Cross-Firing - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 18 Old 03-04-2013, 09:49 AM Thread Starter
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She just turned 11 so she is full grown. She hasn't done much which is why she is green. Somebody basically threw a bit in her mouth and hopped on so when I bought her I literally had to start from scratch. She is very safe & kind which makes her easy to work with, however it's been a long road trying to build good muscle and reverse all the bad muscle she's accumulated from incorrect posture & "frame" (aka-head up in the air).

She goes beautifully in the side rein set up and I give her enough room to stretch down and really use her back which has seemed to help her muscling a lot.

I also have her on a daily stretching regimen that my vet gave me to work on conditioning her glutes, back, neck, and shoulders. I am very impressed with the changes I have seen, just uncertain when and how to incorporate the canter.

Do you think I should wait longer and just work on walk/trot until she is stronger? Or should I slowly start asking for short periods of canter on the lunge with corrections as she crossfires?

Thank you all by the way for your input, it is greatly appreciated.
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post #12 of 18 Old 03-04-2013, 12:13 PM
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I would wait until she's stronger and do some strengthening work.
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post #13 of 18 Old 03-04-2013, 12:21 PM
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Maybe she just needs more time with side reins and you need more patience. I am notoriously impatient, so I know. =b
I'm also a big fan of lunging over cavaletti, or those plastic blocks that hold poles. If you DO use this, I suggest only one, and warm her up without it, then lunge over it for maybe 15 minutes, then loosen up the side reins and let her walk cool without them, on a long rein.
I used caveletti with "Corporal" (1982-200, RIP), unregistered Arab, and it also taught him how to negotiate trail obstacles. He really couldn't couple and jump well, unfortunately.

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post #14 of 18 Old 03-04-2013, 05:01 PM
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Lose the side reins. Ride her from behind and collect correctly
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post #15 of 18 Old 03-04-2013, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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I don't lunge her with side reins frequently, only about once a week or once every two weeks and only at the walk and trot.

I ride her almost every day for about 30-60 minutes at the walk & trot. I haven't ridden her at the canter in over a month because I don't feel that she is strong enough the carry me and carry herself when she can't even carry herself cantering on the lunge. I would like to get a good basis at the canter without me on her back before I expect her to carry my weight. If anyone disagrees please tell me your reasoning.
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post #16 of 18 Old 03-05-2013, 09:18 AM
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I approach cross-firing a lot differently than most people. I do not think it should be ignored. I have only seen horses get very comfortable cross firing rather than teaching themselves to do it right.

I see it as a combination of lack or strength, lack of flexibility through her spine and hind end and a pure lazy habit. It requires a lot of effort to bring that inside hind leg up to stay in that lead. It is simply a lot easier to just let it flop out of lead. When a horse does it both direction, it has never been a soundness issues with any of the horses I have worked with.

I usually teach every horse to canter/lope correctly in a round pen or on a longe line by correcting it instantly when it lets its hind end flop into the outside lead. I never accept it.

On a longe line, I will abruptly snatch it down to a trot and give my standard audible "Ah!" when I do so. I immediately ask for a lope again and let the horse continue as long as it does not crossfire. It generally takes only 2 or 3 longeing sessions to get one to where they correct themselves from just reprimanding them with an "Ah!". Within 2 or 3 more sessions, they will seldom cross-fire any more and will 'fix' it themselves without me doing anything. Since this horse has done it a lot, it may take a little longer.

I do it a little differently in the round pen. I don't let them slow down to correct it. I 'get after' them and chase them harder yelling at them until they 'fix' the cross-fire by catching up with that inside hind leg. Then, I back off and just let them lope arond. Again, they have it figured out in 2 or 3 sessions and will fix themselves or bring that hind leg up with just one "Ah!" from me.

I am not against using side-reins in this kind of situation. Would it be better to ride a horse up into the bridle and use 'true collection'? Of course! But, we have to take a rider's level of ability and have to know if a rider that is not at that level has quiet enough hands and good enough coaching to get it done properly. Side-reins are very much preferable to trying to do it with hands, seat and legs if the rider is not at that point in their own training. This is 'advanced' training and not what I want an intermediate level riding even 'trying' to do. This not a beginner or she would not know enough to try to address the problem. She would not use side reins and would not even recognize the difference in how a horse travels 'in frame' and how sloppy she is on her own.

I have watched too many people try push a horse up into the bridle and all they got done was to jerk on the reins with unsteady hands and use a pair of undeveloped legs that are out of rhythm with their hands. This rider may be an expert rider or she may be an intermediate rider. She may or may not have a trainer or coach to help her get proper collection and balance while on her horse. She will eventually have to do it as her horse will learn that she can be sloppy and work less with a rider than on a longe line, but the mare's strength, flexibility and coordination can be greatly improved in the meantime.

I would gradually get her working in side-reins with the inside rein 1 - 2 inches shorter than the outside rein which requires more bend and flexibility and MUCH MORE effort. Eventually, one should be able to longe her with the inside rein 3 - 4 inches shorter. The more she learns to do this while maintaining that inside lead behind, the better her balance will become and the more obedient she will become. I would definitely start correcting her on a longe line without side reins. Only after she figures out she is not supposed to cross-fire, would I add the side-reins.

I would also use side-reins with an elastic or rubber link in them. Obviously, this mare is well past the stage of fighting the side-reins. But, when she starts correcting her for cross-firing, she may initially throw her head up and stop herself. She will get over it and should be immediately asked to get back into a canter.

The proper use of 'training tools' is much preferred to unskilled hands at my house. We have the skill that is available to us in any given situation. People are not born expert trainers. We are all a work in progress. Many 'trainers' that make their livings training full-time are unable to collect a horse properly. I wince every time I watch TV trainers like Craig Cameron even try and most people would call him an 'expert'.

One of the other things that will help this mare is to do 'leg yielding' exercises. They really need 'eyes on the ground' to do them right, especially on this kind of stiff horse. They have a tendency to just shift their butt out rather than yield laterally 'ribs first'. A person must be sure they are actually bending through their spine. Being able to bring a horse's hip into the center of a circle (with the horse's nose to the inside) is a much more beneficial exercise, but this maneuver is even more advanced and more difficult to do, so I would not even try to go there yet.


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post #17 of 18 Old 03-05-2013, 01:37 PM
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I would have her checked for lameness issues. My mare had the same problem as a 2 yr old. I assumed she was imbalanced and immature so gave her additional time off to grow.

She continued to have issues during her 4-5 yr old year. I tried to push her through it at the canter (thinking it was a behavioral issue), but she became more and more resistant. I recognized than that it was physical as this is not a horse who has refused to do anything I have ever asked. I went back to trotting poles and hills thinking it would help strengthen her. It didn't help.

Finally had the vet do X rays and she has stifle issues and some hock arthritis started.

Anytime a horse cross canters severely and does not respond to strengthening work, than I would suspect a lameness issue. If you have been consistently working her for 6 months, you should have seen an improvement by now. Correctly asking for the canter and setting her up for the correct lead may help, but if she is consistently cross cantering in the field and not improving, than there is something else going on.

FYI: my mare looked perfectly sound at the trot, with a very slight reaction to flexions (maybe one head nod out of a circle).

I also tried correcting her every time she cross fired- it did not help.

Does she bunny hop or buck at the canter as well?

It is not normal for a horse to consistently cross canter.
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post #18 of 18 Old 03-06-2013, 10:55 AM Thread Starter
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Great Info Guys, thank you.

I did have her checked by my vet who is also my equine chiropractor and we didn't find any additional problems other than the fact that she is unfit and week in quite a few areas of her body. Of course we didn't x-ray her, which is always beneficial to have done, but I'd like to see if I can eliminate all other factors before I have to spend all the money on x-rays. I also want to state that I HAVE see improvement in her strength and performance in the past 6 months, but I also haven't been asking her to do any canter work so I couldn't possibly expect to see a huge difference at this point.

Yesterday I had my trainer hop on her after my warm up and practice asking for canter departures on both leads so I could watch her from the ground. Tracking right was a little rough (as expected being her harder side), she was very rushed & scrambley with her legs but picked up the canter without cross firing for 3-4 strides and then back down to the trot. Tracking to the left was much better. She picked up the canter quicker and maintained it for half of a 20 meter circle without cross firing. I was very happy with this and we ended the canter work and presumed to walk/trot exercises.

I guess the best thing for me to do is to just use short sessions of canter work under saddle 2-3 times a week and then try to incorporate ground pole work with her on the lunge when possible. I will keep an eye on her physical and mental progression as we move along in case other factors contributing to lameness or discomfort come up, but as of now I'm convinced it's just a fitness & balance issue.
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