I have been working with Rocky on cantering. He isn't the most motivated horse in terms of momentum, which is a nice way of saying that he tends to be lazy. So cantering is something that requires a big, deep breath, a lot of effort, and can be stopped very abruptly. He has good brakes! He is learning that he needs to move out the first time I ask him, and if he doesn't, he will be told.
I need to be more consistent in not allowing him to slow down (trot) unless I ask him. Sometimes he unbalances me a bit when he suddenly veers off course, then while I am trying to redirect him and rebalance, he uses that time to drop to a trot. Nobody said he wasn't smart! Next time I'll try to ignore his change of direction in order to get him to maintain his momentum and THEN redirect where his feet are going.
I tried to do some figure 8's in the arena at a canter, and it's clear he doesn't know how to do a flying lead change. The poor guy would start to try to turn, then drop to a trot to switch, then quickly resume cantering but on the new lead. Rocky tries hard for me and is smart, but this is an area that is gray for me, too. I tried to watch a few youtube videos on lead changes, but they weren't very helpful.
One of my goals for this summer is to invest in some riding lessons with Randi, the person I board with. She does a great job and I am confident that my riding and training will improve with her tutelage. My other goal is to canter confidently out on the trails. I was doing that a little bit last year, but then Rocky bolted with me and my self assurance was lowered.
Cantering in the arena has been a good way for me to get comfortable with the gait again, and I have loped near the barn once already this year. I keep telling myself that the next time I am out on the trail, I'll try it, but then I remind myself that I don't have to go from 0 to 60. I need to get out on the trails more, period, before pushing myself to let him canter out there. Rocky's energy is higher out on the trails than in the arena, and he can be a speedy guy. I want to make sure that he will be "with" me and not just go for a run while I happen to be clinging to his back.
My palms started sweating just thinking about it. Ok, I need to bring myself back down from the sudden torrent of panicky, terrible visions of what cantering out on a trail could bring. The goal is fun, controlled, and not scary. I know we can do it.