Friday, July 17, 2015

evidence that the canter does actually exist

It figures that after writing about exclusively working on complicated exercises in lessons with Dan that this week would be just the opposite: one oxer on the long side, jumped repeatedly from both leads. Simplicity itself, right? 

I set the helmet cam on a standard to capture footage - but only recorded two efforts before adjusting the camera for a 'better' (read: worse) view. Oops. BUT! Where the view failed for catching the jumps, it afforded a perfect opportunity for observing the process that led to the jumps. And for anyone who has read any Dan lesson recaps, it's no big surprise that this process is all about establishing the correct canter. 

the camera also caught about 18 minutes of me standing around in the middle petting and gushing over isabel. like we do. (and yes she's sticking her tongue out lol)

Anyways, I'll spare you all the gory details and try to corral the salient bits in concise-ish bullet points. But first I gotta say that this might be the first lesson with Dan wherein our flat work was actually almost where he wanted it. Isabel felt phenomenal. 

This was her first real ride since the adjustment and whether by placebo effect (for me, not her) or not, I could tell a difference. It was WAY easier to get her into that slower trot rhythm without relying entirely on my hands. Dan even said there were occasional 'moments of suspension.' Yessssssssss!

grainy, sure, but i am pretty happy with it all the same
So the takeaways, organized by applicable area:

flat work
  • it's ok to use the reins to get the right pace, but then I must soften (especially the inside rein)
  • she has to stay at that pace without relying on my hands
  • and what's the right pace? that place she doesn't want to go. trotting faster than a spanish walk... but barely
  • hang arms naturally from my shoulders, don't float elbows forward (omg wasn't I writing this directive to myself last summer too?!? smh)
  • quality of gait from one transition to the next - if it's a shit unbalanced walk, it will be a shit unbalanced transition, and then (you guessed it) a shit unbalanced trot. patience is my friend here (and wow, esp from trot to canter the difference was super obvious when my trot was right bc the resultant canter was just to die for!)
  • the walk should be tracking up - not over tracking for this exercise
  • utilize the 'cluck' when she tries to break, esp when trotting
  • use my core and post to regulate speed - like the post the canter exercise
  • get the right canter to start (see pace + transition points above) but still ride forward to the base
  • can't stress this enough: the right canter starts with the right walk, then the right trot, THEN the right canter
  • squeeze and hold if you don't see anything
  • get the forward through the turn, then figure out how to balance and settle to hit the jump on a forward stride
  • inside bend less important for jumping
it was like learning the order of operations all over again
For the actual jumping exercise, Dan wanted me to open Isabel's canter stride down the long side after establishing the canter through the above process on a circle. The key tho was to NOT just 'allow' Isabel to move up, the open stride had to happen by pushing up with my legs. 

Then I was to half halt going into the corner, but keep my leg on alllll the way around the short end - leg leg more leg moar! - and only after coming out of the corner could I sort of 'settle' to allow Isabel to find the fence out of a forward stride. 

My natural inclination is to 'whoa' through the turn, then gun it when we straighten out toward the fence. And yea this rarely works. Once I finally understood exactly how Dan wanted it ridden, the jump came up easy as pie every single time. Shocking, right?

general takeaways
  • he considers this a cross country jumping exercise, esp given the forward open stride. 
  • he wanted my stirrups shorter. this helped with balancing in half seat/two point
  • stepping into my inside leg made a HUGE difference
  • Isabel felt GREAT, practically lazy tho lol
  • be patient in establishing the correct pace/balance while schooling
Sadly the helmet cam isn't great for screen grabs (tho I certainly try!) - but I went ahead and edited the footage for those of you interested in seeing what the walk-trot-canter process looks like in a Dan lesson (and for my own reference). 

There are a couple sequences in there that really show what he was looking for, especially when considering we only transitioned to canter when he told us to. So it's actually pretty easy to tell the difference between the trot he lets us canter from, and the rest of it. 

So it was all about the basics, yes, but these are exactly the basics I toss out the window while on course. Mostly tho I was just very happy with how good Isabel felt through the ride. Fingers crossed we can keep building on that!


  1. i just love her flowing trot. can you come teach mine that?

    1. haha that trot is definitely among my faves (when i can find it!)

  2. ah-hah! YOU GUYS ARE GETTING IT!! What I like to think of as a good image for riding forward out of the turn is to ride it the same way you'd drive your car around a curve - slow down a bit for the first part, then accelerate out of the apex of the turn. I have the SAME problem with being patient about having a good walk or trot before I ask for the canter, and it's SO obvious when I just kick the pony into it without taking the time to balance and bend him, because then the canter is shit. SHOCKING, right?! So glad Isabel is feeling super after all her adjustments and you should feel really proud about the progress you're making!

    1. it really was an obvious difference when i cantered out of the right trot - and all the canters in the video above just look so much nicer to me than what we've been doing. plus our actual transitions are improving! yay!

  3. Leg leg more leg moar! I definitely could use this advice. We were doing some long approaches lately and that's exactly what I tried to remember- balance through the turn, but then leg up to the approach. You guys are looking SO fantastic :)

    1. haha thanks - more leg all the time. we should get it stamped on our foreheads or something lol

  4. Yay for a successful lesson! Izzy looks great!

    1. thanks! it's always a relief when the lessons aren't a disaster haha

  5. Izzy looks great, nice lesson!!

  6. What a great reminder to establish a correct walk first

    1. i get impatient and rush through it sometimes... but really it's worth it to make the walk happen first

  7. Yaaassss, loving it! And she looks a lot freer in her movement for sure!

    1. thanks - i'm glad to hear that as it feels that way but i'm never quite sure haha

  8. Your lesson recaps are so well done - almost feel like I am right there cheering you along rather than sending you virtual applause :)

    1. aww thanks haha! i try to take as many notes as possible otherwise it all flies right out of my head


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