Slowing the Canter - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 02-16-2011, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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Slowing the Canter

Ok, so I've been working with my horse to slow her down in her canter/lope. We've come a long way since last year and I think are making progress, but I'm looking for more ways to help get her to slow down in her Canter. The problem I have with her is when I pick up the reins she dives under the bit and avoids it... and I really don't want to be yanking on her mouth anyway. She's a lot slower now then she was about three weeks ago tho. and is definitly willing to learn and she's definitly smart enough to pick up on things quickly.

So pretty much I'm just asking of ways to slow the Canter without using your reins as much.

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post #2 of 15 Old 02-16-2011, 02:55 PM
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It's a shame that she has developed the habit of diving behind the bit. That's a hard one to cure. Just out of curiosity, has she always done that or is it a recent development? Do you ride in a curb?

As for slowing the canter without reins (best anyway) I think that you need to "slow your body". You slow your seat and she has to match her rythm to your rythm. so, you need to make your core firm, exhale through your mouth kind of forcefully and press down as if you are having a bowel movement. I would do this rythmically and "think" slow, slow slow with each exhale. You can even make the exhales audible to the horse. But you need to make your body firm (upper body only. Don't grab on with your legs. Stay loose there). You will actaully become harder for her to move and she will feel the drag of your resistence and the calming effect of the heavy downward breathing.
Give her time to settle. So start at her speed, don't suddenly try to modify, do it littlle by little and when she slows, reach forward and softly pet (don't Pat! that excites), just pet on one side of the neck, give her the rein and see if she'll stay slow.
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post #3 of 15 Old 02-16-2011, 09:46 PM
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i'd bet, given the description of the problem, she isn't as good doing downward transitions she is upward transitions.

if that's the case, downward transitions are something too work on also. walk along, ask your horse to slow, but don't release the aid when she's slowed. release when she's stopped or backing up. walk/trot/canter - backup transitions are good for keeping horses soft and "controlled" in forward movement, among other reasons you might want to get a horse extremely soft to backward rein aids (sliding stops etc)
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post #4 of 15 Old 02-16-2011, 10:39 PM
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you are going to hear this a lot from me on here... trot. trot and more trot. then trot some more.

better canter doesn't come from more canter work.
better canter comes from a better trot.

trot works the horse bilaterally - meaning both sides - evenly. canter is biased to one side or the other.

furthermore if the horse is avoiding the bit at the canter, lengthening the reins can cause leaning and bracing and rushing - none of which are the desired results.

instead try trotting on a long rein sending the horse forward with seat and leg (and idc what discipline or saddle this will work in any). as the horse eventually relaxes and engages the hind end, they will start to seek out the bit for contact and reach into the bridle. when that happens you have a more engaged horse. at that point you can start to take a very soft following contact that keeps the horse engaged without limiting their movement. regulate pace and rhythm with the seat, not hands. you can also post changing your posting diagonal (not your actual direction) ever 3-6 strides. this will encourage the horse to work off both hind legs evenly. a horse weaker on one or the other side or behind in general will show stiffness when you change diagonal w/o a corresponding change in direction. as the horse gets stronger and looser this will diminish.

most issues with rushing, leaning, bracing, pulling, and bit evasions are due to weakness and lack of balance in one form or another. it takes a lot more energy for a horse to move slow and balanced than it does for a horse to rush and end up on the forehand.

hope that helps!

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post #5 of 15 Old 02-16-2011, 10:58 PM
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wow I was just thinking of making a thread about slowing the canter :)

That has helped me heaps as well
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post #6 of 15 Old 02-17-2011, 05:16 AM
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Thank you Sky and Tiny.
Good explanations as always and something for us to work on.
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post #7 of 15 Old 02-17-2011, 08:46 AM
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glad to help. people thought i was crazy when i had my OTTB for a year doing just trot work and not cantering him. they don't think i'm crazy when they see him move now... ;)

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post #8 of 15 Old 02-17-2011, 09:16 AM
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I havent had time to read the other replies on here so i apologize if im repeating what someone else has said. When your horse is being heavy on the bit be heavy right back. I realize you dont want to jerk on your horse's mouth but sometimes you gotta quit asking "Please do this" and say "****it do it". If you let them, most horses will "half-ass" everything. Its up to you to let your horse know that that isnt going to be tolerated. But it sounds like to me you have more under lying problems. Many horses become heavy on the bit because the rider had relied on the reins too much (i.e. holding the horse back trying to slow them down). Whenever you pull back on your horse its ideal that you kick just as much as you pull. You need to drive your horse forward into the bit and round him up instead of letting him just fall on the bit everytime you pick up. Most people dont realize is you have to go fast at first in order to actually slow down. Its ok if your horse is going fast, drive him up into that bridle make him round up and collect up. Eventually your horse will naturally slow himself down to whatever is comfortable for him. If your having alot of trouble at the canter still with this, break down to the trot and push push push him into that bit. Bending and counter bending at the trot helps alot with this. Once your horse gives to the bit matter if its for 2 seconds or a few strides always find a release for him. Your horse has to know when he is doing good or else he will never figure it out. Hope that helps and wasnt too confusing!
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post #9 of 15 Old 02-17-2011, 09:25 AM
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Great post Delete!

I had a mare a few years back (ok, 10 years ago!) that had the slowest, most comforable jog, but the second you asked her for a lope she broke into a dead gallop and there was no talking her out of it. I was 12 years old at the time, so didnt know too much.

My trainer told me that the way to teach her to slow down is to let her run. I was baffled. So for about a month, I only rode her in the indoor arena by myself (and with my trainer of course). When I asked for the lope, I knew she was going to just take off. My trainer said not to interfere with her. Dont pull, dont anything. Just go for the ride. When she started to tire out and naturally slow herself down, thats when my trainer told me to kick her and make her go. Not hard of course, but definitely start making her move faster and more forward. After a couple minutes of me "making" her run, then I would ask for the jog again.

This taught the mare that she was the only one forcing herself to gallop, not me. Its kind of a mind game.

Horses only will give you as much as you ask for. They are naturally lazy and will always take the easy way out. Once she figured out I wasnt asking for the gallop, she was happy to slow lope around all day long.

I know this is a western take on this, but the horse's brain works the same way regardless of what saddle you are riding in :)
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post #10 of 15 Old 02-17-2011, 09:29 AM
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What I learnt from David O'Connor is "Your horse will match your seat".

So, if you slow your seat down, your horse will come down as well to match it.

And what I learnt from Dorothy Crowell - is "Seat Into Legs Into Hands To Soften"

Exactly as CJ8Sky said:
regulate pace and rhythm with the seat, not hands.
I know it'll be very difficult to not use your hands to slow your horse down, but really try hard to think about using your seat first, and what your seat is doing.

Slow your seat down, and your horse will follow suit :)

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