Last night in our lesson, Licorice and I were KILLING IT at the posting trot. He was listening so much that I had to be reminded to not over ask. He was doing every little thing I asked. He was bending and forward and when I thought about walk, he would come back to me. If I could have, I would have patted myself on the back. Yeah, you know where this is going. Don't pat yourself on the back, especially while in the middle of a ride. Save the congratulations for when your pony is safely tucked back into their stall or pasture.
Thankfully, this isn't a horror story where Licorice loses his mind or anything like that. It's more like an endless re-run of a bad television show. We went from posting trot and leg yields, to getting ready to canter. The idea was to not change anything. To just quietly sit, think 'walk' to get the half halt and then canter.
I sat. That was where our train first edged off the track. Licorice immediately sped up. So, I sat and sat and tried to relax and get back our happy, soft place. Many circles later, there it was. Okay, we can do this. And, canter! Head goes up, feet go spastically forward into his Standardbred racing trot. Wheeeee!! My arms stiffen, my legs stiffen, my breathing gets shallow.
Stay with it, stay with it. I'm chanting this in my head. I might even be chanting this out loud. First my legs let go and Licorice slows down a tiny bit. Then I breathe, think walk and shake the tension from my arms. Licorice slows down more. I remember to tilt my shoulders a little forward and look between his ears and not around the circle. I'm bending him, he's listening again. Okay, we're okay.
And, canter! Licorice responds with 'Okay Mom! FASTEST TROT EVER!'. It's like a game of Can You Sit THIS Trot? Oh, how about THIS trot? L is yelling HALF HALT! HALF HALT! My elbows are flapping, presumably to help me fly since my butt is so tense that I'm hovering over the saddle. I grunt and groan as Licorice dives into my hands. I feel like Scotty from Star Trek "I've giv'n her all she's got Captain and I cannae give her no more."
L tells me to breathe and to insist that he bend and then LET GO. Oh right. Let go. That's always the trick for me isn't it? To let go. Let go of the breath I'm holding in. Let go of the tension. Let go of the inside rein. I let go and then ask again and it's a tiny bit magical how Licorice responds so quickly.
I would like to end this post with how we then had perfect canter transitions and Licorice pooped rainbows and glitter, but we actually spent most of the lesson trying to work the frantic out of the trot and Licorice had anxiety poop instead of rainbows and glitter. Licorice just really wants to run into the canter. It's what he's always done before and he doesn't see anything wrong with it. Seems we both have issues about letting go...
The lessons I'm learning are super valuable (aren't they all, though? After typing that I realized what a stupid statement that is. ALL lessons are valuable, even if they seem insignificant). We may not be making progress in leaps and bounds to the outside eye, but we're in it for the long haul. Also, I'm taking a bit of the cheaters way out and having a few training rides put on Licorice so he can learn how to canter from a regular trot with a normal person on him. Then we'll work out how to have him do it with ME on him.