"Unballing" at the canter - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 04-12-2009, 08:46 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
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"Unballing" at the canter

I've been riding a relatively new horse for a few months now. I am hoping to do Mini Medal and the Children's Hunter with him. He has the greatest attitude on the ground but when you ride he is a little spooky. He had his hock drained about a month ago and has become less spooky. However in a lesson last week my instructer wanted me to collect but keep him in an upward frame. I get exactly what my instructer wants me to do but i cant for the life of me try and figure out how to do it!!! He naturally has a very long stride so i need to be able to collect him as i will do some eq classes this summer. I ride in drawreins which could be part of the problem... but my instructor normally has me tie them to the martingale when i start to jump or take them off. Any suggestions or exercises would be great!
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post #2 of 6 Old 04-12-2009, 09:54 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: SW Michigan
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use half halts, that will teach him to round his back out and push more from his back legs while keeping his head up and moving forward, you can use drawreins if you please but I personally don't like to use them, it pulls their heads down to far for my liking.
if he doesn't respond to the half halts in a straight line use 20 meter circles at all 3 gaits, he should tuck his nose and continue to move forward in all gaits with no problem.
the trot is usually the easiest gait to start at, be sure to keep some pressure on him with your inside leg to keep him rounded and moving. after you have mastered the trot, go to the canter and use the same tactics, if he has a long stride bump your canter circles to 30 meters. I leave the walk for last because the horse has time to think and will usually pull on the bit. If you find he works better going one way then the other, work on his better direction first so he fully understands what you want from him.
don't give up, it will work, it just takes time. if you can get one extra day of riding in a week just to work on that it will be extremely helpful.

good luck!

16 year old TWH Mare named Ginger
3 year old APHA Paint Gelding named Fox.
RIP Evie (Clydesdale) 7.29.09 & Magic (OTTB) 2.23.10
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-12-2009, 10:09 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
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To get my horse back when he "sprawls" my trainer has me do a 20 meter circle, half of it at the trot, canter, then trot, etc until he is collected and listening. Also spirals help rock them back, start at a 20 meter circle and slowly "push" your horse into a smaller, smaller circle until you get to the center and then push back out keeping the same pace the whole time. Start the exercise at the trot and then when he gets that you can move to the canter.

These are the two exercises that have helped me the most. Hope they help!
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post #4 of 6 Old 04-13-2009, 07:54 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2008
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Okay thanks! I have done the circling and leg yielding out but never tried doing half cantering and half trotting. I will defiantly try that next time. I rode outside today and he was great. He was forward and in a much better frame. He spooked once but it was his (and mine) first time out all winter. However when we went inside (one of the girl's ponies was spooking) he was able to go forward but we could create that nice trot that we had outside. I tried riding without the draw reins but he was spooky and threw his head up in the air. We did lots of transitions and circles and serpentines. Any other exercises that would help?
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post #5 of 6 Old 04-14-2009, 11:41 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: SW Michigan
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the change in weather makes horses very spook prone, I know when I rode outside for the first time all winter last year my horse spooked at another horse (what a joke) lol but a lot of the time they do it because they are just happy to have warmer weather and to be outside, silly horses anyway.
half halting is also good for keeping their head down, even when spooky, that just takes some work, if you want to try to ride without draw reins, start inside, work on the rail of the arena, when he begins to throw his head up or pull hard on your hands, turn him in a circle, doesn't matter what size, just get his mind on you and off himself, that will (or should) bring his head back down. also, asking him to back up or to pick up some speed will also throw his mind off why he is spooking and make him focus on you, going from a walk to a trot or from a trot to an extended trot. sometimes cantering will just cause him to throw his head more so stick to trotting.
serpentines are GREAT for teaching a horse to round out, just use leg yielding and half halting the whole time, the change in diagonals will keep his mind on you.
also, just like rider4life said, do the spirals, that will help tons (can't believe I didn't think of that) that's how I originally got my horse to round out. always use half halts =]
Good luck!

16 year old TWH Mare named Ginger
3 year old APHA Paint Gelding named Fox.
RIP Evie (Clydesdale) 7.29.09 & Magic (OTTB) 2.23.10

Last edited by Audra0729; 04-14-2009 at 11:43 AM.
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-14-2009, 07:53 PM
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Aah! I can vouch for weather changes and spooking. My normally mild mannered sweetheart turns into a psycho pinball machine every March for about 3 weeks. He's so unpredictable, I figure if I can stay on him those 3 weeks, I'm good for the year.

The solution definitely is to get his attention on you. When my horse is being a nut, I accomplish that by riding every single stride. Every 6 strides or so, change what you're doing. Flexion, shallow serpentines, leg yeild, shoulder-fore, haunches in, ground poles, whatever you need to keep his attention.

Now to the good part, the cantering. Just today I tried a new game with my horse. He has a nice canter, but I've been having problems getting him to extend his stride. The game we played was canter-trot-canter. The transitions alone will get your horse into a lighter frame, but you can really find gold if you refine it a bit.
Pick your spots and cue him at very specific times. Setup for the transition as if you were riding a dressage test. A few strides out, think about what you need to do to properly cue him, give him the necessary half halt to let him know a change is coming, and then transition. As soon as you feeling him start to fall back on his forehand, bring him back to trot. Again, don't allow him to fall into it. Transition down with balancing half halt into a nice energetic trot. If he tries to fake you out, remember he had all that energy to spook. It's about time he uses that same energy to give you a nice trot. As soon as the trot is established, start all over again. Find an exact spot...etc. AFter a few transitions, you'll feel him stepping under himself more and he'll start to round up into a nice frame. If you're reins get more floppy with each transition, you're on the right path. (sidebar - notice how little the reins factor into balancing a horse once you've got him collected)

I did that exercise just today on both leads with my 6 year old. I was dumbfounded to find that his canter feels completely different when he is truly balanced. He felt like he was floating. His stride was suddenly adjustable. I was able to get 4 strides where earlier in the ride I was getting 6, but without a change in speed. Instead of having to worry about this shoulder, that leg, where his head was, it was one continuous working piece. That's the only way I can think to describe it. It was amazing.

Everyone's got great suggestions on this site, so try all the ones you like and see what works for you. And don't worry, the spooking should stop once it warms up a bit.
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