Four rides: an update.

(Still working on that clinic recap, I swear)

Sometimes you get really, really awesome days, where you CANTER LAPS AROUND THE ARENA. AND YOU USE THE CORNERS.

Truth: I don’t think Cho and I have ever properly ridden corners at the canter until recently, because it was too big of a risk that she would break. These are the realities of having a Choface. I watch other people canter large around the arena and I think “huh, I wonder what that is like.” WELL NOW I KNOW.

I am not kidding you, on Friday night we just kept cantering. All I did was sit up there, with the occasional reminder to keep going. She broke to trot twice the whole night (!) and we just kept going.

The left wasn’t quite as lovely, but still pretty good. After several laps in both directions, I decided to practice the canter components to second 1. She did everything, which is the first step. Her left lead counter canter is our rough patch right now. So much struggle.

I was feeling pretty awesome about our chances at second level in May. What has been my main concern? Cantering down the long sides, period. I’ve tried a few lengthenings (not quite mediums yet), and while I have to ride like hell to get her to collect again, she does.

Then Saturday came. To switch things up, I thought we’d work on centerlines and halts. Cho has a history of doing whatever we have been most recently working on when we halt. So, for example, sometimes you’d get a surprise turn on the forehand. Lately we’ve been schooling rein-back. The centerline/halt should be one of the EASIEST SCORES OF YOUR TEST. I feel very strongly about this. My goal is always to get an 8 on my halts.

Long story short: we basically spent our entire ride working on centerlines and halts. There was some other stuff in between to keep it fresh, but yeah.

Issue 1: As soon as I pick the reins up after saluting, she decides to take a few walk steps.
Issue 2: Rather than staying on the bit through the halt into the trot, she braces against it and sticks her nose out (easily corrected in a few strides with a few strong half-halts, but I don’t want to have to correct it!)
Issue 3: Fidgety horse is fidgety. Standing STILL whilst maintaining SELF CARRIAGE was HARDEST THING EVER.
Issue 4: OH WE HALF-PASS WHEN WE TURN HERE, RIGHT? “No, go straight” SHOULDER-IN? “STRAIGHT.” and thus we have the wiggliest centerline of all time.

Finally, finally we achieved what I wanted. We were straight. She stayed through into the halt. She waited for my cue to trot. She went into the trot soft, listening, and properly on the bit. 45 minutes later. I made a huge freaking deal about it and called it a day.

Along came Sunday. “Today we will ride out.” Five minutes later: “Nope.”

Sigh. Bugs. We made it 3/4 of the way out to one of the fields. I was unhappy, she was unhappy, everyone was unhappy. So. many. bugs. Flies on her, mosquitoes on me. We rode back to the arena. Shade! Fewer bugs! I recognize it’s only April and I’m wussing out on the sun, but I feel like Texas sun is in a constant state of trying to kill me.

Once in the arena she was stretching over her back nicely (it is amazing to me how much walk work beastmare takes to really warm up). I decided to go for the ready…set…GO game of galloping down the long sides/pulling up on the short sides. She continues to be adorable for this. We’ll walk to the corner, and she’s totally chill, just hanging out, but listening. I will wait a few seconds, and then give her a little rein, “and….GO” and she JUMPS into the canter and goes like hell. You would have no idea she was even capable of that kind of drive just walking over to the spot, because she gives nothing away.

Monday: 60s! Overcast and raining! Perfect riding weather! Counter canter schooling day!

But first, a little arena turnout. In which Cholula walks down to the far end and screams for all of time, until you come out to get her. Then she just stands down there and stares at you.


(Isn’t it amazing how large dressage arenas can seem? Unless you are riding in them and then it’s like you never have enough time?)

Eventually, she decided that her odds with me were better than with the mirror.

And then we rode.

Pretty sure Cho is in heat. Granted, this usually doesn’t mean much other than a lot of screaming and a heightened ability to turn off her nerve endings and ignore my aids. Mostly when I ask for the canter.

The left lead went something like this:

Jessi: Canter please.
Cho: Nope
Jessi: This is not optional. Canter.
Jessi: *smack* Not. Optional.
Cho: *buck*
Jessi: *smack* CANTER.

Repeat. I think she bucked or kicked out at me 5 or 6 times over the course of the ride.

Counter canter work was…ouch.

Talk about disheartening. After Friday’s awesome ride, working through some little details Saturday, and playing on Sunday, I was still optimistic. Monday? Not so much.

I keep telling myself you have to work on hard things every so often. They don’t get better if you just ignore them.

So Monday was not pretty, but we got some things done. Started working on left lead with counter bending on a 20 meter circle. This is hard (I would like to note that this way used to be easier for her, but whatever).

Did shallow loops counter canter right lead, hard but doable. Shallow loop #1 in the left lead she broke, tried again and got it.

20m circle counter canter right lead. Not ready for that on the left yet, but we did some half circles.

In the test, you ride a short diagonal in the canter, keeping your lead, and then counter canter for half of the long side going straight. This is tricky. Left lead, Cho really, really wants to speed up. If she speeds up she loses it and will break before the counter canter is done.

Keeping her together through this without breaking is damn hard.

Onward ho. Tonight is another riding night and I need to figure out what to school. At some point in the very near future (Saturday? Though I risk an arena full of lessons…) I NEED to ride through the test from beginning to end. I know what our weak spots are, generally, but I think I need to put the whole thing together to really pinpoint what to spend our next 3ish weeks on.

Three. Three weeks.

Four rides: an update.

5 thoughts on “Four rides: an update.

  1. Loved reading this. Off to practice my centerline swag at least once this week. And, this is the second post I’ve read recently about counter canter. It must mean something. Mean I need to incorporate this with the silly gelding who can still not hold his own really good in regular canter. After months… Yes, it’s got to mean I need to get started! Thanks for the inspiration!


  2. It’s amazing how much practice something so small can take! I also mix it up with centerlines with no stopping, or centerlines with a walk transition instead of a halt, so they learn to listen rather than anticipate.

    Introducing counter bend helped a lot to improve Cho’s canter. When we started working on the counter canter last fall, it was more as an exercise to strengthen her actual canter – true canter on the short sides, walk transition, counter canter down the long side, walk transition, etc. I guess whatever we’ve done has worked!


    1. Thank you! As we approach the show I’ve been trying to limit my rein-back to the rail, but still switch that up too. Hopefully it makes an impression on her 😉


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