Here’s one for the long gamers.
Dee is my big bay horse that you see in many of my photos. I’ve had him since he was 2 years old and he’s one of the great loves of my life. He’s taught me so much being the first horse that I’ve started under saddle myself, is sensitive, forward and proud.
We’ve had a few stops and starts along the way. Just prior to me beginning our work together under saddle he fell very ill and was out of action for 18 months. I brought him back into work slowly and carefully, and I’m proud of how soft and responsive he is to ride.
Due to his frame- he’s 17.1 + and took a long time to grow into his body- it took a while for all the moving pieces to come together. Balancing the relaxation with the forward was (and is) an ever present conversation, and canter especially has been something that we have been working with for many years.
Up until very recently (and I’m talking over a period of 2-3 years here), the most canter we would do under saddle was the transition and about half a circle. From there, he would tend to get a bit “up” and rushy at trot, and consequently, we spent time emptying out that concern before we tried again.
I’ve had many conversations with myself about this, and the not inconsiderable amount of time it was taking us to get the canter established. Was I not asking enough? Was it me that was shutting it down when I should just “push through”? Did I lack the skills for this piece of the puzzle to come together?
What I understand about the relationship I have with Dee having spent thousands of hours together is to trust what I feel. If it feels tense or concerned, I don’t have to second guess that message as a lack of confidence on my part; there’s a very real communication of dis-ease that I need to pay attention to and meet. And any attempt to ignore that is simply me throwing a penny into the wishing well and expecting things to happen sooner than they were able to.
I had the idea this week to return to the round pen to see if we could play with canter more in a controlled area. The last two days I worked him on the ground and we focused a lot on our transitions. He moved in and out of canter in a lovely, collected, relaxed way and I thought to myself, I would love to ride that.
Today I got on and we played. And for the first time, the canter was truly heaven. On the buckle. Rhythmical, balanced and relaxed. I wanted to ride all day but knew that the best thing to do was to stop, get off, loosen the girth and call it a day.
But that canter was everything I could have wanted and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
We are presented with so many ideas of what should be happening when, and time frames that things should be happening within. But it really is so individually dependent. On the horse, their physical capacity and how they feel within the edges of their own skin. And how we feel within ours.
And when you strike those moments in time when it all comes together, you realise that there was never any other option than to just keep on keeping on. Patience and practice.