So I teach this family and their pony; they alternate in lessons and this week it was the turn of the younger daughter. She lost her confidence a couple of years ago and only wants to “plod”.
Our lessons so far have consisted of trot work, transitions, sitting trot, positional corrections, circles and serpentines. Really, she’s ready to have a canter, but she was reluctant each time I asked.
Trying a different tactic, I decided yesterday that we would work over some trotting poles and look at her jumping position to improve her balance. Once they’d been over the poles a couple of times confidently I asked if she wanted to do a cross (regardless of her answer, we were doing it!) and to my surprise she said yes!
It was a tiny cross but the pony trotted speedily towards it, and they negotiated it cleanly and fairly balanced. My rider’s lower leg was fairly secure and she wasn’t using her hands to balance so I put a pole a few strides after the jump to she had something to ride towards, and had to find her jumping position again quickly, thus improving her suppleness and balance.
All was going swimmingly so I made the second pole into a cross of a similar size and my rider trotted into the fence happily. The first time the pony stopped at the second, in surprise. She’s not an automatic riding school pony so needs a bit of encouragement over jumps, which my rider had forgotten to do over the second element.
With a laugh, we tried again. This time the pony knew what the deal was, and trotted over the first element and cantered between the two crosses before jumping nicely (and quite big) over the second cross.
To my relief my rider was grinning from ear to ear, and when I asked how the canter felt she said “what canter?”
So hopefully next lesson we’ll work on the canter!
This sneaky approach reminded me of when we were younger and helping in the riding school lessons. We used to run with the little kids on their first few canters. If our instructor thought a child was ready for canter they would ask if they wanted to have a go. Occasionally you had a child who refused to canter, point blank, for a few weeks.
Then, our instructor would say “let’s do a really fast trot” and give us, the leader, a big wink. This was our cue to sprint around the long side, give a click and “whoops we seem to be cantering – oh dear!” And carry on in canter for a few strides with the child usually laughing in relief.
Once the initial canter is out the way, the rider’s usually keen to have another turn – to the poor leaders dismay!