Friday, September 21, 2012

On Canter Cues and Horseshoes

This week I feel like Starbuck and I are really starting to consolidate our progress.  I rode her on Tuesday and Thursday and was able to canter both days and notice that she's starting to last longer at a trot without breaking gait to a walk, without me using as much leg.  This is something I really need to work on as a rider, somehow at some point it became second nature for me to squeeze with my calves with every down beat at a posting trot.  So I'm trying to re-train myself to only use the "squeeze" on the up beat (when the aid can actually affect the inner hind leg as well as encourage her to breathe deeper) and to not use any leg pressure at all unless Starbuck breaks gait (which for now is pretty much every 5 strides).

On Tuesday we were able to canter two full circles in each direction (woooooooo!) without breaking gait and she sure does have a nice little canter!  I'm surprised at how comfortable she is both at a seated trot as well as at the canter, but I guess partly that's a by-product of her being backed by me.  I'll have to wait and see if everyone else agrees with me.  Then yesterday I decided to try to solidify the canter cue a little more, so we did about 10 canter transitions with just a few canter strides after each one.  She still hasn't gotten it 100% down yet, I think she now recognizes the aids since as soon as my outside leg goes back and my inside leg puts on a little pressure she gets a little excited and starts moving faster, but it still takes some serious convincing for her to actually break into canter.  Marina tells me that this is normal youngster lack of coordination and that I'm on the right track, so I plan to try to keep alternating a day of steady canter work where we try to keep going as long as possible with another day of canter transitions with just a few strides.

I really hope to be able to take a short trail ride one of these days since I think she's ready for it and would really enjoy being out and about, but I'm kind of at the mercy of my barn mates for that since I don't want to go by myself the first couple of times (there aren't any trails I can go on without having to use paved roads, and I would like to have other horses around the first time she has to deal with traffic).  We'll see if I get lucky this weekend, I sure wish more people at my stable went on trail rides.  There are a couple of fenced in orange groves and fields nearby, so if no one wants to come along with us I may just give riding around alone in those a try (in a worst case scenario if she gets scared and bolts, she can't run across any highways).

I talked to my farrier yesterday and he'll come by next week to give her a trim, but I have to make a decision soon about whether I want to shoe her or try to go mostly barefoot using EasyBoots (I like the new Trail model so far) for long rides.  I'm really hesitant to shoe her if I can avoid it, especially since she's got such strong, healthy and shapely hooves.  On the one hand, it would be so simple just to call the farrier once every month and a half and not have to worry about putting on the boots or them rubbing around the fetlock or wearing out or being too tight before a trim and too loose after a trim or whatever.  They are a pretty hefty investment (more than 100€ for just the front pair, and for really long rides I'd need all four) considering I don't know how well they're going to work or how long they're going to last.  And on top of everything, my farrier thinks that with corrective shoeing we can work on her toeing out much more effectively than with the trims (he'd be earning the same amount no matter what since we trim monthly, so I tend to trust his motives).  But on the flip side, if the boots don't work out I can always shoe her and that's that, whereas if the shoes screw up her hooves or mess with her gaits or whatever, there's a serious transition period from when you take the shoes off until when she can be ridden barefoot again.  Also, my farrier charges 30€ to shoe the front two hooves, so in 5 months I'll have spent the same amount as I would on the boots, which should last at least a year.  And I'm pretty much convinced that it's all around healthier for the horse if they're left barefoot.

Well, I guess that's pretty much it for now, except I also wanted to include our lesson plans for the past few days to keep track of what we're working on so here goes.  I know I'm not being 100% faithful to our "training plan" but I'm having a hard time not riding when I really feel like it :)  Any suggestions or critiques are welcome!


  • Warm up (walk, trot in circles) (10 minutes)
  • Walk, halt, back, walk transitions (5 minutes)
  • Conditioning trot work all around arena (10 minutes)
  • Walk, trot, walk transitions (5 minutes)
  • Turn on the forehand, leg yield along arena wall (5 minutes)
  • Canter 2 full circles in each direction (5 minutes)
  • Joined up with group lesson for trotting over cavalletti (10 minutes)
  • Walk around stableyard (10 minutes)


  • Warm up (10 minutes)
  • Halt - Walk - Trot transitions (5 minutes)
  • Trot - Walk - Halt - Back transitions (5 minutes)
  • Perfect posture on a perfect circle, walk (10 minutes)
  • Perfect posture on a perfect circle, trot (10 minutes)
  • Trot - Canter transitions (10 minutes)
  • Follow focus on loose rein, trot (5 minutes)
  • Follow focus on loose rein, walk (5 minutes)


  • Warm up (10 minutes)
  • Conditioning trot work all around arena (15 minutes)
  • Turn on forehand facing a traffic cone (5 minutes)
  • Canter 3 full circles in each direction (10 minutes)
  • Back - Halt - Walk transitions (5 minutes)
  • Leg yield along arena wall (5 minutes)
  • Walk around stableyard (10 minutes)

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