#66 The Cantering ConundrumOct 20, 2022
When you hear the word "canter" what comes to mind?
White sand beaches and wind in your hair- arms outstretched?
Or... nervousness over what your horse will do this time?
Frustration with the amount of work you need to put in and the tiny return you get from your horse?
Maybe it depends on which horse you think of... you might have one horse where it feels completely harmonious- you think it and so does your horse. While another falls apart emotionally as soon as you ask them beyond a trot.
The canter is one of those things with horses that reveals so much about the horse AND about us. It's where things that have been hiding inside at the walk and trot- can't hide anymore. It's a revealing gait. It can bring out the prey animal in our horse and the predator in us in a big way.
It can cause us to become direct line and only think about the canter (of course I'm not speaking from experience 😉😆- totally am!!)
My mare Music taught me a lot about myself through the canter. When I first bought her back in 2005 she had bucked all of her previous owners off when they asked for speed. At the time, thinking I knew way more than I did, this was a selling point 😆 "She'd be a good challenge," I thought...
Asking her to canter meant riding A LOT of bucking. The first time it happened, I quickly realized I didn't want to take on that challenge alone and quickly taught her that bucking was the answer. Each time I'd ask her for speed (not really wanting it anymore) she'd start bucking and I'd quickly say- NEVERMIND! And would slow her down and move on to other things. Unknowingly releasing on the buck.
I sought out help- one of my best moves!!
The instructor who helped me, explained what it was going to take. I felt confident in her explanation and felt I could do what she was asking as long as she was there to talk me through it (it ended up being yelling me through it so that I could hear her over all the commotion 😆).
Basically we set it up for the bucking to be harder than the canter. I'd softly ask for the canter. She'd start bucking, but now I had a plan. I would bend her and ask her to disengage her hindquarters with energy, disengage, disengage, energy, energy until she stopped bucking- this sometimes felt like forever!!
Then I'd allow her to straighten and would softly ask for the canter again. This continued for what seemed like FOREVER and the instructor was getting hoarse from shouting the directions to me. But then something magical happened. I asked her to canter and... she cantered!!
Game over!! I politely slowed her down, jumped off and took off her saddle and then we hung out together for a long time.
After that session, she started offering the canter with a sweetness and softness that seemed to say, "is this what you want?" Music was one of the sweetest mares I've ever met. She passed on this past February after 25 years of sweetness and some bucking.
She taught me a lesson that day about how easily we can teach and reinforce the things we don't want AND how getting support was key for me.
Later the puzzle became how to get the right lead but that's for another day 😆
Two people who helped me a lot with Music on my journey were John and Kathy Baar. In 2006, I took her to the Parelli ranch in Pagosa Springs, Colorado where they were both heading up the faculty and quickly became two of my favorite teachers. They both had a knack for explaining things in a way I could understand and a humility that they'd struggled with things too.
If the canter is something you're puzzling over with one or more of your horses OR for yourself- you're in luck!!
John and Kathy are joining me on Friday, November 11 for a 2-hour interactive workshop focused on helping people with strategies to build a confident, harmonious canter. There will be many of the pieces of the puzzle shared- come and get a piece or two, or seven, to add to your cantering puzzle. Get closer to the white sand beach image, wind in your hair and arms outstretched.
Information is one of the greatest assets to progress.
*Note: If you're reading this after Nov 11- no worries! The workshop will be recorded and available to purchase anytime after that date.