Saturday, September 3, 2011

Canter Work, Seat Work, Back to Work

Since Irene ended up being a non-event, Spider and I have gone back to work full steam.  My neck is feeling quite good, I've even been released from physical therapy.  Although, there are still some problems, more on that some other time.

For now, we'll concentrate on the interesting bits:  horse training.  I mentioned in my last training post that I feel Spider's canter work is not up to snuff.  I can get half-passes at walk and trot, but fail miserably at a canter-walk transition.  So the canter needs work.  With that in mind, I have been practicing counter-canter, shoulder in, and spiraling in and out on a circle with Spider.  All those exercises will help him to sit down and activate his hind end at the canter.  Once I have the appropriate amount of activity, I will begin to collect the canter, then send him back into a working canter until he reaches the point where he can nearly canter in place.  From there, the canter-walk will be in the bag. 

But, I don't like to work on one thing all the time in training.  It is not good for the horse's (or rider's) brain, and it is not a sound way to develop strength.  From a physiological standpoint, muscles are built by damaging them.  Hard work puts tiny tears in the muscle fiber, which the body then repairs.  But because the muscle was stressed to the point of damage, the body says "We need more strength here!".  And so the damaged muscle is not only repaired, but also reinforced, making it bigger and stronger so that it will not fail again.  The only caveat is that the muscle must be allowed time to repair itself.  To compensate for this, I like to work on different things on different days.

So what to work on non-fixing the canter days?  Well, it just so happens that during Hurricane Irene I picked up my copy of Heinrich Schusdziarra's Anatomy of Dressage and re-read it.  It is one of my favorites.  The book details how we ride from a biomechanical standpoint, why we need to ride in a proper position, and what happens when we don't.  My re-reading of it has inspired me to be more conscious of my position and to work on it.  So, a few days a week I just let Spider go around in simple circles while I think about my seat and leg, which muscles I am activating at what time, and what my upper body is doing while all that is going on.  I'm actually enjoying it.  Because, as we all know, dressage riders are all secretly masochists. 

Actually, it's because my physical therapy has made me feel better and I'm not guarding my spine as much anymore.  I feel much more free and able than I have in months, which makes working on my position a pleasure rather than a chore!


  1. I'm happy to hear that you're feeling better after your therapy. Rider position is so important. I think it's a great thing to work on during the non-canter training. I'm always working on my position it seems. Glad you didn't get hit too hard with Irene and are back riding and enjoying yourself. Good book by the way.

  2. Great post with good insight. I think the horse's brain needs a day or two to process a lesson as well. Good strategy to mix it up in your training.

    So happy to hear your back is feeling better. Here's hoping you can enjoy your riding for a long time to come.

  3. I ma so glad your physical therapy is working ^-^ I am getting that book for Christmas.

    I mix things up for Teena. I do loose schooling with obstacles, then I interval going hacking for 50 minutes at a fast walk, to 50 minutes work indoor. She seems to enjoy it. She never knows what she is going to do.

    So I am stimulating her brain ^-^

  4. I am glad we share the same point of view concerning the other blog. I think a bit of honesty toward herself and the younger readers would have been much better.

  5. great post, am in the same place with my horse at the moment. Canter walk! oh my its like a yardstick for how good i can get that canter!


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