Canter issues - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 10-29-2012, 08:28 AM Thread Starter
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Canter issues

Hi all,
I have a Morgan/Paso Fino cross and wanted to ask for tips on a couple canter issues.

One, which I've found some help on by searching this forum, is cross cantering. I think with work building up his muscles a bit more and giving him time to find his balance, that will work it's way out. But any other tips are welcome. Is it better to work him in a circle or on straight-aways? When he's cross-cantering he has very little directional control, just falling into the lead his front half is on (when I do get a regular canter from him directional control is just fine, even in small circles -- and I always give him LOTS of praise for it).

The second issue is that coming down from the canter (whether cross-canter or a normal canter) he ALWAYS gives me a hard pace.
Going up from the walk I can either get him to trot or gait, as I request. But coming down from the canter the pace is the only option. Is this just another function of his lack of balance and muscle? Or is there more to it? Are there any exercises I can use to work on improving that? Right now what I do is ask him to come down from the canter, and when he starts pacing I bring him to a walk and then immediately back up to a trot or gait. Is there a better way to let him know what I want from him in the downward transitions?
Would it be easier on him if I start by working on a downward transition to a trot or to a gait? I'd prefer to just pick one to work on until it's solid before introducing the other, to give him consistency.
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post #2 of 13 Old 11-04-2012, 10:20 AM
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Hi there! Definitely working with him to build his muscles will allow him to canter correctly when asked. I am working with my 2 yo colt right now. He's got the walk and trot down, but is a little hesitant to give me the canter.
What I'm doing, and seeing some success with, is focusing heavily on asking for the canter correctly. Meaning, I make small but deliberate motions: (and I'm doing this in a round pen right now to reduce confusion and make success easier for him!) I make sure his nose is to the inside of the round pen, I ask with my outside leg (a little behind the girth) maintaining a consistent pressure with inside leg to make sure he knows I'm asking him to continue to go forward and not to circle, and slightly shift my weight into that outside stirrup (allowing him to more easily pick up his inside shoulder to pick up the correct lead). If he is hesitant, or starts to slow early, I will adopt a driving seat to reinforce what I'm asking.
I'm sure there are many other great suggestions, and I'm interested to see what others have to say!
Hope this helps.
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post #3 of 13 Old 11-14-2012, 11:14 PM
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my gelding corssfires in the back, had he couldnt carry a lead on either side to start with. Before I owned him, the original trainer worked him hardddd to try to get him to canter. He is WGC lines for a TWH and therefore naturally has pacey tendecies -he is flat shod and natural, not sore or any such thing That being said, have you worked him on a lunge line, if you do can your horse canter both leads on a lunge? My gelding can -in watching that we then put a rider up there to see what was different. Turns out on one side he naturally tips his head outwards rather than bending in to canter. The circle helps force them to go correctly, but straights are good to as it is hard on the shoulders. Work a lunge first and see if when no one is hindering him, can he hold the gait?

My suggestion for coming out of the canter in a hard on pace -recollect your horse before you come out of the canter and see if that helps. Another thing i have done with my horse as I find they pace out of a canter because they need a stronger topline and back end...back him up. Canter in short incraments, stop -back up, walk forwards. If your bo comes out of the canter in gait, keep going. Hope this helps some. I know it isnt the same breed, but i do know pace :-p

How old is your horse i barely cantered my mare until she was 3 and even then i found it was too much for her, she is 4 right now and cantering solidly with no issues We dont introduce canters to our horses until they are 3 or 4 as it is very hard on their shoulder developement, that being said -if they are behaving well and decide to pick it up on their own I will let the horse take a few strides just to know that they can. It is great for confidence. If your horse is young i would strongly recommend minimizing cantering most especially in circles.

Last edited by bellagris; 11-14-2012 at 11:18 PM.
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post #4 of 13 Old 11-15-2012, 09:55 AM
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What is the age, fitness, and strength level of the horse in question? A youngster still trying to find its feet, or a weak and/or unfit horse, will have trouble in the transitions.

Does the horse do a real, three-beat canter or do you have a "four beat canter" going on? Each is a separate problem.

Is the horse cantering in a collected and balanced fashion or "strung out"? I'd bet the latter as the horse in balance will almost always transition down with no muss or fuss.

If the horse is correctly balanced and collected the "half halt" is your friend. It gives the horse a chance to hold/re-balance itself during the downward transition.

What kind of seat are you riding? If you are in the traditional gaited "chair seat" your horse is likely traveling hollow and the "pace steps" are a normal result of this way of going.

The first thing I'd do to answer these questions is have someone video you riding the horse and doing both upward and downward transitions from all three gaits. Then carefully review the videos noting YOUR position and how YOUR position is influencing the horse. Nine times out of ten problems in movement result from rider action, not horse action. The video will help you put yourself in either the 90% or the 10%.

Be Warned: being video'ed is a real "smug basher." It will quickly demonstrate riding strengths and weaknesses. The lens does not lie. It's usually not an ego booster. But truth is essential if you want to solve the problem.*

Good luck in your project.


*The video might also lead you explore tack selection, adjustment, farrier care, and a number of other subjects.
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post #5 of 13 Old 11-24-2012, 07:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the tips, and sorry I haven't been checking in - Thanksgiving and all.

He's 7 years old, and does a lot of hilly trail riding (mostly at the walk, some at the gait), and once or twice/week he gets some arena work which is where I usually work on the trot and canter.
I've had him 2 years. Before that he pretty much only did trail riding and some cart pulling. He has a great head for the trails, but we've already worked through a lot of balance issues that he had when I got him, even at the walk and trot, since things like straight lines and circles under saddle had simply never been asked of him before. Also, when I got him he wouldn't gait under saddle, but now has a nice solid gait.

My riding is generally dressage style, as far as tack and seat go.

We actually have made some great progress over the extended Thanksgiving weekend. To the right he's starting to find his balance, and we had one of the most beautiful upward transitions the other day, and also managed several circles without breaking out of the canter.
To the left still needs work, it usually starts out in a 3-beat gait but cross-firing, but if I try to push him too many strides then the 4th beat will sneak in.
What I've been doing is just asking him to canter a few strides and then transition down, coming down to a walk and re-establishing the gait, and then bringing him back to the canter for a few strides -- repeat several times, all while on a circle. And as I mentioned, to the right has come a long way, so I have hope that the left will get there with some more work -- and yes, it could be as much or more work on my part as his, as I'm stronger to the right myself.

I do definitely need to get some video of all this. It would help a lot to watch what's going on from the outside.
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post #6 of 13 Old 11-25-2012, 12:03 AM
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Hi! I wanted to join in and say, my KMH also has a difficult time cantering.

He would cross canter, but he also had an extra step in his canter, which is common in gaited horses. Part of the problem was conditioning. But even after he was "in shape" this past Summer it was still a problem. I did find that conditioning by walking up steep hills, and then later cantering up the hill help a lot. And we kept working on it. I watch him on the lounge line, and with a choice of walk, gaited walk, running walk, pace, trot, rack and fox trot, he has too many choices, and isn't sure how to place his feet!

A friend of mine has a RMH, and was told by a trainer to trot the horse, head lowered. Then go into the canter; this worked for her. I tried this as well, and I found that as soon as I started posting for the trot, my horse would start a lovely little canter, very controlled. But I do not get this result all the time. So, I thought that a bad canter was "just him", but then I noticed that when he is free and running in the field, he canters PERFECTLY; never a miss step. So I know he has it in him!!! I will just keep working on it.

"Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?" (Job 39:19)
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post #7 of 13 Old 11-26-2012, 12:42 PM
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And then we wonder why, our gaited horses stop gaiting.

Equitation seat, trotting, cantering.

You have to be a very experienced trainer to ride a gaited horse and have it trot, canter, and still keep it's gaited gaits.

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post #8 of 13 Old 11-26-2012, 02:43 PM
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I had a Paso Fino, she didn't gait at all when I bought her, but then started gaiting nicely, once I got her home. I rode w/my friend that had a gaited horse, but a different breed-everything fine. Then I moved & started riding w/a QH-only-she pretty much lost her gait after a few months, but I'm sure w/ a little work & maybe riding w/other gaited horses it would come back, as it's natural & she is a purebred. From my experience each gaited horse is a little different & the cross breeds even more so. I hope you get the gait you want!
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post #9 of 13 Old 11-26-2012, 05:35 PM
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Just got home from riding my horse today; it was a fun day! I think my guy was feeling good today. He gaited beautifully all round the field; never missed a step. Then, with very little urging, he sped up and took on a perfect little canter; controlled and calm. All without a bit. I guess all the work I have been doing paid off. (Now, tomorrow could be a different story! ) It pays to just be patient and keep working on it, so hang in there.

I have to say, even though there are some on this forum who don't seem to think that a gaited horse can go from a canter to a walk to a gait, I have to disagree. Every gaited horse I rode before getting my guy, cantered great. And my KMH cantered great too; it is just that I have not had to chance to use it often (I live where we have some pretty steep trails), and he got out of practice. Most gaited horses (I won't say all; there are always exceptions) are known for their "rocking horse canter."

"Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?" (Job 39:19)
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post #10 of 13 Old 11-26-2012, 11:19 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bbsmfg3 View Post
And then we wonder why, our gaited horses stop gaiting.

Equitation seat, trotting, cantering.

You have to be a very experienced trainer to ride a gaited horse and have it trot, canter, and still keep it's gaited gaits.
<shrug> That's the way I learned. I took lessons on Pasos for a while (1.5 hour drive each way or I'd still be taking them), all show horses, and she taught me dressage style seat, along with corto, largo, fino (on only one horse), trot, and canter on all the horses I rode - including her Fino stallion.

I guess what works for some doesn't work for others.

Last edited by Shenandoah; 11-26-2012 at 11:21 PM.
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