Getting Unbalanced at the Canter - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 12-27-2010, 11:27 AM Thread Starter
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Getting Unbalanced at the Canter

I get kind of panicky when we canter mostly because I always get unbalanced and almost fall off. Yesterday we did it on a lunge line and I still wasn't comfortable. I always lose my stirrup and feel like I am going to slip off. Any tips for improving balance?
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post #2 of 10 Old 12-27-2010, 12:37 PM
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Is your horse leaning?

I would suggest trying to canter in a straight line. Use the long wall for a guide. If you are unbalanced and leaning, even if your horse is not, you can accidentially cause your horse to drop a shoulder or hip and make the situation worse.
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post #3 of 10 Old 12-27-2010, 01:02 PM Thread Starter
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Well that's kind of why we were on the leadline because he dodges into the middle of the arena. I guess he would be leaning as we were cantering in a circle.
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post #4 of 10 Old 12-27-2010, 11:09 PM
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Having trouble at the canter is really normal for beginning riders. Have no fear, this will not last forever.
When you say you were on a lunge line, you mean with an instructor holding the line and making the horse canter for you? Is it easy to get your horse to take the canter, or do you end up all leaning forward and kicking and your horse fallig forward into a rapid jarring trot that gets so fast that the horse is forced to fall into a canter? Sound familiar?

I think more lungeline lessons will be good for you, but if the instructor has a horse that canters easier, you could ride him for a few times. It takes awhile to get the rythm of the movement down and realize how much YOU must allow your lower body to move in order to not break away from the horse's movement. You want to MATCH his movement with your lower body, so you cannot be stiff there. And your upper body has to kind of ride your lower body, which is stuck to and with the horse.

When I took lungeline lessons I was told to put my outside hand on the pommel and my inside hand back on the cantle and not to be shy about pulling myself into the saddle with my hands.

Another thing that will cause a person to feel like they are about to pop off the horse and will make them lose their stirrups is gripping up with your calf. It is really easy to do it and not be aware that it's happening. The more you can stay loose in your body, the less you will grip up.

Hang in there, it'll get smoother.
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post #5 of 10 Old 12-28-2010, 06:29 AM
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Tinyliny (as ever) has some great advice.

Another thing I would note is how you react to slipping in the canter. Do you, like I do, curl forward into the protective fetal position because you panic and that is your instinct? I am trying to retrain myself to sit back when feeling unbalanced rather than leaning forward. Leaning forward just compounds the slipping, and the losing of stirrups. Think about how you want to sit - tall and proud.

At least, that is what my instructor keeps yelling at me as I curl forward and lose my inside stirrup... again...

Mods, grant me the serenity to see the opinions I cannot change, courage to change the ones that should change, and the wisdom to spot the trolls.
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post #6 of 10 Old 12-28-2010, 01:43 PM Thread Starter
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Yes he is near to impossible to get to canter! He's not old or anything...just extremely lazy. So we are in this really fast bumpy trot for a while, so yes, I have to kick and I don't understand how I can keep my heels down at the same time so then my heel slips into the stirrup and I find myself in a mess and squeezing with my calves to stay on!

And Chiilaa, My trainer said the...exact opposite to me the other day! She said "I'm proud of you, you didn't curl up in a ball and fall off the side of the saddle!"
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post #7 of 10 Old 12-28-2010, 02:30 PM
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I think part of the problem here is because you're in the bumpy trot before the canter. That rushed trot will be extremely unbalanced and on the forehand so that will all transfer straight into the canter which will make him rush even more because he's in a faster gait. Before you canter I would do a half-halt in the trot just to balance and steady him a little so that he doesn't just break into a rushed unbalanced canter. Then just after the half halt give him the aids to canter and it should feel less rushed.

Believe me, I used to do exactly the same thing. You bounce up and down in a rushed trot then you just fall into canter and feel like you're going to fall off because all of the movement is so unbalanced. If you use the half halt this should steady him a little so that his canter isn't so unbalanced from the start. I would even shorten your stirrups a few holes just for the first few times as well so that you don't feel like you're going to lose them.

Hope I helped (:

Mount up and leave your troubles behind on the ground.
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-28-2010, 03:43 PM
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Hi Emily,

Reading your answer about him being hard to get into the canter tells me that the horse is not sensitve to your leg in the first place. He needs what the dressage masters call, "the lesson of the leg". This means you need to reeducate him that leg on means MOVE! NOW!
You will need a crop or whip for this. And if you are not secure, you may have your trainer do it.
Before I go on, I am assuming that your horse is totally capable of cantering on his own and has NO physical issues that would discourage him from cantering, right????

Ok, now get on him. From the get go, when you ask him to walk off, if he doesnt' move into a smooth walk you will lay that crop on his hiney!
You ask once with a gently squeeze of your calves, once again with a kick of the ankle (not too far back) and if that doesn't get a prompt reesponse , lay the crop on. Don't be shy, do it with authority. Your horse will leap forward, so be ready and don't pull him back , just let him go forward as fast as he likes, for a few steps, then ease him back to the gait you asked for.

When he slows down, you ask , tell and demand (with that crop). You want those three steps to be fairly close to each other. Don't let there be a lot of time between them. You want to wake up the horse. It's ok if his reaction is more than you asked for, don't let that scare you. You are used to a dull horse and a spritely horse might feel odd. But keep at it. When he goes forward, you go with him. Let him coast. He is doing the RIGHT thing , so make that easy for him.
If you really commit to this you will get him so ready to move that all you will have to do is "flutter" your ankle against his side and he will pick up the pace. But, you must be serious about it, and consistent.

Once he is more responsive, he will step into the canter more readily.

The half halt is also very helpful to prepare him to canter. But if you don't know how to do it, at least have a horse that has a good "GO" button on him.
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-28-2010, 03:58 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much! I will definatley try that! But can I ask...what is a half halt?
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-28-2010, 05:10 PM
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A half halt is a way of rebalancing a horse by momentarily closing down the "front door" so that the horse shifts its' balance onto its' hind end.
If you were actually going to halt your horse, in theory you would put some gentle squeeze , or kind of enveloping of the horses barrel with your calves, then, a milisecond later, you would close your hands on the reins to say to the horse to prevent him from going forward, while keeping a still body and becoming kind of stiff in your body to signal the horse to come to a halt. The reason that you don't just pull on the reins is to have the horse keep its' legs under him while coming to a stop rather than just coming to a flumping stop with a lot of weight on the front legs.
A half halt is doing all of the above but doing it to a lesser degree and the moment the horse responds with a feeling that it is ready to come to a halt, the rider releases the rein and asks for a more vigourous step forward.

It's kind of like revving the enginge but not allowing the horse to go forward, and then when the rpms have increased, you open the door and let the horse go forward. By doing this the horse is a tiny bit more balanced on their hind end and is "ready" to change to a higher, or lower, gait or speed.

However, if you have no "go" in the first place, there's no point in doing a half halt. That's why I suggested you work on getting real GO out of your horse first. Also, it's hard to learn a half halt just be reading posts on the forum.
For that matter, all the stuff we try to teach each other is challenging to learn from just reading. I commend you if your really DO go out there and try.

I tried to make my post about "the lesson of the leg" be pretty down home and simple. Get the "go button" working first. FORWARD is always first.

Good luck. Post a video sometime.
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