My mare pauses mid-stride when cantering, as if she is going to do a flying lead change, only she goes right back into the same lead. I've watched her do this from the ground, and it felt it under saddle myself when I first bought her (I have yet to canter her since the first month or two that I owned her - owned her for about 3 years <- whole OTHER story that boils down to SHE SCARED ME badly and I don't feel like my seat is good enough to ride her if I don't get a smooth canter). Several "more experienced" friends, including a riding instructor, have ridden her. It isn't just her legs looking like she is all-out flailing, she tosses her head, too.
HUGE however: trainer (who unfortunately lives out of state) and a friend who has ridden several horses to champion titles have ridden her w/t/c without a hitch, they say she definitely need conditioning with it, could use a stronger bit (I ride her in a d-ring snaffle), but that is it! Stronger bit because once they ask her to come down out of the canter they have to lay on the pressure to get her to pay attention to it. Then other friends/riding instructor get on and my mare looks like she is either crazy or really uncomfortable... I'm leaning towards uncomfortable and the idea that there is something the friends of mine are doing that she doesn't like: she tends to be a sensitive mare.
I DO canter, just not my mare (I know, that sounds stupid). My mare and I have a great relationship. I almost kind of want to bite the bullet and canter her myself (maybe on a lunge, just in case?) because I wonder if she'd be better for me since she is more familiar with me? She doesn't toss her head with me: I've thought about it and with the other people I've had canter her, the head tossing started when they got on, not just when they started cantering. I have a hard time thinking it is because they are inexperienced or poor riders because, like I said, one is actually a riding instructor. I'm kind of at a loss... I don't canter her because when I first started riding her, she behaved for me like she does with the friends she does this to and I had just started riding again after NOT for 10ish years. She taught me really fast that I had a lot to learn about riding (quiet hands, quiet legs, etc... on the plus side, I'm told my legs are awesome all of the time now! Haha - although I'm always trying to improve and am never satisfied with myself when I see video of me riding)... and it really doesn't say much about my own riding that I don't canter my own mare I will feel "accomplished" when I get this done effectively and properly.
I am prepared to get torn up for this - please be nice! I know: what kind of person w/t's their horse for over 2 years? I do canter her when I lunge her! But that does nothing much for prepping her for a rider... Anyhow - Any ideas? My plan is to continue with my new trainer (a usdf judge) and work on her school horses, and my other horse whose canter is super smooth to improve my canter and hopefully soon feel confident enough to just hop on my mare without worrying too much. The idea behind other people riding her was that we all thought she was out of shape and with conditioning would be better, and if they rode her to condition her it wouldnt be so scary for me: but the HUGE variation in her behavior between riders makes me think YES, she def needs conditioning at the canter, but that isn't the entire problem. :::sigh::: I'm working myself up to asking for short canters on her, like, halfway down the long-wall of our arena? And possibly try her her in a stronger bit, like the people she was good for suggested?