When to start canter work on green horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 10-19-2011, 10:02 PM Thread Starter
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When to start canter work on green horse

Ok I have an 11yr old mare im training, she was a broodmare/pasture puff and has just been started. Ive ridden her 6 times. A few times in the round pen, but its really too small so now that shes been on a few times ive been riding her in the open pasture. Everything is going well, mainly just occasional head tossing if anything, other than that shes is just amazing to ride. My problem is I dont know when to introduce the canter. Ive heard opposite sides of the spectrum. In my experiences, most western riders canter on the first ride-reasoning being they think if you wait then the horse sort of builds up this anticipation for the canter and it just becomes overwhelming and then they have problems. Like a random bucking outburst or something. On the other hand, is a lot more of english riders who wait until theyre going very well under saddle at the walk/trot and get them balanced and muscles built up and establish all the basics before attempting the canter. On my mare I have attempted, unsuccessfully, to canter her. First time was in the round pen, I had a friend on her and I was cueing her from the ground and it took a lot of encouragement to get the few steps I got. I figured it was too tight and waited until I was riding in the pasture. I had a friend on my other mare, who is her pasture mate, and had her canter and was hoping Fairah would follow. I squeezed and encouraged and gave her her head and got light on her back, sat and rolled my hips like when you canter and tried to lift the energy in my body and clucked like crazy. Nothing seemed to work. Just got an unhappy horse with all the pressure I was putting on which then lead to some head tossing and kicking out. Now im thinking maybe really try and get her going well for a month or so at the trot before asking again, or should I put her back in the round pen with some help and get her to canter a few steps consistently to take the edge off? Your thoughts? How long do you wait? what do you do to lead up to it? etc.

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post #2 of 27 Old 10-19-2011, 10:09 PM
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I ride both western and English, and personally I prefer waiting until the horse is 100% comfy with the idea of a rider before I even try a trot, let alone canter. A good first step would be to tack her up, canter her on a lounge line and see how she reacts. From that point I would keep doing that until the jog is a little more solid and then try the lope. Some people will disagree with that and that's fine, people have different ideas, the main thing is that you need to feel comfortable on her before you try anything new.
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post #3 of 27 Old 10-19-2011, 11:38 PM
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I certainly prefer to have a horse going well at walk and trot before I ask for canter. I want to have my 'stop, go and turn' buttons absolutely spot, and know that the horse is able to perform multiple transitions between and within gaits at walk and trot. Their balance must also be very good at walk and trot, and they MUST be willing to go forward. Once I have this established, I'll just start slipping some short canters in here and there, not making a bit deal of it and only asking when I feel the horse will easily move straight up into the transition with no dramas - aka when absolutely balanced and in front of the leg.

The reason being, is that I do not want to break a horse's confidence by running them onto the forehand and putting them out of balance. Canter can be quite a delicate gait, if a horse is out of balance it is very much apparent in the canter and is very hard to 'fix' while still cantering. The quality of canter is dependant on the quality of the trot ridden before the transition.
By running the horse out of balance in canter, you end up with a horse that becomes nervous in the canter, will start to 'run away' from the rider under saddle and panic.

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Last edited by Kayty; 10-19-2011 at 11:44 PM.
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post #4 of 27 Old 10-20-2011, 12:27 AM
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i agree with monty and kayty.but i free lunge my horses in the round pen.i saddle them,tie the lead rope to the horn just enough to where he cant put his head to his knees and look like a saddle bronc,and let him pick up the canter when he is ready.and like kayty said,teach him whoa and such.think about it like this,what good is a run or canter if you cant stop it?
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post #5 of 27 Old 10-20-2011, 12:34 AM
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on greenies i walk when standing is easy, trot when walking is easy, canter when trotting is easy and gallop when cantering is easy.

that said when i'm on a limited timeline i like to get all that done asap to make sure they aren't going to get too troubled by the feel of a rider at the different gaits when it's time they go back to their owners.

but unless trotting is smooth and the horse doesnt buck or anything when it's trotting i wouldn't ask it to canter.
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post #6 of 27 Old 10-20-2011, 12:49 AM
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i agree christopher,but only a very good rider or trainer knows how to feel for that and when to step him into the next gait.
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post #7 of 27 Old 10-20-2011, 02:29 AM
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Headtossing and kicking out sounds a bit like a pain issue. Are you sure you have a good saddle fit? Have you had her back checked out? I've had horses who go much better, and known many horses who have gone much better, with a visit from a chiropractor or similar specialist. You'd be surprised how many horses slip on shoulders, or just do random muscular injuries in the paddock. I don't know a lot about how it works, but it always seems to work for me, provided you use a good professional - like all things quality can vary. Also, when were her teeth last done?

I don't think cantering in the roundyard with a rider would be a good idea but provided that she learns and accepts all basic aids there shouldn't be a problem, but from what you describe she doesn't seem to be accepting the bit, nor has she mastered the "go forward" aid. I'd get back to working on all those things first. I'd probably wait until I get a good canter in the roundyard before I work with it in the saddle.

I'd also refrain from getting her to canter with you on her and someone else on the ground. Its just going to confuse her about where her aids come from. You either want the attention on you, or on the person lunging.
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post #8 of 27 Old 10-20-2011, 10:11 PM
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The problem does not come from when you ask a horse to canter / lope. The problem comes from asking and not getting the lope.

I, personally, prefer to ask early - somewhere from the 1st to 3rd ride usually. The reason being that horses seem to develop a nicer, more coordinated lope when they learn early in their training process. I have tried it both ways and it has has worked about 10X better to do it this way. But, then, I get horses very ready on the ground with good ground driving and good 'nose following' skills before any rides. I also read horses very well and find the results of asking to be very predictable. I can see where someone with less skill and experience would feel more comfortable waiting longer. But, I really think waiting longer increases the possibility of a bad wreck. The less confident colt is also less apt to have a 'come-apart' when it does go into a lope. There is something to be said about loping a colt that is a little unsure about what is happening.

The problems I have encountered with horses brought to me as a public trainer and the problems I repeatedly see here on the Forum of horses refusing to canter no matter what is done with them or to them all seem to come from asking and not succeeding in getting a sustained canter.

If you do not plan on doing whatever it takes to succeed in getting a canter / lope, don't ask. No harm is done if you do not ask. Great harm is done if you ask and give up without getting a sustained lope. This is when horses develop a true aversion to loping and absolutely refuse to lope under any circumstances.
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post #9 of 27 Old 10-20-2011, 10:43 PM
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Cherie, usually I agree with nearly everything you have posted. However I do find your comment that getting a more established walk and trot, with the 'buttons' down pat, before asking for canter, means that the trainer in question is not as experienced as yourself, quite offensive and big headed.
There is more than one way to skin a cat, just because you do it differently to the next person does not make them any less experienced.
It's great that you've had good results with asking early. But I have had good results from waiting. Sure, I'll get them cantering on the lunge, drive them, work in hand etc. But I would prefer to have a horse very confident and in balance before I ask for canter under saddle for the avove mentioned reasons.

I am unsure as to whether your scattered comments regarding asking and not getting the canter, are intended to be related to those of us who are clearly inexperienced and asking for the canter later. If they are - how on earth did you come to that conclusion? Because I ride dressage does not mean I won't stick at asking until I get the canter. BUT, I would prefer to set the horse up for success, rather than closing my eyes, kicking and hanging on until the horse stumbles into canter, tripping over it's own feet with zero balance.
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post #10 of 27 Old 10-21-2011, 01:24 AM
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I may not lope my younger ones for a month. And not to be bragging or anything but all of them have turned into fairly nice horses. I have trained and sold quite a few. Everyone seems to like them. They lope when they don't feel like they are going to have trouble keeping a lope and usually I like to use another person and an open field. As the older horse lopes off I let my colts follow. Cluck and squeeze and I haven't had a problem with any of them bucking or anything. I just let them go, stay out of their mouths and don't worry about leads. That will come later.
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