Canter on her terms only. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 11-10-2011, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
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Canter on her terms only.

I own a 9 y/o Hanoverian mare that I've had since she was two. I started her and have ridden her on and off since then. This mare is the boss mare out in her field but is a sweetheart to people. She is fantastic horse except there are two things that are still not there. Her canter depart and on the bit.

She is going pretty consistently on the bit which is steadily improving despite her very stargazing type nature. She will walk and trot on the bit with a nice light contact during circles, figure eights, lateral movements... there are some slight inconsistencies at the halt, walk, trot up and down transitions.

The trot-canter transition is still horrendous! Out in the field at home she is better... or when she is excited she picks it up perfectly. But if she is in the arena at home or is tired while were out and about she runs and falls into it as if she were totally green and out of shape. She has a beautiful canter even when the depart is aweful. Walk to canter is the same (we gave that a shot just in case she was one of the few that learn better that way). Its also pretty much the same results if you're on the rail or on a circle.

Some things I've tried to improve: *She is in good health, teeth are great.. saddle fits.. she is the same riding bareback.. same with different riders.

Ground work - her transitions are good on the lunge and in the round pen. Her ground work in general is fab. She also does well long lining too.

I've had another rider ride her in the round pen with me on the ground to practice her transitions. Slight improvement here.

I've also tried lateral movements to the canter.. same. Actually after a few attempts her lateral work starts to suffer.

Asking at poles.. between poles... same.

Trotting X's and coming back and asking for the canter a few strides before the jump yeilds slightly better results.

I've tried posting.. sitting.. posting... sitting and then continue sitting the trot and asking (just incase she doesn't like abruptness of sitting to canter? it also helps soften the rider to prepare for the take off and this has helped slightly.

I teach my youngsters canter on a circle with a slight inside bend and outside leg strike off. However there are a few that learn it better when slightly bent to the outside. Same results with her. I've also tried striking off with the inside leg at the girth and a holding outside leg behind the girth.

I've tried asking on a super loose rein (better) and a stronger supporting rein (ok).

9 times out of 10 I won't let her run in to it. If she doesn't get it in two or 3 steps we come back and try again. Some days it won't work and I will make her run into just for the sake of getting her to go forward

I always have spurs and a whip handy but I try very hard to progressively increase my cues. I never go straight to the spur and whip.

She is really inconsistent with the canter depart. Some days of course are better than others. If we are at a show or on a trail she will pick it up great. At home she is relaxed and a bit more lazy. Everything else she is great but she is such a butthead when it comes to the canter transition. Anyone else have any other ideas?
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-10-2011, 02:50 PM
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Hi, and welcome to the forum!

You say you've had her since 2, she is now 9 and you've ridden her on and off.. is there possible gaps in her learning?

If she starts it like a green horse, its probably because in that department she is green ;)

Keep working on your transitions, and keep working on them, as she gets strong in them, she'll hopefully start striking off her inside hind and engage more stomach and back muscles.

I was always taught that canter work, when not a strong canter, should never be on and on and on, you should do four, five maybe six strides, and bring them back to walk or trot. Again, get the trot working from behind, make her lift her back by engaging her with your legs, half halt on the outside rein, let her know something new is coming, and don't let her rush in to it.

If she rushes (you didn't describe too well what she does in the transition) she's pushing herself in to it, and probably due to lack of muscle tone.. so bring her back, slow your hip movement, and ask again.

With babys, in age or mind, or training, its important to have a really strong inside leg. Ask first, whip in place or your leg, then spur.. canter strides, whilst she's got the power, then bring her back, don't let her pull you out of the seat, or stretch long.

Kayty, anebel or Spyder may be able to give you more help and more in depth answers!

Good Luck!
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DuffyDuck is offline  
post #3 of 10 Old 11-10-2011, 05:28 PM
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Use Leg, crop, or spurs (only if you know how to use them properly). If my mare is lazy at the departure, I use a crop to her shoulder or butt. Also, if she trots more than 5 steps, halt and ask again. Don't let her get away with trotting 10 laps before she finally canters.

“Have fun - Stay on top.”
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-10-2011, 06:07 PM
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Will she canter on the lunge?

Did you start her yourself, and has she had any other riders in her 6 or so years under saddle?

I would be interested in seeing some video on how she travels.
Some horses will not canter if they're not completely balanced in the trot before the transition. Another possibility is that working her in an arena may be worrying her. try taking her out into an open space and asking for canter then - some horses get worried about the transition and canter itself in a small area when they are green and unbalanced.

What if you're riding like and how much experience do you have? Potentially it is a lack of rider balance that is throwing her off. Maybe you are gripping with your knees and upper legs, giving her mixed signals, or are not sitting securely centred over her back. Have you tried standing up in your stirrups and asking for the transition with just leg aids?

Does she know voice aids on the lunge? If not, I strongly recommend teaching her walk, trot, canter and woah on the lunge with no gear on her other than a lunging cavesson, let her find her own balance.
When she will canter to a voice aid or flick of the lunge whip, start having someone lunge you on her. Get off her back, use only leg aids in conjunction with your vocal canter cue, and have the person on the ground back it up with the lunge whip. Interfere as little as possible, treat her like a breaker.

Another thing, is are you sure she is not sore anywhere? Often soreness will present itself at the trot-canter-trot transition, as the horse HAS to use its back.

While I'm rattling off suggestions, another one is to really work on getting your other transitions PERFECT. At 9 years old, she should at the very least have an understanding of a connection between inside leg and outside rein, and be working 'through'. A 'through' horse should not throw its head and stiffen in a transition, so I suspect your mare is not established sufficiently in this concept.
I would be really honing in on establishing that inside leg to outside rein connection, and getting control of her quarters and back. You want her to feel like softened butter at walk and trot, so that she is absolutely balanced, confident and strong enough to hold through the transition to canter.

Hope that helped a little - I've got more if those don't work :P

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post #5 of 10 Old 11-10-2011, 08:41 PM
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9 times out of 10 I won't let her run in to it. If she doesn't get it in two or 3 steps we come back and try again. Some days it won't work and I will make her run into just for the sake of getting her to go forward
You are too inconsistent. "The worst performance that you accept is the very best performance that you have any right to expect."

I always have spurs and a whip handy but I try very hard to progressively increase my cues. I never go straight to the spur and whip.
I know this approach is taught a lot, but trainers would never get a horse responsive and consistent if this was the way they schooled a horse.

Effective trainers usually 'over-correct' and are much more demanding than this kind of protocol. If you just keep increasing the pressure until the horse finally responds, then that is what you are teaching him to respond to -- only it will keep taking more and more pressure to get a good result -- and the results will gradually get poorer and poorer. This is what I call 'nagging' and 'pecking' at a horse.

The more effective way to school is to 'over-correct', get after one hard, then ease the horse up and try again with just a light squeeze of the calf. Repeat the process only get after the horse harder. If you are asking for a reasonable task and the horse is ready and able to complete the task, it will not take more than twice and the horse will be thrilled to do what they know you are asking them to do.

Most people will agree that being more demanding is one of the biggest differences between an effective professional trainer and an amateur. Over-correcting and doing a whole lot less of it and 100% consistency are why most amateurs do not get the same results as the better pros.

Can you be too tough on them. You bet! Some trainers are so demanding that they 'blow up' half of the horses they ride. (Of course, the other half may include many World Champions in their respective venues.) Finding a balance between being fair and reasonable and expecting better and better performance is the perfect medium. But, if you do not expect and then demand good performance, you will never get it. They do not hand you very many 'gifts' that you do not expect and demand.
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post #6 of 10 Old 11-10-2011, 11:07 PM Thread Starter
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She got a great start as a 3 and 4 year old. I broke my shoulder blade and a few ribs on the cross country course and that took 8 months to heal because I couldn't sit still long enough. I did a lot more ground work at this time... she bows, lays down, tub mounting, piaffe in hand. By the time I really got back in the saddle she was great. I was in colorado so I spent alot of time on trails. She was younger and had ALOT more spunk.

I ride bareback alot and have used several different saddles on her.. not alot of change in how she rides. 6 months after I was back in the saddle I got pregnant and didn't ride or do much for almost 18 months. During that time I was roped into supervising pony club and old ladies who decided to try dressage. Well that job stuck and that's what I've been doing since then so training has taken a slight back seat and I've only been able to ride her maybe 2 twice a week on average. Sometimes more sometimes less but I do supervise my more advanced students on her during group lessons to make sure she stays in - shape. I'm 36 and I've ridden 4-8 horses a day for probably 10 of the years I've been riding. I rode seriously before that since I was 13 but obviously had school and what not. I've trained dressage and hunter jumpers for basically half my life. Does that help?

I've tried every trick that I know in the book... I'm a firm believer in progressive training methods for creating soft and responsive horses when they aren't doing anything naughty or dangerous. Trust me, I get after my horses when appropriate.
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post #7 of 10 Old 11-11-2011, 12:25 AM
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She sounds like a nice horse! I would personally completely forget about being "on the bit" until she has the walk, trot, canter down.

It sounds like you have a good start, just work work work - the only way the canter will get better is if you MAKE it better. The more you do it, the better you will get. If you just focus on the walk/trot when you ride, thats all you will ever do. If you see improvement (like on the lunge) keep doing it until its consistent.

She needs the motivation, and YOU need to give it to her. Keep pushing her, you know she can do better :)
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post #8 of 10 Old 11-11-2011, 01:40 AM Thread Starter
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The canter itself is pretty great. She can lengthen and shorten her strides fairly well but of course its not perfect because her balance on the bit is only half the time. Most young horses can hold a nice canter for a few strides and then fall apart but she is the opposite. She picks up the canter quicker in general if I completely throw away the reins like a western pony..It's like being 13 and playing the violin. I was great at it but I never really felt like practicing.. When we are away from the arena she picks it up great because she is alter and hypersensitive to my cues.. which just gave me a great idea. Although she is well desensitized, she is worrisome and hates plastic bags. She tolerates it because I make her but she won't take her eyes off of it. I think I'm gonna tie a plastic bag on my boot or whip to see if I can keep her attention in the arena at home. I'll let you know how it goes...
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post #9 of 10 Old 11-11-2011, 09:40 PM
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Seems you are confusing the canter with the canter transition. They aren't the same thing. Lots of good advice here. Your thought process will need adjusting so that you work on the transition. When you say go, you mean now. Letting her trot 5 or 6 strides tells her that it can be at her leisure.
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post #10 of 10 Old 11-12-2011, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by RollTop View Post
...When we are away from the arena she picks it up great because she is alter and hypersensitive to my cues.. ...
You sound like a much better rider/trainer than I --and a nicer horse too-- but your canter problem is similar to mine, and this is what I do, not only to get her more sensitive to my aids but to get her more up and together: walk-trot transitions. I do a lot of them if I have to, until she is anticipating, making sure the walk is very forward. It really helps, when at last I ask for canter, because she's in a good posture. Unfortunately, it is not the most relaxed way, and I'm now trying to make things calmer, but somehow I have to get her over being lazy about it.
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