OMG! Ava gave me the BEST canter depart today. I was so thrilled that I stopped her after a few strides, patted her up, and we called it quits for the day. xD
Let me back up a bit though... Last Thursday, Bern taught me how to do the leg yield along the rail to get Ava straighter between the reins/aids. |\ <-- rail = | and horse = \. That started off really bumpy, and it took me a couple days to get my body and mind to cooperate, but it is really helping! It's so easy too (once I quit over complicating it).
Then Friday, my trainer let me ride one of the 3rd level horse's (this one is for sale by the way, and he's a doll). Bern gave me instruction on how to ride the horse correctly so I could feel how it was supposed to feel. At one point Bern tells me to ask for a canter depart from the walk. This horse makes these look smooth in his sleep. He's an old hand at this. So I ask for it, completely did not expect to get it, and ended up bopping him in the mouth the first time. That was quite an eye opener to me. It was shocking how much I was inhibiting the canter in all kinds of bad ways just by mentally being prepared for the wrong answer. When I got the right answer, I was all discombobulated. Thank goodness the gelding I was riding is an absolute saint! Poor guy. But the second attempt went much smother, and less painfully for the horse. I spent a couple seconds after that just trying to mentally "fix" that feeling into my brain so I could apply it to Ava.
So today, I started with a few leg yields along the rail to get Ava a little better between my left and right. Then (after making it very clear she had to get off my right leg), I expected a smooth canter depart from the walk. I sponged the outside rein (which she was now on thanks to the leg yield exercise), and viola! I had a balanced, round, engaged canter. When I asked for the walk again, she was able to carry herself into a smooth transition. It was fantastic! That was one of those moments where you really wish you had someone there so you could cheer together. The main thing that caught me by surprise is that even though I had previously wanted to expect her to canter, I still didn't, and my body said as much. When I was able to let that mental block go, then Ava responded with the correct answer because she could.