Luc and I try to work on long and low.

Luc and I try to work on long and low.

This week we had a brief blast of winter. I woke up Saturday morning to snow, the first of the season that’s actually stayed on the ground. While it was only a centimeter or two, it was enough for me to hope that the minus five degree weather meant the ground at the barn was finally frozen. Why am I so anxious to see cold weather? Let me tell you, it’s not because I actually like it. In fact, even though by Canadian standards it was a pretty mild winter day, I was still frozen within minutes of going outside to get Luc.

No, why I really want the cold weather to last is because it means the end to the nemesis of every single owner of a grey horse. Mud. Sticky and dirty and constantly finding its way onto your horse’s coat. This year it’s like spring never left. The mud is everywhere and I am sick of it. And I’m not even the one who has to clean it off Luc on a daily basis. I can only imagine how his actual owner, my sister Jen, is feeling right about now.

After doing our best to get him looking at least partly grey, we tacked him up and Luc and I headed into the arena. He was a bit bug-eyed when we first got in there – the cold snap seems to have triggered a re-emergence of the fall friskiness. What a wonderful winter we’ve been having!

I walked him around in hand a few times in each direction and he seemed to settle down. I hopped on and hoped for the best. And Luc didn’t disappoint. No silliness, no antics. Just a bit of a lack of focus when heading toward the scary end.

I decided to continue working on the same thing Jen had been schooling all week. Getting Luc to carry himself long and low while stretching through his back. He has a tendency to get hollow and disengaged at times. Especially in the canter. At the walk and trot we didn’t have too many issues. It took a lap or two for him to settle, but eventually he got the hang of things, only occasionally rooting his head down and beyond the vertical.

Then I attempted the canter. Disastrous. Hollow, ears up my nose, and so disengaged we felt like we were going backwards. It was incredibly uncomfortable to ride. And every time we came to the scary end it got even worse. After several laps in each direction we’d only made minimal progress.

Switching tactics I tried cantering a figure eight pattern, asking for simple changes every time we switched reins. And you know what, I was rewarded with a modicum of success. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t overly pretty, but it was an attempt. Even if it only lasted a handful of strides.

I called an end to the ride after that. Luc had given me what I wanted, and you have to take the small successes when they come instead of pushing for more and making it worse for everyone. Next time I work on long and low in the canter I’ll aim for a few more strides. Then a few more, and a few more until we can make it all the way around the ring. Then twice, and so on and so forth. While it may be a slow road, it’s the one that will ultimately lead to success.

Because it’s not about the speed I want to progress at. It’s about going the speed that’s right for Luc.