Can't get or keep the canter... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 09-19-2013, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Can't get or keep the canter...

Hello everyone! I need your advice with cantering. For the past four lessons, I've been working on picking up a canter. By now, I probably should easily pick up a canter and stick to it. But I just can't! The horse I ride, Goose, is really sweet and is a responsive horse. It's my fault we can't go any faster, I KNOW something's off but I just can't figure out WHY it's so hard for me to settle into a canter!
It's a bit of an issue to get Goose into a canter, because I get scared of sliding off the sides (The way I first fell when my horse jumped, and I was learning to trot) and either squeeze her mane like toothpaste or accidentally pull on her mouth. I feel so bad, it's a wonder she hasn't bucked me off yet! My trainer tells me to give her her face, but then I lose that way to keep me from sliding, and grab her saddle pad. It makes my hands useless, and I have to keep her from jumping the poles in the arena (she loves jumping). Once we get into a canter, after a few seconds, I can find my stride and move well with her. That's only when I sit absolutely still, giving no leg cues, just steering. But Goose, being lazy, likes to go back into a trot, which throws me off my stride and then we have to start all over again, since I just can't use my legs in a canter. Yet. This is a HUGE issue, since I'm planning to show on Thanksgiving in a walk-trot-canter class! What do you suggest I do so I can get into, sit to, and keep up a strong and forward canter without pulling on the reins, mane or saddle pad? Other than no stirrup work, because I'm going to ask my instructor if I can ride without stirrups next week : )

Thanks everyone!
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post #2 of 11 Old 09-19-2013, 04:45 PM
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Ask your trainer for lunge lessons to work on your seat, it can help so much.
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post #3 of 11 Old 09-19-2013, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by QueenCheval View Post
What do you suggest I do so I can get into, sit to, and keep up a strong and forward canter without pulling on the reins, mane or saddle pad? Other than no stirrup work, because I'm going to ask my instructor if I can ride without stirrups next week : )
First of all, take a deep breathe and RELAAAAAAAAX.

Then practice, practice, practice!

Everyone learns at different paces and you've only been doing this for 4 lessons. You'll get it!
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post #4 of 11 Old 09-19-2013, 08:56 PM
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I agree with plomme, Lunge lessons help heaps. You can work on your seat and balance without having to worry about the steering. you can work with and without stirrups, also maybe with and without your reins.

If you need the reins to help stop you sliding off, then you would be unintentionally pulling on her mouth.

Lesson horses are clever creatures, most of the time they feel your balance isn't great and slow down because you're not telling them to do something correctly - which I know isn't the easiest when you are learning but it's a lot safer than a horse that will take off on you if they feel you're unbalanced. Once your seat has improved and you are more balanced and stable, you will prob find that Goose isn't all that lazy. :)

Keep at it, it's something we all go through while we learn. xx
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post #5 of 11 Old 09-19-2013, 09:13 PM
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lunge lessons, or lessons on a more push button horse. Also, if you are this unbalanced at the canter (which is very normal for beginners) you should go back to the trot and trot more until you are super stable there.
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post #6 of 11 Old 09-20-2013, 07:54 AM
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I second plomme and the rest. Longe work and no stirrups work. From the sound of it I think no stirrups work is probably a bit premature at the canter. Wait until you have a balanced seat and have relaxed/are a bit more comfortable before trying canter with no stirrups. Once you can really sit in quietly and move with the horse you'll attain a whole new level of one-ness. It takes tons of time and practice but once you get it and aren't relying on saddle pads or reins to keep you aloft you'll be so much more comfortable. The fear aspect doesn't help for sure...and when we get nervous, we stiffen up, which makes it that much harder to just sit in and move with the horse. beau159 has it right - breathe, relax, and be one.

The more you hold with your hands and lean forward, the more your seat (and in turn your center of gravity/balance) becomes altered and makes it that much harder for you to feel comfortable. I know this might sound counter intuitive, but once you learn to relax and really sit in, you'll see the difference, and then your hands will be independent in a way and you won't be pulling on his/her mouth.

I think best case scenario, saying again what I said in the first paragraph, is to go to the longe line. Ask your coach if she has a "grip strap" or a neck strap that you can borrow. Knot the reins and just let them sit on your horse's neck for the duration of the trot/canter transitions on the longe. The grip/neck strap will give you the security you will need to get through the fear factor that you're dealing with. Yet you won't be alone with the knotted reins because your coach will have the longe - you just won't have the ability to haul on his/her mouth if you are grabbing onto the strap and not the reins. Remember to sit up, and give a clear leg aid with your outside leg.

You'll get it...I'd love to hear the progress you make in the next little while. Everybody goes through this at one point or another.

Once you've gotten more comfortable I highly suggest riding with no stirrups in trot/canter to work on your balance and seat. HIGHLY suggested. It will be terrifying at first...probably the crappiest thing I ever did was learn how to canter without stirrups. But at the end of the day it really really made a difference to the way I ride. In fact now, if I could ride without stirrups all day every day including showing? I probably would. :)

Keep us posted!!!
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post #7 of 11 Old 09-20-2013, 08:10 AM
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As Beau said, REALX!!!
That has always been my biggest problem. I get so anxious that I'm shaking!
I find that singing in my head helps also.
Take a few deep breaths and KNOW what your goal is!
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post #8 of 11 Old 09-20-2013, 12:25 PM
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what NaeNae said! lots of school horses stop because they can tell you are unbalanced and are trained to slow down when they feel that. So don't feel it's anything you are actively doing - you primarily need to get better with dealing w/ the bounciness. Everything everyone said here will help, but it's mostly time. (I also like working the sit trot to get better) If you want your seat to come along faster, you should really just schedule extra rides. I don't think there's much you can consciously do other than ride more, work stirrupless, sit trot, ride etc. Lunging is good because you don't have to worry about a zillion things you can just focus on trying to stay connected & balanced.

Relaxing is good advice too.. I found that if I breath in and out it actually changes the horse - they definitely feel it.. as small as it seems! But I think reallllly... you need a good seat first because it's hard to relax when you're bouncing and unbalanced. of course, that shouldn't stop you from trying. always breath. but .. yeah.. you're bouncy, have a zillion things to think about, and then on top of it all: relax and don't sweat it. :) It's sounds like a contradiction, right? you'll get it though. The Bounciness will get better, you'll think about less actively because it will be automatic, and then you can truly relax for long periods of time while moving fast. (I'm by no means an expert, but this is my experience!)

Last edited by Gossalyn; 09-20-2013 at 12:32 PM.
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post #9 of 11 Old 09-21-2013, 06:06 PM
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QueenCheval - don't forget to come back and update us on this thread. I'm actively interested on how things go as like I said, we have all been through this before.
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post #10 of 11 Old 09-27-2013, 01:33 AM
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Do you mean your canter depart or sustaining the canter? I'm right at this stage right now so I hear you. Most of the lesson horse I ride, I have no problem doing either, but there are certain ones that won't budge. I will sit the last few strides and ask him to canter by inside rein, inside leg at girth, and outside leg behind girth, squeeze with calves. For 90% of the horses, they tolerate me and will canter on the right lead. But the other odd time, it will run faster and faster on the trot....

What I did was actually bringing the horse to a walk. So that my legs are on the horse, nice and stable. I'm super balance. As my sitting trot is absolutely horrid, my legs were probably flopping and the poor horse had no idea what I was trying to ask.
From the walk, I'm less chaotic and I can execute the aids as the previous paragraph, and the canter depart is super clean.

As for keeping the canter going, you just gotta practice. Once your legs are more secure, you will be able to squeeze when you feel that he wants to break into a trot.

Take this with a grain of salt, I'm a beginner as well.
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