March 4, 2011

"I really like your canter once you get into it, it's the transition that we need to fix."

Story of my life.

I didn't start cantering until I was well into high school.  As anyone who's been following my (sporadically updated) history posts knows, my journey into the equine world was fraught with problems.  I started riding when I was around five, but my mom was too nervous to let me canter, so I only ever walked and trotted.

I'm not making excuses here, just giving history.

My canter has never been my strongest, and I've always been nervous going into it.  This causes me to tense up and have a horrible upward transition.  The upward transition has always been something that I just had to get through before relaxing a few strides into the canter.  Years of riding unpredictable school horses and IHSA horses only solidified that "survival" mode.  And finally, someone noticed it.

About that canter...(PS OMG THIS WAS FIVE YEARS AGO!  Don't judge!)
The two big things I took away from my lesson yesterday were these:
- I'm good enough now - and comfortable enough in a Dressage arena - that she is treating my lessons more like she is calling a Dressage test (which she does not believe in and does not allow at shows, for the record).  She fluidly gives instructions as I'm going around the arena and I am able to obey without constantly swiveling my head to look for the letter, or mentally checking myself.  I just do it.  That feels really good.

- The other big thing was not so much a concept, but a feeling.  I had these three strides at the canter, left lead, in the corner between M and C, and they were just stunning.  Dillan and I sometimes lean on each other due to my handsiness and his general tendency to lean if the rider is a schmuck like me, and we had spent a good deal of the canters in the lesson not getting along.  I was also feeling inhibited by the 3/4 or 1 revolution circles that my trainer was asking me for before telling me to break back down to the trot.  Dillan is a bit of a freight train when you get him going, and I'd never really felt anything but that before.

But then she told me to "take my time" breaking him down, and I did.  I took plenty of time.  I relaxed and thought about what I was doing, what he was doing, and what might be influencing him.  And suddenly, he effortlessly came back to me in a quiet, forward, but short canter.  She said, "Yes!  Yes!" and for once I really felt like I accomplished something.

Looking forward, she gave me the summer's show schedule (a real live show schedule!) on which she'd highlighted the schooling shows she thinks I should attend this summer while I'm still on a steep learning curve.   Can't say I'll argue with that logic.  Some of them are combined trainings, which will be...interesting.

She also said - and this is a topic for another blog post - that she's ready to start me over some fences every so often to change things up.  This is a total shocker to me, as I was expecting not to jump for several more months.  I'm excited, but nervous. We'll see what happens.

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