This week I’ve explored a new canter exercise with Lell (Ellen’s Shadow). Lell is a five year old OTTB that raced only once at Penn National. She was listed for sale on the CANTER PA website after placing 8/8 in her only race.
I purchased Lell as a spirited three year old. We spent the first year practicing groundwork, learning how to lunge, accepting flexions, and walking and troting quietly under saddle. She is now five years old and ready to work on a regular basis. My biggest issue with Lell is that she cannot do a relaxed canter transition. Her version of a canter strike off is to toss her head and run. Once we start the “c” word, we can’t calmly or quietly do the “t” word anymore. She is the queen of anticipation. Her sensitivity can be difficult to handle sometimes (just a wee bit unpredictable), but also makes her a wonderful, soft, light ride when she is focused and on task. She is the type that you just have to “think” and she will dance.
Lell is a very curious horse. Sometimes we call her nosey rosey because she must investigate everything. If I leave her unattended in the indoor arena the jump standards, chairs, and extra items will all be overturned. Once I left her in the freshly dragged indoor with a fitness ball for a few minutes. When I returned she had pushed the ball throughout the arena – crossing the diagonal and making circles and serpentines.
Lell exhibits the same kind of curiosity under saddle. She likes to think and needs many changes of direction and various exercises to stay engaged. It was a challenge to get a good, relaxed canter transition out of Lell. I spoke with another trainer friend of mine and the following is the canter exercise that he recommended.
In order to ask for the left canter lead, pick up your trot on a 20-meter circle tracking left. At X do a 10-meter circle to the right. When you return to X track left and ask for the canter transition on the 20-meter circle. Canter only a few strides and then return to the trot – the goal is to have relaxed transitions and not canter kilometers. To pick up the right canter lead you reverse the exercise. While tracking left in the trot do a 10 meter circle to the left at X, when you return to X track right and canter right. You may need to do this exercise a few times in walk or trot. When I do this exercise with Lell I often alternate picking up the canter transition with asking for a walk transition. If she rushes forward and anticipates too much I ask for a volte on the circle. From this exercise Lell has learned to pick up her canter in a relaxed manner without rushing off. Next week the goal is to continue in canter (without excitement) going large and around the 20-meter circle.
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