Oh, oh, cantering with myself
Well, there’s nothing to lose
And there’s nothing to prove, well,
Cantering a-with myself
Thursday night I sent P a text asking if she had an opening on Friday at 2:00pm. I originally had a lesson scheduled for 6:00pm but I was completely drained from the week and decided to use some sick time to bounce out of work early (and even with a lazy weekend because of rain I’m still dragging this morning).
Turns out playing hooky wasn’t the worse idea. Aria was really up and back in heat. Getting there early let me work her on the lunge line for a while. I’ve learned when she doesn’t come out of her stall in the best mood to work her on her good side first. It’s easier for her and she gets praised quickly. Praise is a big motivator for her because she’d rather not work hard. Of course on this day she wanted to mimic being a sail fish caught on a line, zooming around leaping and bucking.
The general rule I like to use with those crazy antics is let them do it for a couple strides once and then shut it down. Aria is very responsive to her lunging cues, unfortunately R installed vocal cues for lunging that involve whistling. Guess what I suck at doing? Whistling. Lol! But Aria has learned that my crappy whistles mean the same thing so I was able to contain her crazy energy with half halts and downward transitions. I’m not as smooth about it as R and P but I get along pretty well, if I do say so myself!
My favorite new thing that I’ve learned to do is ask for a trot to canter transition until I get a smooth one and then I let her walk for a while. Without fail the next time I ask for a trot to canter transition, it’s controlled. Letting her think about what she did to earn a walking break is going to be a key tool for me. Especially because she’s so lazy reward motivated.
When I had her moving nicely through all the gaits going right, I turned her left. This is where her hormones took over. She wasn’t getting the releases she wanted because she wasn’t trying to be soft on the line at all. She kept breaking her gaits so I had to go after her a few times and I never got a relaxed trot or canter out of her but she did give me a few less expressive upward transitions so I called it quits because I needed to find a way to end on a good note.
This was the ride where I was going to decide if I was going to keep Aria in training another 30 days or bring her home. The 45 minutes spent on the lunge line had edged me towards the ‘leave her’ side of the fence. P asked how lunging went (the vet showed up and had pulled her away for a while) and I asked if I could watch her ride Aria for a few minutes. I take a lot away from watching someone skilled ride my horse. Especially if I pay attention to the corrective cues that are given when Aria doesn’t respond correctly to the original cue.
P rode Aria for about 15 minutes getting her to bend, flex, and loosen up her gaits, then her next lesson showed up and she handed Aria off to me. The one nice thing about having Aria in training is that I am not constrained by the 1 hour mark like a normal lesson. P or R keeps an eye on my riding the whole time I’m in the saddle and if it takes 2 hours to get to a point where Aria is working nicely for me, I get that extra eye on me until we accomplish that. I told P I was going to work on finessing my turn on the forehand and leg yields since she would be on the other side of the arena with her lesson. Setting Aria on a 20 meter circle with an inside bend I would randomly ask for one or both of those movements. It had to be random or she anticipates and gets really sticky and behind my leg. She was executing them really well so I didn’t feel like drilling them and pissing her off.
Next I asked her to trot a 20 meter circle to work on our geometry because she always blows out when we pull away from a fence and we end up with an egg shape. She did this really well after several circles and I was growing bored. The only thing left to work on was the canter but P was busy with her lesson. Immediately my thought process started bouncing back and forth about whether I should pick up a canter on my own or not. I could tell Aria felt that I was having an internal debate with myself but she kept packing around. She’s so sensitive! I did about 3 circles before I made up my mind and committed to asking for a canter. I took a big breath, put my inside leg at the girth, outside leg back, and kissed. She sped up but didn’t break into a canter until I urged her into a canter with my seat. We had a couple start and stops but she became solid on picking up the canter when she realized I really did want to canter. We did a few 20 meter circles and then I saw an opportunity to take a lap around the whole arena because that’s where Aria really opens up her stride and I get heart palpitations.
I’m not sure how I felt about it. Nervous and excited? I wanted to keep going but I was also worried about…hmm…I’m not sure what I’m worried about. The horse ducking out or spooking and falling off? Lack of control maybe? Aria and I don’t always communicate fluidly. Either way it’s a huge step for me to feel comfortable enough to canter without prompting! This was the confidence I needed in order to bring Aria home. P told me I did a great job, looked good, and she was happy I didn’t stick to walking like I had planned. That ride made my mind up for me. I would leave Aria for another 30 days but not because of fear, because I wanted more rides like that. More rides where we meshed really well in a place she’s comfortable so we can build a good working relationship that will roll over to her new environment.
I may be taking things at snail speed but at least I know we’ll be solid when we’re finally ready to go out together solo.
Also, totally off topic: anyone have recommendations for a riding/sports bra that provides support AND doesn’t give a uni-boob to the more endowed individual? The thought of wearing two bras to keep the girls separate but supported sounds like less fun than being squeezed to death by a boa constrictor.