I did not ride today, because I had too many things on my to-do list before school starts up tomorrow, but I did ride yesterday before dinner. My husband came along and hung out in the gazebo with the barn owner while I rode Harley. I like it when my husband comes to watch me ride and see Harley. I did not ask him to take pictures this time, so he could just relax and enjoy the weather.
Harley was his usual wonderful self. I did not have anything specific in mind to work on until we started riding. Once we got to cantering, I realized that I haven't asked Harley to transition between walk and canter for quite some time. Transitions from the walk to the canter are great for building strength and transitions from the canter to the walk are an open training objective for us.
Harley remembered the walk to canter right away. He did a really nice job lifting up into the new gait. He felt light on his feet, but he still told me that the exercise was a challenge. He flattened his ears a little, which means that he is really concentrating and trying hard. The left lead was pretty fluid and came fairly easily. The right lead was interesting because he would almost take the first stride in place. He was being really good about not lurching forward or hollowing and throwing his head up to pick up the lead. It felt like he was experimenting with his springs, rather than sacrificing his position for the transition. I guess people are not the only ones who do that. I think that he will only get more consistent and stronger with time. Since he also seems to like the exercise, we should practice a little each ride.
|About to canter off from a ride in August 2011.|
The canter after the transition was absolute butter to ride. Soft and easy. I could think about my position and ride him completely from my seat. I decided to try using my upper leg in the downward transition. I remembered reading that closing the upper thigh and knee "pinches" the forehand, which naturally slows the shoulders of the horse. Admittedly, I do not like the word "pinch" in my riding and I have spent a lot of time relaxing my legs and trying not to pinch, but I liked the idea of using my upper leg rather than my hand to ask for the transition. After about a quarter circle of canter, I closed my thighs firmly against the saddle to see what would happen. Harley slowed and with a little rein pressure came to a gentle, smooth halt. Wow. I was not expecting such an immediate response. We tried the downward transition several times in each direction. I can see that this new use of my upper leg means something to Harley. With practice, I hope that I will be able to determine the amount and duration of pressure to bring him directly to walk or halt from the canter. I have spent so much energy trying not to close my thighs or knees against the saddle, that I have completely ignored the usefulness of my upper leg. Harley did not seem upset or worried by the way I was using my leg either, so I think that we are onto something good!