Friday, October 21, 2011

Warm-ups, Plans and Transitions

The saga of Canter-Walk continues....

I've figured out that the secret is in getting a good canter.  But how do you get a good canter?  Developing a good collected canter is so individual: individual to the horse, individual to the rider, individual to the day.  Some days it just doesn't happen, so we work on something else that day.  Some days it happens, but I haven't got a clue what I did to get it there.  Mostly, this is because it's just so new.  We haven't been working on collected canter long enough for me to establish a warm-up pattern for Spider.

I have many warm-up patterns in my repertoire.  I've developed them over the years based on Spider's personality, his physical strengths and weaknesses and his training level.  For instance, I know lateral work tends to be a weak point with Spider, as he tends to be stiff and rush.  So, if I want to do lateral work I warm him up by doing a lot of turn on the forehand and side pass from the halt.  Side-pass is a Western training maneuver generally frowned upon by the dressage community.  You will occasionally see extremely Classical trainers using it (they call it "full pass"), but most don't use it at all.  As the name suggests, it is a purely sideways movement, no forward steps.  Fore and hind legs cross over.  I like it for Spider, because he can be a bit bullish and try to ignore my leg.  This is the same reason I like turns on the forehand for him, even though some trainers don't like to use them because there is no forward momentum in the exercise.  Forward is not really such a problem with Spider, but listening and relaxation sometimes is.  (Thoroughbreds!)  Those two exercises tend to settle him down and get him listening to my seat and leg, rather than just rushing around and blowing me off. 

When I want to work on trot, we do trot-halt-trot transitions.  These get Spider's butt under him and get him paying attention to my aids.  They also get me off the inside rein, since he won't make the trot-halt transition if I'm hanging off his face.  I tend to hang on the inside rein when he rushes, because he isn't properly bent to the inside.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Stiffness and rushing!

Stiffness and rushing are Spider's biggest training hurdles.  So, most of the warm-up routines I have for him are focused on transitions and lateral work.  But, I go by what he feels like that day.  If it's hot and he's feeling sluggish, we do a lot of big circles and serpentines at each gait to get him thinking forward. That's not really a usual warm-up routine for us, though. 

So, to develop a good canter, we've been doing lots of transitions and lateral work.  We start with canter-trot-canter transitions.  Lots and lots of canter-trot-canter transitions.  From there, I add a couple leg yields at canter and a bit of shoulder-fore.  Then we move on to counter-canter.  Then, we move up to the really hard exercise:   A figure eight consisting of a 20m counter canter circle, then a ten meter canter circle.  Once we've got that, the collection is (usually) relatively easy and we can begin to work on the canter-walk transitions.  And we're getting more consistent with them.  I'd say I'm getting them from right lead canter nearly every time, and from left lead more often than not. He's doing well. 

We'll get there, eventually.


  1. Excellent exercises and well within the boundaries of classical training--so no worries there.

    Some horses really benefit from lots of lateral work as it supples them in all directions. Sounds as if Spider is one of them.

    Well done, all around!

  2. Sounds like a pretty good warm-up plan for him.
    It sounds like you guys are progressing nicely.

  3. Great ideas of exercises. Spider is solcuky to have a thinking rider ^-^

  4. Sounds like a lot of great exercises. He's a talented boy with a talented thinking rider.


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