Thinking canter depart without applying aids = canter depart?
I rode this dressage school master yesterday. Since it was my 3rd lesson on him, my instructor agreed to let me canter him. I prepared myself by sitting up straight, adjusting rein length, looking for a good spot to ask for the canter depart. I decided that when I arrived at letter “C” I would ask for the canter from the walk. Before I arrived at my designated spot, he picked up the canter! How in the world did he know that I wanted to canter? It was only my 3rd time riding him and I had not cantered him before so there was no way he could have anticipated it from previous experience. Did he hear the word canter when I asked my instructor about it? Do horses, eves drop on conversation?
I’m used to horses anticipating based on previous experience/classical conditioning, but that wasn’t the case with this horse. Unless perhaps by random chance, his previous rider picked the letter “C” for their canter departs? I’m just blown away by how smart this horse is.
Like any schoolmaster - the horse is much more sensitive to your weight and intention than your actual aids. This is where we must train our own seats to set an intention.
This is why it is always good practice when schooling transitions to canter to bring the outside leg back, count to 3, and then apply the aid. It makes the horse wait and allows him a count of 3 to collect up his own body in preparation for the canter depart. As well, it shows acceptance of the aids as the outside leg back is used for so many different things, travers, half pass, walk pirouettes, basic bending on circles and increased bending in voltes. The only thing which changes in these different movements is the intention of the seat and the directionality of the half halt. As well in your canter - walk transitions, you need to keep the canter aid on all the way to walk to ensure the horse does not swap leads and that he continues cantering right to the last stride and that there is then a half halt finishing the transition into walk.
Focus really on setting yourself up for success and think only about the alignment of your body and your intention in your seat. The directionality of the half halt will come - a good exercise to feel this is your basic SI and travers - but with a great focus on it simply being carrying the first and last stride of your 10m circle down the wall, respectively. That there is no change in bend and no development of the movement - it simply begins out of your circle from a good half halt.
Thanks Anabel! That does make sense. The other horse that I usually ride is young and not very experienced so he doesn't interpret suttle cues such as weight aids yet which is why the schoolmaster just caught me by surprise.
I guess that's why it's good to ride many different horses for they are all so different!
Anabel's response is great and I also wanted to add that, yes, some horses do know what "canter" means and will do it from a vocal cue both while lunging and under saddle.
And there's the evil flipside of trained horses. Like when all you wanted and thought you asked for was a counter canter. And then the changes start. And you can't stop them. :mrgreen:
Or in collecting the walk, you inadvertently slide your legs back and Mr. FEI settles into a nice little piaffe. :mrgreen:
Have fun with all of it - such a great opportunity that many would give their firstborn for ;)
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