Hi, my name is Jeni and I'm afraid to canter my horse.
Clearly, I do canter Rosie. I can tell you there is nothing enjoyable for either of us. I'm a tense, frustrated, angry canter rider. I'm always waiting for that moment when she drops out from under me.
Just sitting here thinking about it my breathing shallows a little, my heart rate goes up, all the classic signs of anxiety.
I can canter any other horse without these feelings. I can sit and relax and enjoy canter on Bitsy, a strange horse to me. I canter, even gallop Bonnie and she's bucked me off numerous times without feeling the vice grip of fear.
It's just Rosie... It's embarrassing. It's frustrating, and makes me angry with myself. I've never been afraid to do something on a horse, ever, until now.
Now I've said it, I've written it. It's down for the whole world to see. So what's next, how do I solve this? I've been "pushing through the fear" for months now. It's not getting better. If anything it's worse.
The logical thinker that I am says "Break the problem down into it's elements"
Rosie is learning canter under saddle. This means the transition isn't crisp and smooth. It's during those few seconds between asking and her thinking 'yes' or 'no' that I first tense. Tense I can't demand the transition so she gets off balance and on the forehand. This means that if she does pick it up she's off balance and often on the wrong lead.
Once in canter, I have weight in my stirrups, my core is tight as a rock, and my seat is concrete. Rosie halts off seat immediately. I'm demanding with my legs and whip (showing it to her), but my entire body is screaming at her "Stop now!". So now I've just confused my poor mare, and the more I persist the grumpier she gets. She never does anything naughty or mean. Just pinned ears and a little attitude shown in tail wringing.
Can't say I'd be that patient with my rider... I love this horse!
So problem is - I need to be precise in asking for transition, and I need to relax. Easy right?!? So how do I get to that point?
First off, Rosie will be getting once a week training ride with Jodie. Focusing on canter. End of training ride I will get a schooling on what to work on the next week.
Second - I'm going to do a lot of bareback riding. Just hacking around - having fun. Loose rein kind of stuff. Learn my balance again and gain more leg and core strength so I can handle the down transition from canter.
Third - Canter as much as possible but make it targeted like canter down center line from A through X - working trot at G track right or left depending on which ever lead we were on. The idea is to give myself something to focus on so it's not "Oh crap I have to get her into canter, keep her in canter for x amount of times around the 20 meter circle". Smaller chunks should naturally lead to larger chunks. Also the transitions in and out should help make them more crisp and natural.
Now I just have to get brave enough to execute my plan...