Need canter help - dressage horse.

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Need canter help - dressage horse.

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    07-31-2012, 04:28 PM
Need canter help - dressage horse.

My daughter and I share a horse we are training in first level dressage work. A problem has come up and is worsening. Sometimes (at least once daily now), when my daughter asks him to canter, he gets anxious, resists, tries to counter bend, and then may abruptly change his balance, throw his outside shoulder to the outside, throw his head to the inside, and spin off to the outside, leaning severely and getting very strong (if he is not stopped before this of course). Stopping him quickly, circling him, etc, only gets him back in line for the moment, and may produce mild bucking. This doesn't happen every time, but far too often and it's getting worse.

On the other hand, he does NOT do this with me. He may occasionally "think about" trying a quick dart off to the side after we are cantering (if my attention lapses) but he is IMPROVING greatly with me and getting worse with her. I've tried to explain to her what I do to handle this issue with him, (be sure he is relaxed, has a nice bend at the trot first, and make SURE he is bent and on the outside rein before asking for the canter and continuing as he canters) , but to no avail. He does not want to relax when he is expecting her to ask for the canter, and then everything gets worse.

She seems to have this problem with him only when she is attempting to circle him to the right asking for the right lead canter. I do not seem to have any special problem when asking him to take the right lead canter vs. the left. (His "stiff" side is his left side btw, but he will willingly take either lead for me.)

Any insights or suggestions would be welcome.
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    07-31-2012, 04:58 PM
It sounds like the issue is definitely with her. How old is she, and how long has she been riding? Do you ride in different saddles/ tack? Is it possible she may somehow be hurting him? How old is the horse? What is his personality like, as in how does he react to things- is he calm naturally, or is he a bit of a spaz, etc.?

Assuming nothing physical is wrong, I would first check to make sure that she is giving him clear, concise cues- he may be more tense because she is confusing him, and he blows up.
Overall, I would check to make sure that
1. She is clear with her cues
2. She is not unbalancing him with her seat
3. She is setting him up correctly

My horse will throw a hissy fit if he's confused, or if he's not set up to do something correctly... he's very, very sensitive, so if my seat is slightly off, he feels it and he reacts, which is why I think it might be your problem.
    07-31-2012, 05:27 PM
He is a recently gelded 7yo and is generally level headed, not a spaz or "spooky", but he is "sensitive" to the aids (which makes him wonderful to ride). He seems to like me because I am always trying to keep him relaxed give him confidence. My daugther is trying for this too, but has a more Type A personality than I have. (She also is not as experienced at dressage although she is nearly 30yo.)

It has been hard to figure out his personality but we would both now agree (after owning him for about 6 months) that he has some insecurity issues when being ridden. If he is not positive where he is supposed to be going or what's going to happen next (or if someone is driving up there), he will sometimes abruptly try to "take over" (flip to the inside or outside and take off). We've managed to get his confidence at the walk and trot and he no longer tries anything at those gaits. He gives us beautiful circles, straight lines, 3-step turns, nice halts, several different trots upon request, beginning leg yields (for me), nice collection (for me), etc, but now that we are trying to work more at the canter, he's gone back to his "flipping" ways, and because it is at a faster pace (and now has bucks added in) it is more dangerous. And as I said, he is getting worse for her (although better for me).

Soenjer55 thank you very much, I think you are correct in your assessment. I'm just not sure how to manage this. Today I had her go back to the trot and just work on that: relax, relax, relax, bend, bend, inside leg to outside rein, repeat, repeat. I really don't know what she is doing differently to the right than to the left so I'm not sure how to tell her to prepare him better in that direction. Maybe just no cantering for awhile and working on controling that wayward shoulder better at the trot? I've encourage her to spread her hands to get a better "feel" for how to control his shifting weight and bend but she doesn't seem to be getting it well enough to continue it at the canter.

P.S. He definitely has what we have fondly been calling "CDC: canter departure confusion". That too has improved with me but not with my daughter.
    07-31-2012, 05:59 PM
BTW, neither my daughter nor I have had any trouble getting previous horses we've ridden to canter or to pick up the correct lead. We had another more spooky, more sensitive and more uneducated horse last year and my daughter had no similar problems with her. Of course she (the mare) did not have it in her personality to "take over" when she got worried like this horse does.
    07-31-2012, 06:27 PM
P.S. I forgot to mention that we ride our horse in the same tack. We each ride him about 30 minutes daily (including warming up, breaks and slow work). Sometimes her first and sometimes me first. He is definitely more anxious with her than with me although she is trying to relax him. Apparently he can feel her Type A personality and reacts to it. Or perhaps he is taking advantage of her lack of dressage experience in that one area (the canter), so he 1) gets anxious, 2) senses that she is not as in control as she could be, 3) decides to take over the driving.

When we first got him he was very "whip shy". He is now much better with that for both of us. We are both able to carry the whip almost all the time now (we drop it if he gets too excited or nervous). I have even been able to use it a few times (just a slight tickle with the fuzzy end, not even a tap) to help him know when to canter. My daughter carries it but does not use it. Neither of us use spurs with him although he doesn't seem to react to them.
    07-31-2012, 07:24 PM
I would suggest that you two take a lesson with a experienced professional in your area. It sounds like its an issue with cues that your daughter is giving. A professional might be able to see what cues are causing the problem and have some ideas. Without being on the ground and watching what is going on and without a well trained eye it can be difficult to make suggestions. It also may be that the horse and you click a little more than your daughter and the horse. Which might make things a bit easier for you and more challenging for your daughter.
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    07-31-2012, 08:40 PM
We will be seeing our dressage trainer/instructor in about a month. Until then we are on our own as there are no dressage trainers in the area that I would trust him with. I'm in a hunter/jumper barn not a dressage barn unfortunately.
    08-01-2012, 12:12 AM
Are the horses she's worked with in the canter previously been calm schooling type horses? If so, she may be used to a horse that compensates for her lack of clarity/ tenseness/ etc. When I take lessons from my coach, I always ride her perfectly trained gelding, who is educated so much that even if I make a mistake or don't watch exactly what I'm doing, he still manages. On the other hand, my gelding is sensitive and not nearly as well trained- therefore, muddy cues, a distracted mind, and whatever else Smarty the lesson horse lets slide just make Geronimo get upset. I've taught myself to be much more focused and clear, and I've seen much improvement. I'm thinking your daughter may just need to pay more attention to what she's doing, and to remember that this horse is not going to compensate- it's going from being the student to the teacher.
    08-01-2012, 12:17 AM
It may also pay to do lots of free-lunge canter work in a round pen to build his muscle, confidence, and balance up
    08-01-2012, 01:09 PM
Canter problems I've had in the past were usually balance issues (I'm not counting pain responses). I'm guessing(since I can't see her ride) that she may have exacerbated the problem initial with her own balance issues. She's either sitting too far to the outside, or over compensating with her upper body when asking for the depart, or she's asking for far too much bend in the neck prior to the depart. I'm also assuming it started with a balance issue and has since turned into a fear issue with your daughter. I know it would make me tense if I knew my horse would bolt and buck if I asked for canter depart.

You also said this is more likely to occur when doing a circle and then picking up the canter, which makes me think she's over bending him. Plus, you said he pops his outside shoulder out, which would also be a result of over bending.

Has she tried counter flexion him? With a strong focus on keepin his neck absolutely straight between her knees up to his poll, and a slight flexion of the poll in the opposite direction.
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