Cantering Help and Critique - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 04-28-2011, 03:59 AM Thread Starter
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Cantering Help and Critique

Okay, so I have been trying to learn how to canter properly for a while now without bouncing around like an idiot and it's the most frustrating thing for me. I am having real difficulty trying to figure out how I should move so that I am moving with the horse and not getting catapulted out of the saddle every stride.

I have the pleasure of riding school horses with extremely difficult canters to sit to (according to the instructors) and I'd just like to be able to ride with it so I'm not banging down on the poor horse's back all the time.

Here's a short YouTube video of my riding. I can see I do have a bit of a chair seat as well, could fixing or improving that also help?

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post #2 of 14 Old 04-28-2011, 04:19 AM
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well if you can get a fiend to put you on a lunge line and canter with a more energetic horse or if you feel confident on which ever horse than heres a exercise that i give everyone who want to learn how to canter smoothly

first ask the horse to canter gently and with your seat ask him to canter at a steady pace ( it makes it easier to feel his rythm), and then when you are ready close your eyes and sit deep in the saddle and feel the horses movement and rythm.

things that will help and things to avoid....
  • a centred seat. sit in the middle of the saddle
  • slipping out of the back of the saddle.
  • tuck you bum under yourself and sit up straight
  • relax your hands and if you want hold on to the pommel to start with to help balance( this is where you need a lunge line)
  • fell happy and not grumpy and dont tense up
  • dont lean forward
  • hold your legs at the girth
hope this helps
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-28-2011, 09:32 AM
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If i was teaching you, i would take you back a step and concentrate on the walk and trot. At the moment it looks like you are bracing yourself in the upper body against the movement and also tense through the leg which is what is making you bounce against the movement.

I agree with the above comments of having a good few lunge lessons if you can, they will really help you concentrate on your position and not have to worry about where and how the horse is going, that will be the job of the instructor from the lunge.

Working without stirrups in walk and trot in your lessons will be of great benefit too, really concentrating on breathing to help with relaxing, sitting centred in the saddle, and relaxing through the hip and knee, trying not to grip with those areas. Just spending a bit more time in the walk and trot, will greatly benefit you, there is no rush to canter.
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post #4 of 14 Old 04-28-2011, 10:42 AM
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What I see in your video, your legs are really loose, therefor making your whole body off balance.

Lunge lessons with no stirrups or reins. It will really help you establish a better seat, gain balance, and get stronger legs. Once you have all that, you should have an easier time sitting the canter.

Good luck, and keep practicing.
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post #5 of 14 Old 04-28-2011, 10:45 AM
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Above comments are great. Something to add, How is your sitting trot? Do you bounce around too? If you can get the feeling of keeping your butt glued to the saddle at a sitting trot, the canter will come much more naturally.
I would have you start at the walk, and while your walking just loosen up your hips so that they move with your horse each step. Almost like your hips are independent of the rest of your body. Dropping your stirrups too it will help to sink all your weight into your heels and leg. WHen you get comfy with that work up to just a few sitting trot steps at a time. Trust me once you feel it you'll be like ooooooh....there it is. :)
Also, ask you instrustor next lesson if you can ride a horse with a smoother trot because this is what you want to work on? Instructors love to hear that students really WANT to improve. I Think you have a great base with a good steady leg to get it down pat in no time. Breathe and relax dont stress about it.... much luck

~If horseback riding was easy they would call it football.~
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post #6 of 14 Old 04-28-2011, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Michelle and Mr B View Post
If i was teaching you, i would take you back a step and concentrate on the walk and trot. At the moment it looks like you are bracing yourself in the upper body against the movement and also tense through the leg which is what is making you bounce against the movement.
That's what I was thinking too when I saw the video. When I learned how to canter I was bouncing all over the place, it didn't feel natural, it was hard on my back and the horses back and I realized after a few lessons that I was far too tense. Worst of all, I was holding my breath and bracing myself to absorb the shock and that was throwing everything out of whack.

Some tips that helped me:

- Take deep breaths.
- Sit tall (and deep) on your seat bones.
- Don't grip with your knees!
- Don't post / brace yourself!
- Swing your hips to the rhythm of the canter.
- Take deep breaths.
- Take some more deep breaths.

I would also recommend a book called Centered Riding by Sally Swift. Pretty much everyone recommended that book to me at some point and I wasn't open to it at first but after reading it, it all made sense and helped me re-think how I move with the horse.
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post #7 of 14 Old 04-29-2011, 11:34 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Michelle and Mr B View Post
If i was teaching you, i would take you back a step and concentrate on the walk and trot. At the moment it looks like you are bracing yourself in the upper body against the movement and also tense through the leg which is what is making you bounce against the movement.
I think the reason I'm looking awful trotting there is because I just came out of the canter and felt really uncoordinated. I do feel like I brace my upper body against the movement in the canter and that translates to when I'm coming back to a trot, but no matter how many times I tell myself to relax, it just doesn't happen. When I'm just trotting though it looks a bit better.

Lunge lessons aren't possible for a few weeks at least, because I'm doing group lessons during school terms and private lessons during the holidays, so I have to wait until school holidays. But it's definitely something I'd like to do when I get the chance. I did have one a while ago but with a few bad instructors in-between I have lost all benefit that I gained from that lesson.

I realize when I do canter my upper body tenses and my legs stiffen down into my stirrups to brace myself from the impact of the saddle; I find myself almost doing a half-seat sometimes. I'm fairly sure I don't breathe properly either. I don't really know why I do all these things as I'm not really a nervous rider, I get straight back on after falls and I can balance myself back fairly easily if I feel like almost falling.

I had a look at Centered Riding on Amazon; I think some of the analogies she uses are a bit silly but I will give it a go. Might be more beneficial if I purchase the book and read sections that relate to what I'm learning. Can't hurt, right?
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post #8 of 14 Old 04-30-2011, 12:03 AM
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Thank you for showing the short video. It is so much easier to make a helpful critique when there is a video to see. And I applaud your courage to post it.

There are s me good comments above. Mainly, I agree that you may need to go back to trot, sitting trot, walk without stirrups. If you are really solid in these, then cantering will be much easier.

I think teachers often advance their students too rapidly and this is careless of the horse's and riders' back. You can either spend more time on the trot/walk and then when you get to canter, be more solid (thus less trauma for backs) or spend more time whacking around on your backs until you finally put it together at the canter. Time is required, either way.

There was a moment in the video, at #28 second, when he started his second canter, you were WITH his motion for two steps or so. Look at that moment. you were moving up when he came up and down when he went down, and then as he got a few steps further, your rythm and his parted ways. Then you were constantly behind his rythm. In actuality, your position in the saddle is not bad. Really. once you are able to be relaxed and loose enough in the hips to allow them to follow the horse 's movement, your rythm will sync with his.

Sit in middel of saddle, up nice and tall. Lift your thigh off the saddle , roll the fleshy back part of the thigh away from the saddle (use your hand to pull each one out, then in this position, put your thigh back on the saddle. Your knee will be more directly forward and you'll have more leg cohesive to the saddle. Do NOT tuck your tail bone under . Sit nice and square on your two seat bones.

Walk along and visualize your seatbones as two prongs of an electrical cord/plug. Plug into your saddle and think of yourself as riding INSIDE your horse, about 6 inches under the saddle . Your pelvis belongs to him and must go with him. If you are tight in the hip or abdomin, this will not be possible.
Breath, laugh sing. Trust your hrose to carry you. He does this all day and is very good at it. All you need to do is LET him carry you.

Thoughts for you to have.

You will get it, don't worry . We've all been there.
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post #9 of 14 Old 04-30-2011, 06:19 PM
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Some good advice above.

However, I feel that your leg position is just fine for your level of riding. There is nothing wrong with a chair seat for the time being - it is the safest position to learn in! After all - why do a lot of 'cowboys' ride like that? They stay on!!!
Many riders these days have their legs too far back and hence their heels come up.
I like your leg position being forward (and it is actually on the girth which is great!!) and your heel is nicely down.

To bring your bottomm back in to the saddle we need to look at your hands.

Try this next time you ride this horse - lengthen the rein a smidgen and bring your elbows back to sit right on top of your hips. Make sure that your thumbs are on TOP of the reins and that your hands aren't turned over (it appears that this is the case for some parts of this video.) Keep a bend in your elbow (they are called L - BOWS for a reason! LOL...sorry....) and from this position you can follow the horses movement much smoother by gently opening and closing your elbow as the horses head goes up and down in the canter.
This should stop your bottom from being bounced up and down so much because you are now not stiff and being pulled out of the saddle as the horse goes round.

He doesn't look like the type of horse that is going to take advantage of a slightly longer rein so you should be ok. If you feel the need to slow him down a bit just look up, lift your chest and belly button up to slow him with your weight rather than having to pull on the reins.

Sometimes people think FAR TOO HARD in canter! Just relax, stop trying and enjoy :)

Hope this helps!!
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post #10 of 14 Old 05-01-2011, 07:49 AM
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Reading books, and watching other people ride will give you a good understanding of what you want to achieve, but taking the time to get the basics as correct as possible will really help you in the long run. It's really upto you what you want to achieve as a rider whether you just want to be a passenger who is just able to stay on or work towards becoming an effective rider.

I agree with Tinyliny that instructors can be too quick, or feel under pressure to progress riders further than they are really ready for and this does neither horse or rider any good. As a rider it can mean you pick up some very bad habits that can be hard to rectify so i would still advise taking the time in the walk in trot to get your balance etc more established.

Obviously you want to enjoy your hobby so don't be too hard on yourself, we have all been in the situation you are and we are all always learning, that is what makes horse riding such a great hobby.
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