I’ve gone and given it all away in the title again. Yes, we cantered, but to rewind and tell things in order…
When I last posted about his progress we had the trot back, with some roundness and a right bend but an absence of left bend in trot. Shortly after that post I started getting that left bend back too. Overall he didn’t feel straight, but he felt like he could move better than he had. We didn’t increase the time of the workouts much – we’d been doing 20 min. of walk with a tiny bit of trotting, and we moved that up gradually to spending the majority of the time in a good trot with lots going on, and improving the quality of the walk too. I think it was Wednesday of last week, for the first time, I thought, “This is a trot I could think about cantering from. I wonder how far away we are from that?” On Thursday in a corner with a good trot, Drifter gave a little lift to say “How about a canter?” I declined, because we were seeing the physio again on Friday and I wanted to get the green light from her first, but it felt great that he was offering it.
When the physio came she was delighted with his progress. The trot up looked much better (and it’s so much easier to trot him up now we’ve done all this in-hand trotting and he’s used to the idea and how I ask and what I expect) and during the hands-on portion she was similarly pleased. She was happy for us to start introducing a little canter again and to start increasing the length of the rides. She also reduced the pole work to twice a week, which was very welcome.
I was a bit apprehensive about cantering again, our canter history being a bit chequered, and our last canter together ending in him falling over. He had the Saturday off to let his back settle from the treatment and then on Sunday I went out thinking, “If he feels good, we’ll try that canter. If not, it will wait.” He was full of beans and he felt great under me. He felt much straighter and he was clearly happy to move. So we had the canter. Only about 5-10 meters in each direction and back to trot, but on both sides we had a nice transition up, the correct leg and a rather smooth little canter. Awesome!
Since then we’ve had two more rides. In the first we cantered about 30 m. in each direction, had a rest in trot and walk and then did that again. The second, this morning, we did quite a lot more because he was so full of energy he would not come back to trot! He was a lot of horse today. The wind was whipping around, the mares in the field (one of whom is in season) were all calling constantly and he was calling back and he had so much energy. We had a 25 min. ride, as I had planned, I got off and did the trotting poles (in a fan, for a change), during which I tripped over a pole and he spooked at that and pulled out of my hands and ran off to the far end of the school, luckily not breaking the new reins although he did tread on them. He freaks a little when he trips over a pole but apparently if I get my striding wrong that’s a much more scary thing for him! Once he’d realised there was actually nothing scary he responded to my voice and stopped for me to get him and sort him out. He still seemed to have so much energy that I got on again for another 10 min. Energy-wise I think I could have finished off with 20 min. lunging and he’d not have been worn out, but rehab.-wise I didn’t want to have him doing any more. He was swapped onto a field with marginally longer grass this week so perhaps that, together with the wind and the mares, has him buzzing. If it lasts I’ll be cutting his hard feed for a bit, but he’ll get a chance to prove he can calm down before I do that.
I mentioned the new reins… I love them. They’re more solid than my old ones; less floppy. I feel much more definite with them about whether I’ve got him in my hand or not. I love the way they feel in my hand; the way they help me be firm on what rein length I want to give. I think they look better than the old ones and, the icing on the cake, they’re even easier/quicker to clean. I could not be more pleased with them, so I’m really thankful that D didn’t destroy them this morning!
It’s already hard not to give in to D and go straight into cantering everywhere like a crazy beast, but at least for a few more rides I want to show some restraint with the canter. I’m really pleased with the way the trot’s coming along now. I think we could rock a walk/trot dressage test tomorrow, assuming we warmed up carefully, and no one would know from watching that only a few weeks ago we couldn’t trot for more than a few strides. Hopefully before long we’ll be able to start really working all three gaits again, but for now, I’m just happy to have them!
*And had he not three gaits, well he’d still be my horse.