Thursday, October 6, 2011

Balking at the Canter

Pie and I took a nice long hand walk on the trail today, including watching some windows being installed on a house and lots of children doing children things - running, jumping, etc.  I didn't walk him yesterday, as he seemed to want to rest and nap when he came in from the pasture.  Today he was a little more alert, so we were able to walk.  If he's feeling good tomorrow, we'll do an easy walk ride tomorrow.

Drift and I have ridden three days in a row.  His trot work is going so well - his basic softness is pretty much reliable, his transitions and straightness are improving and his balking on the upwards transitions has gone away as I thought it would - that today we started working on the canter in a more serious way - we've done a bit before but it's time to dive right in.  He no longer canters as an evasion from trotting.  His prior owner didn't canter him - he'd trained her not to canter in a couple of ways that we worked on today.

My objective is to get him to canter consistently and maintain the canter until I ask him to transition down - once he's moving along at the canter, we can work at developing his balance, softness and consistency.  The first thing he does is rush at the canter - we were working on his right lead, which is his more difficult one, and his canter isn't well-developed or balanced yet, but I believe some of the rushing is intentional - his prior owner was intimidated by it and wouldn't canter him as a result.  Even though he was bracing and rushing, I wasn't too worried - we were in the arena and his steering is pretty good now - even if he ran off I would have been able to deal with it, and in fact he didn't - he was just bracing and pulling.

The next thing he would do is try to drop out of the canter when he'd decided he wanted to - usually on a turn - rather than when I asked him to.  And when I would ask him to continue moving out, he would balk - he would slow way down, drop his head and do this crow-hopping, leapy, bucky thing.  He's not sore and it was pure petulance - he didn't want to and had learned he could get out of doing it with these moves.  I would swat him on the shoulder with my crop and keep him moving forward - no stopping allowed.  His moves weren't hard to ride, but would have intimidated his prior owner.  First we worked on getting one turn, and then two turns, and then two times around, in each case with a downwards transition to trot at my request instead of his decision.  As soon as we got that, I halted him, jumped off and praised him.

I think, as with the balking on upwards transitions to the trot, that this type of balking will just disappear as we work so long as I'm consistent about what I ask him to do.  Once he's cantering for more extended periods without breaking, we can start to work on his balance, rhythm and softness.  If it comes along like the trot has, it's going to be good.

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