Advice on training my TWH to have a nice canter - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 08:10 AM Thread Starter
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Advice on training my TWH to have a nice canter

Hello all!! I have owned my TWH now for almost 8 months. He was spooky and over reactive when I got him in January. I did a LOT of ground work with him and a LOT of walking when I first started riding him. He was broke to ride, but untrusting. He is 7 yrs old and he was super smooth. Since I have been asking for the canter, though, he gets kinda nervous/anxious. I think he tries to pace or trot, not sure which, but it is really rough and hurts my back. I bring him back down and let him relax and we try again. On the trail he does better then in the arena, I don't know if he has more room out in the open and that is why?? He will canter in the round pen when asked, and when he does break into the canter in the arena, it's only a few strides and he goes into that rough gait again. I have heard that TWH have a smooth rocking horse canter... how do I get that without loosing his smooth running walk?? Is it possible? Advice please, this is my first time training walker, thank you!!
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post #2 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 08:19 AM
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I want to know the answer to this also.

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post #3 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 08:48 AM
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Once you have him cantering why do you slow him down? If it's hurting your back are you sure your back is loose? Walkers have a more animated canter than many other breeds. His conformation can have a bearing on this as well. If your trail include a hill try cantering up that. Horses love to charge up a hill.
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post #4 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 09:11 AM
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First, review your equitation. Are you sitting balanced and asking for the canter with proper cues? Are your hands, seat, and legs quiet when neeed and active when needed? Have someone video you as you ask for the canter. This may give you the answer to your question.

Second, review your tack. Is your saddle fit correct? What kind of bridle/bit are you using and is it properly adjusted? Any issues with pads, stirrups, spurs, etc?

Third, review your husbandry. Is the horse properly trimmed and, if necessary, shod? Does your farrier trim the horse to anatomical correctness and properly balance the foot? Lots of information on the Web about this. A gaited horse should be trimmed/shod like any other horse.

Fourth, review what you know about the horse's training. It's not uncommon for owners of young Walkers to delay teaching the canter until the horse is "set in gait." Often any attempt to canter will be punished. So the horse might just be fearful of being hurt for doing what you ask.

Fifith, review the horse's conformation. Are there any deficiencies that will inhibit proper cantering?

It is very hightly probable that if you get through this entire list you'll find the issue. If not, then you'll need some "professional help."

When you begin to teach the canter do so on a straight line. Don't attempt any turns. On the straight, ask for the canter as softly as possible. If you get a correct response let the horse go two or three strides then back to the gait or walk (where you began). Profusely reward the horse. Don't worry about trying to "rate" the speed. Then do it again. Then go for the other lead (start, by the way, with easiest lead; most horses will favor one over the other). If you don't get the proper response immediately come back to the walk/gait, rebalance the horse, and try again.

Once you get a good transition increase the number of strides. Don't try any turns for several sessions. The longer the straight, the better off you are. When the Cavalry had a problem teaching the canter the Remount Centers all used a fence, about a half mile long. They would start by practicing transitions and increasing the time in gait. Eventually they would have the horse canter along the fence its entire length, on both leads. THEN they would begin to ask for turns.

For vast majority of horses an inability/difficulty in performing an action will lie with the rider. Most of the time it's found in equitation practices, tack practices, or husbandry practices. The video camera is your friend, here, but also a major "smug basher." It's hard on rider's egos to see that a problem is not the horse's but theirs. Still, if you want to get past this you might have to "eat some crow" on your practices. From extensive personal experience believe me when I say the there's no way to make "crow" taste good.

Good luck with your project.


Last edited by Guilherme; 09-03-2013 at 09:13 AM.
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post #5 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 09:50 AM
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Try cantering up small hills as it is natural for them to want to do.
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post #6 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 10:00 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys!!
It's the breaking into the pace that hurts my back not the canter. Once he gets into the canter and stays, it is smooth! It is just keeping him in it w/o doing the pacey/trot rough gait.
Yes, I have thought about it is me because I think I tense up some in the arena worrying about A) He sometimes jumps into it or almost bolts into it and B) The ouchy feeling on my back of the in between gait :/ He wants to swerve to the middle sometimes too. He is definitely faster then what I am used to. So yes, I forgot to include... it could be me lol!!! I would LOVE to have someone video me to see what I do exactly!
I am certain that his saddle is fitting well. And tack fitting well. He does not like snaffles that break once in the middle, but prefers and egg butt dog bone type. Or I use a mullen type mouth bit with short shanks. He really like that one! I also use a 5 Star wool pad.
He is barefoot trimmed, I sometimes use hoof boots, but not in the arena. That is where he has the most trouble. Maybe it's not long enough?? But it seems like it would be. Thought about that one too.
Conformation wise, Hmmm, not sure maybe I will try to get a good pic today and post it later! He was out of shape and a little thin when I got him but I think he is looking nice now...but like I said as for bone structure walkers are new to me!!
As for training, he seems to have exchanged hands quite a bit. So it is hard to tell. He is registered but transfers not all done, of course! I heard he was a show stallion as a 2 and 3 yr old. And then later sold and gelded because of a leg injury. He doesn't seem to be lame on it at all though, but I suppose that could be part of it too!! Maybe I should a vet look over it. Amish owned him at one time, so he may have been trained to pull a buggy. The girl I bought him from used him for trail and said he bolted with her before. He has done this once with me. He got excited when my daughter cantered on her horse and he thought he needed to catch up. Kinda scary, but I got him under control! I have thought about sending him to a trainer, but I am in Ohio and I don't know of any gaited horse trainers. Do any of you??
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post #7 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 10:01 AM Thread Starter
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Oh and yes, he will canter nicely up hill! At first he didn't but he is getting it! So maybe it is just the arena. Should I just quit asking him in there for now??
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post #8 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 10:38 AM
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I agree with G, tack tack tack. My mare and I had a lot of trouble getting the rock in our canter, I got a new saddle (Amish made 4Beat Saddle) got on her, and she just automatically started doing this:

I have worked her in the canter probably 6 times since then (she has been nursing so riding hasnt happened tons this summer) and everytime she gets better. Rollbacks and circles are helpful, and lots of backing up to strengthen the topline and rear. When sable does what I am asking and rocks, we stop and reward her. Slowly I have gone longer and longer before we stop for reward as once she gives me that little bit extra than the time before she deserves it. If she starts to go flat, I will cut in a circle and regroup.

Also -the cantering should not ruin the running walk. My mare and the other horses at the barn actually runwalk better after a canter, it loosens them up and wakes them up. My mother in law brought a stud up from the states (very naturall talented -the sire of my foal) he was never taught to canter and it is very flat. He only got faster and faster at the runwalk and would eventually go into a rack. It was trained out of him...she has spent months working on the canter with him and is finding success slowly by ask and reward. He still run walks amasing and he racks when asked, but he now knows the signal for canter and will respond to it as well.

If your horse has been trained to not break into a canter, it can be some work, goot equitation, the proper tack, and determination but there is no reason he cant canter. There is a lot of body strength needed to train a horse to canter bcause it is hard for them to get used to thebalance with a rider up there, the gait, steer, and just get it all together at first -but if you can keep that weight as even as posible you will get there. Perhaps have someone long line you so that you can just focus on the canter and equitation and not have to worry about steering, that has helped us at times.
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post #9 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 12:21 PM Thread Starter
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O my goodness!! That is a beautiful canter!! Nice and slow! Memphis gets anxious and then its like his leg go all over the place or he rushes into it ugh!! It almost seems like he has gotten in trouble before for cantering. I give him lots of praise and stop and reward even when I get just a couple strides in the arena. I'm wondering too if it is a balancing thing.
His saddle really does seem to fit nice. He has plenty of room for his shoulders and no dry spots at all after a ride. It sits nice and level on his back and stays in place when riding. So I really don't think tack fit is it. I could be wrong though, I guess.
Thanks for the video and advice, beautiful mare!!
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post #10 of 46 Old 09-03-2013, 12:32 PM
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Thanks <333 i sure love that horse!

Some of that just comes from them trying to learn. When sable first started to canter, I had to let her go fast just so she could get her balance and is harder for them to maintain the canter and balance at a slower pace and they need to learn to canter in general first before you can ask them to slow down into it ... break it down into steps. First you want the canter with a solid 3 beat gait, then you want to slow down (obviously you dont want to be out of control, but sometimes you have to let a horse go a bit so they know they can do it), then you can work on using your seat to aim them in a more rock.

Another thing that I did was once I got her cantering, I would not motivate her at all to keep her going and just sit there and focus on equitation and balance letting her go and gradually she slowed herself down. That was a mistake I made at first and I have seen other people make too -we tend to keep motivating them unnecessarily when really we should be letting them be until the stop doing what we asked. I would only remotivate her when she broke canter and went to a runwalk. It is also helpful to have someone on the ground to watch for the break as when they start to go really slow they tend to go a bit flat at first too...there is a fine line between a slow canter and what feels like a runwalk when youre first training it.

hope that helps some :)

My friend also as a huge rocking chair canter and her horse, she found when she went in a round pen with her she got the big animation as Bloom felt there was nowhere to go fast so she slowed right down.
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