Fear of Cantering
 
 

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Fear of Cantering

This is a discussion on Fear of Cantering within the Dressage forums, part of the English Riding category
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    05-22-2011, 12:31 AM
  #1
Weanling
Fear of Cantering

Ok. I said it. That is a start, right? :)

I have been riding consistently (with my own horses and weekly lessons) for about 4 years now. I took lessons about 14 years ago, and progressed from walk to canter in less than 2 months and I LOVED it! Granted, it was a 20-something dead-broke Saddlebred mare with a beautiful, slow, rocking horse canter...

I don't know what to do to get over my fears. The fear started when the horse I bought 4 years ago bolted with me TWICE. The first time was not related to a canter cue, and she basically did it because I was an awful rider. The second time, I cued her to canter, it was very rough and I pulled her out of it, and then she just took right back off, out of control. I held on for dear life both times, praying neither of us were injured. Turned out okay - just shaken with a pounding heart. My only "true" fall was off of a horse who unexpectedly broke down out of the canter into an awful, bouncy trot and I didn't have stirrups. Ouch.

I've cantered about 18 times in the past 4 years on various horses - fast and heavy on the forehand, slow but does not take the right lead, so slow I feel like I'm not moving, etc. To be honest, I was most comfortable with the western pleasure lope, of course. But I ride and prefer English. I've discovered that I have a horse with a pretty smooth, albeit fast, canter. We actually had a bit of an out-of-control moment about a month ago. I cued to canter and, thinking we'd break before we got 2 strides (per my horse's norm), I laid the crop where I knew my horse was aware of it. Oops. We ended up galloping . I took a deep breath, asked to slow down, playing the reins a bit. I urged my horse to continue cantering, however, and was proud of myself for "going with it" and requesting (and expecting AND GETTING) a much nicer canter. I even cantered again right after I stopped a moment to stop shaking.

No matter what, when I think of cantering, I get tense and nervous. I think of everything that could go wrong. Advice? I know I will only be able to get better and more confident with practice, and I know two of my "OMG" rides were completely my fault. I just want to put on my big girl britches and get over it. Has anyone had similar fears? How did you overcome it?
     
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    05-22-2011, 01:24 AM
  #2
Foal
I'm with you! I still haven't gotten over my fear of cantering. It's feels like sitting on a ticking bomb.

BUT! Here's something that might help. Get a good brake. Meaning, get a brake pedal on your horse. A horse that's stopped can't go anywhere . . . Except maybe up or down . . .but you get my point. Before you get moving, you want to know how to stop, yes?

So, I would teach your horse the one-rein stop. First, have your horse walk. Slide your hand down either rein (not both) and pull it to your hip so that your horse's head turns towards your leg. Keep hold of the rein at your hip until your horse stops and touches your boot/stirrup with his nose. Once he does, let go of the rein. (Some horses aren't that flexible so it's okay if he can't. Just make sure he's stopped.) Cue him to walk off again, then one-rein stop. If he walks off without your cue, stop him.

Once he's got it down at the walk, do the trot. Once it's down at the trot, then move into the canter. Only let him canter one or two steps at first and then one-rein stop. Gradually, you can let him canter out more and more. If he starts taking off so that you're uncomfortable, stop him.

Hope this helps. I did this with my bucky mare. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to fully do this with her, but I started and it helped.
     
    05-22-2011, 01:25 AM
  #3
Super Moderator
All I can say is to do it more. I had a lot of spooks, a bolt and a horse fall under me at the canter and ended up fearful of cantering. But working on a good western lope horse has helped get some confidence back.
Truth is, I am rarely super confident at the canter and just have to fake it 'til I make it. Just keep at it, and it will get easier, but perhaps expecting all fear to go away is unrealistice. Just pat yourself on the back that you continue trying in the face of your fear. Isn't that the definition of courage?
     
    05-22-2011, 03:26 AM
  #4
Banned
Your fear is rational, the faster you are going the harder you will fall, however if you want to ride, you need to convince yourself to get over it. There are scarier things that you will want to do one day, jumping, galloping through a field, riding out in the open - whatever that might be.

The fear that you are facing now is one of the wonderful things about riding once you overcome it. There is no feeling like making that bond with your horse and doing something new and well.

Basically that's why we ride, otherwise we would get bicycles, they don't cost too much and have little ongoing costs, and they are easier! But they are not the same, we want to do this, you do too!

You need to relax, I know that is easier said than done, but you need to do it, if not your stress passes to your horse. The worse you are, the worse your horse will likely be.
So go there and talk to yourself, tell yourself you can do this - people do a lot worse on horses, they jump 6' fences, they race, you can totally do this. Only try it when you are in the right frame of mind.

Scary is in your mind, and can be overcome!
     
    05-22-2011, 07:18 AM
  #5
Foal
I was afraid of cantering for awhile too. (Well not really cantering per say but more when the horse would buck and take off every time I cued the canter) If possible, I would suggest that you practice on a lounge(sp?) line. That way you can focus on your seat (which might be part of the reason it's so bumpy) and transition from a canter to a trot so that you get it smooth and comfy. Good luck!
     
    05-22-2011, 07:53 AM
  #6
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by FledgeOfNarnia    
I'm with you! I still haven't gotten over my fear of cantering. It's feels like sitting on a ticking bomb.

BUT! Here's something that might help. Get a good brake. Meaning, get a brake pedal on your horse. A horse that's stopped can't go anywhere . . . Except maybe up or down . . .but you get my point. Before you get moving, you want to know how to stop, yes?

So, I would teach your horse the one-rein stop. First, have your horse walk. Slide your hand down either rein (not both) and pull it to your hip so that your horse's head turns towards your leg. Keep hold of the rein at your hip until your horse stops and touches your boot/stirrup with his nose. Once he does, let go of the rein. (Some horses aren't that flexible so it's okay if he can't. Just make sure he's stopped.) Cue him to walk off again, then one-rein stop. If he walks off without your cue, stop him.

Once he's got it down at the walk, do the trot. Once it's down at the trot, then move into the canter. Only let him canter one or two steps at first and then one-rein stop. Gradually, you can let him canter out more and more. If he starts taking off so that you're uncomfortable, stop him.

Hope this helps. I did this with my bucky mare. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to fully do this with her, but I started and it helped.
This is good advice because your fear is not of cantering, but of what could happen if your horse decides to take off (i.e. Lack of confidence in your horse). Do lots of short up/down transitions until you get confidence that you are in control of both the 'gas' and the 'brakes'.
     
    05-22-2011, 05:39 PM
  #7
Weanling
Thanks for all of your helpful ideas and support! We do the one rein stop, and I am so aware of the fact that it is important to train your horse on it.

I spent the morning with my trainer, and we ended up working on canter departs. Large part operator error, and small portion lack of fitness (at the canter/canter depart) on my horse. My horse had not been ridden for over a year before we became a team. So, when I cue for the canter, it is often sloppy on my part which makes it confusing for my horse. I felt like I might come unseated a few times when my horse was trying to run into the canter, but we sorted it out.

I am so accustomed to taking the approach that if my horse is expecting a maneuver, to do something different to make them attentive to the aids. However, in the spirit of cantering and really working on cantering, I was told not to worry about somet things earlier.

My trainer kept saying "Canter NOW!", "Canter NOW!" - which, oddly enough, worked. I did not have a chance to dwell on being scared or asking questions, haha. We had a few good departs, but have a long way to go. Will keep you posted! Thanks again! I really do think it is mostly a case of needing to actually just DO IT more!
     
    05-22-2011, 11:44 PM
  #8
Foal
Just think of your mentality when you took a deep breath and slowed your horse down from a gallop. That's what will help the most. You calmed yourself, and then realized you knew exactly what to do to help the situation. Don't let yourself panic, keep your mind steady no matter how fast you're going or how many things could go wrong. Trust your horse, that he'll take care of you.

My trainer used to help me by saying that direction is more important than speed. Make sure he's going where you want him to, and then think about tightening your core and asking for a softer, more balanced speed. Also remember to sit back, a LOT. When I'm sitting foreword it makes my horse speed up and feel out of control, at least if I'm sitting back I feel like I can have more time to react and feel more secure in the saddle. Doing the exercises with the 'gas' and 'brakes' will help also. It's important to know that your horse will stop when you ask him to.

The biggest thing for me was to remember to 'sit and think' with each beat of the canter. It helped me keep my head, which will be the best thing to save you on the off chance that something happens.
     
    05-23-2011, 12:59 AM
  #9
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by leonalee    
I am so accustomed to taking the approach that if my horse is expecting a maneuver, to do something different to make them attentive to the aids. However, in the spirit of cantering and really working on cantering, I was told not to worry about somet things earlier.
Very good point. Since we actually want him to canter, it's okay to let him anticipate as long as you really did ask him.

Anyway, it sounds like you're on the right track and know what needs to be done. Well done!
     
    05-23-2011, 01:49 AM
  #10
Foal
Don't feel bad at all, it is actually way more common than you might think. I see it a lot in older riders who are just coming back to riding after not doing it for a while. I personally would suggest, if you can, to find an instructor that you like who has good quality school horses because if you are nervous you will not relax and there is no point in trying to overcome your fear on a horse that has the potential to do what you fear most.
You need a super quiet, super smooth horse to get you used to the feeling again and when you find a horse that you are comfortable on you need to canter and canter and canter.....until you can enjoy it on them. Then you can progress to other horses but go back to that one you are happy on after so keep that happy feeling in your mind. I wish you the best of luck and I hope to see video of you cantering around the ring someday!

ETA: Another good tip is to sing while your cantering, it keeps you breathing and will relax you!
     

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