The latest, greatest exercise for Liam… to improve the canter depart, where he often falls onto his shoulders and/or puts his head up and YANKS the bit from me. We began introducing the idea of collection with the little trot-big trot exercise. Without changing the tempo, we adjust the trot from small steps to big ground covering steps and back to small steps. The idea is that he is working off my seat, and I’m not having to rely on the reins to make the changes. He stays round over his back, and carrying a soft contact throughout the exercise. When he is listening, I use the transition to little trot to really engage the hind end and help him to “sit” as he trots. Then I put him on a circle and make the trot smaller, smaller, smaller. If we get this far without anything falling apart, we are ready. I simply shift my weight to my inside seat and push forwards with it and he steps lightly into the canter.
The next step is to keep the canter more collected by transitioning back to little trot, then back to canter, then back to the little trot. I may only canter 3-5 strides before returning to little trot, and then maybe only a few strides of that if all is well, or maybe a circle or two if things fell apart. But after doing this a few times, he maintains the little canter on his own without getting strong or flat. He is not strong enough yet to carry it for a long time, but we will build it up a little at a time. It’s cool knowing it’s in there though!