I am so grateful for daylight savings time to have arrived. It excites me that I now have time to ride two or even three horses before fighting off darkness. Last night, I got to the barn around six with good intentions to work both of my horses. Needless to say - both rides were WELL above my expectations.
I started out with Delilah. Since I had forced myself to work on cantering (and conquering the strongly associated fear that comes with cantering), I of course had to pursue the same goal as long as the ride was going okay. So we started with the usual - loose rein, guiding her with my seat and leg; some seat halts - generally just making sure she was tuned in and listening. Then we laid down some really beautiful work at the trot, so I decided to up the ante. Historically, our biggest battle has been conquering the cue to canter. I have been using small crossrails to get her to naturally canter off, and the excitement seems to be minimized that way. Last night, I asked for the canter cue. Keep in mind one thing - the last few times I asked for the canter cue, we would shoot off like a racehorse out of the gate, usually going around leaning on the inside shoulder, flipping her head, and even tripping. Now, I fully admit that a portion of that was undoubtedly my anxiousness at the impending canter - but still... So that's where we left off last year. Last night however - beautiful. We started out accidentally cross-cantering, which I am ashamed to admit I couldn't feel - someone pointed it out from the ground. At one point, she did flip her head for about two strides, which of course made her pick up steam and consequently lose her footing in a muddy spot and nearly fall to her knees. But I stayed on, got her back, and into a decent downward transition. After that, we worked on the canter cue two more times, and by the last one, I was able to get her balanced and going nicely for a few strides. She is still very green and takes a lot of "putting together" at this point. Right now, I am having to pick up the inside reign, and kind of counterbalance the outside rein in an open position to get her to carry herself. I can't wait til the day when she starts to get it together without as much excitement or management. Regardless though, finally, we are on our way!!!
Then came time to work my gelding Samson. I haven't focused much on him in this blog, because he has had a host of soundness-type issues, if that makes sense. He was a sort of rescue-project-pony that came home with me in late June of last year. He's not built the greatest - a little heavy on the forehand, big head - but he has the personality of a saint for the most part. When I was ready to throw my hands up because of my mare, he was the cheap confidence-booster that I could do anything on. The night I tried him, I hadn't cantered any horse in a long time. Then I jumped on him, and walk/trot/cantered around a tiny ring, in the dark, without a moment's hesitation. Samson is the first horse in a long time that I instantly trusted - and still to this day have complete confidence on. So, even though he has cost me more than double his purchase price - (minor surgery, chiropractor, joint & ulcer supplements, possible hock injections now...) - he has been worth every penny.
However, he has been frustrating as well. Since we got him, and put him into "real" work (he was a trail horse before) he never quite moved right. Something has always been a little off - he isn't built the greatest, but he should definitely be able to move better than he does. In addition, I have never been able to land a left lead canter on him. We tried the chiro to see if it would help, and while he moved a little better and was able to bend better, he still didn't pick up the left lead. In the last week, we have worked on it, and after an exam with the vet we were considering hock injections. So I decided to try it one more time last night. I had been talking through the situation with a friend, and she joked about beating on him (take that phrase with a grain of salt - not literally beating, just getting my point across) before asking for the canter, so he knows I am serious, and so that he picks it up quickly. I added that to everything I had been working on with my trainer on how to position myself and him to give us the biggest chance of success. I found a perfect little downhill slope in the arena to ask it of him - the general idea being that it would help him roll onto the correct lead - and asked him to canter. I look down, check my lead, and am stunned - he's on the correct lead! NO WAY. We have been trying for MONTHS to get this. I come around again, to the same spot - ask for the canter....correct lead, AGAIN! I am hesitatant to push my luck, but I have to try it one more time. So I come around to the little slope, ask for the canter, look down - wrong lead. Wait a minute - something feels funny....look down again....CORRECT LEAD. Robyn and Tori, other riders who were watching form the ground - start hollering. My jaw drops. Samson...just...got...a LEAD CHANGE? No way!!!! Let me tell you - if you had told me that SAMSON would get a lead change before Delilah - I would have told you it was impossible. But sure enough, my big clumsy money-pit gelding laid down a perfect auto-swap last night. And this is after nearly a year of not even picking up that lead.
Needless to say, I am still on cloud nine!!!!!
Samson, the Confidence Builder :-)