If you’ve had the chance to read part 1 of Let’s Chat About Pacing (click here to read), I brushed over a few little concepts about ‘thinking’. The main reason I split the two into think person number one- and thinking-person number two is that, you don’t need to stress about if your Standardbred isn’t ‘perfect’ during training. Gosh, it’s called training for a reason at times it might look ugly so it can develop into something beautiful!
To recap about balance, it is about balancing the whole horse. As the training progresses, they will be able to accept more weight onto their hind legs. We want to start aligning and connecting through the body. As I mentioned in part 1, turning with the outside shoulder and activate the inside hind leg.
Now, let’s have a chat about the ‘doing’ side of this! I’ve mentioned this multiple times over the years, but out of all the horses (by that I mean Standardbreds- of course) I could have picked on the property for my ridden horse, I picked the one who naturally paces the most. He paces all the time, no there isn’t anything wrong with him. It’s natural and he obviously feels more comfortable pacing more times than some of the others. If anyone has experience with a Standardbred who loves to pace under saddle, that would be me!
You’re probably thinking these topics in this series are a bit boring, where is the short cut and the quick fix. Well, it’s about the hours in and out of the saddle making mistakes and finding ways to do things better. Transitions isn’t just all about walk to trot and trot to canter, it is also about the different gears within the pace.
At the start when I was riding Arnie it was hard! Getting him to wait and to listen, come back and be a little ‘quicker’ underneath me. He really wanted to drop out underneath me into a pace because it was a lot easier. (It’s the best feeling at the trot to really feel working over the back connected through the body and that swing and push!)
Have your horse in front of your leg (not running away, but the feeling of them underneath you if you say go it will go), use your body/position and your half halts to bring them back into a ‘smaller’ trot or canter, you want the feeling that they are still ‘pushing’ still active underneath you. Pushing with the hind legs not pulling with the fronts! A little ‘quicker’, which is about how long their feet are on the ground for.
You want to try and find the sweet spot where they will just hang in before they want to drop out and stop pushing. You’ll know when you find it! When you’re in it, they should be waiting for you to come back out of it into a more working pace again. Don’t hang to long, it is hard for them to find this area to keep pushing and wait. Chip away at it each ride, if you ask for a little more some days and a little fewer other days. It will start to build them up.
I could write an essay on cantering with your Standardbred, training is like an onion, you just keep peeling back the layers (sometimes yes, we have tears!) As we are having a little chat about pacing under saddle with balance and transitions, I have found that when you are starting out cantering your Standardbred (I’ll have other post down the track with this in focus or please just contact me for any questions, more than happy to help). It’s all about the preparation before the canter and the preparation coming back to trot. If you find they can only canter a few strides that’s completely fine. I honestly don’t know how long it took Arnie to develop and progress to be able to canter down the whole long side of the arena completely balanced and in a 3 beat canter.
Set yourself up for the transition into canter with a positive trot, canter half 20m circle or until they don’t feel like are going to fall out of canter. Prepare make a transition to trot, keep it balanced, don’t let it run on the forehand. It is far better to get snippets of a good quality canter with preparation into and out of then to keep cantering around and being unbalanced.
Start small, keep the bend through the body, they will less likely want to pop into a pace on a circle then down the long side.
Stay tuned for Part 3 – at this point I feel like there are going to be many parts to this series because it is such a large topic and I really want to break them down!