November 3, 2015

In Which JLC Helps Fix C's Canter

I didn't get a report from my trainer on Saturday's clinic ride, not that I was really looking for one.  I was too busy at the Breeders' Cup!  I assumed it was nothing to write home about, and was proven right when on Sunday she told me she intentionally did not carry a whip and regretted it.  She said he got better toward the end, but was lazy at first, and it took her a while to get him switched on.

(In fact, the only text from the farm I got on Saturday was from FBR: "Fed your horse a cinnamon roll today.  He said no and spit it out whole," along with a nose pic.)

When I got there on Sunday, she was warming up with him by herself before going into the indoor for her ride, working with him in-hand, like so:

I didn't interrupt, just watched, and noticed with surprise that he was 1) light in her hands and 2) had airplane ears signifying that he was tuning out the world and listening to her, and I knew he was probably on her aids as well.

Airplane ears.

When she finally stopped and talked to me, she said that she had started this with him last week, and that she had had great success with it.  She was able to work through his beginning of the ride blahs on the ground and then get right to work with him on her aids under saddle.

I have to say, after seeing the way he went in the clinic, I was sold.  He WAS completely on her aids, and tuned out even the crowd and gave her some really great work.

And just like that, our gorgeous fall leaves are all gone.

JLC asked to see his canter, and she gratefully obliged, telling him that's what she needs ideas on.  His analysis of the dolphin-neck diving motion paraphrased: He's not moving his thoracic spine enough, and he's compensating for it by balancing with his neck.  Once we teach him how to balance without throwing his neck and front end up and down, we'll have "solved" his canter, because [YAY] it actually is a nice canter and "not four beat or anything".  His hind legs are not behind him, they are underneath him, he is just "extended" and can't package himself up when he's balancing with his neck like that.

He said he's "around the corner" from being able to do the canter half pass, and that movement especially will help him understand how to balance using his hindquarters and not his neck, but he's not ready for it yet, so they did a different exercise to introduce the same concepts: walk shoulder in to canter.
Bribery.  Such effective bribery.

He asked her to first balance him using the shoulder in and to get the inside hind engaged with his croup on the rail.  There were several moments where JLC asked her to produce "more" (bend, angle, etc) and said it looked pretty to the audience, but he was sure that she could feel Connor was still not engaged or balanced through his back.

JLC asked her for quite an extreme angle of shoulder in, probably more than she wanted to do in the beginning.  It was definitely more of a training tool than a doing the movement for the sake of a score.  When Connor was most balanced he was practically on four tracks which obviously is not correct, but it really worked to get him balanced.  She'd do extreme shoulder in until he was balanced, then no matter where she was, head off the rail on a short diagonal for one walk stride and then pick up the canter, then walk again before the turn/direction change.

It was amazing, how balanced that made C and how much the quality of the canter improved.  He looked like we could take second level tomorrow.  Once he started having success with that, JLC asked her to do the same thing but pick up what essentially was the counter canter off the diagonal, so left shoulder in to right lead canter across the short diagonal and vice versa.

I could see all kinds of lightbulbs firing in my trainer's head, and I know that the best way for me to maximize the benefit of her riding in this clinic is going to be a lot of trainer rides in November.  I could attempt to approximate what she felt in the clinic, but she already has it, and honestly, she's genuinely enjoying riding him lately, which is fun for me to watch.  Besides, November doesn't look any less busy than October work-wise, so it's probably a good time for that.


  1. Love the idea of work in hand first, I need to do that with P to clean up his leg yields. Sounds like a great clinic

  2. You've very eloquently described my girl's canter as well. We're also doing very similar exercises. Sounds like great progress is being made! I'm envious of your trainer, she sounds fabulous!

  3. Shoulder in works miracles for all kinds of things... it's basically my new favorite movement! Glad your trainer had some good times with JLC!

  4. huh how awesome that your trainer was able to get so much out of this clinic - more trainer rides definitely seem desirable. way to go Connor for being a good student too ;)

  5. Love that Connor had a breakthrough without you having to ride for this guy again ;)

  6. Sounds like a much more successful clinic for everyone. I maintain my dislike of a certain someone, but I'm glad productive things are happening regardless. :-)

  7. Excellent! Sounds like it was a good situation for everyone, with your trainer getting more information and you being able to avoid another clinic with him.