I had a lesson today and the focus was cantering. Before we cantered though, we started out working in trot. I practiced circles again today. Then we set up a trot pole between two sets of standards on either “side” of the circle so I could practice two-point over those, while maintaining my circle. I also did some sitting trot in the same circle (minus the trot poles). My circles are getting better, but slowly. My sitting trot has improved dramatically, but I know I am still a long way from being able to say I can do it well.
I am getting better at keeping my legs still though, which is a relief. I hate when I know I am doing something I shouldn’t be, but I can’t get my body to listen to me and stop doing whatever it is doing wrong. The longer I ride, the better body awareness I develop, so I know it will come with time. I can at least recognize when I am doing something wrong now, but I can’t always figure out exactly what I am doing wrong, or if I can figure out what’s not right, I have trouble fixing it.
When we got to the canter work, I was doing a pretty good job of keep my legs long and my heels down. I have to work on keeping my sternum pointed up and out though, or I end sort of hunching over. The work we did prior to the canter work helped me get my thighs to relax. When we started today, I was so tense in my thighs! It showed up a few times in the canter but I could tell what was causing me to lose my position and generally was able to fix it, as long as it was my legs messing up. When I drop my chest, i then drop one or both of my shoulders, which then causes me to round my back, I have trouble recognizing that I am even doing it, and then I have trouble straightening back out without getting out of rhythm with the horse.
I cantered in two-point again today. It’s been ages since I did that and man, I was having trouble with it. I kept trying to stand up out of the saddle, rather than just letting my hips bend. When I got to standing, then I would lock everything up in my legs, which of course makes the ride unbalanced and un-fun. I think I have an image in my head of what it’s supposed to look like when someone canters in two-point, and I don’t feel like my body is doing what I am picturing, so I try and compensate and end up doing it all wrong. I don’t mean to go with the picture in my head, but I am pretty sure that’s what is happening. I am realllllly short (4’11) so when I post or two-point, I am naturally not going to be able to look like I go as “high” as other people do. I also need to just listen to what my trainer says and if she says I am correct, then I need to get that picture in my head. Which is what I am working on doing.
I am going riding on Sunday again, no trainer, just me and Sox. And who ever else happens to be at the barn on Sunday. I know what I am working on. Lots of canter: sitting canter and two-point canter. My trainer and I were talking about homework between lessons today, and she said that she wants my summer lease to provide me with at least one thing: confidence at the canter (I assume this also includes some improvement as well). When we first started cantering, I was awful. I was scared I would fall – which I eventually did – at the canter. Falling off was probably the best thing for my canter though. I was able to learn that falling is not the end of the world as I had pictured it. Even though I knew, in theory, that it wouldn’t be the end of the world, my nerves always got the best of me.
After the fall, I was able to experience that everything was fine. I relaxed so much more. I still got a little antsy at first, and it felt like it would take forever to learn to do it right…and steering was just impossible for me. So I cantered the long side of the arena and then would stop, then repeat. I now try to go around the ring as many times as I can, but I believe 2.5 laps is the most I have been able to do so far.
I still get a little nervous over certain things. There are moments when I am absolutely convinced that the horse will trip or slip or stumble and then we will both fall down and I will die. Well, maybe not die, but definitely something bad. If it’s not a gentle corner, I am sure it’s too sharp of a turn and something bad will happen. Part of that is because when I was learning, my arms sucked. They were everywhere and once I yanked on him at the right moment and I did cause Sox to trip going into a corner while cantering. He didn’t fall, but it was a good stumble – enough that my trainer said she was worried for a second. I know that, in theory, the horse has less of a chance of falling after a stumble than a 2-legged creature does simply because they usually still have 3 other legs to keep them up. But that doesn’t make me less nervous. So, currently I ride the canter around the entirety of the arena. I have cantered twice in the smaller dressage ring and it was nerve-racking for me.
All that being said, my goals for Sunday are:
- canter, canter, canter
- canter in two-point without standing, but use my hips and let them open/close as needed
- Sit the canter without hunching over
- canter a different shape than the whole arena. Maybe half the arena. Make some turns.
- Canter-trot transitions, not canter-try to trot but end up in walk-transitions.