Repetitive as it may be, it is far more fulfilling (for me at least) to write about our new found success than to feel the need to unburden myself about my old frenemies, Fear and Self-Doubt. I haven't seen those dudes in quite a long time to which I say good riddance anyway! If you're new here, or are only an occasional visitor, Fear is a gigantic elephant who likes to occupy the room or arena in which I am working. Over the past six month, it seems that I have kicked his ass to the curb and the taxi that was there waiting. And Mt. Self-Doubt, while still a geographical feature of my learning field, is slowly eroding and being washed away. I've summited it many times now and find it easier and easier to do.
So, monotonous as it is, we had a lovely right lead canter on Saturday! My rides on Sydney now all begin the same way: one walk lap around the outside of my "dressage court" with my hands planted in my thighs; a variety of circles, half circles, long side work at the trot with my hands still in my thighs; and then we canter. I always canter left first as that direction is very relaxing for Sydney. We spiral in and out, go down the long sides, and finish with another circle or two. I bring him back to a trot where we do a little spiral in and out and maybe a change of direction across the diagonal.
After our work to the left, we track right. Since he's already warmed up, we do some spiral work, and then I ask for the canter. Just two weeks ago, getting a canter that was somewhat in a forward direction might take 5 tries. And before we could even think about cantering, I had to work hard to get him rolled outward so that he wasn't leaning/falling in on my right leg and hand. Only when I thought he was properly balanced would I even try for that right lead canter. Most of the time we weren't successful until the 5th or 6th attempt.
That was before. Before what I am not exactly sure. I suspect it has to do with my deepening understanding of the outside rein. You know when you read, the outside rein controls the bend? those masters really meant it. The outside rein does control the bend. Sydney was falling in at the canter and I was helping him by not using my outside rein to control how much bend he had to the inside. The outside leg also helps by not letting the haunches drift out. So by controlling the bend with the outside rein, and keeping his haunches underneath him, he can now go forward into the canter rather than spin and fall into the canter.
I can read it 1,000 times, but it doesn't make sense until I actually feel it.
On Saturday, it took one request to get a nicely forward trot-to-canter transition. And then, since it was so nice, I decided we were ready to try canter to trot to canter transitions. I couldn't even think about doing those before as just getting one trot to canter transition took all day. I was so pleased with the transitions he did. I can see where we have some work as they weren't as smooth as they need to be, but at least I was able to keep him straight in the departures instead of falling in.
Here's to continued monotony and repetition!