and introduce the whip. He would then tap whichever hind leg was out and a few times Eli responded correctly by bringing that leg up and in place. A couple times he took it backwards, which is not the response we want. He got better and better with this and we are going to spend some time in every lesson doing this. The interesting thing is calming my nerves. I’ve had some issues with my trainer having a whip in his hands. I don’t always trust him. He won’t always tell me what he’s going to do. Last night once he finally told me he had no plans other than what I just described I relaxed and it got much better. Who is more petrified of the whip? Ha ha! I just prefer the whip to be in MY control.
Hopefully by writing this blog I learn to analyze my riding better. It sounds like I have a good grasp on things when I read it back to myself. I just wish that I could figure out the canter. It’s discouraging enough that I’ve thought of just retiring from this hobby. For now I will continue working on it.