Thursday, May 22, 2008

To Canter or not to Canter....

Now that I have moved up to Training level with my extremely talented STB mare.......there are folks who think I should move up at the SPHO shows too. Hmmmm....something to definitely think about. Are we ready???

I am not sure yet if we are going to move up to 3-Gait at the SPHO shows. There is a BIG difference between cantering a 20 m. circle versus maintaining a canter all the way around the big Hollis ring 2+ times in an under saddle class.

So I may stick with 2-Gait at the SPHO shows this year (and move up in 2009), but do WTC at my dressage and 3-phase events. Time will tell. I do have a few more weeks to prepare. I could always do 2-gait in June and 3-Gait in August. Dreamy will tell me what she is ready to do.

Strength and balance are the keys to Dreamy's canter right now. So then should I be cantering her for long stretches, with the idea that the more I canter her, the stronger her canter will become???? If I allow her to continue cantering and cantering around the ring (as in a 3-gait class at a show), her canter deteriorates to the point that I start basically training her to have an awful canter. It is not so much about her getting hot/excited, but after 10 strides, her canter gets all strung out, becomes 4 beat and she is nearly falling on her face she gets so heavy on the forehand.

My instructor Judy has me doing specific exercises to help her take 5-6 strides of a "decent" canter, then back to trot, then canter again. We work on a 20 m. figure eight....trot the figure eight, walk steps through X, then trot the other side of the figure 8, then at one point through X we canter for just one circle. Back to trot at X and trot circle the other side of the figure 8 and ask for canter again on the same lead.

We are not yet ready to do the simple change through X but that would be the next step. Right now I WANT her to anticipate the canter cue in this exercise, not to do it before I ask, but the anticipation right now is helping her to balance her body and ready herself for the transition. It is working well and she has learned to wait for my cue, but at the same time she gets her hind end underneath her to be ready "in case I ask this time".

My instructor also has me doing turn on the forehand (and haunches) then trotting off, beginning a circle and asking for the canter. The lateral movement helps adjust her balance to her hind end so that the transition is clean and easier for her to accomplish.

Also I have to remember that Dreamy is 17 years old. I only jump her once a week (have not jumped yet this spring, but will in the next week or so) because I know this horse only has so many jumps in her. Plus based on the look of her back suspensories, it may only be a matter of time before she drops those. I mean, she is 100% sound right now, but I have to always be thinking about how to plan my conditioning schedule to keep her moving forward in her training and at the same time account for her limitations.

So I may end up only cantering 3 times a week for example, and as long as she is progressing, not to drill her in the canter and risk her becoming sore. I am not sure yet how we will structure her rides. I know the more I canter the stronger she will become, but I am worried that cantering every time I ride (5-6 times a week) might just be too much. Dreamy will tell me.

Just my thoughts on cantering right now.......

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