It's Not About The Canter: Lesson Recap
|"More listening, less with the spurs and stick, mmkay?"|
But first, let's set the stage:
Enter Dino, who had been ridden exactly two times in the week leading up to this lesson, and who lost a shoe on one of those occasions. So, definitely very physically and mentally prepared for an hour long private lesson.
And then there's me, and let's be real, I am not in the best shape of my life at this moment in time. Our last lesson found me struggling mightily to get Dino to just GO, an experience made all the more painful by the absence of spurs and my dreadful mistake of allowing too much slow-speed toodling as a "warm-up."
Given the circumstances, when I got on to warm up before my trainer arrived, I knew that I had to get right to business to prevent the lesson from devolving into a complete Hot Mess Express. Thankfully, Dino was feeling fairly perky and was willing to work with me, so I spent our solo warm-up doing lots of figures in a marching, forward, on-the-contact walk and trot, and having a pointed conversation about picking up the canter when I asked for it. By the time my trainer and her adorable, squishy baby daughter arrived, Dino and I were pretty well loosened up.
In the two weeks since my last lesson, I'd been really working hard on sitting evenly in my desk chair at work after we had identified a whole lot of crookedness in my seat. I also thought a lot about allowing my elbows to "float" forward instead of tucking them in tight by my sides or locking them out straight, and that concept proved to be instrumental in improving the connection.
|DARK, BLURRY SCREENSHOTS FOR EVERYONE!|
I still love to contort my upper body and do funny things with my arms, so as we rode simple circles, transitions, and changes of direction, we focused on me keeping my elbows elastic and "floaty", my middle strong, straight, and stable, and my shoulders and back soft and open.
It was difficult, but very rewarding! Dino gave me a dramatically better feeling when I sat well, and especially in the canter it was SO easy for me to feel how his gait deteriorated when I got tired and started to collapse.
And then we started jumping and it all went to hell in a handbasket.
Instead of continuing being the soft, following, thinking rider I had been during the flatwork, I transformed into some sort of flailing, mindless oaf once jumping was mentioned. Suddenly I couldn't get Dino to pick up the canter, he was bucking all over the place, he was angry, I was angry, I stopped sitting well, and Dino and I were having an ugly, ugly fight.
While I was getting him over the fences, riding super confidently, and making small improvements each time, it was hideous compared to our flatwork.
In a fit of desperation after I was unable to get my pony to canter, or do anything but balk and buck, I halted him and took a deep breath, and then went to go do some halt/walk/trot transitions to try and get the Go Button working again.
|Fancy Pony took a brief hiatus...|
I thought about it.
You know, he was leaning really heavily on that shoulder. I hadn't stopped once to think about his body alignment or balance or straightness at all once we'd begun jumping, despite my trainer's attempts to bring me back to my flatwork mindset.
I put my right knee into my pony's shoulder.
He shifted his weight.
We trotted off.
And suddenly EVERYTHING WAS EASY.
Our fight hadn't been about the canter at all, it had been about Dino's right shoulder being in the way and preventing him from doing what I was asking, and once I helped him unblock that part of his body, his entire demeanor changed. Dino was instantly happy, willing, and forward. I was back in my Dressage Brain and sitting better, floating my elbows, and paying attention to Dino's straightness. In each transition he was sitting down on his hind legs and lifting his withers up, and he halted in a beautiful, uphill posture on a downhill sloping side of the arena. He picked up the canter when I asked. It was beautiful. We jumped the jumps. The jumps were beautiful! I felt like I could jump a skyscraper out of that canter. We jumped over a Christmas tree! Dino was happy, I was happy, and we were working together instead of fighting each other.
|Blurry, but FANCY!|