Canter & Candor

Canter and Candor; an honest account of an amateur equestrian and her life with an OTTB

Conditioning and Counter-Canter

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On Saturday, I drafted half a post, and today, I decided not to publish it.

There are a few reasons. The first is that I wrote it while I was frustrated, upset, and couldn’t even come up with a reason why. It was rant-y and while the writing wasn’t the most horrendous I’ve done… I looked back on it today and scrapped it.

C has been struggling with leads and canter, but ultimately, it’s not his fault. He is trying, albeit a little obstinately, to do what I’m asking him to. I say canter left lead and he says, “Well, I can do the first half of that, at least for a few strides…”

Which, all things considered, isn’t a bad place to be for a baby horse. He listens when I ask for an upward transition, and (mostly) listens for the downward. And yes, it is frustrating that he doesn’t even favor a lead, but rather chooses at random, and more often than not the selected lead is the wrong one. I assume this must be the problem, because I can’t imagine it’s easier to counter-canter a circle than to canter on the correct lead (and just saying, when we hit prelim, we’ll ace that counter-canter at this rate).

counter canter.gif

It definitely looks this pretty, and it’s definitely on purpose.

Friday was awesome. I got to jump C for the first time since the derby, so a little over 3 weeks. To be honest, I think of this as generally a good thing. While it means our jumping isn’t as put-together, he’s young enough to make me want to be careful about the strain we’re putting on his baby joints. Obviously jumping < dressage in the minimal joint strain department, plus the only saddle that fits perfectly at the moment is a dressage saddle, so the universe clearly just wants us to dressage forever.

Anyway, we ended up doing a little grid work and it was a lot of fun. I need to work on getting out of my perpendicular-body hunter habits and C needs to be more motivated over crossrails. Curiously enough, jumping, we got our leads fairly well.

Roll forward to Saturday– impending disaster. I did a little warmup in the outdoor and moved inside to practice my dressage test, and it was exactly the train wreck I was fearing it’d be. We missed every lead, and that’s not an exaggeration. Every. Single. One. Even when I down-transitioned to trot and asked again on the circle, he’d pick up the same wrong lead. Over, and over, and over. I was upset enough where I knew it was better to get off than keep drilling it, but the mix of frustration and show nerves were a catalyst for a pretty severe whine-session to BBS and a couple other barn friends. It’s not that I was mad at C; I was more mad at me because I couldn’t give him the cues he clearly needed to get his leads right. I tried everything, from counterbending to looking up in the direction of the lead, to shifting my weight, to keeping him on a counter-canter until he sorted it out himself… and nothing.

Sunday, one of the barn friends hopped on for me to see if she could try something and make it work. At the end, she came up and said, basically, it feels like he’s trying (which I knew) and he just can’t do it. His butt feels weak.

Oh. Duh.

Nov 2015 (mid)

More weight, more neck, but still a bitty booty babe.


So we’ve worked out a lunging exercise that will help with some booty building. Obviously not this week (I don’t want him to be sore going into the test and make the canter portions harder than they already are) but following the show, definitely.

Today I had a dressage lesson, and it was a crazy windy day. A texted me asking if I wanted to reschedule, and I honestly considered it– why add another complicating factor to the test?

But then I thought, adverse conditions condition better riders. Besides, who knows what the weather will be like on show day? So I decided to go ahead with it, and it actually turned out well. We only got one of four leads, and I felt myself starting to slip back into the same frustration I’d been feeling all week. But A reminded me that leads were one portion of one portion of the test. She told me he was steady and starting to accept contact at the other gaits. We fixed my trot circle geometry and we nailed the free walk. The test wasn’t amazing, but it was great for a baby horse who is five months into training. And you know what? If we counter-canter, we’ll counter-canter like pros, and the judge will ooh and aah at the awkwardness.

I’m praying the bling browband just blinds them at the perfect moment and they mix up his legs (or something).


you see no leads. only sparkles.

And I did end up being able to jump last Monday on the barn friend’s horse– I’ll have video and a post for it just as soon as she has time to email them to me! It was a blast. I can’t wait until C is 5 or 6 and we can jump 3’3″!

Keep an eye out for that, and in the meantime stay tuned for a lesson recap of my lesson with Tina Steward this Thursday, and a show recap from the dreaded show on Saturday… Dun dun duuun.

— M


One thought on “Conditioning and Counter-Canter

  1. Pingback: 2016 Resolutions and Goals | Canter & Candor


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