Last night we picked up where we left off on Monday. I started with precision in transitions on the circle. Overall, she was much better. We struggled with the circle to the right. Cricket just wouldn't maintain the canter. So I changed tactics and asked for the canter at the cone and left her alone. If she dropped to the trot, I waited until she came around to the cone and asked again. I'm not sure how many times we did this but I had the attitude of "you know what I want, I'm going to patiently repeat my request until you can offer it to me." I don't know how many times I repeated the pattern but finally she got it. When she came around to the cone still cantering, I brought her down to the halt and allowed her to dwell.
I can nag her at the canter all I want. But that just makes cantering an unpleasant affair for both of us. I know she can maintain canter. I just need to present it so she chooses it. The very cool thing was, when it became our idea instead of just my idea, her canter was so much better. Hmm, how interesting.
Now the the riding. I've been thinking, since Sunday, about cantering. Pulling together lots of different experiences and thoughts, I came up with the following:
- When it is Cricket's idea to canter, her transitions are so smooth you hardly know she's made a change.
- Moving her from the walk to the trot takes just a thought, the energy and the commitment to ride the next gait.
- The key to canter transitions is not making her canter, but asking and allowing her to respond until she feels the thought, energy and commitment.
- If she understands what I want and is physically, mentally and emotionally capable of doing it, she will.
- It's about a change of gait, not a change of speed.
I saddled up and after a brief warm-up on the rail, I took her into the question box. I reminded her this is the dwell spot. We started at a walk until she was on the pattern and then I offered her dwell time in the box. Next we moved to the trot until she was on the pattern. Repeat dwelling in the box. Now for the canter . . .
I started her at the trot and when we came back to the box, I asked for the canter. We repeated this pattern of asking for the canter until I got the thought, the energy and the commitment and my horse transitioned up to the canter. My first instinct was to be afraid. But I really wasn't. She went wide on the circle and I just used my right rein to guide her back around to the question box. She stopped when I asked and immediately licked and chewed.
Shampoo, Rinse and Repeat. I moved her out at the trot and she started to speed up. I reminded her we were trotting a lap and she settled. When we came to the question box, I asked for the canter and she transitioned up and we rode another lap at the canter. Stop in the box and dwell. More lick and chew.
I know, well enough, it's not about surviving the canter. So adding a degree of difficulty, I decided to trot a lap, canter a lap, trot a lap. And so off we went. The trot was forward but controlled. The canter was soft and rhythmic, the downward transition was wonderful and when we came around, I just asked for the canter one more time. When we arrived back at the question box, I burst into tears.
I cannot believe it was that simple. We are going to practice this pattern until she is so spot on with her canter transitions. Part of me can hardly believe it. Part of me knows our time has come.