The right lead canter, I mean. We've been able to get a right lead canter off and on over the last year, but it seemed to be only when Sydeny was completely relaxed. And we could never get it at a show. If he was even the slightest bit anxious, he would whirl and duck to the right, picking up whichever lead he wanted, often times the left.
JL gave me an exercise to try at our lesson two weeks ago that firmed up the outside aids. We had that under control for my next lesson which was this past Monday. (I am a bit behind in sharing.) I had worked Sydney pretty hard last Sunday, so he was pretty relaxed for Monday's lesson.
I started by just warming up at the trot. I started to the left like I usually do, but then we did a change of direction. My persistence has paid off. He made the change without losing his balance and without trying to rush off. I did another change of direction so that we were tracking left again. I asked for a left lead canter which he positively rolled into. We were ready to tackle the right side.
Since I now had better control of the outside aids, JL had me work on maintaining the inside bend without making the circle smaller, not an easy task. Essentially, the exercise went like this:
- Slow down the outside shoulder (left rein).
- Move the haunches into the circle (left leg).
- Maintain an inside bend (inside hand straight back).
- Scoot sideways, and ask for the canter.
This took a huge amount of concentration on my part, as well as some dexterity, because the instant I tried for some inside bend, I was riding a beam of wood. I finally got a little tough with him and really bumped that inside rein while holding firmly with the outside rein. He and I both got it at the same time. OH!
Once I could coordinate all four aids: outside hand to slow down, outside leg behind the girth, inside leg at the girth, and right hand maintaing a bend, it felt a little bit like making a marionette dance, but I felt as though I was (finally) riding Sydney's whole body.
To further help me keep Sydney balanced through the canter transition, JL had me think of moving him sideways into the circle (sort of like the direction of a half pass) so that the canter becomes a sideways movement and not a launch forward. Another image she had me think of was sidestroking into the canter like a swimmer will do.
The true test of course is being to get it days later with no trainer on the ground prompting you when to go. So I was quite eager to give it a try when I rode him again on Thursday and Friday. He was able to pick up the right lead canter at the very first request both afternoons, even though he wasn't totally relaxed and soft. I am such a dork, but after I halted him, I gave a very loud, and very solitary, "Woo hoo!" There might have even been some happy dancing all the way back to the barn.
By George, I think we've got it!