Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Canter Banter

I suppose the correct term, since I ride western, is lope. But it doesn't rhyme with banter.

Lope. Should we or shouldn't we?

An interesting thing happened on my family horse guest ranch trip a few weeks ago. I loped My Boy for the first time since his silly misfitted saddle pad crow hops earlier this spring. And you know what? I lived.

Let me clarify, I am not living in fear of loping. It's a combination of things that make me more uncomfortable rather than fearful. I do not like My Boy's lope. It is a bit choppy. He is not a flat-kneed loper. In his defense, he is not an awful loper either, it's just not pretty. I always feel like he's going faster than he is. And I do not like loping in small arenas. It seems to make his speed feel faster and the circle less controlled.

In the guest ranch arena, things were different. The arena was huge. The footing wasn't great (wood chips on top of sand/dirt) but it was more level and forgiving then the arena I ride in. I'm not sure what prompted me to ask My Boy to lope during our rodeo events (umm....a little competition, maybe?) but I did and he was fine and I was fine. Even loping on a straightaway, in a haphazard, let's-go gaming kind of lope.

The one other time we had to lope in a circle was during the egg and spoon ride. The two finalists were so good (that would be me and my cousin Jac) that the only way to get a winner was to pick up the pace. I kissed and gave My Boy a little right leg and off he went into a rather slow, collected lope. I kept the egg steady for almost a whole circle around.

So what did all this loping do for me? It gave me confidence. I am not sure what was different about that trip. Maybe it was all of my family's eyes on me, supporting me, offering to pick the wood chips off my chinks should My Boy decided to get silly and dump me (he never has.) Maybe it was being in a different environment. It felt like we were in the "show" ring and My Boy seemed to think it, to. We weren't just riding at home in the backyard. It felt different. I felt like I could have loped him all over that arena.

Where does this leave me? Eager to try loping again at home. Of course, footing is an issue. The late summer rains have drenched the arena and made it slippery again. I'm telling you, summer is over, my friends. I am not sure the arena will see another dry day until next spring. But I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can get some more "canter work" in soon. It is a good muscle builder for my boy. And for me? Well, goodness, I think I've broke out of my lope mope. Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.


  1. Good for your Pony Girl! Cute Appy too! Hard to find one around here that looks like he does! Remember the Appy in Run Appaloosa Run - the Walt Disney Film? I always loved that horse..
    ANYway... Loping is fun! Remember to breath- that is the thing I find most of my riders forget to do- heck I sometimes forget to do it too!
    Funny story- Went to a clinic the other day- it was suppose to be a trail clinic- like in showing trail classes not riding ON the trail- any way here come three women- decked out for Trail riding- canteens, halters, chinks, the works!And I must say they were women 'of a certain age" meaning over fifty. And the Clinition ( a world class trainer BTW) says ok we're all going to lope these poles- and the women look at him aghast! " OH no," they tell him - " We don't Lope!"
    I almost spewed coffe through my nose!
    He actually had them loping poles by the end of the clinic!
    Keep a' going hunny!

  2. I have the same problem with loping. My Paint leans really bad and I feel like she is going to fall over while loping. My Arab just doesn't have the loping thing down quite yet and even I loped her for the rodeo events! That got me the Rodeo Queen trophy and Tiara! WOW. Who would have thought that? I also have that lack of confidence while loping. It is alot different when you are on a push button horse like the one's I had growing up. My 2 horses now are green, not quite as green as they used to be but enough to still make me nervous while loping.
    Hopefully that will change someday, the day I live in Texas when I have nice weather every day of the year!
    Summer being over in the middle of August is not amusing to me especially when it just started in July! What the heck?

  3. I know exactly how you feel! I think it is really hard for people that have never been off loping to understand what it is to come back to it. I was off of horses for years and when I finally started riding again I had a trouble with "behind" at the lope. I felt like the horse was moving faster than I was able to ride. Even a slow lope FELT fast and mentally I was not riding in moment or a head of the moment. Instead I felt that I was about three strides behind. I not able to ride with confidence and give direction (which only made things worse) because I was behind. The ONLY thing that allowed me to catch up was TIME. You have to spend a LOT of time at the lope and I agree with vaquerogirl, you have to remember to breath!!! The more time you spend at a lope, the more relaxed and comfortable you will feel. My Boy's back will become stronger, his lope slower, rounder and softer and your back will be loose and it will feel much better. I thought that my horse had a rough lope too but it was actually a combination of him and I both lacking condition and being stiff at the lope. I finally feel like I am able to ride a head of him and push him up to where I want to be rather than feeling like he is running out from under me. I had a few blow ups at the lope and was nervous too. You know what helped me? Music. I know it sounds stupid! Do you have an artist or song that makes you feel all jacked up and that gets you in that bad ass mode where you feel fearless? I like country but I needed a little Kanye West to get me loping! I even used Steve Earl's Copperhead Road in a pinch! really does help!

  4. Sorry! I should have done a little proof reading! Hope you understand that garble!

  5. I've always loved to lope. It reminds me of a rocking horse. Silk has that hoppy motion too because she has arthritis in her back legs. We've finally had to just not lope because it makes her too sore. The long trotting with My Boy should help him stretch and it will smooth out in the lope. I always admire riders who look like their butts are glued to the horse when they lope. Sounds like you're really having fun with him, which is after all, the point of all of this, right?

  6. I love to canter! It took me several years though to get my horse to relax and quit going up and down like a carousel horse at mach 1 and be more forward. What finally did it was for me to relax and let go of her. We had to do a lot of cantering for her to realize she could slow down and enjoy it too. :)

  7. I'm glad that you had fun loping your boy at the ranch. Every little increase in confidence gets added to the confidence bank and you can use it at a later date - when you are ready.

    Maybe you guys can canter/lope a bit out on your trail rides or something, until the arena footing is better...

    I was doing better with my confidence last fall and was loping my old gelding and he decided he didn't like it and bucked me off. I broke my arm and let me tell you, any confidence I had was broken along with my arm. Since I've bought Rusty, my confidence is slowing coming back - he is a kinder soul that my old gelding...

  8. I don't mind loping it's the trotting I don't like! As far as getting dumped, been there rolled got up and got back on.(recently!) I used to be afraid of getting bucked off. Not so much now, It surts, but it subsides... after a while! My horse is just high strung, and spooky,sometimes. Big crowds, lights, flashing cameras, bulls clammering in the chutes!! Let's just say she not used to the limelight just yet!! Keep it up you will overcome your Lope Mope!o

  9. I understand the hesitation. I've been there, ummm several times, myself. But, I am glad you are ready to try again.

    Since the footing isn't great, maybe you could lope along the rail and forget the circles until it dries up.

    Summer is most definately not over in Texas!

  10. Canter Banter is much better. What rhymes with lope: mope, dope, soap, cope? Not too good! hehe

    Way to go for all of the confidance building cantering! I'm really so happy for you. I hope Baby Doll and I get to that point soon, too.

    You and My Boy make such an awesome duo! I wish I could have been there to cheer you two on. How exciting!

    You go, Pony Girl!!! Yahooooo!!!

  11. That's a HUGE step in your partnership with your boy. You go, girl!

  12. Loping is still foreign ground for me...each time I get in the saddle I start with the thought "Today I lope." But I have yet to accomplish the goal. Good for you for rising up to the challenge!

    Eventually I'll be able to keep up with all you speed demons!


  13. Have you looked at the weather? Summer might be back for us starting this weekend. Well for a few days, anyway, but I'll take whatever we can get!!

    Is there a barn nearby that you could ride or trailer to and use their arena? I used to lease a horse that had a terrible, tiny arena, so I know what a luxury it is to now have Jack at a barn with an awesome outdoor and indoor arena! Might be worth the little extra effort to go to a place that has an arena you feel safe and confident in.

    I am not scared of cantering in general, but for some reason, cantering to a jump seems much scarier than just trotting up to them! So that's the issue I've been working on with Jack. Getting him more strong and balanced is definitely helping, though. Good luck with loping!

  14. You go girl and get your lope going! I cantered once. It was the most terrifying thing I ever did. Of course my old guy was 21 years old and he only did it because he thought my trainer was threatening him. He knew I didn't want him to move. He even gave me a flying lead change, probably the second most terrifying thing I've experience thing in my life. I don't think even I got back on that horse for an entire week after that. Yeah, not much of a rider was I...

  15. It has taken me a while too. I can canter/lope on my old trusty mare, but on my three year old gelding. That is when I feel like I am taking off into the wild blue yonder!!

    I do hope you get some dry days so you can lope again. I am sure your boy can do a fantastic slow cicle.

  16. Thanks for visiting my post! If you have Netflix you might see if they have a copy to rent( of Run Appaloosa Run). It is hard to find- but in retrospect a fun movie to watch- its about a girl who wants to ride her Appaloosa in the Sucide Race. Scary stuff- that race!They might have even banned it by now!

  17. Paint Girl- Try some counter bending- each side. If you don't know how, get a local trainer to show you. Its great for keeping the 'lean ' out of your circles and good for controlling every bit of your horses body. I use it for warm up and sometimes in 'punishment' circles to help 'focus' my bratty gelding.

  18. Congrats on the cantering! (I'm an english gal through and through) I would have never guessed with recently reading your blog that you had some confidence issues within gaits. Have you thought about taking a few lessons while you and My Boy get both of your confidences back and get into a work routine? The instructor can also help you with some tips on getting a better canter for him, contact and also not getting him not to lean in the corners. It may be something worth looking into. But great job, you and your appy are just great. Keep up the good work.

  19. Let me tell ya what does it for me...and you're going to think I'm crazy, but you should really try it. Lope with no stirrups. When I got my horse, I felt like a beginner trying to sit his rough lope. And he leans. So first I tried putting him in a roundpen and riding with no stirrups. I thought I was going to fall off the side of him! Then in the regular arena (which also had slick footing and was not very large) I loped him around with no stirrups, just a lap or two. The second you put your feet back in those stirrups, the whole thing feels more balanced and way more controlled.

    You won't fall off, Pony Girl. You'll stop your horse (and I've seen him stop!) before you become too unbalanced. Your chinks are also going to hold you to that saddle like glue.

    For me, it's the same reasoning that after trotting, walking seems so much easier to control, and after loping, trotting seems so much easier to control. Well, push yourself a little bit further and the slightly easier will seem WAY easier.

    Also, maybe don't use your arena space as a square where he makes sharp-cornered turns, but rather make it a large oval, and pick that inside shoulder up so he's not leaning into anything. That'll keep him from slipping...unless it's a complete mud pit! And we all know the odds of that in western washington!

  20. Good for you! My horse has a lope that can feel like riding a washing machine at times! I can feel all 4 definite footfalls and that's usually when he is strung out and his back is hollow. I round him up by asking for softness in his headset while pushing his hindquarters up under him at a full trot. It doesn't take him long to realize he'd rather be soft and loping than have me pushing him for collection and speed. And when feeling spooky about loping, try going up a long uphill, way too much effort for a buck and your horse will appreciate a slow speed. Remember, make your idea the horse's idea. I love reading your comments and all of your reader's comments too. There's some good ideas coming in - you go girl!

  21. Hi Pony Girl. This was an interesting post and, for me, the comments were also very enlightening.

    I've only been riding for a little over 2 years and take English riding lessons once a week after work. My trainer and I have been working on cantering a little bit each week and I'm having fun doing a few (low) jumps at a canter, as well.

    Most of the other people in the ring with me have been riding for years and some of the little squirts look very comfortable cantering around, so I've always felt like I'm a slow learner.

    After reading some of these comments, I must say, I feel much better about my progress.

    Like Palomino Girl, my trainer has had me do a bit of cantering without stirrups. And, although my first reaction was, "What?! Are you nuts?!", I must say, it did focus all my attention on what I was doing and certainly does highlight any problem areas, with regard to balance, etc.

    The little puddin' pie horse I ride is pretty broad and has a rough canter as well. At first cantering scared the bejeezus out of me and, like you, cantering in a circle in a small arena was incredibly daunting. However, with time and patience, I'm slowly gaining confidence and getting better at it. I'm even learning how to post in the canter.

    There's always something new to learn, no?

    Keep up the good work!

  22. that was always the best feeling - loping... bareback was the best. even though it was faster than a trot, it was sooo much smoother and with the wind in your hair and you moving at one with your horse. AWESOME.
    thanks for conjuring up those memories!

    ps - LOVE your new pic/header! i've been meaning to tell you that!

  23. i am so glad to hear that you have overcome that! sounds like you two are on y'alls way! great job

  24. When I got back into riding after 33 years it took me a while to even get used to sitting in the saddle. I felt like I was on the 10th floor of a building! But for me it was just like riding a bike. Once I walked him a bit in the pasture it all came back to me. Now it did take a while, it definately wasn't in one day, but now I can lope, trot or even the occasional gallop. I really prefer the walk though as I am not in as good of shape as I used to be.

  25. You go girl! You got the bug!!!!

    As you know I love to go fast! Woo Hoo ~I have a need for speed! I will agree that loping bareback is the best! Also agree with the lady that talked about loping with no stirrups, it makes a world of difference. I think too many people use there feet wrong and it hinders them, they also hang onto the saddle horn. That gets you out of motion with the horse.

    Hoping you get out and get you and My Boy to loping! You go girl! Wish we were closer and I would come and ride with ya, it's always better to start with someone there encouraging you!!

  26. Yay...she cantered!!! I second and third what everyone says about cantering bareback, cantering without stirrups, and/or getting some lessons with/on your Boy.

    Do you and your sis ever canter on the trails? There is nothing like a good bridle path-or a level logging road!-to practice your canter on as well.

    I had no time to adjust to cantering after not riding for eight years. Amber basically took off on Waska, and Bo and I had to follow...oh, and we were't cantering, we were galloping :)

    I remeber thinking "how come I enjoyed this so much when I was younger," and that I was probably going to die, but then when we were done, and I thought about it, I realized that I had a blast. Now we canter and gallop all over the place. Trusting in your horse definitely helps, and I know that you and My Boy will get there...Look how far you have come already! Way to go!!!

  27. Good for you! No more lope mope... LOL.
    I am trying to get my son, TRuck to build me a step so I can get on my horse without the help of another around. Then I hope to get rid of my lope mope.

    happy horsin' around!
    I am doing catch up and working my way backward through your blogs and enjoying every minute!


I love hearing from my readers!! I truly enjoy all of your feedback, advice, helpful tips, and stories. You all make me laugh and I learn so much from you, too. I will try to post replies to your comments as often as I can.

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