Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Here is what I do with the 2 horses I canter regularly - yeah, a whopping TWO horses of experience, so take it FWIW...
Both of mine get excited about cantering and tend to get strung out. If "I very softly and continuously asked for [them] to slow down", they continue fast a little longer, then slow down to a trot.
What works for them is to milk each shoulder separately. I do NOT pull back, but as the left shoulder goes forward, I go forward with the left hand a little slower and not so far. This can be practiced at the walk & trot as well - move your hand forward a bit faster and farther in synch with each shoulder, and they tend to lengthen their strides (not immediately, but over 5-20 strides, depending on if they are used to the cue). If I give with that hand just a little slower and not quite so far, they tend to shorten the stride of their front feet.
At a canter, it is the only reliable way I have to slow them down. Particularly the mare - if I try to restrain her with both hands, ever so gently, it will turn into a fight. If I pull back with each hand in synch with the shoulder, it turns into a fight. But if I just am less enthusiastic with each hand, in synch with the shoulder, then she settles down.
With time, my gelding is starting to settle on his own. It is more comfortable for the horse to do it right. The mare? She has less experience, but she varies. Some days she picks up a very collected canter. Most of the time, we spend the first 30-60 seconds trying to slow her front enough to stop her from being strung out. Then we'll canter a bit more at a happy speed for her, and then I ask her to restrain herself a little.
This is also working for her on the trail, as I try to turn my spooky arena mare into a trail horse. When she starts to get excited, instead of pulling back, I just show less enthusiasm, and she will move her feet a little less, and then her head drops.
This is also why I no longer ride her bitless. Without a bit, I just cannot communicate this way with her.
"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
Last edited by bsms; 05-18-2012 at 11:50 AM.