Another day, another ride on MBM that just blows me away. This mare is seriously the Goldilocks of project rides for me. She’s sensitive, but not so sensitive that I feel out-horsed or like I’m not sure what to do with her. And she’s just so dang smart that things stick really well, and I can really feel the progress from week to week. It’s shocking that just a month (and less than 15 rides) ago I was cow-kicking her around in a circle smack in the center of the arena because we couldn’t work anywhere else without getting glued to the wall. She is a rare “baby” horse who makes me feel like I’m a pretty okay rider.
MBM has continued to struggle with her left lead canter. She seemed a bit mentally blocked about it under saddle, since she could pick it up pretty much every time on the lunge line. But I’ve also been predominantly working her right side, and encouraging her to get her right shoulder under her, so maybe that had something to do with it. Her problem is also a bit two-fold: when you ask for the canter she wants to TROTROTROTROTROTROTROT instead, and then her inclination is to jump into the right lead. So it’s not the easiest transition to manage.
On Tuesday I took her for a quick spin on the lunge line to get us both thinking about canter transitions before hopping on for a quick ride. MBM got them every time on the line again, so I resolved to just keep kissing until she picked up the left lead. Of course my first kiss attempt led MBM to leap into the right lead canter, so I transitioned back to trot and slowed us down to get organized for the transition. Somehow in the process of getting us organized I sat for a beat and let my left hip swoop forward and BOOM — awesome left canter transition.
I popped up in the stirrups and gave the mare lots of praise, then down transitioned and tried it again. Boom. Another awesome canter transition. I seriously didn’t even have to move my outside leg back, just the light sweeping of my seat into the motion of canter set her going. Same thing to the right. Sit for a beat, sweep the right hip forward and MAJIK. To the right it was even more magical because it helped me and MBM keep her shoulder underneath her and the right canter was gorgeous and balanced.
On Wednesday I hopped on her again to do the same thing. While the hip-swoop is an awesome, quiet canter transition cue, it’s not really a cue that most people are familiar with, so I want to get MBM used to the idea that someone might put their leg back (and not ask for her haunches to move over) as well. She was a little more annoyed and swishy because we went into the arena with two other horses, and it is deeply offensive to see other horses nearby but not be allowed to talk to them or spend time with them. But once again, the canter was right there.
There was a little more durm und strang in this ride, as I decided to work on transitions on a circle (canter 3/4 circle, trot 1/4, canter 3/4, &c.) and that was not appreciated very much. It seems that MBM didn’t like the amount of direction she was getting from me — she can still be a bit broodmare-y sometimes and doesn’t think that little pipsqueaks such as myself get to have opinions. And that’s okay. I kept at it, and we did the things, even if the circles were ever-increasing in size and egg-shaped. And sometimes you just have to push a little bit.
You know what we didn’t have to fight or discuss at all this week? Keeping her right shoulder underneath her, or walking on the rail, or changing directions between circles. Those things were a big deal last week, and now they’re just things MBM can do.
We’ll need to start thinking seriously about rhythm within gaits next. MBM tends to speed up or slow down as her whims direct, especially around the transitions. Pretty much every training challenge we’ve come across has been so different from Murray — he had two clear canter leads when I got to him, his canter was one of his stronger gaits, and he’s always been pretty rhythmic, if lazy — so it’s a learning experience for both of us!