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How to teach/ signal for...

This is a discussion on How to teach/ signal for... within the Dressage forums, part of the English Riding category
  • Signals to teach a horse to canter
  • Canter signal

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    12-20-2009, 03:40 PM
Many will use the exaggerated bend method and that may lead to some quarters swinging problems later.

Everyone has their own way and I simply took the fact that horses learn patterns very quickly and turned it into my advantage. If the horse has good balance in the canter and counter canter (which is a prerequisite for doing FC in my opinion) then the following should produce clean balanced STRAIGHT FC in a short time.

I have posted this befor so will just copy it.

Here is how I got them. Never late behind, never got cross canter but good clean changes.

You must assume that at the point of trying this I had a comfirmed canter on both leads and could do counter canter at a reasonable degree of collection. In other words not perfect CC but certainly good enough to hold it around corners.

I never try to get flying changes from the trot to canter or canter to canter. The possibility of cross-canter, rushing and an unbalanced canter is too likely to happen.

My preference is walk to canter or halt to canter and I think you will find that a disunited canter is EXTREMELY rare under these circumstances.

I also keep in the back of my mind that horse are notorious for learning something in certains areas of the arena and once done in a certain place and way will repeat that pattern over and over again.

That being said I simply teach the horse a pattern.

I will canter a few strides then walk,then counter canter a few strides then walk. I will repeat this exercise for as long as it takes. I usually start on a circle and the amount of canter strides is unimportant in the beginning. If the horse gets excited (some do) then go on with something else and try again later in the ride or another day.

When the horse accepts the back forth pattern on the circle go anywhere in the arena and I find the straight side is very good. In some cases the horse may respond better on the straight side first before the circle and that is also OK.

Slowly shorten the number of canter strides between each change of lead. If you can "feel" your horse you will almost "know" that the horse is ready for the first change from the counter-canter to the regular canter and if it is done on a curve (corner) you have a very good chanch of getting a clean change (front and back). Go back to your "pattern" and wait for the next "opportunity". I prefer at this time to try to go to the halt canter to halt--then counter-canter halt---canter halt--etc, Again when the opportunity offers itself the flying change from the counter canter. It is impotrant to ensure that the horse is walking or halted and not rushed back to the opposite lead too soon. The length of time between each canters are shortened as you go along and the possibility of 2 changes could be possible.

I am sure that you understand that you will need to switch direction from left to right rein so that your counter-canter opportunities will able to be exercised on both leads.
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    12-20-2009, 03:51 PM
Green Broke
That is very intersting, thanks Spyder!
    12-21-2009, 10:59 PM
I guess it also depends what discipline you are doing as well. For hunters & jumpers I never let them counter canter, their changes must be auto.

Everyone teaches & learns differently though, that seems like a good way to do things.

I have also seen people place a ground pole on the diagonal about a stride or so out from the corner. I have never personally tried that though.
    12-22-2009, 01:26 AM
Originally Posted by gypsygirl    
i guess it also depends what discipline you are doing as well. For hunters & jumpers I never let them counter canter, their changes must be auto.


There shouldn't be any confusion.

My horse is trained FEI level dressage (including counter canter) but has won champion in open hunter.

Two very totally different disciplines with different requirements but he wins in both.

I just found that the above method teaches the horse by leg aids ...not bend or specipically balance change and therefore can compete successfully in many different disciplines.

Not saying any other method is wrong just that I found this way to be easier to work with.
    12-30-2009, 10:35 AM

I think I'd work on shoulder in before a flying change. A shoulder in is one of the most important tools in dressage. It is the best straightening movement you can use.

To set your horse up for a shoulder-in, do a spiral in, lets say going to the left, in the corner of the arena. Then as you spiral out, (moving both your hands to the right and keeping his bend around your left leg) you will ask with your left leg tap tap as his right hind comes off the ground. Important to get the timing correct. With the energy you get from your request, you must also squeeze the right rein. Think spiral out, look down long side, left tap tap, guard right right (right rein) and also keep right leg slightly back. Do not overbend the neck to the inside. Just keep his body on the bend of the spiral and think hips stay with his hips (going down long side) and your shoulders stay with his shoulders (30% turn towards inside). Don't try to muscle him into it. And don't keep your leg on him pushing as he will lean on your leg. Sounds more confusing than it is, basically keep him on the spiral bend but go down the long side with your eyes and seat!
    01-01-2010, 09:48 PM
For the flying lead changes, What i've learned is if the horse is bent to the left like this- ) Then he/she will have to pick up the left lead.
And if he/she is bent like this ( to the right, he/she will have to pick up the right lead.

As for shoulder-ins- The way I signal my mare is: To shoulder-in to the left, you want to put more weight on the left seat and put your outside (right) leg at the girth, and the inside (left) leg behind it.
You also want to have a good feel of the inside rein but you want the horses head to be bent slightly to the right, when doing a shoulder-in to the left. However if you are teaching him (or reminding him) after a long time of not doing shoulder-ins you might want to bend his head to the left a little, as to not confuse him/her.
And the opposite signals to do shoulder-ins to the right.
When first starting this, after a long vacation from shoulder-ins, you only want to ask for a few steps at the walk at first, and when you can shoulder-in from the quarter line to the rail in your arena, try a few steps at the trot, and then work your way up like you did at the walk, and so on.
Good luck!
And try not to get frustrated, because I know how that is (trust me) and it only makes things twice as bad.

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