Sandy met me out at Mel-o-dee (which used to be a Saddlebred barn by the way) to help me work Louie this morning. I had been telling her about his "bucking/kicking" at the canter and we set out to tackle that problem today. And I think we actually made some really big progress- had to work the piss out of him, but it was a well received and much needed lesson for Louie.
We started out on the lunge line with the line through the bit and over his poll for a little extra help in getting our message across to him. After just a little while trotting to warm up, we worked on the canter- getting our transitions, understanding the cue, and no goofing off. After a few corrections he responded quite nicely picking up his left lead on the lunge line. So we switched sides to his more challenging side- tracking to the right. He really didn't want to pick up his right lead, but we were able to get it out of him a few times. By the time we were done lunging, he was already quite warm and sweaty, but he was starting to get the message and was picking up the canter quite easily off of a kiss.
So I hopped on and we walked for a while to let him catch his breath. Then we set out to accomplish our goal and finish what we had started. Tracking to the right, from the walk I asked Louie to canter (we've never asked for it from the walk before). He took a few trot strides then leaped into the canter on the left lead, meanwhile giving one of his bucks/kicks into the wall. I (as instantly as I could), doubled him up and gave him a couple of good whacks on the butt with the crop. He only tried that number one other time, got reprimanded for it, then gave it up- at least for today. We tried about a million times to get that right lead, and finally at the end he took it, so we called it good, hopped off and cooled him out.
All in all he was pretty good and made some big progress today- he is cantering much easier off of the cue, even if it's usually on the wrong lead. And Sandy, being able to observe the ride, reassured me that Louie's kicking out is in resentment of my leg against his side when I cue him- just something he needs to get over and learn not to kick out at. Also, him not continuing to kick out beyond the first few departures was reassuring that there isn't some deeper, more serious issue going on.
So here is my assignment for the next time I am able to work him at the canter (not at home):
1. warm up on the lunge line, with canter transitions, particularly to the right, working on inside bend, smaller circles, and pushing from behind into that lead. Work until we get it.
2. work primarily on the canter, and if he kicks out, discipline him.
3. transition by turning my head towards the inside, pushing left hip into the saddle, turning Louie's head to the inside, and cueing for the canter as we make a turn out of a corner. I am not to throw the bridle away as I usually have, because this unbalances him and I lose control of the steering. If he needs the added encouragement, use the whip. Work on this from the walk.
So that's it. It was a great lesson for Louie, and he was VERY tired by the end, but it was much needed and even though we over-worked him, we accomplished a lot today.