Mystic is exactly the horse I would have created for myself. She willingly moves forward but is generally a more “whoa-than-go” type. I have no idea why I’ve been riding forward/hot-ish horses for my entire life. I actually prefer to travel at a leisurely pace. So I’m pretty much in heaven to not be barreling around an arena...half-halting for my life.
I even find myself liking that she’s a smaller horse (15.3hh). Something about her size is less intimidating to me. When she has thrown the odd buck in (usually when her noodley rider is off balance or doing something wrong) it doesn’t really rattle me. Usually I just laugh, apologize and carry on with whatever we were doing before I mucked it up.
Our canter work is pretty mediocre. If she comes out of the field with a lot of energy and I haven’t ridden Apollo/worked out before riding her...it’s decent. If she has been running like a maniac in the field all day and I’ve worked out and/or ridden Apollo beforehand...it’s fugly.
I can pretty much get her into a canter, on the correct lead. Sometimes there is a ugly transition but it’s a real canter after that. But maintaining the canter... very challenging. Particularly for me, as I don’t recall any time in my life when I’ve had to provide encouragement to maintain the canter. Usually I’m more like “half-halt, eaaaassy, halt-halt, STOP YOU FLAILING FOOL, half-halt”.
I find that I end up riding really strongly through my seat and not using as much leg as I should. And when my leg is on it ends up being more of a constant squeeze than a bump (which is probably easy to tune out). I think I also revert a bit to my bad habit of not being elastic enough through my shoulders and elbows.
It's even more of a struggle if there’s other riders in the arena. I’ve gotten really used to riding in arena by myself at my other barn...so avoiding other riders is actually a huge challenge for me. So I have to focus on my elastic arms, correct amount of leg aid, and not running into anyone... that’s a lot for me.
I’ve been reading a few articles on the Meredith Manor website to help me. I really like that the articles are short and concise, and I find the different contributors explain things in a way that very easy for me to understand. Some books/other online resources are super wordy and my brain cannot brain that.
Thanks for taking a crap and then standing in it, cheeky mare.
I’d really like to wow Mystic’s coach when she comes back from her trip next month. She has recommended improving both our fitness and for me to improve my leg strength with a few specific exercises at the gym for canter improvement. This is my 10-point plan of attack for our canter:
2. Carry a crop. I have never worn spurs but I have used a crop on Mystic before. I think if I apply my canter cue/leg aid and she’s sluggish it would be a good source of encouragement!
3. Canter every ride. As I mentioned in #1 I usually leave the canter until the end of our ride. If I’m pressed for time or it’s getting close to the barn’s closing time I sometimes leave out the canter work. Not practicing it every ride does not help!
4. Breathe. I stop breathing sometimes at the canter because I’m focusing on trying to get my body parts to do the right thing (which makes my body tense and possibly even more useless).
5. Canter on the lunge when possible. I think this will help Mystic find her canter groove.
6. Kate does squats, lunges, and thigh abductor/adductor exercises at the gym to improve leg strength. Also core strengthening exercises (ie planks) are a good thing for an independent seat.
7. Pick a specific canter departure spot and a specific end spot each ride. Increase slightly each ride. I think if I have a better game plan about when and how long we will canter for it will give us a chance to practice precise transitions and gage our improvement (ie two twenty meter circles, increased to three the next week). Right now I feel like I just pick a random spot and canter whenever we can for as long as we can...not really ideal.
8. Lots of hacking to improve fitness! The weather is super nice here right now and I think hacking is a great way for a baby pony to get fitter and see weird things.
9. Try to get video. I’m hoping my husband will help me with this soon. Although I am already cringing at the thought of watching that video haha. Video is such a helpful tool in figuring out what’s not working.
10. Practice half-seat and two-point in trot. I try to ride the canter in a half-seat, as Mystic’s trainer did. But I have never ridden in a half-seat in whole life so it’s pretty hideous (and I’m not very useful in that position).
Waiting for me at the gate <3
I've already been seeing improvements with my current plan! I welcome any suggestions to make our canter better :)