A couple of weeks ago I had a proper schooling session on Cisco and told him that he actually had to make an effort at canter and not go around like a llama.
|Always a llama for the first pass at the end of the arena.
I wish I knew what magical words I whispered to him that night, because ever since then, he has been fantastic.
He hasn't turned into Valegro or anything like that. But something has clicked and he's just become very rideable. He's super willing and has been trying really hard to work with me.
The reason for that schooling session was to figure out if I had broken the right lead canter, the better lead for both of us.
Ever since that day, the right lead has been lovely. I could ride the right lead for hours.
|There's got to be a dressage test where you only canter one way, right?
To the left... well, it's a work in progress.
|The canter at the beginning of the ride. The right shoulder isn't flinging out, but I've got no bend to the left.
|The alternative method of left lead canter - the right shoulder bulging out.
Unfortunately, it's the tougher side for both of us. For me, I have the left-hand-itis - the left hand that loves to hang on the rein like a dead fish, and a much weaker left leg (also the leg that I pulled the adductor on last summer). For Cisco, he likes to push his shoulders to the right, so the struggle is keeping that right shoulder falling way out in the circle, while getting him to bend around my left leg. Of course, if I could keep my left leg on reliably, and turn my fricking shoulders to the inside, it might be easier for him.
|Getting better. It still needs more left bend, but he's not dropping onto the left front nearly as much.
With the flinging of the shoulders to the right, it also means that he doesn't fill up my right rein, which means I don't have a very effective half-halt when tracking right. All around, the left lead is more of a struggle than the right.
|I think there might actually be a bit of lift on the left shoulder!
But it's coming. I've been keeping the left lead canters shorter with the intent of getting a chance to re-organize before the wheels fall completely off the bus. It's generally easier to start with and keep a good canter than to fix a bad canter. It also gives me a chance to reposition myself in the saddle to give the poor horse a fighting chance of doing what I'm asking of him.
|I'll take this trot. (It would be better if I would shorten my damn reins!)
It's working. Every ride we manage to get a few more strides of a canter with a left bend that I can steer off my outside aids. When I remember to put my inside leg on, he tries to bend around it. We'll probably lose it after a few steps, but at least I'm getting the desired response.
|Getting a well-deserved cookie at the end of the ride. I tuck it into his cheek - it's kind of adorable.
Cisco has always been a horse with a lot of try. I've been trying to alternate rides between proper schooling sessions and hacking so that I don't give him a reason to lose his willingness. It seems to be working!