Liam had only very lightly started on the idea of canter half pass a few months back, and then he took some time off so we didn’t get to work more on it. Suddenly, with his new shoes I had a canter that was not only more adjustable forward and back, it was also more maneuverable side to side. Freeing up Liam’s left shoulder allowed him to carry himself in a better balance when I sit balanced on top of him. When I shift my body to change the balance and give him an aid, he is in a position respond, instead of first having to find a balanced position in order to reposition his body. So the half pass started just like that. I had a nice, easy collected canter going. I made sure he was responding correctly to all my aids and carrying himself in the right balance as we cantered around. Then I half halted, asked, and he gave. I was blown away! Saturday Sarah came armed with the video camera after hearing about the new, improved Liam. She captured a lovely clip of his canter half pass.
It’s obviously not show quality yet, but it shows an understanding of the aids and a very solid attempt at the movement. We get a couple pretty good steps, and he shows not only the left hind reaching well under his body propelling himself forward and sideways, but he stays straight (almost too straight!) and maintains the 3 beat rhythm of the gait and a consistent tempo, even as he canters off.
I love little clips like this because it is exciting to see a horse developing, but also because I think it’s important for riders to see (and remember) that we gently mold the horse into what we see in the show ring, and none of them do it perfectly on their first attempts. We get so used to seeing amazing upper level horses doing movements that they have perfected over years of careful training (honestly, who hasn’t watch Totilas and Blue Hors Matine over and over?? If not, you should!!). We have to be careful to continue to appreciate the more average equines in all stages of training, and to celebrate in the small victories, keeping the faith that step by tiny step they will blossom into the fancy horses of our dreams if we praise them for the tiny steps and keep them happy in their daily work. As a horse becomes confident in coordinating a new movement and develops the strength required, the rider can begin to ask for more steps or for the steps to be more perfect, and if the horse has been properly prepared, he gladly offers that little bit more to receive the praise of his rider. The wise rider knows when to ask for more and when to be thankful for what was offered, and sees only the potential for improvement when objectively observing what a horse lacks.