Conquering the Canter

A year ago at Plantation, a week after I broke my leg and Jules Ennis got the ride. Photo by Holly Covey.

Recently got a good jump school in with a top trainer. He told me I should put some poles down after a jump or two in order to keep my drafty cross horse from deflating around my turns and losing impulsion.

So, I went home and set a pole 10 feet from a small 2’6″ vertical and another pole on the other side, 10 feet away. And set out to fix that cornering canter problem.

I started just deciding to make loops around the ring , to create a rhythm and keep it going. Jump the little set up on the long side, land, canter the corner, down the other long side, corner, and jump the little set up.

What a difference it makes when you pay attention to your canter all the way around the ring, let the horse find the rail, and just try to remain balanced and wait for the landing. My only job is to just safeguard that canter especially on landing.

My horse is very smart and figured out fast that there was not a stop involved in this exercise, and that he had to keep cantering around. Changing directions, I felt him settle into a canter almost by himself where he was motoring through the turn and keeping going when turned down the long side.

I tested the canter by adding an oxer on the other long side; the first two times down to it, I did not get perfect distances although the canter seemed alright. Then I experimented by creating a bit more energy and had a shorter distance than I wanted but the landing seemed better. Finally the fourth try was the best, and I quit while I was cemented in on that canter.

The reason we all like to event is we like to test ourselves, and we like to see how we do against others. So what’s wrong with practicing testing yourself at home? I wanted to see if I could really, REALLY keep the right canter in the turns without someone telling me.

I also like to set up things that have 12-foot distances or broken lines to see how they ride and what I can do to make the distance work. Do you watch videos and read “What’s In Your Ring,” and pour over the gymnastics advice that the top professionals publish here and there? I sure do. I go home and I set it up all about 2 feet high and walk it, and see what it feels like, and then I’ll ride it and see whether I can handle it or not.

In this way I have slowly but steadily brought my eye back in and gotten my nerve slowly working itself back into my schooling on a regular basis. It’s been one year since I broke my knee — a long, arduous process, not just to fix my leg but also my confidence.

Test yourself, keep testing, keep trying. It’s a slow process but it’s working. At first, I was so bad and so weak, I thought I should really quit this; now I’m still feeling weak but a bit more confident now. I’ve actually entered an event and I hope I am ready for the test! I’ll give everyone a progress report in about a week.

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