Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
Like others have said there are a few issues here.
I get that you can't afford a trainer, they can be really pricey, but I still think that you really need to take a look at how you ride and work out a plan.
As others have said, you had her head pulled up pretty tight and it was not good at all. You never want a headset like that when you're riding. Even if it was just a once off thing, each time the horse moved you were thrown about, inadvertently yanking on the reins. Starting out lots of people don't have strong, independent hands, and that's fine, it's a learning process but something you have to consciously work on.
As far as your canter, it's a direct result of not having a secure seat. You are bracing your legs in front of you which gives you no stability, each stride your leg is moving back, which is throwing you forward. Again - this is common, and something you just need to work on.
Even without lessons there are some things you can practice on your own. First, stay out of your horses mouth until you actually ask for something. If you're asking for a turn, ask with your seat, then legs, then hands and release when you get what you want (full release - not contact). When you need to slow down, ask with your seat then back up with your hands but release when you get what you want.
The proper contact that english riders use has to do with collection. They start off asking for long and low, where the horse stretches their frame out, then as they get stronger they slowly collect them in. It's got nothing to do with pulling their heads down. So start offering your mare a longer rein, a chance to stretch out. Unle
That's where I would start, walking on a long rein, making sure turns and stops are really good. If she's buddy sour or won't turn, then work on it by correcting her behaviour, not by riding aggressively the whole time. Bring your hands back a bit so you don't have to have contact with the reins, and you can easily release, but not so far that you don't have anywhere to go.
Second thing to work on is your seat. Bring your leg a little more underneath you so you're not braced behind it. It probably doesn't feel as secure - but long term that's how you're going to ride the canter properly. Resting your foot in the stirrup (not jamming) your legs should rest there without moving. You should be able to bend forward and back at the waist, and twist your shoulders each way without really moving or affecting your legs at all. So no pivot action - not muscle stiffness. Practice two point (standing up in the saddle) for a few strides, then back down. Move your hips with the horse. When you're comfortable in your new position, practice riding without stirrups, keeping your legs where they were, your heels still down. Then try your two point, keeping moving with the horse. Make sure when you do two point etc, you're hands are balancing without contact and without resting on the main, they need to carry themselves.
Later you can move onto the trot, practicing without stirrups, moving at the horse at a sitting trot, keeping your hands still without a contact, and eventually rising without stirrups. Working on all this you'll seat will become more independent and secure, and you'll find you'll be able to sit the canter and stop your hands flying about.
There is heaps online though, exercises for hands, feet. I'd slow down, and not be so worried about a good canter but get a real good walk, and a real good trot.