My daughter is terrified of cantoring. She wants advice. Please help!
 
 

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My daughter is terrified of cantoring. She wants advice. Please help!

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    12-25-2013, 06:47 PM
  #1
Yearling
My daughter is terrified of cantoring. She wants advice. Please help!

I have been taking twice weekly lessons with my daughter since August. She just turned 10. She rides a largish pony, maybe 12-13 hands high who's a very steady, calm dude. My daughter is very comfortable on the horse. She can trot like she's been doing it all her life. She's way more graceful than I am for sure.

The problem is with her inability to cantor.

She tried cantoring once, panicked three strides into it, started screaming like a banshee, and then gripped onto the horse's neck like a cougar. The sweet pony ran his furry butt off about 1/2 way around the ring before calming down. My daughter was hysterical with fear, but calmed down and finished the lesson, doing walking and trotting like normal.

Her second trip on a cantoring horse (not a pony) was an accident. He was supposed to be trotting during a test ride, but she panicked when he wouldn't slow to a walk, pulled back on the reins harder, he grabbed the bit and started cantoring. Then he saw something that freaked him out, side-stepped, bolted a little ways, and then gave her a rodeo ride. He bucked her off and she flew. She was unable to ride for 2 weeks.

Her last attempt came after much cajoling on the part of me and her instructor. We were in the small riding ring with the pony, where we do our lessons. Same thing happened as the first time. She leaned forward almost from the beginning (fetal ball alert), started bouncing hard in the saddle, then started screaming, then did the cougar-on-the-back move. She ended up riding the pony's neck to a stop, and came completely out of the saddle this time. This time he was ready for her, though. He only went about 10 feet, and he didn't get upset, bless his little heart!

She's had about 5 lessons since, each time declining the chance to cantor. The instructor doesn't want to do the longe line - she believes it's better for my daughter to just do it around the ring like everyone else.

Today my daughter asked me to look up advice on how to get over the fear of cantoring. I consider that a positive step. I hate the fact that I'm progressing past her since I'm now cantoring at every lesson and getting better at it each time.

Any advice for my riding buddy/princess/baby girl out there? Oh, and we're riding English.
     
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    12-25-2013, 06:57 PM
  #2
Weanling
To begin with...I'd get her on a pokey/bombproof horse that is unlikely to canter without the direct cues or a lot of motivation - if part of her fear is that her horse could break to canter at any moment she's never going to be able to relax at the walk/trot, and horses can sense the tenseness/fear of their rider. It doesn't make for a good lesson even before you worry about the canter.

Beyond that, she's going to need the confidence to feel like she can do it safely. I'd have the coach ask her about what's scaring her. Her last few experiences are without doubt part of it, but it sounds like there's something else underlying as well - is she unbalanced at the canter so she feels like she's falling out of the saddle, or is there something else she doesn't feel safe or confident about? You need to get to the root of her fear of cantering before she'll ever feel comfortable with trying it again.
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    12-25-2013, 07:01 PM
  #3
Yearling
I would definitely be on the longe with her. If she were given a grab strap on front of her saddle and didn't have to fiddle with the reins, she could concentrate on her seat and staying deep in the saddle. It seems to me like right now she just needs to have a positive experience that won't end in a terrifying reaction from her horse, and in my opinion, having her on the longe would make that more likely. Without any confidence, I can't see how she'll be successful right now on her own in the ring.

And-not to laugh at your daughter's expense-but I loved your description of her doing the "cougar on the neck move" :) As an adult re-rider several years ago, I had some irrational cantering fears myself, and while I never ended up in *quite* the position you're describing, I did have several white-knuckled trips around on the longe holding the front of the saddle like my life depended on it.

Good luck to her!
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    12-25-2013, 07:04 PM
  #4
Teen Forum Moderator
I strongly disagree with your instructor about not lunge lining her to start. Ideally with ANY rider, each new gait should be begun with no reins on a lunge line, but especially for a young child who has had already had bad experiences with canter. Ponies (through no fault of their own) are notoriously hare to sit a canter to, and asking a ten year old to canter for the first time when terrified while holding her reins? It is absolute enough to scare the poor dear!

I was a bit younger than her when I first learned to canter, on a LARGE (16.2hh) mare named Remington. The mare terrified me because of her size, but was perfect because of her butter smooth canter and sweetheart personality. Even so, because I was nervous, I spent my first TWO MONTH of cantering on a lunge line until I could do it stirrupless with my arms out like a plane. There is nothing nothing nothing wrong with beginning on one, and IMO it helps develop a much stronger seat, and much faster than if you are trying to juggle your legs, seat, and hands at the same time!

Find her an instructor who will let her canter on a lunge like, and give her a neck strap or oh-crap strap on the saddle to grab hold of if she feels like she's too unsteady, and let her get the feel for it. I'd even ask if she could ride a larger horse with a less bouncy canter if at all possible. I've been riding for year and I STILL have a hard time keeping my hands quiet and my hips soft enough to sit the canter perfectly on those little guys!
     
    12-25-2013, 07:07 PM
  #5
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oshawapilot    
To begin with...I'd get her on a pokey/bombproof horse that is unlikely to canter without the direct cues or a lot of motivation - if part of her fear is that her horse could break to canter at any moment she's never going to be able to relax at the walk/trot, and horses can sense the tenseness/fear of their rider. It doesn't make for a good lesson even before you worry about the canter.

Beyond that, she's going to need the confidence to feel like she can do it safely. I'd have the coach ask her about what's scaring her. Her last few experiences are without doubt part of it, but it sounds like there's something else underlying as well - is she unbalanced at the canter so she feels like she's falling out of the saddle, or is there something else she doesn't feel safe or confident about? You need to get to the root of her fear of cantering before she'll ever feel comfortable with trying it again.
This pony is that bomb-proof horse she needs. He really doesn't like cantoring. He needs not only heel kicks but some motivation from the instructor (looking menacing at him and moving towards his hind end.) So it's not the pony that's the problem.

My daughter told me that when she leans back, she feels like she's going to fall off, and that's the position the instructor tells her to take. The instructor has us grab the saddle blanket and reins, lean way back, and then just go for it. The finesse comes later. It's how I learned and it works great for me, but I notice my daughter tends to ride much more straight up and down than I do. Her seated trot for example is much more natural and effortless looking than mine. I think her center of balance is different than mine - more like a real horsewoman's posture than the one I have (that would be the "drunken sailor" posture.)
     
    12-25-2013, 07:10 PM
  #6
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Endiku    
I strongly disagree with your instructor about not lunge lining her to start. Ideally with ANY rider, each new gait should be begun with no reins on a lunge line, but especially for a young child who has had already had bad experiences with canter. Ponies (through no fault of their own) are notoriously hare to sit a canter to, and asking a ten year old to canter for the first time when terrified while holding her reins? It is absolute enough to scare the poor dear!

I was a bit younger than her when I first learned to canter, on a LARGE (16.2hh) mare named Remington. The mare terrified me because of her size, but was perfect because of her butter smooth canter and sweetheart personality. Even so, because I was nervous, I spent my first TWO MONTH of cantering on a lunge line until I could do it stirrupless with my arms out like a plane. There is nothing nothing nothing wrong with beginning on one, and IMO it helps develop a much stronger seat, and much faster than if you are trying to juggle your legs, seat, and hands at the same time!

Find her an instructor who will let her canter on a lunge like, and give her a neck strap or oh-crap strap on the saddle to grab hold of if she feels like she's too unsteady, and let her get the feel for it. I'd even ask if she could ride a larger horse with a less bouncy canter if at all possible. I've been riding for year and I STILL have a hard time keeping my hands quiet and my hips soft enough to sit the canter perfectly on those little guys!
Man, oh man, I WISH my instructor would do this with both of us. It would be so much easier to learn and more comfortable. But she refuses, and she's been doing this a long time, has degrees for her training and so on, so for a newb like me to tell her how I want the lesson done ... um, yeah ... never works out well.

I think if she were to teach a person to swim, she'd throw them out into the middle of a lake with an empty, plastic, 2-liter soda bottle and tell them to figure it out. Ha ha.
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    12-25-2013, 07:12 PM
  #7
Weanling
Agree with the other people here, your girl should be on a lunge line to gain confidence with cantering and you may want to consider looking for a different instructor. It sounds to me as if she really doesn't have a clue as to how to teach/deal with children. I have been a lesson instructor for 30 years and believe me, your daughter is already terrified and forcing her to canter on her own will only make her worse.
     
    12-25-2013, 07:17 PM
  #8
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chasin Ponies    
Agree with the other people here, your girl should be on a lunge line to gain confidence with cantering and you may want to consider looking for a different instructor. It sounds to me as if she really doesn't have a clue as to how to teach/deal with children. I have been a lesson instructor for 30 years and believe me, your daughter is already terrified and forcing her to canter on her own will only make her worse.
This makes complete, rational sense to me. But this woman has been teaching kids for 20 years from the age of 4 and up. She's a jumping champion herself. She has almost every day of the week booked of little kids riding that same pony around and around at the cantor, and these kids are tiny and they just follow her instructions and do it. Her method works for everyone else, just not my girl.

We have a lesson tomorrow. I'm going to ask her again to do the longe line with my girl. It's the only thing that's going to work, I'm afraid. And even with that, I know she'll be freaking out in the beginning.
     
    12-25-2013, 07:24 PM
  #9
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by ecasey    
My daughter told me that when she leans back, she feels like she's going to fall off
Can she sit the trot properly, fluidly and smoothly without any bouncing at all?
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    12-25-2013, 07:28 PM
  #10
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oshawapilot    
Can she sit the trot properly, fluidly and smoothly without any bouncing at all?
Yes. She's really good at it. What she doesn't like is doing it without stirrups, because the instructor makes her lean way back. She can go without stirrups just fine if she's left to sit up straight. It's the leaning back that throws her off. That's why I think her center of gravity isn't conducive to this type of instruction.
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