Archive for February, 2011

Canter Series # 8

More on Canter Balance

              It is necessary to be centered in the saddle at the canter as well as in the trot.  It is just as easy to get thrown to the outside of the saddle in canter through corners, circles, and turns as it is in the trot. If you canter off the center of your saddle in a circle, centrifugal force will throw you to the outside and you will feel unstable or you will fall to the outside.  So your journey will be pleasurable if you can master the ability to center yourself early on in your riding, and be able to identify your own loss of balance and quickly correct it while in motion on your horse.  When you are on the lunge line, a subtle loss of balance is not always obvious to the instructor. Therefore, it is also good for the instructor to stand where she  can watch you canter away from her on the long side.  One side is always easier than the other.  Stay on the lunge line until you are comfortable on both sides.  This is the best way to learn. The thigh must lie fairly straight down and loose from the hip. Tightening the thigh will interfere with your execution of the aids.  Relax as you ride; your horse will feel your relaxation and follow your lead, making all his work easier.   Remember that your loss of balance to the outside of your horse becomes his loss of balance as well, and can escalate into more serious problems as time goes on.  Usually the horse gets blamed for misbehaving, yet it is the only way he can communicate to you that your lack of balance isn’t working for him.

As you get more secure you can let go of your hold on the pommel one hand at a time.  When changing hands in the canter, keep your hands in place by the pommel so you can quickly hold on again if you need to.  Soon you will have your balance and you will be able to practice independently cantering around the ring on your own.  Now you need time in  the  saddle  with  eyes  on the ground helping you maintain the correctness of your position in the canter.  As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. This only works if you practice correctly. Later, there is an invisible loss of balance that only you and your horse feel that no one else can detect.  When you find yourself there, you have learned to balance!

If you have ridden for years and have worked out your balance in a less elegant way, and can ride any bucking horse your journey to true balance can be a difficult one since your muscle memory will defy you and want to hang on to old habits and tell you not to change.  But no matter how difficult the work is the results are magical and worth whatever it takes.

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Canter Series  Series # 7

How Do You Handle the Motion of the Horse in Canter?

               In order to be one with your horse you must first separate yourself from the motion of the horse.  Initially you may be surprised at this idea but you will understand why it is necessary.  Do not let your body follow the side to side motion; keep your motion straight even though the horse is not.  Do not push on the first beat of the canter just because he wants to pull you. Let him do the pulling and don’t add pushing to his motion. Do not handle the motion by sliding across the saddle, but handle the motion of the horse down your thigh and out the knee, as in the sitting trot.  On the third beat, he wants to drop your leg, let him do that.  Reach down with the leg as he drops it, but remember to keep the leg soft, with a slight bend in the knee, angling your push of the thigh to the horse’s back foot as in the trot.  Your back must be strong, not loose; no hinges in your back, and keep your back stretched tall.  Later when you are riding upper levels, you will want to brace your back at certain moments of communication with your horse.  In order to do that efficiently in the future, the back must first be straight and strong.  Every stride the horse takes, think down, down, down with your seat until it is glued to the saddle.  You will need eyes on the ground to guide you until you have it figured out. The challenge will be to maintain this method of handling the horse’s motion, stride after stride, day after day.  Sometimes the feeling is elusive and leaves you.  Try not to analyze or intellectualize it too much. To ride a horse well you must feel him and be in the moment. A rider that is too much in their head will not be in the moment.  When you can’t feel your horse your ride will often end with tension and frustration. Just let go and feel how the technique works. 

Later as you advance in your riding you will open your reins and ride your hips toward the center of the reins with your whole seat.  You will be guided on how to execute this in later books.

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