Give me a wide open access road or an inviting single track or even a meadow and you’ll find me cantering down it like a boss. A slight uphill grade on an inviting trail is almost always going to be taken at a canter, hand gallop, or if the stars align and Gem is in the mood, a full blown racing gallop. I love cantering. In fact, Gem prefers to canter at anything above 10 mph and we quite literally cantered about 80% of the first 34 miles at our last endurance ride.
I can canter.
Or so I thought.
Put me in an arena and it all goes to crap extremely quickly. Turns out that while I can canter and my seat is good (light but solid and flowing with the horse) I can’t actually steer for crap. So in an arena where there are actually rails and turns are a must, things start to flail quickly.
Someone fix me, please.
When I rode Ralphie, I thought I was just dealing with some Gemmie PTSD. You see, the mare couldn’t/wouldn’t canter the entire first year I had her. When we moved to WI and had an indoor, I spent the first winter (winter of 2010-2011) focused on her canter. Any time my leg hit her side she would either kick, buck or rear. Not good. I backed off and started on the lunge and taught her word commands. Then I used those same verbal commands under saddle keeping my leg steady. Then I began oh so slightly introducing my leg along with it and by the time spring came we were able to perform a canter transition with a leg aide only without dying.
Then she would flail around the arena at 100 miles an hour and even wiped out on her side once. I stopped asking to canter indoors.
My next thought was to use jumps. We would trot in and she would pick up a canter on the landing and would typically be pretty steady. I would then let her canter a few strides and bring her back to a trot. That seemed to work better and we settled on that for the rest of spring until I could go out on the trails and work her outside.
Cantering on trails came easily and naturally and we spent the summer eating up the trails. The following winter we were stuck indoors and the cycle repeated although she no longer reacted negatively to my leg aid.
All that to say that I have some serious baggage.
Flash back to the present. With Ralphie, I would ask to canter but then tense up and grab with my hands preparing for some major zoomy flailing that never came. He quickly got angry with me though and trying to get him to canter was a mess.
On Misty, I had zero fear. She was fun and safe, yet I could not get her into a canter for the life of me. I was using so much leg to get her to even trot that when Trainer said to canter, I tried to bring my leg back to ask and she would immediately slow down and all would be lost.
When I finally managed to get the canter, we would make it a few strides and I would lose it back to a trot and have to suffer the humiliation of trying to get my caner back all over again. It seriously took me the entire width of the very large outdoor arena (we worked in one end only) to get her to canter.
Trainer would tell me to sit two trot strides then ask for the canter but I never felt organized enough to do so. I am much better from a rising trot, but she insists on using a few sits to make it work.
Then…if I do manage to get into a canter and maintain it longer than a few strides, I am completely incompetent at guiding my horse anywhere. How do you all do it all day long around a course?
Its frustrating to be so horrible at such a very basic thing that I know I can do in a different setting yet seem to be a sack of half rotting potatoes inside the arena. And I can’t really progress much in terms of jumping anything meaningful until I can at least canter around the arena.