I'd been meaning to throw a little counter-canter into my flat rides for the past month or so, but never quite got around to it. This past Friday, I finally did!
It was by no means a ride where my pony was 100% perfect and I was 100% on point the entire time, but it was really productive and the end results spoke to that.
Dino was actually a little snotty during our warmup! When I first asked him to pick up the canter he did the classic Dino-tude angry-face-tail-swish. I used my tools (yay tools!) and quietly halted him, backed him a few steps to hit the reset button, and then went on with our lives and he cantered off fine. With ponies, (and mares) sometimes it's all about breaking the cycle before an argument ever even begins.
He felt really good in his body on Friday and we had no weird stifle moments. The best thing, though, was that after our little conversation about picking up the canter, Dino was totally with me mentally. The counter-canter is physically difficult for horses to do properly, and Dino hadn't done it in a while, so I really needed him to be actively participating in what we were doing!
And he tried SO HARD. What a star. We rode counter-canter by picking up the true lead, then riding across the diagonal and around the corner, and also by picking up the counter-canter from the walk on the long sides of the arena. Both exercises challenged Dino mentally and physically, and he was really giving it his all. He had some really superb moments of balance on both leads, and even performed a counter-canter to a lead change back to the true lead over a pole. AND all that hard work in counter-canter produced some great impulsion and self-carriage in the left lead canter. We both ended the ride happy, relaxed, and satisfied with our performance. When both horse and rider are focused and present, good things happen!
In contrast, after both of us having the weekend off, Dino and I were not at all focused for our ride yesterday. He was tired, he had to poop, and I was thinking about a million other things besides riding. I could tell Dino was feeling a little sleepy and not quite raring to go right when I pulled him out of his pen, so I decided to keep things pretty toned down before I even got on. I did a really simple warmup and hand-galloped around a bit to get the motor running, and then jumped the little grid my barn owner had set up.
It was a bounce to a one stride, to a two stride. I left the last fence as a ground pole for the first couple trips through, and Dino, of course, jumped it like a champ. He was kind of tough to get going forward at first, but once he realized we were jumping he perked right up. Fortuitously, my barn owner came out to see how the grid was riding just then, and adjusted distances and set fences for me! I felt so spoiled! Eventually we built the grid up to all four fences, with the last one being a little 2' oxer. Dino jumped it all great, and the grid was a nice choice for a "blah" day like we were having. I ended by cantering a couple little singles, no higher than 2'3, and it was good that I didn't do anything more intense because my eye for a distance was crap! Dino, rockstar that he is, totally covered for me though, and interpreted my questionable directions to mean "jump this from wherever you think is good".
I love my pony.