Crunch Time

Work's been nuts, my house is in complete disarray and I haven't been to the barn as much, but I'm still here and still working away! I thought I'd sneak in a short post to remind you all that I'm not dead yet!

Instead of being dead, Pig and I have been working hard to finesse some 1st level movements we've been pleasantly ignoring all winter. Namely the counter canter. Our nemesis. No, I'm not being overdramatic.

Guinness' background (besides racing) was in the hunter/jumper ring. While ultimately a failed hunter, he holds on to one aspect of his hunter training rather fiercely. That part? Automatic lead changes. He'll auto change for anything. Rider forgets to lift up her inside shoulder during a 15m circle? Auto change. Crossing the diagonal to change leads through the trot? Auto change. Rider looks around to find out who's yelling for her in the barn? Auto change.

That's fun and all when you're just toodling about or jumping courses, but when you are schooling counter canter loops or changes of lead through the trot/walk, things can get hairy. And Pigs can get frustrated. Very frustrated. It turns out that not allowing Pig to auto change makes him very, very nervous. In fact, his day is pretty much ruined if you tell him that an auto change isn't exactly what you are looking for. It doesn't make for a nice ride, or a pleasant Pig/Person relationship.
One might say that volunteered auto changes cause *ahem* disagreements...
And so, we've been exploring ways to make the counter canter a less stressful situation. We've been schooling shallow loops, and slowly (so, so slowly) increasing the loop to hold more time at the counter canter. At the same time, We're experimenting with counter bend at large at the trot and canter. It's very frustrating work, so we are taking it one little bit at a time. I have a lesson with Nancy this weekend, you can be sure I'll be asking her for tips to make this whole process a little less intimidating.

Work does pay off, though. That shallow canter serpentine at 1st level? I think we have that now. At least, we did last Saturday. After all the praise I heaped on him, Pig was quite proud of his achievements. I'll be surprised if counter canter ever becomes a strength of ours. In fact, I'll just be happy to get through a show without a tension-inducing auto change shows up!

A Proud Pig!
News & Tidbits!

Injuries in the news! Adrienne Lyle's Wizard (Olympic & WEG ride) has a cannon bone bruise. Adrienne states that he'll be off for 3-4 months and will miss his European travel plans. Poor Wizard and Adrienne. Guinness and I feel for you!

The Dressage Radio Show covered "The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Dressage Riders" (read them here | listen here) recently. One that stuck out to me?
"6: An effective Dressage rider knows success happens one ride at a time, day in and day out, remaining consistent and realistic in their daily goals and expectations.The work is a continuum, each ride building upon the last. There are no short cuts. You cannot buy it, you have to make it with consistent, correct work, realizing nobody can do it for you. The amount of success you have as a rider is directly related to the amount of effort you put into it. Rome was not built in a day and neither is a Grand Prix rider/trainer, nor a Grand Prix horse. Get up, dress up, show up and put in another day’s work. Then do it again, and again and…again.  The river of trying never stops flowing."

In essence? Big changes happen over a long time. Be realistic in your goals. Tricks are built on basics. What's this mean to me? Keep on chugging along. As long as we are working on perfecting our basics and being better (better relaxed, better cadenced, better balanced...), we are headed in the right direction.


  1. Love the 'Ten Habits'! I never thought about a former hunter having trouble holding counter canter - makes perfect sense, though.


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