March 17, 2010

Canter, finally!

Shae's proving to be very trainable.  We had our first hard ride today.  I brought out the crop to achieve some listening skills and forward momentum, but it turns out Mary round penning her dangerously crazy mare in the pen just outside the indoor was enough motivation for some momentum.  I asked for everything, but I just let him go as if it were a first ride when he began to really move out, because in some ways it really was a first ride.  We finally did canter. 

After that, we got to work with body control.  He kept popping his shoulder out, curling his neck to the outside and resisting the bit so we did lots of circles.  Circles at the walk, circles at the trot, circles in the corner, circles on the wall.  I tempered this with lots of up-down transitions and when he was showing signs of understanding what I was asking, I took him to the other end of the arena and asked for a canter transition again.

By this time things had calmed down and he was very tired from moving his out-of-shape self through the deep sand with a rider at a nice trot.  I still needed him to know that I was in charge, however, so I got a nice trot and asked for the canter.  And kept asking.  And soon I was more tired than he was, but I kept him going.  Finally I remembered I had a crop in my hand and asked and gave him one big hit with it and we began cantering.  After one circle I brought him down, patted him, and went back to body control.

I ended with turning.  In addition to popping his shoulder he was resisting the bit, so I worked on controlling that.  I used the wall, held him about three feet off of it and turned him into it at the walk.  I made sure to keep pressure on him so he didn't stop at the wall, and - with the exception of one big stumble - he did really well.  I broke it up with some trot-walk-halt transitions and the very beginnings of lateral movement.  Ask - ask - ask then one foot moves where I want it to go and voila!  Release!  For one brief stride, I even gained his rib, but then it was over.  It was improvement though.

Speaking of improvement, I no longer have to "nag" to get him to move into a walk or trot.  He's picked that up rather quickly.  Sara teaches us to bump with our legs to move them forward at first, and by using a combination of his familiar voice cues and leg pressure, I can now get him to move forward with just the first bump.  We'll soon be graduating to pressure/voice and then pressure only, if I had to guess.

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