Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Monday, April 5, 2010


Yesterday was simply amazing. At one point I just stopped and squealed because I could not contain my joy and amazement.

Two of my best friends came out - Becky and Margenia - and we had a fantastic day.

I started Cricket with a brief warm-up on the 12'. Nothing major - just enough to see where she was at with her energy and connection. After her stretches, I saddled her up and off we went.

We warmed up with some walking and trotting on the rail and then into canter. Cricket has become a canter-aholic. She's so forward. I know we need to work on more gas pedal control but that will come. Right now, I'm kind of happy encouraging her upward transitions.

I asked Genia to watch because I'm struggling with my downward transitions. I keep getting pitched forward and it's discombobulating for me and for Cricket. In order to actually practice canter-trot transitions, I need to be able to ride her down from the canter instead of lurching about like a drunk monkey.

Genia keenly observed that my leg was floating too far back. Thus my knee was acting as a fulcrum for my upper body causing me to pitch forward as Cricket slowed (think about hitting the brakes in your car when you're not wearing a seat belt). It felt kind of foreign but we played with bringing my leg forward. Suddenly I wasn't so "fish out of water" when Cricket down-shifted. Still not the picture of grace and elegance but it's a start. We played with right and left lead canter and even used the question box for some simple changes.

I decided to join Genia (she'd already gone out) and the others in the play paddock. Cricket was awesome to open the gate. She gets a little emotional going out but she didn't fight with me when I asked her to come back and help close the gate. And then she stood, patiently, rather than trying to head off for the grass. For anyone struggling with gate friendly games - loop a savvy string on the gate. It's amazingly helpful.

Our little play paddock is bounded on three sides by electric fence and has jumps, barrels, trot poles and my short bridges. The terrain is uneven - it slopes down from the barn and has a bitty "hill" going across the back (part of the terraces for the whole field). It's a great place to get out of the arena.

We started with just walking and trotting around - all on a nice casual rein. When we stopped, no grass diving. At all. I actually had to convince Cricket I wanted her to put her head down. This is our third time working on this from under saddle. After some grazing we moseyed around some more, trotting down the left fence, in front of the terrace and up the right fence towards the barn then across the open end to the other fence.

And with no effort at all, as we crossed the back of the field, I asked her for a canter. And with no effort at all, she transitioned to the canter. And it was soft and sweet and relaxed. And the most fun I've ever had. And that's when I squealed. Because I have NEVER cantered my own horse with no boundaries. The only time I've cantered on a trail was on lesson horses. The only time I cantered Moose outside the arena was in an enclosed 5 acre field and that was just down the fence towards another horse.

We cantered on both leads. We cantered several times. It wasn't a fluke. It wasn't hanging on for dear life. It wasn't something we survived. It was something I want to do again and again and again.

I also asked her to trot over a small jump. She over-jumped it and I wasn't ready for that and I got a little rattled. But I didn't catch her in the head and I didn't thump on her back. For the rest of our session, every time we stopped she was perfectly content not to eat. How cool is that?!

My only worrisome thing is the emergence of two white spots on her sides. It's something with my saddle and I need to figure it out. I don't think it's the fit but there is something not quite right. Ugh! If it's not one thing, it's something else!


Naturally Gaited said...

You sound like I did this morning - wanting to squeal from JOY. No kidding, I felt like a kid at Disney World.

I love reading about your cantering adventures. Just wait - Guinness and I will be there soon too. I'm thinking about playing corner-to-corner w. treats, and allowing him to go as fast as he'd like. Am I nuts??

Thanks for the tip to put a string on the gate to practice. Please post more about your gate strategy. :-)

Lisa said...

Nope. You're not crazy. That's a great strategy to encourage the canter. I don't know about the gaits of RMH - aren't they a little more solid, a little more hard-wired than TWH? The only issue wiht "faster" for a gaited horse is the possibility of hard pacing rather than actually chaning gait to the canter. On-line I've been using a smooch for upward transition. So under saddle, I can smooch and Cricket will canter. Another thing to watch is the horse's emotional state. You don't want to run him into a canter but you do want him to know that canter is an option. There are lots of good ways to approach this. Just take your time and it will pay off HUGE dividends.

I have fallen in love with cantering. Never thought I would say that! Cricket has a soft, sweet canter and I LOVE it.