So, PJ has difficulty picking up the canter. Even in the field, if all of his buddies run off, he trots off really fast. It makes sense because his lineage is in trotting prowess not the canter, but cantering is important in dressage. Last year a lot of the work Bridget did with him was getting him to canter when she asked. Before that, Barbara worked him on the lunge. He got it well on the lunge and the last ride with Bridget before the winter was good too, but that was only one ride.
The ring was finally dry enough to canter this weekend, so I decided to try an experiment. Since he picks up the canter right away on the lunge, I would use the same aids and voice commands that he knows from the ground. When I was ready to canter, I first half-halted to collect him, then as I sent him forward again I said “ready,” then as I put my inside leg on, swung my outside leg back, and gave my inside rein I said “and canter.” And he did it! To the right he picked up the wrong lead behind, so I just brought him back to the trot and tried again. When he got it, I praised him a lot.
On Sunday I also tried hand galloping him around the ring. I thought it might be fun for him and encourage him to canter. Well, it seems he has only one speed. He wouldn’t go any faster than normal. That’s okay. It was worth a shot.
The aids for canter are just that: aids. The horse has to know what they mean. You could theoretically teach a horse to canter off when you tapped his ear. Setting his (and your) body up correctly will not get him to canter if he doesn’t know that’s your request; he has to learn that’s what your body position and leg and hand movement mean. For PJ, the voice commands serve as a bridge between what he knows on the lunge and what he’s confused about under saddle. The plan is to be able to phase out the voice once he knows that my physical aids mean the same thing – canter. I’m confident he’ll get it.