Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trail Training Newsletter #118 - The Canter

The Canter

I won’t keep you in suspense for long. I wanted to get the canter in, soon, so it wouldn’t get intimidating for me. In the past, I have cantered my green horses within a few weeks of the first ride, but that has always been in the arena. I have been having problems with Cole in the arena—partly because I have been spending a lot of my time on the trail. We only work in the arena 1-3 times a week at the most, and since the weather got cooler, there have been days that we haven’t’ gotten past lounging. I have been working in the indoor arena, and if there are horses outside moving about or it is windy, he becomes very volatile—spooking at any noise. I also figured out that he wasn’t very consistent with his lounging anyway, so there are days I stick to the safer activity.

On the trail, he hardly spooks, and he is much more advanced than he is in the arena. I decided the place to introduce the canter was on the trail. I know this isn’t what most people do, but it seemed like the best plan.

I didn’t know what to expect. Would he buck for the fun of it? Would I be able to stop him? Would I ever get him out of a fast trot? Would he have a comfortable canter? I remember Cruiser’s canter was pretty rough when I started him. He has a tendency to do a 4-beat if he doesn’t have enough impulsion. When I cantered him for the first time on the trail, he actually went slowly. Some horses are just made to trot. I have to confess, I was nervous—more nervous than the first time I ever rode him.

Ellen and I decided we would do it the same way we started the trot on the trail. I would have her walk down the trail a ways while we waited and I would try to canter to her. He is conditioned, with the clicker, to stop when he gets to her. This way, I would have brakes if he got excited.

I started out by trotting him out for about 10 minutes to settle him down. We then turned and headed back towards home until I met Ellen on foot. I turned him around to face him away from home (always a good idea when you are introducing any type of speed) and sent Ellen up the trail. We did a few short stretches at a trot to remind him what the game is about. It had been about a month since we did it last. He remembered. I clicked and treated when I got to Ellen to reinforce the stop.

Now, it was time to canter. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a cue for it. We haven’t lounged at the canter, yet, because he has been getting too excited in the arena. The first few times, I just tried leg pressure when we were trotting. He just trotted faster. I then tried a few times with a whip tickle. (A strong whip would likely make a sensitive horse, like Cole, buck.)Finally, he got it and burst forward at the canter—or was it a gallop? He came to a halt when he reached Ellen. Even in the excitement, he understood the game.

The next time I asked him, he knew right away, and so we were able to go a little further. He got steady on the last few stride before he got to Ellen. I did it one more time, but this time, I didn’t need the whip tickle.

The following day, I decided we would do the same thing. This time, he flew into the canter when I asked him to walk towards Ellen. Yes, he remembered what he learned. On my next attempt, I made sure he walked first, and then trotted when I asked him to trot. When I said the word “canter,” away we went. Of course, he didn’t know the cue, but I think he was looking for anything that he might consider a cue.

Because of his extreme enthusiasm for this game, I decided we should do a few short stretches of trotting up to Ellen. I am please to say that he was a perfect gentleman, but when I eventually asked for a canter, he was clueless for the first few attempts. When he did figure it out, he was just as enthusiastic as before. I decided it was time to quit the cantering for the day. He was hyper all the way home—trying to trot and throwing in a few spooks. It could have been about the cantering, it could have been the wind and all the leaves blowing around or it could have been because Starry joined us on the trip home. My feeling is that it was everything combined. He was over stimulated. I was glad to dismount.

His canter was fast and powerful, but a lot of it might have been just because it was new. We will see how he does when he relaxes at the canter once the novelty is gone. His transitions were like a racehorse bursting out of the starting gate. At least there was no sign of bucking from the excitement.

The funniest part about the whole thing is how, not only did he wait for Ellen to walk down the trail, but he would actually stop to let her go on ahead. He really liked the game.

I don’t know how much more cantering on the trail we will do. The season is winding down very quickly, and I really prefer to work on trotting quietly with other horses. I certainly am not ready to try cantering with another horse! At least, I got the initial cantering over with, and if we start having any success this winter in the arena, I won’t be hesitant to add it into our training. Then, in the spring, he will be much better when I try it on the trail.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Yay for Cole! He is so smart! I really like the game you use for teaching it. I will definitely have to use this one when I start Chrome.