The Left Lead Canter

I almost biffed it. 

Lost my stirrup. 

Not the most elegant rider. Ha!

She’s not trying to be naughty. Alright, maybe a little… but she thinks when I say “Good” it means immediately stop. So I tapped her with the whip. She didn’t appreciate it. 

It’s the only times she bucks… when I tap her with the whip. I didn’t do it hard, just wanted to get her attention quickly as soon as she broke to trot… didn’t quite go as planned.

I lunged her today. I want to see if I can help her balance better without being on her. I don’t have any side reins. I’m a little leery about using side reins anyway. I haven’t used them since 1992.

Were you even born then? 

It was that long ago….

I’m not sure I remember proper usage. I need a refresher course.

So I used cavellettis. Went suprisingly well, considering it’s rainy, cold, windy. My hubby is using the chainsaw to cut trees down near the driveway (above the arena and just out of sight). Lawn mower with cart is being used to drag brush past the arena. Lots of noise, lots of reasons to be a spastic idiot.

She was amazingly unaffected by the crazy pile of brush lumberingly slowly pasy her in a cart, nor did the chainsaw affect her. It’s always the cats. haha

As soon as I asked her to trot over the cavallettis she settled down. Then we worked on trying to canter over them. Wasn’t really working, so I modified it to trot through, pick up canter, trot through, pick up canter… etc. That worked rather well even though they were spaced for canter. 

It was very tiring for her, so I didn’t lunge very long. 

She has a nice canter to the right. Almost balanced, good reach, even footfalls. 

The left is like a drunken duck trying to play hopscotch. 

She picks up the right lead going left, then does a flying change/buck to switch leads. 

Sometimes she does a flying change, comes to an immediate halt and rears. It’s a movement of beauty and grace, and makes me think higher levels work is attainable with her…. in the far future. And then she nearly falls on her face picking up the left lead again. 

I think making her think about her own feet and how to balance herself is what she really needs right now. I can’t seem to help her undersaddle to the left. She lets me help her to the right, but not at all to the left. She locks her jaw, barrels down on the bit, and speeds off in a forward falling spree of “Get it over with!!” canter. 

Any suggestions on youtube videos, or articles, for proper use and technique of side reins? 

Back to Riding

Knock on wood, but both Ava and Joy are sound again. 


The new farrier has both of their hooves nearly sorted out again. Joy’s still a bit odd on the club foot, but it’s growing in really well. And her back feet look a million times better than they did in June.  

Ava still has another 2, maybe 3, months of hoof growth before all signs of laminitis are gone, but we’re close to resolved and she’s comfortable romping around again. 

I started riding Ava again about 3-4 weeks ago. Only walking and only short rides. I’m still leery about the stifle injury flaring up, along with wanting to avoid stressing the laminitic fronts. I’d been doing short walk rides in the back field. There’s a nice big loop along the outside of the field. Full of straight lines with two small hills on either side. I can do half or a full loop depending on how the horse feels. It’s a good track to work on strengthening stifles. 

I tried lunging Jessie last week. She first pulled the “I have never lunged in my entire life and have no idea what you’re asking for!!” approach. I know she’s been lunged before. 

I finally got her going around, but she would only trot (regardless of whether I wanted her to walk or not) and then pretended she didn’t know what “Whoa”, “Ho”, or “God Dammmit, Stop!” meant. 

I finally got her stopped and she looked at me like I had personally betrayed her deeply and wounded her to the core emotionally. 

I only lunged her for like a minute, total!

I made a big fuss about what a good girl she was and put her back in the pasture. Next thing I know, she’s huddled in the furthest corner of the pasture, facing away from the barn, apparently sulking about the abusive treatment. (not really, but it kind of seemed that way).

On the plus side, she still moves like a horse half her age. 

To be kind to her senior joints, I’ve been taking her for walks around the back field instead of lunging. She seems to really enjoy the walks. 

During one of Jessie’s walks, I decided to walk her home beside the pasture (next to Ava and Joy).  I’d been babying both Ava and Joy up until that point… but after the extreme show of agility by both of then – the wild cantering, and the beautiful extended trotting, I realized that neither were in any pain.  Joy’s ability to perform a canter prioutte on the spot and Ava’s extended trot really solidified it for me. 

Next day, I took Ava to the back field and spent some time trotting and cantering. She still has just the very slightest hitch to her gait, but in other other respects she felt great. Willingly (too willingly!) moved forward. 

With Joy, she’s reverted somewhat to being less secure away from the pasture. Our first jaunt out, I had to hop off and lead her. I would feel shame about that, but Joy’s just insecure. She needed her confidence built up again. Next time out was thousands better until we got to the extremely terrifying black bog of water! All she has to do is walk around it, but she freaks. So I hopped off and we spent some time hopping around next to it (we aren’t going through the bog. Thats just gross). Third time, and Joy was the quiet, sweet trail horse I had earlier this spring. Even willingly walked past the bog pit (she gave it the hairy eyeball though).

Joy’s arena work is good, although severely unfit. We’re just working on stretching longitudinally and laterally at this point (she gets so tight!). I was just happy she wasn’t a hot mess of anxiety and nerves considering I hadn’t ridden her in 3 months. 

I started asking for just a short bit of canter by the 5th ride. Joy wasn’t happy with it.

That was the extent of her rebellion though. One outburst, and she settled right back to work. To be fair, she only bucked when I tapped her with the whip. 

Other pictures of our daily lives:

Adventures in Vaulting

Ever since I watched a vaulting demo this past spring I have really wanted to try vaulting. Not only does it look like a ton of fun, but I also read it can help improve your seat and balance on a horse (which I’m always looking to improve).

Learn what vaulting is by clicking this sentence.

So last Saturday I decided to take the plunge. I was nervous. Really nervous! I went by myself. I felt out of place. I felt too old. I felt too fat. I was worried I’d make a fool of myself, and that I’d have preteen girls laughing manically at me if I fell off a horse attached to a lunge line. I fretted about it the entire hour drive to the place.

I had called ahead to ask what to wear. I wore the comfy yoga type pants, loosely fitted t-shirt, and tennis shoes that the lady recommended I wear. I felt oddly dressed for a riding lesson…. it felt so wrong with tennis shoes on!

When I got to the place, there were 3 young girls talking to the instructor. I fervently hoped they weren’t all staying for the Open vaulting session. I was in luck. Two of them left. The remaining girl, a powerfully built young lady, was going to be my guide for learning the movements on the barrel.

I was taller than my guide – an unusual occurrence.

The instructor asked the young girl (from here on out designated as M) to run me through a short warm-up and then show me the barrel exercises. M took off around the arena at a brisk pace. She mercifully slowed when she realized I lagged behind. We did one lap, and as I wheezed my way back to the front of the arena, M stopped and waited.

M hopped up onto a barrel with ease. I dragged a chair over to my barrel and clumsily heaved myself up. She ran through 5 moves for me to practice on the barrel. I watched intently and then set about replicating them as best I could.

After a very short period of time, my young barrel guide got bored and began doing handstands and intricate airborne dismounts from her barrel.

I did not try to replicate these.

Before I knew it, the instructor walked in leading a big, stoic looking gelding adorned with handle bars (I will figure out what these are called).

The instructor had M jump on the horse first. And by jump, I mean from the ground. Did I mention M is shorter than me? I’m short. I’m 4’11”. This teeny little kid bounced onto the back of a 16 hand horse from the ground. How freaking cool is that?!?!

M said she’s been vaulting for 3 years now. While I was there, M and the instructor were working on M doing around the world standing up at trot and canter. Then M practiced hand stands as the horse trotted and cantered. It was amazing to watch. I could’ve watched all day.

Then it was my turn.

They let me use the mounting block (Thank GOD!). The gelding was kind of a lumbering dude. The massively thick pad they use on his back made him feel extremely wide.The handle bars were very sturdy, and almost felt like a roll cage in front of me. It felt really safe.

At first the instructor just had me do the 5 exercises I practiced on the barrel at the walk. Basically, sit normal and hold your hands at shoulder height. Then stand on your knees (put your hands wherever). Then turn to face backwards (that was really disconcerting to me. Getting turned around was easy, but seeing the world move away from you was weird). Then you lay your chest against the horses rump. And final move was to sit sideways on the horse and jump down to land facing in the direction of travel.

Those were pretty simple at the walk. I think a lot of us have done some semblance of all of those at one time or another.

Except, then the instructor had the horse TROT!!!

The standing on your knee’s was pretty easy. Smooth horse. Nice flat, consistent trot. I still had a hard time letting go of the handle bars though. That instinct for self-preservation was strong. I felt balanced. I felt like I would be fine letting go… but I had to really concentrate and make my hand let go. lol!

The instructor even let me try some of the moves at the canter. I did let go of the handle bars while standing on my knee’s but I misjudged the stride and started loosing my balance at one point. Kind of scared me! I thought I was going to fall off. I didn’t, but really made me aware of how high up I was. After that the instructor let me try “The Flag” pose. It was SO AWESOME!!

Flag pose is where you have one knee on the horse’s back and the other leg straight out behind you. One arm on handle bar and the other straight out in front of you.

I successfully completed that pose (not elegantly, but I got ‘er done), and then the instructor brought the horse back to a walk and I dismounted. I was shocked how wobbly my legs and arms were after that. My shoulders especially were tired. It took a lot more upper body strength then I had assumed it would (for the low level of difficulty for the poses I did). It’s not like I was doing hand stands, or holding myself up with my arms. It was mostly sit and kneel stuff.
Anyway, I totally enjoyed it and can’t wait to go again. It’s something I would highly recommend to at least try once. Most of the vaulting facilities I’ve researched offer beginner friendly classes, you don’t need to buy any special clothes, the classes are reasonable priced (even for poor folk), and adults are welcomed. I never once felt self-concious once the lesson started and even the 8 year old made me feel welcomed. So give it a try sometime!