3 trot steps forward, 1 big canter fail

So, I've been riding Gavin A LOT recently and doing a not so awesome job documenting it on this here website.  I feel like my riding has really been reinvigorated and given new purpose as I've been working with this new instructor.  I was very on the fence about her for my first lesson and really, for part of my second lesson, but I've seen changes in Gavin that I can't deny!  I've definitely had some ah-ha moments that everyone who's been riding for any real length of time will laugh at (seriously, just wait) and I'm also struggling with some old demons that have come out of the wood work.

                                        Happy rider on her warming up trotting machine

                                        Happy rider on her warming up trotting machine

Let's talk the good first:

  1. His trot work in general has gotten wayyyyy better.  By the end of my ride, pretty much any ride, he is an engaged, powerful, swinging, machine.  I can only describe the contact I have with him by the end of the ride as buttery.  It's soft, it's steady, it feels AWESOME.  We change rein across the diagonal or on a circle and you don't feel that weird jolt from one rein to the other.  Its fluid feeling.
  2. I, myself, have become much more stable in my posting.  This I believe is for two reasons.  1) I have really sunk my heels down, 2) I try to focus on an ab-engaged post - this leaves me a bit more sturdy and not-so noodly/wimpy in my posture and way of going.
  3. Forward at the walk and trot.  I don't think Gavin is ever going to be a horse hot off my leg, but he might be a horse warm off my leg.  His walk has gone from a leisurely stroll to a slightly less leisurely, more march-like walk.  The walk may for eternity need work, but I'd say the baseline walk is improving.  The forward trot is something he's caught onto awfully fast.  I know you'll all laugh, or go "c'mon - have you really not been taught this before?!?", but I think the forward trot combined with the steady ab-centric posting is what has created the awesome trot and contact mentioned in bullet 1.

Now, the bad:

  1. Where his walk and trot have made huge positive strides, his canter seems to have reverted back to what we were working with a few months back.  Before I started working with this trainer I felt like I was finally getting somewhere with his canter.  He would promptly jump to the canter and the contact was relatively light and stable.  Now he's back to slugging his way into the canter and then four-beating to his hearts delight.  I don't get it! AND IT'S MAKING ME CRAZY!!!!  Part of the issue is that the arena we ride in is extremely narrow (under 20 M across for sure) - this is such an excuse, but it can be very discombobulating to be constantly doing relatively tight turns.  Part of the issue is his seeming unwillingness to just go forward in the canter.  And part of it seems general unhappiness on his part.  I actually voiced something about a month ago (before all of this new work started).  I noticed that Gavin wasn't tail-wringing as much.  He's not a huge tail-flicker, but he does it when entering the canter and also when being asked to move more forward in the canter.  Anyways - it had at some point magically disappeared, and now it's back in a big way.
  2. That's really all of the bad, but it's totally throwing me off into a shitty mind space about my riding. 

Reading this back to myself I can only think that something doesn't feel good to Gav.  He's on oral supplements for his tummy (he was acting a bit ulcery about 5 months prior).  I've had my vet check him multiple times (though not recently) and found nothing amiss with his stifles.  He had Adequan injections last summer to support good overall joint health.  I'm just thinking - what is new that is making him so funky about the canter.  My vet will be out in the not so distant future for his spring shots, and I'll probably have him examined at that point.  In the meantime - any thoughts?

 We're a couple of big badunked betties.  ;)  Not only does our hair match, but so do our butts.

 We're a couple of big badunked betties.  ;)  Not only does our hair match, but so do our butts.

This new way of riding seems awesome and is paying big dividends in the walk and trot, but the canter has me flummoxed and a bit depressed if I'm being honest.