Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Counter canter conundrum

Sunday afternoon as I was schooling a couple shallow counter-canter loops in each direction, Willow volunteered a lovely, balanced flying change from right to left at X. I cantered in the new lead for three strides, halted, gave her many pats, and let her walk on a long rein for a bit. It was her first flying change where she didn't leap three feet into the air.

The second-level conundrum: how hard to school the counter canter? Of course, we all know you never punish a flying change, no matter what the circumstances, but the question is how much do you reward it when you're trying to confirm the counter canter? I'm of the school of thought that says: reward like crazy. Unfortunately, most people in this school of thought already have their bronze medals :) I, on the other hand, still have to slog through second level before getting to the fun stuff.

I've read advice that says, just school counter canter and flying changes concurrently! Easier said than done, IMO. Second-level counter canter is pretty darn challenging for the horse, and once they discover--hey, I can just switch!--it's hard to unbake the cake.

This conundrum falls into the category of "good problem to have." If nothing else, it's a sign that Willow's balance in the canter has, indeed, improved. I do wish there was some way to provide an allowance for accidental changes during second level.

I'm currently sitting in the Denver airport waiting to board my plane to Bismarck, North Dakota. It turns out my brother is bringing along the whole clan to the funeral, so I'm going to get to meet my six-month-old niece, Chloe, for the first time tomorrow. I'll also get to see how much my two-and-a-half-year-old niece, Julia, has changed since last Labor Day.

After the funeral, I'm off to San Antonio for a conference, and then I'm hanging out with former clinician Wolfgang, his wife Suzanne, and friend Ted (whom Willow dumped in February) for a few days. Ted said I could get on his part-draft gelding Sterling. Perhaps Sterling will dump me in revenge.


20 meter circle of life said...

Perhaps counter canter on the long side?? I am in over my head here as we are staying away from changes just for that reason till show season is done. I do think walk or trot to counter canter has re inforced the aids..just thoughts and most likely no help. Take care on your trip

dressagemom said...

Since I used to talk to my horse a lot when I rode, when we'd run into this problem I would feel him want to change and then I'd just repeat, in a low rhythmic voice "Wait, wait, wait..". and I would strenghten my aides to maintain the counter canter. If he would change I'd just say, "No." and walk, and pick up the counter canter again. I wouldn't praise and I wouldn't punish, but then I would ask for a change while in counter canter when I was ready for it. I would over exaggerate my aide for the change and give lots of praise then, so he got the point that when I wanted him to change it would be obvious.

It was hard for him in the beginning because he was oh so proud of his little self to learn those changes that he did them ALL THE TIME. He wanted to show off his new skill!

Have a good trip! I hate to say have a nice funeral, but you know what I mean...

aced said...

hope your trips going well,

but i would praise the change (it is something to be excited about!...) and then go back to walk, then back into your counter canter.. so you tell her its good she changed, but then keep on track on what YOU wanted to do , ie counter canter

Jen Travers said...

Seems like this is a good problem to discuss while you're meeting with Wolfgang and Ted--nothing like good flying lead discussions among horsepeople (this is why my non-horsie friends refuse to hang out with me and my horsie friends). Maybe they'll have some good ideas. Good luck.

Dutch Cowgirl said...

I got he same problem here with my Quarter Horse gelding. He changes leads like crazy, but I want to teach him to counter canter.

I never taught him to change leads. I guess it's just in the breed.

Is your problem solved by now? I would love to know what worked for you.

Dutch Cowgirl

PS: Although I am a western rider, I am quite dressage minded.

(Huh huh, funny, Dutch Warmblood in the US and a QH in The Netherlands having the same problem. Maybe they're just feeling out of place. :D)