The dreaded C-word. Confusion. Perplexity. Bewilderment. She asks for a canter; I give it my all, but it never seems to be quite what she wants. I’ve tried so many permutations my head is spinning (note: throwing your head whilst gnashing your teeth is decidedly not what she wants).
My favourite technique is the blast-off, which is logical since it’s the one I’ve got the most practice with. We did it constantly at the track, and I feel like I’ve really perfected it. In essence, when she starts asking for the next gear, you pretend like you don’t know what she wants. Then, when she asks more adamantly, you act surprised and launch yourself forward. It’s important that you get enough air with your front legs, leaving your hind legs the range of motion required to really get going. You can do what you want with your head, but it’s best to be a bit flashy and maybe throw it around a bit. I’ve tried this manoeuvre in the dressage ring, and I have to tell you, it really added some flair to the test, which was repetitive and quite frankly did not showcase my athleticism.
A running (speed-trotting) start is great in that it gives you some momentum and helps you get your legs organized under you, because when you’re as gangly as me, it’s hard to know what each appendage is doing at any given moment. In this case, you acknowledge to your rider that she wants more speed; your legs are the motor. Basically just start trotting faster and faster until you’re physiologically forced into a canter. It also helps to scrunch up your body; after all, the laws of physics state that inertia is proportional to mass.
This next one’s an oldie but a goodie: the head-first. Enthusiastically break into a canter, and allow your head to lead the way; the higher it is the better. Really lean into those corners, and communicate to her that you are really very happy to be doing this and could keep going forever at break-neck speeds by grabbing the bit and focusing on your breathing. Inevitably, she will ask for something more sedate… I usually resist for a while, but eventually acquiesce, knowing it will mean a bigger carrot afterwards.
I’m constantly experimenting with new canter-start procedures, and I hope that eventually I’ll stumble upon the one she is looking for. With her perseverance and my charm, it’s only a matter of time until we discover the winning formula.
Elvis (J.C. slewdownfromheaven)