Dear Appy Pony,
I believe I have Canter-itis.
I am so sick of cantering!!!!
In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m allergic to cantering now.
It would be just fine with me if no one ever asked me to canter again.
You see, each day I try my best to teach children to ride in our barns riding school. I am a large pony and I seem to have become the riding schools favorite lately. However, when it comes to teaching the canter I am very fed up!
First, the student and the trainer will stand around talking about “how to canter” so long that I often accidentally fall asleep. Then, abruptly waking me from the middle of a lovely dream I find the kid flailing around on me saying the command “canter”. Trying to wake up the rest of the way, I am a bit confused and dazed, but I try to obey and I begin to speed up towards the canter. Next thing I know the kid is leaning really forward over my shoulders for some unknown reason and I begin to struggle to pick up my lead. She is staring down like there is something very interesting just in front of my next step and this makes me nervous about my footing. All this is running through my head while the kid is still flailing her limbs, leaning forward, staring down and verbally commanding me to the canter. Finally I am able to muster up the energy and balance to canter despite my rider. Proud of myself for overcoming all odds I begin to feel a familiar canter rhythm. BUT then, to my shocking surprise, within the first 3 steps of the canter the kid clenches up into a little ball and pulls tightly on my reins. Obviously scared half to death I am now questioning my memory of the previous events.
She did ASK for the CANTER did she not?
I didn’t just dream that did I?
I hope I didn’t scare her by accidentally reading her wrong and picking up the canter.
Worried and concerned, I safely break to the walk so she can regain her balance and for us both to carefully consider whether she actually wants to canter or not. That’s when the kid starts to immediately flail around again in frustration, batting me with her whip and shouting “Why won’t she keep cantering?!”
Argh!!!! So frustrated!!!
Asleep at the trainer. Flailing child leaning out forward and way over my neck. Stare suspiciously down. Yank on reins until I walk. Whack! Whack! Whack! …… and repeat.
That pretty much sums up my confused existence right now.
I need advice, Please help!
Dear Maggie Moo,
I would like to start off by Thanking you for your selfless service as a Riding School Pony! We need more wonderful ponies like you in the world to help children fall in love with us and everything we can offer.
Coming from a riding school background myself, I am very familiar with your particular problem. There are a few tactics that you can employ, I am not sure which one will work best in your particular scenario.
PLAN A: Play Dumb
If you have thick skin and can handle the constant use of a crop and spurs then you can always try the “play dumb” tactic. This means that when your child begins to ask, just look really surprised and keep trotting around like you have no idea what the word “canter” means. Be sure to breath hard like you are really working it and maybe even throw in a small stumble when you have reached that faster unorganized trot. This will give the impression that you are working as hard as your little hooves can carry you but just still do not understand what is expected. As though the gait “Canter” just doesn’t exist.
PLAN B: Intimidation
It is a well-known fact that if you sufficiently intimidate a child rider then they will stop requesting you to complete that action. Wait for the student to begin asking for the canter, right at that moment show your extreme distaste for cantering by kicking out towards the fence. Being careful not to lose the student but just enough to jostle their confidence and make them re-consider the desire to canter. Bonus points if you can connect with the fence creating a loud intimidating clamor. If they are not truly ready to canter then this tactic works pretty well.
PLAN C: Teaching the student not to lean forward
If playing dumb does not work and the child is not easily intimidated, then move on to “Plan C”. The child will take the rail and begin asking you to canter. You will move forward into the trot for speed and when she leans out forward towards your neck come to an abrupt halt while dropping one of your shoulders. This is a bit of the “tough love” route because the child will end up on the ground a few times. But he/she will quickly learn that leaning forward while asking for the canter is not going to produce the desired effect.
Love and Carrots,