We've been doing some fun stuff lately. With my trainer, we've been collecting the canter (mostly left lead), really schooling a good stretchy trot, and most recently, we've learned how to do a stretchy CANTER (left lead). Who would have thought my Jekyll/Hyde of a horse could do a stretchy canter?
It's been fun playing around with it, and more importantly, Sydney seems to really enjoy it. The stretchy canter proves whether your pony is on the forehand or not. If he's not really working over his back, he'll kind of dive into the stretchy canter and zoom through it. When the connection is good and he's carrying his own weight, you'll get a lofty canter that's got a good swing to it.
With our warm weather (it's cooled down to the high 80s) and long afternoons, I decided to take advantage and rode both ponies after work last night. Speedy reminded me of why I adore him (we got our first decent leg yield to the right that actually felt connected and "correct"), which gave me all kinds of we rock attitude. I saddled Sydney with a plan to do a little bit of stretchy canter on the left and then get one right lead canter departure.
What do they say about best laid plans?
Everything was going swell: we did our suppling exercises at the walk and trot. I asked for some nice stretchy trot and was really pleased with how light he was. We picked up a long and low canter that had the right kind of lofty feel. We took a little walk break and moved onto the right lead canter.
I spent the next 15 minutes trying everything I could think of to get the canter departure, with zero success. I am not quite sure what was wrong. After struggling with it and realizing that it just wasn't going to happen, I went and got my lunge line. As soon as I stepped away, Sydney burst into a right lead canter that looked painful. His hind end was fishtailing every which way and his head was flinging about in an effort to keep from falling down.
I brought him to a halt and unbuckled his reins in order to turn them into side reins. I tied the outside rein pretty firmly to his girth in hopes that it would give him more support. I also tied the inside rein, but I gave him a bit more room there. As soon as I asked for the canter, he looked much more comfortable and was soon cantering around in a balanced frame. He had a very surprised look on his face as well.
After just a few rounds, I quietly asked him to halt. Throughout the whole ride and lunge, I never got upset. I just kept trying to work through the problem. Sydney is so sensitive though that if he feels like he's not getting the right answer, he gets more and more tense. I told him what a good boy he was and stroked his face. We walked over to the water trough where he took a long drink. I continued to remind him of how awesome he is.
Today, I am going to put my bucking strap back on so that I can use it to really support my outside hand as I hold onto that outside rein as firmly as possible. I think we need to go back to our crabbing exercise where I push his haunches in and lead with the inside shoulder. It takes a firm hold on the outside rein to make that happen. Hopefully that works and we can get a right lead canter. That's all I am going to ask for.