Saturday, August 6, 2016

Searching for the Elusive Canter...AGAIN!

I spent YEARS and YEARS working on Dreamy's canter, as I was always working against her breeding and race training years.  I wrote an entire post about cantering your Standardbred back in 2009.  I am not saying it wasn't worth it, but I had believed that my next "show horse" after her would be anything but a Standardbred.  Don't get me wrong, I love the breed, but it's really time for me to move on.

Of course, what we think it going to happen in our life and what actually happens it not always the same!!  LOL!  I could write a book about that!  Snap Dancer fell into my lap and I couldn't say no.  Now that I am down to two horses, Dreamy being the other one at age 25 this year, it's not as though I have a lot of choice if I want to show.  It's either don't show or show Snappy.  I didn't show for two summers, both 2014 (deliberately took the year off, save for two little shows, one for each horse) and 2015 (pregnant!).  Obviously, if I wanted to hit the show ring again, it would be with Snappy.

Now, I love this little mare.  She's easy to ride, despite the fact that I have not put THAT much time into her before this year.  We spent the late winter and spring just becoming steady enough to do Intro level tests and that has been fun!  Maybe I should just be happy with that and be done.  But I could realistically have her as my "show horse" for several more years.  I AM NOT EVER becoming one of those riders I see on Standardbreds that stays at walk/trot for the rest of forever.  If this mare cannot handle cantering at shows, then I won't show.  But see, I like to show and well, I guess we might as well try cantering and see what happens.  If I am going to canter in 2017, I've got to work on it now.


2 August 2016
As like it was with Dreamy, once you begin working on the canter, the trot (and sometimes everything else) goes to hell.  Snappy is not confident AT ALL in the canter yet, so it makes anything after the canter just horrible.  We forget how to trot like a normal horse, we forget that we know how to bend, we think we need to chew our metal bit in half (tension in the jaw OMG!), and everything is just AWFUL in her little world.  I have to remind myself this is all normal and that Dreamy was the same way.  Trot pics taken BEFORE we cantered that night, BTW.


2 August 2016
The first time I cantered Snappy was the fall of 2014.  Remember, she sat for the entirety of 2015, as I got pregnant in January, had the baby in September, and I think I toddled around on her five times at the walk for 20 mins before winter hit.  My body wasn't exactly in riding shape, nor was her's!  So I probably cantered her ten times total (MAYBE?  I am being generous) before this year.  Her canter in 2014 was actually kind of frightening.  At the time, our barn was not finished, so I was keeping her at my husband's great grandmother's farm, where our riding area was a large field.  If she had wanted to dump me, it wouldn't have been a good time.  I mean, it was a lovely field and I miss having it to ride in, but it wasn't exactly a confidence building round pen or flat, safe, fenced riding ring LOL!  I would ask her to canter and she would TROT as fast as she could possibly go on unlevel grass.  It was as though I had turned her to go a mile.  I knew this was obviously because of her breeding and race training, and she had NO idea what a canter cue was, so it was just about getting something resembling a canter stride and praising her profusely.  I also used a large hill in the back of the field to encourage her to canter, but it still wasn't great.  It felt as though both her hind legs were pushing off the ground at the same time.  I'm not a huge fan of longing, so I just did this under saddle every few rides or so and called it good.  

This year in 2016, I only focused on what our Intro A and B tests would require, other than basic lateral work and sitting trot kind of stuff.  When I realized she was going to pan out as a low level show horse, I also realized that it meant I should teach her to canter.  It was the end of the June when I finally bit the bullet and asked her to canter.  She wasn't horrible, it wasn't as scary as it was in 2014, but it was still going to be a lot of work.  sigh  


2 August 2016 - not horrible but not great
I sometimes wish she could just be easy, but then I remember that there is no fun in that (right?  right).  Her left lead is actually not horrible, just needs balance and a MUCH better transition.  But she can actually hold the gait well enough to go 2-3 times around our little riding ring area.  Her right lead is much weaker and she can hold it almost once around.  Twenty meter circles still stress her out a bit, as she did fall on the longe line (hate them) cantering to the right and while I know it would be good for her to practice the gait without me on her, I am just not a fan of longing.


2 August 2016
So far, she has been picking up the correct leads (I hate writing that because now I have jinxed myself and she won't haha).  Right now is just a matter of building strength and confidence, and I know I can do this.  I am pretty sure SHE can do this.  Worse case, we stay at Intro B and C next year, as Intro C has just enough canter for us to not feel like total walk/trot losers LOL.  I'd love to do Training level in 2017, but I am keeping it real.  Who knows and maybe I will look back at this and laugh at myself for being so worried (or maybe for being naive haha).  But I like to keep track of my progress and this helps!

5 comments:

AareneX said...

you make me feel so. much better about my status as a walk/trot loser (I am KIDDING!!!) The canter is *my* worst gait, and Riddle's canter is abysmal, and I...I wish I didn't care but I kind of do care. Sigh. She can do it, but it's so bad, and often there is bucking. And the ground just isn't getting any softer, ya know?

Please update on your progress, maybe you can inspire me past my fear!

Clover Ledge Farm said...

Oh goodness, I certainly did NOT mean to offend you or anyone who chooses to stay at walk/trot forever!! :-( It was my snarky commentary about the riders at local shows here in Maine that continue in walk/trot and win year after year. To me, there is no use in that because showing to me is about moving up and improving, not staying at the same level for six, seven, eight years just to win ribbons.

Cantering is hard for so many STBs and I respect that. I am just at a point in my life where I'd really like to just go bopping around a Beginner Novice course on an older seasoned event horse with no cantering issues. At this point, that is Dreamy but she's also 25 so her age is working against me (and she is not unsound to ride gently but certainly NOT sound for eventing any longer).

I just feel discouraged lately.

AareneX said...

No worries, you didn't offend me. And obviously, I'm not stuck at showing walk/trot since I don't show and don't want to show.

I really admire your perseverance in teaching something that's difficult for the horse--difficult but NOT impossible. A lot of Fiddle's difficulty with the canter is MY difficulty with the canter, but my lack of skill isn't the only problem. I watch her canter in the field sometimes and it's just dreadful. It looks like her butt is coming unscrewed from the rest of the horse, and I think, "I really do NOT want to ride that and fall and bust up all the parts of me that just got repaired."

If somebody local to me wanted to teach her to canter, I would jump at the opportunity, but given her age (14) and her main job (endurance), it's just not urgent!

However, if I see you making slow/steady progress, maybe...just maybe...? Or maybe I'll be more proactive about teaching my NEXT Standie to canter!



MyHorseFaith said...

Oh ladies - can I join your STB Canter Woes Party? Years, YEARS, YEARS (!!!!!) developing Ben's canter. It takes a long time. Part of the reason my 2nd horse isn't an STB is so that I can remember what "normal" feels like, LOL.

I am so glad though that you wrote this post - so much of what you said is exactly what I experience with Ben. The right is definitely the weaker side, as well - the quality to the right is super tough to get.

It gets better, as well you know. But lord it takes time, oh does it take time. So much time to just get something that looks and feels normal, some/most of the time.

One of these days I will get someone to video us so ya'll can see what close to a year of picking away at it looks like.

Aarene, you are pretty darn close to me - you should come up and visit! Or come watch a lesson, see what we do with dear Bennifer.

Val said...

I can commiserate. My quarter horse was walk/trot/gallop when we met. It took years to train the canter and he had the same post-canter tension issues which you described. The canter is now his favorite gait and a pleasure to ride. Good luck with your new project and mommyhood.