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Lisa's Blog post # 54
As you may have heard, Jump a Course Month is not going well. Therefore, Canter Month has been extended indefinitely. Cotton and I need more time… he is still just extremely unbalanced at the canter.
I have spent some significant amount of time researching crookedness on the internet so I could get a better understanding of what is going on. Why does he completely fall apart at the canter even though he can stay engaged and balanced in the trot? My inquiring mind had to know! What a paradigm shift…
Cotton is not your average stiff-sided horse – he is downright cock-eyed – and at the ripe old age of 14, 100% committed to it, both physically and mentally!
When he is in motion his center of mass shifts diagonally up to the right, causing his weight to fall heavily on his right shoulder. His right front foot reaches slightly more forward than his left and may even stay on the ground a split second longer. His right hind leg is much stronger then his left because it steps further under his point of mass to support his leaning body but it also takes a shorter step. He takes a longer stride with his left hind but it dangles off to the side, not doing nearly its fair share of the work. It’s kind of like he’s riding a skateboard, pushing with his right hind while his left is resting on the board just carrying his weight.
He holds his rib cage in a fixed bent position so that his ribs are closer together on his left side and spread further apart on his right. This causes my right calf to want to rest away from his side and slightly forward. His left hip slopes down lower than his right which, combined with his rib cage, causes my seat to slide off to the left side of his body.
He chooses his left lead canter because his right hind is stronger, which initiates the lead, and because his body is fixed in a bend to the left, which dictates a left lead strike off. He is so committed to his center of mass being toward his right forehand that at the slightest hint of imbalance he goes into default mode - weight over his right shoulder – which then requires him to switch leads so he can catch himself.
As plans for Jump a Course Month unraveled before my eyes, I had a growing suspicion that his imbalance had a mental aspect. That was confirmed by what I learned online. He has always gotten excited when he cantered but over the past two months, as I’ve attempted to influence his canter more, I began to notice something… cantering makes him nervous! More specifically, swapping leads makes him nervous. He looses his balance at the canter extremely easily, swaps leads behind or in front to try to catch himself and gets all out of sorts because his body is literally going in a variety of directions all at once. Poor guy!
So… once again it’s back to the drawing board. Lesley said the key is transitions, transitions, transitions…obviously tons more than I’ve done up to this point.
The good news is that his trot has improved quite a bit. Also, I’m not asking for too much – he doesn’t have to be an ambidextrous dressage horse - I just want him to be able to make it around a stadium course! It really shouldn't be too hard.
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