Thursday, July 18, 2013

Timing -or- “As you leave, so shall you go”

You can’t fix everything at once. While I know that on an intellectual level, it’s sometimes hard to act on said knowledge.

My biggest focus recently has been to improve the quality of the mare’s canter. A fantastic depart results in a lovely canter, as long as she doesn't fall out of it…

DQ said to me: Ask for the canter when the outside hind leg is in the air!
Jane Savoie says: The horse will pick up the canter lead of the direction his body is bent.

Well, it turns out to be a little more complicated than that! Whisper *usually* picks up the lead for which she is bent… But, once in a while, she picks up the right lead even when she is bent left…

Now, perhaps she only appears to be bent left, but is still actually bent right through her body… However, I think there is a little more going on. She is athletic! She is brave, hard-working, and surprisingly eager to please!

The back story:
- she understands that go means go and do it NOW
- she does prefer the right lead

So, I spent an entire ride trying to sit balanced and put my shoulder blades on her croup, but the thing I REALLY focused on was: Ask for the canter when the outside hind leg is in the air!

I got so many more “uphill” transitions!

And, just once, I asked for the transition when the *inside* hind was in the air (it was an accident, a mistake)… She maintained her left bend, maintained her frame, maintained her balance, and struck off into a right-lead canter. Oops!

So, considering that the canter transition is taken from the trot, I have a 50/50 shot of randomly asking when the correct leg is in the air. What I discovered on my own is that it requires way more finesse than that for a really nice depart.
I've been getting a lot of mileage out of the pictures from this show!

If I ask for the depart after the outside hind has left the ground but it still in the upward part of its swing, THAT is when I got the most glorious, smooth, and cadenced departs (and consequently, the following strides were also glorious, smooth, and cadenced).
Finally, we started getting a little more consistency!  The added magic?  A little trial and error (lots of error resulting in UGLY and unexpected downward collapse transitions to trot) revealed the following secret ingredient to success:
- drive forward into a balancing hand for one stride (and ONLY one stride, even if it doesn't balance her!)
- follow, follow, follow for 3 strides
- repeat from step 1.
just LOOK at the reach from that hind leg!

 Low and behold, if I did this AND maintained my position with my shoulder blades "on her croup", she maintained a more attractive canter as well as re-balanced before the downward transition to trot when *I* wanted it!

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