Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Canter Revelations

Monday,  I kicked off the New Year with a a great first ride of the year.  I rode Lucky stirrup-less in a group listen with one other women, Loni.  This was the first time riding without stirrups outside of the round pen; I now had complete control over Lucky.  Additionally, it was the longest I had spent riding without stirrups(if you don't count a couple bareback rides in 2014).  I lunged Lucky for a few minutes before to let her buck and expend a little energy.  She actually stretched and came round for most of the time, which was unusual for her and very satisfying.

During the lesson,  Laura taught about controlling the horse's rhythm.  As riders, it is our responsibility to set the rhythm we want at all gaits, rather than letting the horse meander or rush off at the pace they desire.  Loni and I started by asking for different lengths of walk: collected, medium, extended.  The goal was to do as little as possible, and to ideally ask for the change of pace with just a change in our hips or a light touch of the calf.  Though Lucky was fresh and fairly forward,  she prefers to move in a short, slow walk.  Every time I ride her,  I usually have to remind her to pick up the pace often throughout the ride.   Furthermore,  with her there is a fine line between an lengthened walk and a trot.  I had to experiment with varying degrees of pressure.   For a while,  I worked in the walk,  shifting from collected, medium, and lengthened "gears."

My first between-the-ears shot!
I then did the same in the posting trot.  My thighs burned after a while, but I feel much stronger than I was in November, and I could hold the posting trot for much longer without getting tired than I could before.

My position has improved so much since last year! Look at my leg!


The most successful part, however, was the canter.  As I stated on my blog a while ago, I've been having difficulties riding with the motion of the canter.  However, when reading an article about the sitting trot recently,  I had a revelation.  The article said to move your hips with the motion of the horse's hips.  Previously,  I had thought that I had to move my hips forward when the horse tipped forward.  Upon reading this article, I realized that I had had it all wrong.  My hips had to move with the horse's.  Therefore,  when the horses pelvis tucked under, I and to allow my pelvis to tuck under.
Let's critique my position in these two pictures from May 2015 and January 2016, respectively.  I realize that they are in different gaits and that Lucky is facing different directions, and I appear to be on a bending line in the first, but I think that they really illustrate the improvement of my position.  In the first, my leg has crept up and is tight, there is a sway in my back(maybe it's just the angle that makes it look deep, but I still think it is due to a fault in my position),  my wrists are not straight, and my hands are all over the place(it looks like I'm steering with my hands).  In the second, my leg is supple and relaxed(but not floppy),  my ankle is stretched down, and my hands are together.  It appears as if I am leaning back ever so slightly(or maybe it's just me), but I otherwise think my position is close to correct.  I'm open to any thoughts and suggestions from readers as well! Respectful and constructive critiquing from my readers is always welcome!

Armed with this new piece of information,  I felt ready to canter without stirrups.  Loni cantered in front of me to help me to asked Lucky to canter.  At first, I overthought things,  and became tense like usual.  Then I got a few strides, but accidentally forgot to steer.  However, that sort success gave me the confidence and belief I needed to canter.  On my own, I asked for the canter, fully believing that it would happen, and Lucky bounded into canter.  Previously, I had expected cantering without stirrups to be more difficult than cantering with stirrups.  Though I didn't give it much thought during the ride,  I and imagine before that I would have to grab mane to balance myself.  I could not have been more wrong.  In fact, I found cantering without stirrups much easier than cantering without them.  The absence of stirrups seemed to place my legs in just the right position, and my hips swayed with the motion of the canter.  It was probably the nicest cantering!  I was able to go around the entire arena without straying from the path.

I did have a few slip-ups where I lost my balance, causing her to fall out of canter, but those did not mar the success of the canter.  One time, I believe I took my leg off.  Since I didn't have stirrups to hold me, I fell onto her neck when she stopped, and decided to let myself slip off and land on my feet.  It wasn't falling off–she was at a complete stand still,  and I voluntarily disembarked rather than trying to scramble up her neck.  I led her to the mounting block, remounted, and cantered one last time.  This time, I cantered once around the ring then asked her to stop.

 Afterward, I rode her around in the walk for at least 20 more minutes before putting her away.  It will be raining for the rest of the week, so I'm happy I had this one great ride this week.  I cannot wait to canter again.  The thrill of cantering correctly can become addicting!

8 comments:

  1. oh heck yeah!! your leg position is way awesome!

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    1. Thank you! It has taken a lot of work to get there!

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  2. I find cantering so much easier in my dressage saddle because my leg is stretched longer. Maybe being without stirrups helped stretch your leg out and sit it a bit better. That's a great next step either way!

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    1. Yes, that is my belief as well. I'll continue without stirrups for a while and then hopefully my leg will naturally find that place with stirrups instead of bracing!

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  3. I'm really impressed. I could not do a full lesson without stirrups. I'd be exhausted as soon as we did more than walk. You look great.

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  4. awesome progress with your position!! also yea i doubt i could do that lesson without stirrups too haha

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    1. Aww! Thanks. It was a lot of work but it was worth it. :)

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