Relaxing in the canter
   

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Relaxing in the canter

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  • Horse just started holding tail to side when riding, difficult to get canter smooth
  • Horse turns out back leg difficult canter

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    09-17-2013, 12:10 AM
  #1
Foal
Relaxing in the canter

As a young rider, my biggest fear was cantering! I rode for four years, and cantered no more than 20 steps, ever. After a ten year riding break, I am back, and loving my horse. He is a six year old Tennessee Walking Horse, I have owned him for almost two years and he's been under saddle for a bit over a year and a half. I have overcome so many fears on him, including the dreaded canter!

My first time cantering on the trail, I was nervous and still, and his canter was choppy and scary. I would ask him to canter one hill per ride. I started with short hills, to only canter a short distance, and moved up to longer, less steep hills. He and I have become much more relaxed cantering up hills, and I can canter him bareback easily (it's my favorite way to do it)!

We run into some difficulty cantering on the flat on the trail. Once he gets going, he is okay, but not as smooth as on our hills. Both of us are less relaxed, and the canter is choppier.

The worst is in the arena. I must stiffen up, because it kills my back. If I try to ask for the canter from the running walk, he will start racking, which is not a gait I encourage him to do. I have to slow him back down, and ask again. By the third time he will pick up the correct gait. He is better at picking it up from the stop, or the walk. We have started only picking it up from the running walk to practice. He is significantly choppier in the arena, and I find myself holding on tight with my legs, causing my toes to stick out, and I think this could be causing the discomfort in my lower back and hips when I canter.

He also has trouble with the corners, which I understand because I don't canter turns on the trail (only straight aways, I don't want to catch someone in a blind corner going that fast). To help him along, I lean forward and give him a little more leg and loosen the reins significantly going into the corner. This typically gets us through the corner alright, but then he goes into a full blown gallop out of the corner if I don't catch him in time.



As you can see, we are having a lot of cantering difficulties... I want to work on one thing at a time, which would be relaxing in the canter. Any suggestions?
     
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    09-17-2013, 12:47 AM
  #2
Super Moderator
I think that cantering for some gaited horses can be difficult. I rode a friend's RMH for a bit, and his canter was atrocious. Very choppy. I felt bad making him canter, and soon gave up. Cantering a non-gaited hrose is much easier, and if you want to work on just yourself becoming more relaxed at the canter, maybe you can take a few lessons on a non-gaited horse.

Two things that have helped me (and I am still not super comfy at canter on the flat), are :

Remember that your horse knows how to canter, and let him do his job and carry you. So, trust him to carry you, ok?

And

Think about the down beat of the canter. If you focus on following the horse at the down beat, the other beats seem to fall into place better. Do you know what I mean about the "down" beat? This is when the leading front leg hits the ground. It's the "3" in the 1,2, 3 way of counting the canter.
(which btw, is really more of "1, 2, 3 and, 1, 2, 3 , and, 1 . . .) becuae the "and" is the moment of suspension when all 4 feet are off the ground for a brief part-second before the strike off leg (outside hind) goes to ground and bears weight.
     
    09-17-2013, 12:53 AM
  #3
Showing
I feel you'd benefit from being on the lungeline under the watchful eye of a trainer/instructor.
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    09-17-2013, 12:59 AM
  #4
Super Moderator
In theory, Sky, I'd agree, but a lot of TWH's find tight circles really hard to manuaver. They are not as laterally flexible as non-gaited.

She might enjoy such a lesson on a non-gaited horse, as I need myself!
     
    09-17-2013, 01:06 AM
  #5
Showing
Not necessarily with her horse. She mentions in the OP that canter has always been a weak spot. You cannot figure canter out easily on your own. You'll likely end up making it seem more frightening or difficult without a trainer's help.

That was my point.

Also tight circles are not good for learning to ride in either due to centrifical force. When lunging someone on a horse, the circle needs to be no smaller than 20m.
     
    09-17-2013, 01:09 AM
  #6
Super Moderator
My experience in lungline lessons has been that the circle was a bit smaller than 20 m. It's hard for the trainer to have any control of the horse at a size that large. But, it's been ages since I've done that, so I might not really remember so accurately.

Somewhere I saw a video on teaching gaited horses to canter. . . .
Have you, OP , checked out the gaited forum?
     
    09-17-2013, 03:49 AM
  #7
Green Broke
I would not recommend lunging. It is fine to feel safe on the end of a line, and then as you move off it you go back to square one.
This is a mind of matter issue.

OP, are you the only one that rides this horse? From the sound of it, he is picking up on your stiffness and tense body, and mirroring it. This will be harder for you, as you need to loosen up, so he will learn to relax in to the canter and make it more comfortable. At the moment, you are both as tense as each other!

Any chance a more experienced person can get on, and try and get him to chill out? Or a chiro? I can imagine he'd have some bunched muscles if he holds himself..
     
    09-17-2013, 03:54 AM
  #8
Showing
Quote:
Originally Posted by DuffyDuck    
I would not recommend lunging. It is fine to feel safe on the end of a line, and then as you move off it you go back to square one.
This is a mind of matter issue.

OP, are you the only one that rides this horse? From the sound of it, he is picking up on your stiffness and tense body, and mirroring it. This will be harder for you, as you need to loosen up, so he will learn to relax in to the canter and make it more comfortable. At the moment, you are both as tense as each other!

Any chance a more experienced person can get on, and try and get him to chill out? Or a chiro? I can imagine he'd have some bunched muscles if he holds himself..
I offer a contrasted perspective with being on the lungeline. Having had a lot of issues with canter, it really helped me to know what it was supposed to feel like, that I wasn't being run away with, that I could handle it. So when it came time to be off of the lunge, I was fine.

If the issue is with your horse, then by all means have someone ride out the kinks after a chiropractic/vet visit. But if it's all in your head, you need to set yourself up not to fail. Asking for a canter going up a hill or on a straight away on a trail may not be working out for you.

Gl
     
    09-17-2013, 10:40 AM
  #9
Foal
Some more information. I am comfortable in the canter, as in I am no longer scared. I know I can stop my horse, even in a halter. He can not run away with me. The canter is actually my favorite gait now. Our issue is only in the arena, where it gets choppy, and I hold up with my legs, and kill my back. I feel relaxed, but just don't want to pop right off the side of him because of how... horrible he is.. hehe. I understand he's gaited though, so I'm not looking for a beautiful rocking horse canter.



Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
I think that cantering for some gaited horses can be difficult. I rode a friend's RMH for a bit, and his canter was atrocious. Very choppy. I felt bad making him canter, and soon gave up. Cantering a non-gaited hrose is much easier, and if you want to work on just yourself becoming more relaxed at the canter, maybe you can take a few lessons on a non-gaited horse.

Two things that have helped me (and I am still not super comfy at canter on the flat), are :

Remember that your horse knows how to canter, and let him do his job and carry you. So, trust him to carry you, ok?

And

Think about the down beat of the canter. If you focus on following the horse at the down beat, the other beats seem to fall into place better. Do you know what I mean about the "down" beat? This is when the leading front leg hits the ground. It's the "3" in the 1,2, 3 way of counting the canter.
(which btw, is really more of "1, 2, 3 and, 1, 2, 3 , and, 1 . . .) becuae the "and" is the moment of suspension when all 4 feet are off the ground for a brief part-second before the strike off leg (outside hind) goes to ground and bears weight.
I agree that gaited horse canters are... icky. That's why I don't worry too much about cantering, if I can canter on the trail, I'm not too worried about the arena. I would just like to be able to do it if I chose.

I will try to focus on the down beat. We have been working a lot on leads, so I know how to hear and feel the down beat. I will try to think of it more than the split second it takes to make sure he is on the right lead.


Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
in theory, Sky, I'd agree, but a lot of TWH's find tight circles really hard to manuaver. They are not as laterally flexible as non-gaited.

She might enjoy such a lesson on a non-gaited horse, as I need myself!
I would definitely enjoy a lesson on a non-gaited horse to feel out a canter when I have a chance (life of a poor college student..) If I tried on my horse, he can barely canter on the lounge as it is without his legs getting all wonky.



Quote:
Originally Posted by DuffyDuck    

OP, are you the only one that rides this horse? From the sound of it, he is picking up on your stiffness and tense body, and mirroring it. This will be harder for you, as you need to loosen up, so he will learn to relax in to the canter and make it more comfortable. At the moment, you are both as tense as each other!

Any chance a more experienced person can get on, and try and get him to chill out? Or a chiro? I can imagine he'd have some bunched muscles if he holds himself..
I am his primary rider, but a trainer has jumped on him about 6 times after he was started under saddle with one. This trainer told me not to worry about it because a gaited horse shouldn't canter as it is. I think that is false, because his running walk actually tends to feel even better after a canter (that might be more out of relief!)

As for the chiro, I've had the vet check him out a few months ago and said he was the most loose, flexible horse he'd ever checked. He is typically extremely loosey goosey, it's only cantering in the arena where he stiffens up.
     
    09-17-2013, 10:59 AM
  #10
Trained
You need to find an instructor with a non-gaited and safe horse. NOTHING, and I MEAN NOTHING prepares you to canter like practice sitting a TROT without stirrups. If you can feel like you won't fall riding a trot without the stirrups you won't be afraid of the canter bc it is far smoother. I tt old cowboys years ago and they told me that a good cowhorse only walked and cantered, so as to avoid the choppiness of a bad trot.
Have your lessons geared to move you from a fast sitting trot to a canter as the goal. Even a lousy TWH's canter is easier to ride than a choppy QH road trot. Been there...done that.
Btw, TWH's have 6 gaits:
1) walk
2) running walk
3) canter or lope
4) pace
5) trot--yes, Virginia, a gaited horse will trot, though some never do under saddle
6) broken washing machine
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