Since my trainer is spending the winter amongst the palm trees and fancy ponies of Florida for the next several weeks, she made sure to give Jack and I a good butt kicking before departing.
I love a good butt kicking.
No, really. Those are the best lessons.
We started out working on the length of stride within his trot, using my seat aid to collect or allow the stride. Sitting deeply = collected trot. Sitting more lightly and following with my hips = a larger more natural stride. While I feel like a sack of potatoes as I try to get my riding fitness back, Jack still appreciates being ridden off of the seat first. And trainer’s main point was that most horses prefer to be ridden off the seat (vs hands or legs), and while it might take slightly longer to achieve the same result from seat alone, it has a more lasting effect and is a more useful tool in the long run.
From there, we moved into canter work.
The canter is one of Jack’s best gaits, but he also naturally has a huge stride, and that can cause some balance and engagement issues. So we are working to make his canter smaller with the end goal of engaging his hind end more without causing the stride to become even bigger.
One of the tools we are using to create this effect is the counter canter. We worked on the idea of going from haunches in to renvers on a circle for a little bit (which sort of melts my brain a bit to think about – see below video). Changing the bend like this on the circle, while keeping the hind end really active will also help with his straightness – an issue we run into in jumping as well. So despite it being hella hard, there’s an added bonus that makes it worth it. I think?
Other exercises that I have been asked to work on are more traditional counter canter exercises. Such as:
- Pick up “wrong” lead on straight line and just canter down the long side of the arena then trot. After time start adding in corners (but not steep). Trainer thinks this will be easier for Jack
- Pick up correct lead, change rein across diagonal then canter around short side on wrong lead.
The other part of the homework we’ve been given while she’s in Florida is to work on our walk-canter departs. Make them soft, small, and as boring as possible. Which is going to be hard, but hey, she’s gone for a long time so I’ll do my best!
We may pick up a lesson while she’s away with her trainer, who I’ve heard amazing things about. But that’s still up in the air. Until then, it’s canter bootcamp for Mr Yellow.
PS – if you want to follow along on my trainer’s Welly world adventures, you can follow her blog here!