Day 11 Of The Confident Rider Challenge
Well, we are now 11 days into this challenge. And it’s another day of work on the lunge line. Walking, trotting, and cantering to get ready for riding is my focus today. For me, I only have 5 days left to work with Ethan on the ground before (hopefully) I am allowed to ride again. My doctor’s appointment is on Thursday next week, at 1:00 PM. And being the planner that I am, I figure that I should be home by 4:00 PM at the latest, meaning I have time to ride that evening.
With T-minus 5 days until saddle time, I want to make sure that Ethan is solid in his groundwork, so that I will feel confident to climb into the saddle. So from this point forward all of the groundwork I am focusing on balance while lunging, as well as increasing the amount of actual working time.
Paying Attention To The Little Things
And it is also time for a lot more walking and trotting, as well as everything else we have been working on. But I am primarily focusing on walking and trotting so I can watch how he is moving. I want to see if he looks balanced, or does he seem to be going better to one side vs. the other (he travels better to the right) And I also will spend some time in canter each day as well. He has been working well so far, and I really feel that all the work we have been doing, consistently is increasing my level of confidence. And all the work has been from the ground.
Don’t Let Your Emotions Lead Your Training
I am still nervous about getting into the saddle. However, with the consistent work that I have been doing with Ethan each day, I can tell you that my anxiety level is definitely less that it was two weeks ago. And it is easier to not get frustrated with him because I am not rushing to get in the saddle. For me, this is a good thing. When you wear your emotions on your sleeve your horse can react to that. And not in a good way. If your emotions get the better of you, and you react emotionally to something your horse does, it can cause your horse to respond to your emotional state. And usually not in a good way. Try and remember that your horse needs you to be a leader who is strong and even, not an emotional roller coaster.
And one way that I have found to be helpful to keep my emotions in check is to remember to be able to work with my horses every day is a gift. And I am grateful for what I have been able to do. I don’t get caught up in the moment thinking I have to get this done now! Because I don’t. All the things I want to do with my horse does not need to be done in one training session. It’s a process, or a journey. And every day that I have a good day and end our training on a good note is a good day. And for me personally, it seems that the more I make sure to end each session this way, the next one is better and then the next is better, and it creates a habit.
Watching The Walk
After I have made sure to keep my emotions in check, I get to work with Ethan. We start with the walk, because I like to warm him up before we get to work. I will walk him around the arena in both directions and pay attention to how he is feeling. Is he slow, is he attentive? Or is he ready to work? I pay attention to the cues he is giving to determine my action plan for our work.
And after we walk around for a bit, I send him out on the lead away from me. Ethan will typically go away from me now with a calm walk. He doesn’t snort and take off. He will just walk off in a larger circle. I will ask for a change of direction a couple of times before I ask for a trot.
And while he is walking I pay attention to what he looks like. How is his body, is he walking in a nice frame? Is his head down, or up? Is he moving at a good working walk, or is he dragging his feet? If he is sluggish I will raise my hand to ask him to pick up his pace. If he has a nice flowing walk, it seems that he moves better. I pay attention to how he is walking, and I try to step it up, and get him really active in his walk, both directions, before we move on to the trot.
Time To Trot
And once he is moving well in his walk and he has warmed his muscles, then I will ask for a trot. Ethan trots more balanced to the left. So I will let him start to the left. He will typically start off with his head a little higher, but after a few circles he starts to get into his trot and his head will come down and he starts to look a little rounder. I like to keep his trot active while I keep his mind engaged in his work.
And after he is going well to the left, I will ask for a change of direction to the right by switching hands, meaning I will change the lead from my left to my right hand, switch the stick and string, and then slide my hand down the lead, step in front of him, and send him off in the opposite direction.
The first change of direction is never pretty. But after I do it 4 or 5 times, it does look pretty and more fluid.
And the more changes of direction I add, and more sessions of trot that we do, Ethan is looking more balanced. When we first started, he had no balance at all. But with consistency of work, he is improving. And since he is getting more consistent in his walk and trot, now it is time to have him cantering. So that is the next step in our training, adding the canter!
Cantering Confidently On The Lunge Line
For cantering, I switch from the 15-foot lead rope to the 30-foot lunge line I have. I don’t like to ask for canter on the smaller 15-foot circle. I want to make sure Ethan has enough room to find his balance on a larger circle instead of a tight one.
So after I switch out his lead, I start him to the left, and I gradually give him more of the line so he is out away from me. And after a few circles of trot, I ask for the canter.
And I should mention when I ask for gaits, I add my voice. I say “Walk” or “Trot” or “Canter” or “Whoa.” I will typically add in a cluck as well. I don’t know if this is right or wrong, and depending on how you train or work with your horse, you may do it differently. And you know what? It’s ok!
As long as you are not acting out of emotion, or asking too much of your horse, there is no right or wrong way to train him, in my opinion. It’s a learning process. We all are individuals, and we do things differently including how we train our horses. It isn’t how we get to the next level that is important. What is important is that you get to the next level. Don’t let someone tell you your doing it wrong. As long as you are doing it, and not abusing your horse, and he is improving, THAT is what matters. Not how you hold your lunge whip or line, and certainly not how you get your horse motivated. Ok, enough of my rant, let’s get Ethan to canter.
It’s Canter Time
Sending him out on the lunge line for the canter, I allow him to move into a larger circle first at the trot. And after he has a few successful circles, I ask for the canter. When he is on a slight bend, and his nose is turned in a bit I will raise my leading hand and say “Canter.” If he doesn’t immediately move into the canter, I will add the whip by raising it a bit and giving the long end a flick and say canter again. Hopefully this is enough to get him on the correct lead. If it isn’t, I bring him back down to the trot for a few strides. Then I ask for the canter again.
While he begins to canter, he can get a bit discombobulated. And it does look comical. But after a few circles of canter, he will settle in, and start to collect and round himself a bit. I enjoy watching him cantering around me, especially if he is doing what I am asking of him. It just is so pretty!
And once he is going well to the left in the canter, I will bring him back down to a trot, and then a walk as I bring the circle in and allow him to catch his breath. And once he has recovered, I will send him out in the opposite direction. I repeat the process on the right, to make sure he is getting plenty of work in both directions.
And after we have been out working for 40 minutes or so, I find a good point to stop. Then I bring him over to the mounting block and there we stand. I am sure to praise him, rub him, and tell him how good he is. And while I am reinforcing in him what a great job he did, I am also building my own confidence level because of the consistency of the work I have been doing with him.
So your challenge for the day, should you choose to accept it, is to spend some time lunging your horse in walk, trot AND canter. Pay attention to how he is moving and watch to see if there are any concerns. Meaning, is he balanced? Which way does he prefer to travel? Does he toss hiss head when he moves off? Are you seeing an improvement in his mood, and does he understand what you are asking of him? Think about these questions while you are lunging him. I know that’s a lot, but it will help to pay attention to your horse’s manners in lunging, so you will know what to expect when you are up in the saddle!
Get out there, do something with your horse today and remember to make it a great day for working with your horse!