Driving to the barn yesterday, I had the most horrid epiphany. In under a week I'm headed to a clinic and my horse can't canter.
I envisioned the clinician telling us that "every horse can canter", and then making us try in the arena full of strangers. And Moon proceeding to whip around at lightening speed, in his usual gallop. Or conversely, trotting faster and faster and faster...and that's it.
I got to the barn with a goal in mind. Canter my pony.
The sun was shining so we groomed and tacked outside and then I hauled him back into the indoor. I could tell he was stiff automatically, the result of the four days off. It's amazing how in tune we can become with our animals the more we spend with them.
I had borrowed a thinner copper d-ring bit to try (p.s. Thanks H!), and tried to be consistent with how I normally ride him to be able to compare the difference to his double-jointed, egg-butt KY rotary bit.
The first thing I noticed was an apparent increase in contact. And a hypothetical ability to release small amounts of rein and have Moon take up the slack. But I could have very well be delusional.
I found our circles in our normally good directions were sloppy and stiff. He seemed to fall onto his shoulder a lot and was having a tough time bending. Here I ran into a problem. Hypothetically, the D-ring snaffle is a "harsher" bit because of the nut-cracker action. I had chosen it only because of some past discussions I'd had with W where she thought perhaps he had a rather large tongue and some of his open-mouthedness related to that. The D-ring was a lot narrower.
I had a REALLY hard time asking for bend knowing that could feel harsher to Moon. Now, me saying that, I did most of my asking while being EXTREMELY conscious of using a lifting rein action, never downward. Which means next to no, or very little nut-cracker action at all. But I still kept worrying that I'd slip up and bang him in the mouth.
I swear it's all psychology and has nothing to do with actually riding.
I got some lovely leg yielding out of him after awhile and was pretty pleased with our continued attempts at shoulder-in. We also stopped and worked a bit on turn-on-the-fore just to help him with listening to my leg for shoulder-in. Somehow we got a turn-on-the-hind in the mix, but despite my best efforts, it never rematerialized.
I did seem to feel like his mouth was closed more often then in the double-jointed, but I also know that I likely wasn't maintaining as much contact consistently OR asking him to bend in ways that normally lead to him gaping...
I finally asked him for some canter departs and they were sticky at best. I can honestly say that I'm doing something wrong. Because I ALWAYS lose my inside stirrup. ALWAYS. I suspect I'm probably gripping like a bugger with my knee/thigh and that's what causes it. Ger.
Our last two attempts of about 7 or so, I was pretty darn certain we were on the correct lead (I swear the rest were galloping). I praised him heavily and each time made sure that we came back to trot BEFORE he fell apart on me.
And then into the barn walks another woman, whom I'd been out trail riding with before. "J". She was wondering if I wanted to hit the trails for a bit before heading home?
Sure! : )
I love trail riding and as much as I really wanted to work on my canter departs a whole lot more, I'd had some success and should probably leave it at that. Plus, since Moon and I move on Saturday, this would probably be our last chance to go out with her. And seeing as there aren't a lot of trail riders in the barn to begin with, those who want to hit the trails with company, tend to do it with me. Unfortunately, there's only two horse's in the barn that are trail-safe besides Moon. One is owned by a teenage girl exclusively, the other is a leased horse so everyone rides the same one. Kinda hard to partner up with just one horse between two people!
The sun would be setting soon, so we only did about a mile and a half out, and then the same amount back. We had one "moment" when genius me, inspired, feeling good, loving a well mowed ditch, and straggling behind, decided to trot Moon to a rather steep driveway to encourage him to jump up it (simulated "bank"...yes, I really am craving an attempt at baby beginner novice XC here!). Well, he need a little more "omph" to get up it, and of course, landed in a canter.
Which sent the other horse off cantering.
Now, I would happily canter over that well mowed ditch for at least a 100 yards. I'd probably even gallop it.
But I'm aware enough to tell when my riding partner is not quite as happy to set cantering with no preparation time. My bad.
So I slowed Moon back to a walk and her horse resumed a sensible pace. We walked most of the way home, occasionally I'd luck out and have to trot my tiny pony to catch up to her long-legged beast.
Which had me thinking back to another trail ride I'd had with someone else for the first time. And they asked me what I like to do when I ride.
My experience riding with others is a nice walk, a couple short to medium lengths of trot and finish it all off with maybe a really short canter. Then walk home.
People enjoy that. They get all the paces, they're not too sore the next day, and they have a good time. And feel safe while doing it.
But that always feels like the local park's hire-a-trail-ride to me. When I mentioned this to the BF last night, he reminded me that I have an awful lot of trust and comfort with my horse. So to gallop down the side of a gravel road doesn't feel unsafe. That and I'm not a talented conversationalist, and galloping, thankfully, is not conducive to conversation.
Okay, okay. Point made. : P But I really would love at least one *little* gallop... ; )
Which makes me excited again about our move. FINALLY, we'll have a lot of wide open space to gallop in without having to travel 5 miles! : )
The temperatures had cooled way down by the time we got back to the barn, and I could feel a bit of a chill setting in. We rode up to the driveway gate and I had felt like trying one more thing...
Opening the gate on horse-back. A true test of skill.
And I was more then pleased that we opened the gate, walked through and got the gate shut (but not latched). Finally after realizing latching just wasn't going to happen from horseback (you have to wrap the chain around the post then over a metal tab), I figured I'd just dismount.
That's when it got awkward.
You see, my paddock boot had come untied.
And I'd managed to get the lace caught somewhere on my saddle, so my foot was half over the cantle and stuck.
And my other foot was already out of the stirrup and braced against the saddle flap.
And I was *still* holding onto the gate-chain.
....insert awkward moment where I hang between gate and horse, one leg stuck over saddle...
: ) And manage to dislodge myself before anything more embarrassing happens!
Still, that's one step closer to making trail class, right??! ; )
Moon got untacked, a quick grooming and then I put him outside where his grain was waiting. It was pretty funny to watch him eat, as he would take a mouthful of grain, and then take a mouthful of hay. Like it was an equine salad bar! : P
Finally he finished his grain and I tossed the last of his hay into the paddock for him (made him eat the grain outside the paddock or else Curly-horse would just steal it from him). So I let him in, remove his halter and go to kiss him on the nose.
And get smashed in the face.
Cause Curly-horse had come for his hay and Moon was getting out of there.
Teeth into lip, which is now a little fat. Thanks, thanks a ton. Note to self. Be cautious when kissing horses.
On the drive home I was thinking about how I didn't really get to loosen Moon up, and how we didn't make any great progress on our canter in prep for the clinic. Oh boy.
I was lamenting to the BF and he just raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that why you're there?".
I suppose, there's no need to be a pro in order to go to the clinic. And while we may not be able to canter, perhaps this is another opportunity to improve it. And since cantering is not a requirement to jump (since we'll be doing mostly poles/x-rails), I really am not going to miss out on anything. And if I'm there to learn, I'd best be sure to suck at lots so I get my money's worth! : )
T - 4 Days to the big move!
T - 5 Days to the big clinic!
T - 6 Days to Moon's first bath!
T - 19 Days to our first show!
Oh, and after watching THIS local dressage rider's freestyle....I started rethinking free-styling it myself...
But what the heck! Maybe if we do it in costume, no one will even notice our riding skills! ; )