Progress: Lightness and the Counter-Canter!

At long last Katie and I seem to be making some really good progress together. Although a bit of this potentially has to do with location. I’ve had a couple of rides that I haven’t had a chance to “log” on here, and I think it would be beneficial to quickly do so.

I had a really nice ride in one of our outdoor rings last Monday. My best friend Danielle came to watch and took some nice photos. While Katie was a bit heavy at the trot, a few transitions lightened her up some, and our canter work was really good. She is getting so much stronger! My only critique with this ride is that I could have challenged Katie and myself a bit more, rather than just working on the things that we are already good at. 


ImageThe above two photos show some of the canter work we were doing – mostly full-school canter with a few transitions here and there, just working at building up Katie’s stamina and keeping her on the outside rein.

A few days later, on Thursday, we had a lesson on the indoor and things were definitely not coming along so easily. Part of this has to do with location. Katie and I both don’t work as well inside for some reason. I’m really not sure why that is. Maybe she is more forward outside so I’m riding more leg-to-hand, rather than cranking her in? In any case, things got a lot better once we progressed from trot work and focussed on the canter – so the forwardness theory might just be accurate. I just need to push her out more and be more forgiving.

Our trot work was super heavy indoors and quite crummy, and she did not want to supple up or go straight on the right rein. She always pops her shoulders out and her haunches in in that direction. If I wasn’t moving away this is what I would be focussing on completely every ride for the next few weeks until we had things completely fixed. When we started working on the canter though she began to lighten considerably. We focussed on walk-canter and canter-walk transitions, while going full-school and down the diagonal. The upward transition is always smooth and easy for her, but the downward one could definitely use some work (probably because she was a bit more on the forehand than she should have been starting out at the canter, because of our lousy trot/warm-up). By the end she was much more responsive and lighter, but it took a lot of work to get there!

Finally, our last lesson together today was phenomenal! We had some real moments of lightness and I want to briefly record how we reached that point so that I can remember how to repeat on my own or with other horses. I think I was really good at “listening” to Katie today, and softening in response to her softening. We felt more like we were dancing together today, rather than like we were fighting in a massive tug-‘o-war match. My coach had us warm up in a slightly longer frame, before moving on to focus on transitions within the trot (ie. medium to working trot and back). From there we worked on leg yielding across the entire 60 x 60 arena starting in one corner and ending in the opposite diagonal corner. We really focussed on straightness in our leg yield and on ensuring that we didn’t rush the lateral movement but allowed it to occur evenly throughout the movement. This really softened Katie up and prepared us for an effective center-line 10-metre circle exercise which further helped Katie to step underneath herself.

After this, we moved on to the canter – in which Katie was a superstar! We started off working on transitioning between working and collected canter on a 20-metre circle and then going large. I don’t know how much difference really existed between these two movements, but it did feel like a fairly good quality canter by the end of the exercise. After that we worked on cantering down the diagonal, doing a few steps of counter-canter and then doing a simple transition to walk. Katie was so balanced at the counter-canter and so responsive to the downward transition! It makes me feel as if Katie is ready for some more advanced level movements, now that she is getting stronger.

It was really great to feel all of our hard work pay off – especially since this might potentially be my last lesson on Katie. I will probably ride her on my own again when I’m down visiting home (and also this Wednesday or Thursday), but I will probably focus on either more jumping lessons on Q, or dressage lessons on this new Grand Prix horse that my coach is acquiring next week. 

I have learnt a heck of a lot from my year riding Katie though and am very grateful to the mare for helping me improve as a rider and listen to the horse more efficiently. I’m hoping to do a post soon summarizing all the things that Katie taught me so that I can remember them and carry them forward to whoever I start riding next.

The next few posts might be primarily about barn/coach-searching in my new city and possibly the try-outs for my university’s equestrian team. It will be a new chapter in my academic, personal, vocational and equestrian life – so stay tuned to hear about my new horsey friends and new adventures!



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