Unusual canter for an oddball horse- day one - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 05-04-2009, 12:03 AM Thread Starter
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Question Unusual canter for an oddball horse- day one

Hello all, a quick question about a horse I've been working with.

For the last two months I've been working with an 11yo gelding donated to a program (basically a retirement/ rehab collection of horses put back into recreational use for girls) I work for from a trail-riding business after nearly 6 months of him being unusable due to poor and some times dangerous behavior-- but that's another story for a later day.

Anyways, now that I have him under my care we've been making steady steps to change, enough so that I can trust him to upper level 'beginner' girls at the walk and trot. As long as he can maintain his "personal bubble" of about 10-15 feet from another horse, he's been deemed "safe". More work is being put into this problem, and hopefully one day it will be fixed. But all things take time and patience. Now that he is back in shape from a very long break, I've built him back up and felt ready for it, I started to work with him at the canter for the first time today.

Oh boy...

This horse hasn't been cantered in far to long. At least a year or more. Nor was he ever properly trained in the gait by the way he acts. Not only did he not listen to any cues, he'd randomly decide when to canter and would cut across to canter with other horses being worked with in the arena. No successful canter at the walk, but a few from the trot did occur.
Hopefully with more work I can get him cantering better on his own and listening better in time. But that wasn't the unusual part.

Never before have I had a horse that cantered with his head down in a charging position, but smoother than butter in his motions. While beautiful to ride and watch, control is lost with his head so low and for the life of me I couldn't get him to pick his head up and be "normal". Out of the other 43 horses I work with, he's the only one that does this.

This horse is well known to have his head constantly in the air and rather alert, but the moment he picks up a canter he's licking the dirt.

After so many years of riding and working with horses, I am at a loss with this fellow.

So more or less, any tips or tricks to get his head out of the sand at the lope?

Thanks in advance,

Chicory is offline  
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post #2 of 16 Old 05-04-2009, 12:08 PM
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Have him looked at by a chiro would be the first thing. Does he do the same thing on a line?
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post #3 of 16 Old 05-04-2009, 02:13 PM
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hmmm.... when he puts his head down, is his nose almost touching the ground? and is it in a relaxed way, or are his ears back and looks like he is irratated? Coudl he have maybe been trained to canter with his head wayy low?? i would say maybe have a vet check done on him see if anything is wrong first. all i can say is to just try and pick his head up and before you ask him to canter try and get a hold of his head. Sorry im not much more help, never had a problem like that.

quarter horses.....simply the best
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post #4 of 16 Old 05-04-2009, 02:13 PM
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Have you worked him in a round pen with and without a saddle (but no rider)?

I'm not arguing with you, I'm just explaining why I'm right.

Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

It's not always what you say but what they hear.
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post #5 of 16 Old 05-04-2009, 03:51 PM Thread Starter
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@ iride and G and K: Yes, same thing on the line (which I need to do more of), but not as dramatically as when he's got a rider on his back which is why I found it so odd.

@ reining girl: He doesn't seem aggravated by it either, his ears are back but not pinned, and they're responsive. He isn't tense, but I wouldn't call him relaxed either, almost like he's over focusing and choosing not to listen.

While I couldn't see exactly how low his nose was, it felt like his nose was well between his knees and fetlocks.

He does tend to charge out at a canter when being let out to pasture with his head down, but I've seen this before in other horses, but never while being ridden.

Hopefully I'll be able to put up some video of him by next week, maybe that will give you guys a clearer picture.

But after browsing the web, I found this picture which reminded me of his head and neck position without the bucking.

I do not own this photo.
:: Salt River Performance Horses ::
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post #6 of 16 Old 05-04-2009, 04:21 PM
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A video would be great.
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post #7 of 16 Old 06-20-2009, 11:40 PM Thread Starter
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Update: So while we were working on that nasty canter of his, we turned a corner and magically I came off his back and he proceeded to run over me. I'm not sure how I managed not to break any bones, but at least my skin is growing back where it had been sanded off from the arena's footing material. Sadly I must say it will be awhile before I get back on him and try working with him more. After 15 minutes of riding him not long after the incident I had a break down and had to get off. Fortunately others at my barn have picked up where I left off and he's making progress still.

PS- His cantering still sucks.

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post #8 of 16 Old 06-20-2009, 11:56 PM
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Lunging is going to be your best friend.
Grab a proper surcingle and some side reins. Attach the side reins up fairly high and at a length which allows his neck only really to stay in the proper level position and then lunge. Rinse and repeat for a few weeks and there you go.
If he does it still while riding then it should be easier to fix because of the lunging but basically anchor your elbows into your hips and bring your hands up quickly to get his head out of the dirt and his neck back into a level position. Don't ever pull back, just move your hands up. If you start to pull then he is going to start just tucking his nose in as a new evasion and that is a much harder one to fix.

Good luck! (and get better soon!)
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post #9 of 16 Old 06-21-2009, 02:00 AM
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I would get him checked for pain issues first. Check his back and teeth mainly. After that has been ruled out, you might ask around if someone maybe tried to train him for WP and completely did it wrong. I have seen some REALLY ugly results from poor WP training. Other than that I don't know. What type of bit do you use on him?
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post #10 of 16 Old 06-22-2009, 10:17 AM
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My stallion does the same thing, and we've never figured out why. Vet says he's physically fine - but it's almost like he doesn't know what to do with himself at the canter, so he throws his head and neck down. (Bad balance maybe?) I've had him since birth, and have started dozens of horses, but never have I had one do this. Very weird, you're right. If you can free lunge him, try that some, maybe with some draw reins set to keep his nose in a bit. It has helped my boy a little, along with riding up and down hills to build up his back muscles.

"Keep a leg on each side and your mind in the middle"
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