I had a very rewarding morning with Llani today. I’ve done a lot of work both on and off the lunge on his canter transitions.
When I started working with him he used to do this funny jump into canter. His hindquarters are very powerful and pushed him into canter, yet his front end often didn’t go anywhere, so it was almost like sitting on a pogo stick.
Initially I did a lot of work on keeping the rein contact very light, almost non existent, in the transitions and he really improved, travelling forwards into the canter. This was a great improvement, so o focuses on other areas of his work for a while.
However, his trot work has stepped up to the next level, with him much more consistent to the contact and working over his back, and soft in the neck. However, Llani started finding the canter transitions difficult again, and reverted to his pogo stick imitation. I think the improved balance and trot work meant it was difficult for him to engage the correct muscles for a good upwards transitions. When I allowed the trot to revert to it’s old self he managed the transitions fine.
So I began focusing on the transitions on the lunge using side reins.
Today really showed how everything is coming together. I took him into the school and he gave me a cheeky look before trotting off onto the left rein. He came back to walk after a few strides, and I knew that he was trying to make a game out of “which way around the circle will I go?” He began trotting actively immediately, tracking up, and in a steady rhythm. As with most horses the first couple of minutes can be spent focusing him on work, not doing as many circles as possible in the first two minutes.
Anyway, I clipped the side reins up, which are fairly loose to encourage him to take the contact forwards, and not to restrict his head and neck. Then I worked on his trot on different sized circles, using a bit of leg yield as he stepped out onto a bigger circle to engage his inside hind leg. He was really focused on me,and not looking for any distractions from the yard, and from the ten metre circle he was on I asked for canter. He struck off correctly, uphill and moving forwards towards the contact into a really balanced canter. I let him come back to trot after half a circle and sent him out onto a bigger circle so he could rebalance. I brought him in again to repeat the exercise as he can be a bit inconsistent with the transitions and practice makes perfect. He cantered beautifully, this time maintaining his canter for longer as I asked him to move out onto the bigger circle. After a couple more transitions, all of which were very correct I worked his trot again, which hadn’t deteriorated between canters, and then brought him in to change the rein.
I gave him a big fuss and then sent him out onto the right rein, which is slightly weaker. Funnily enough, it used to be his left rein that was weaker! I spent a bit longer in trot getting the correct bend and engaging his right hind leg, getting him to soften over his back, before practising the canter transitions on the right rein. This is the rein that he is more likely to do a pogo stick impression on, and the first one was a little bit up and down, and not so forwards, but after a short canter I brought him back to rebalance his trot. The second transition was much better! He was relaxed and stepped forwards to the contact, looking a bit more free through his shoulders. I think previously he has been ridden with a very short rein and not been allowed to move through his shoulder. After a few transitions on this rein I let him trot to finish, before letting him walk around on a long rein to encourage him to stretch forwards towards the ground, another alien concept to him.
I was really pleased with his performance today as he was very focused on me, and really tried to do exactly as I asked. Hopefully I can build on this next time I ride him.