May 5, 2017

Lesson Wrap-Up: Beginnings of Collected Canter

I had only ridden once since my last lesson two weeks ago, so I didn't know what to expect last night.

Do you see that four inch long eye feeler?!  How does that even happen!
My trainer had been riding him though, and she said "I got the coolest canter out of him this week, I didn't even know it was in there.  We'll work on getting it with you tonight."

Seriously, it's over twice as long as all of his other eye whiskers.

Basically, she said we've laid the groundwork physically and mentally for more challenging work, and it's time to start challenging him little by little.  Connor's canter is our toughest gait, and developing a collected canter is a requirement before we show second.

We began by establishing really short (for me) reins that required my hands to be forward, and a very strong, secure core and position.  We then asked him to keep his poll elevated, from my seat and not my hands.  My trainer said he is most on his forehand when he drops his head going into the transition and curls backward.  We needed to think up from the shoulders, out from the chin and up in the poll.

We did a lot of transitions from walk to trot, focusing on keeping the poll up before, during and after the transition.  We also gave him a LOT of breaks - this is not easy for either one of us.

Once we had that pretty good in both directions, we moved on to walk-canter transitions, still focused on short reins and keeping the poll elevated.  She told me to err on the side of holding too much at this stage if I had to, because he's so dedicated to diving down with his nose and doing the "dolphin".

A leg on...two of four corners.

I didn't expect much, the canter so far is a gait I mostly just survive rather than affect, but it was a HUGE difference.  He really sat back and pushed instead of pulling himself with his front end like normal.  My hands were involved, but not as much as my body.  When I really held myself upright with a strong core, he responded with that canter that so impressed my trainer in her rides.  I felt like you could fit two of his canter strides last night into one of his "normal" strides.

Again, this is a pretty big change and a tough thing both physically and mentally, so we didn't go very long each time we cantered.  We focused on a good transition and several good strides after that, then brought him back down, repeating it once or twice more before giving him a neck stretch.

It may not seem like much, but that canter is the key to moving up this year, and that was so different from our usual MO.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes!


  1. When I was at dressage camp, they talked about how some people just skip 2nd and move to 3rd. Surprising but you always hear how tough 2nd level is. Sounds like you are setting a solid base for the work. PS. I totally get the "survive" comment.

  2. I totally get this post as we worked just a bit on collected trot at dressage camp. And our canter is definitely survival mode at this point! Looking forward to seeing you both next weekend and hoping it dries up some before then...

  3. Nice! I bet you are still smiling.

  4. I'm really looking forward to doing this work! Mentally Katai is learning lots of cool things but she really needs to develop more strength first for us to be able to make much more progress. So cool to hear what you guys are working on :)

  5. Love it! Also glad I'm not the only one struggling with the cob canter. :)

    1. Lol! It's been an interesting journey for sure. I feel like Cardi and Connor's lines do canter better than most, but it's still not a breed meant to canter. Connor's was REALLY bad ("king of the tranter") when I first got him. We solved that, but it's always been a freight train. Now we're really trying to control it.

  6. I just scribed 10 or more 2-3 tests and canter work is SO important!