Friday, November 8, 2013

Learning to canter

It is time to start teaching Mia to canter on the lunge line.  Through the years I have found the easiest way to train this is to have the horse go over a pole on the ground or over a small jump and to say CANTER a stride before they go over it.  Ideally they don't know how to deal with the pole so they will canter over the pole and voila, they learn how to do it without chasing and it is a fairly natural progression.

Mia is doing really well on the lunge line, I have even been successful in adjusting her speed on the lunge at both the walk and the trot.  I also tried side reins on her and while we did have some baby moments where she hit the contact and just stopped, she is starting to figure it out.  I have lunged several times this past week and while these past couple of sessions she seems to has forgotten how to Whoa, overall she is doing great.

To start our canter training I had a standard on the outside of our circle and put a pole on it at about the 2 foot mark.  This way one end was on the ground and the other was 2 foot in the air.  Instead of hopping over it, however, she just kept trotting over the part on the ground.  Erm, no mare.  I put the end on the ground on top of my 2 step mounting block so one end was 2 foot and the other was about 18" and while she was actually going over it, she was doing it at a trot.  Erm, no mare, you are supposed to CANTER away from it, not just give big trot steps!  It took a while but with a chase to the jump she would offer a canter stride or two after the jump so I would then stop her and give her a pet or a treat.  After doing this a couple of times I called it a day as she was getting stressed and was already a little sweaty.  Someone is out of shape!

The next day I lunged with a pole on the ground instead it raised into jump, with the intention of putting it on a standard when we got into the canter work.  To my surprise though, a pole on the ground was more than enough to get her to cantering and raising the pole wasn't needed.  Impressive!  After she started learning to canter at the pole I had to work on letting her know to canter when I asked versus when going over a pole, no need for volunteering a canter.  I kept her session short and when I was finally able to get her to canter an entire circle each direction, after asking for it, we called it a day.  Overall the session went really well, much better than expected.  She isn't taking off and I didn't have to chase her almost at all, just when we started the session to help her make the transition to a canter at the pole.  At the end of the session I would ask for the canter before the pole and within 2-3 strides she would give it to me even if it was after the pole.

Lunging with side reins was another session and was quite amusing to watch, she just couldn't figure it out.  When I ride, I keep a very loose rein and even when asking for contact I am not asking for any type of frame and am pretty forgiving with the contact.  Side reins are more of a fixed object and it definitely took her a little bit to figure it out.  I started her on hole 5 (I use 12 on the App and 10 on the TWH) which put her nose just a tiny bit in, just to keep her slightly contained. I sent her out at the walk and had to really push her forward as she stopped as soon as she felt the contact.  Eventually we got the walk and some trotting down when she volunteered a canter.  It was quite amusing, in fact.  Every time she would relax and lower her head in the trot, I would have her walk as I want to encourage this behavior.  She was fighting the contact pretty hard this particular time and volunteered the canter.  She took 1.5 strides before she hit the contact and came to a four legged screeching halt, she certainly didn't expect that contact!  Eventually she relaxed enough that I called it a day and while we didn't get much canter in, accepting contact was more important.

This morning I lunged her and she has come SO far in just a week.  She now canters on command 90% of the time and while I am fighting her conveniently forgetting the halt, she is lunging really nicely.  After doing some fast/slow walk and fast/slow trot, she quite nicely gave me some canter transitions and was able to hold the canter for 3 circles before falling into a trot.  That is a record so far, she is really getting better with regular exercise.  It was fairly light, as dawn was just appearing, so I decided to mix it up and see how she would behave outside.  I looped the line over her nose as a tiny bit of control and sent her out at a walk.  She gave me a walk and then a half hearted halt.  Awesome, this will be easy I thought!  I asked for a walk and she did.  And then she trotted, and then went faster.  And then picked up the canter and then did the sit-n-scoot maneuver where she had no intention of sticking around and was going to take off.  Oh great!  I had about .75 seconds to drop the lunge whip and put a second hand on the line before she hit the end of the lunge and became my big fish on a line.  Oh baby horse, you gotta learn.  I *just BARELY* was able to hold her before she randomly slammed on the brakes and looked at me with a expression that appeared to wonder what I was doing.  Like "OH, Hi!  What are you doing, I forgot you were there."  I put her on a very small circle again to get the walk and halt back and after several circles I let her back out and she did really well.  Then I got greedy and asked for a trot, basically it was a repeat of above except I was a little more prepared and she was pretty confidently in my grasp this time.

This time, after getting her back, I booted her forward and tried to get her to soften.  Just my luck however, the TWH decided that her antics meant that HE needed to start feeling jolly and he spent almost 5 minutes running, bucking, kicking and galloping all over the pasture.  Thanks dude, that helped a lot.  Not!  While he was being an idiot, however, karma decided to help me out.  She was prancing, trotting, cantering a little, everything but walking.  As she brought herself into a nice prance, her left hind slipped a little and I could see it happen before it did.  Her left hind went under her a little and then backwards.  Her right hind couldn't catch herself and down she went, quite slowly.  I figured her haunches would sit down but to my surprise she tangled her front legs and fell all the way down to the ground!  She laid there for a half second before popping backup and looking at me with a Super Surprised expression on her face.  It was priceless!  She had no idea how I did that to her.  I walked over, pet her and told her to listen from now on.  I sent her out and, to my surprise, she did!  We were able get a decent walk, trot and even canter with her being soft and responsive.  We finished with a halt and she followed me back to the arena without even having a lead on.  Talk about a win, I hope she blames me and doesn't try being a butthead when outside again!

1 comment:

  1. LOL! That is so funny! I love it when they do the work for us. :) I love your idea for using a pole to teach the canter. That's a great idea.