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horsieluver29 10-16-2011 09:19 PM

Scared to canter
Hi! Im scared to canter. I've cantered before but like i just bounce a lot and i lean foward due to bouncing. I also feel like i am giving the horse mixed messages because i ask for a canter but like i guess i hold back at the same time. I am good with the trot. While i was on the lunge line its was fine because i was holding onto the saddle. I also have trouble keeping m heels down and i loose the stirrups due to the bounciness. I really want to canter but i am scared to. How do i overcome the fear and will i ever get the canter really well? TIPS AND ADVICE PREFFERED!! Thanks!!!

squiregirl15 10-16-2011 11:30 PM

Hey i would said keep working on the lung line on keeping your heels down. If you can keep your heels you won't bounce as much and witch should make you feel that you don't have to hold on to the saddle for balance. once you can do that i would just work on keeping your hands still. Other then that in my opinion you are ready to canter and you do great at it.

bsms 10-17-2011 12:22 AM

Well, I'll have two weeks of cantering under my belt Tuesday, so I'm an expert...not!

However, here is what I did:

I make my jumps in training by using an Australian style or western saddle until I'm comfortable. Then I try it in an English saddle. When I'm comfortable in an English jump saddle, I'm ready for the next step - in a western saddle.

I worked on sitting the trot until I could do so without thinking or effort. I figured if my sitting trot stunk, then I wasn't ready to go faster.

If possible, I'd have used a lesson horse and started on a lunge line. But I couldn't find a place for that, so Trooper - who hadn't cantered with a rider in a year - got the call.

I used an Aussie saddle with a horn. I pushed him faster until he broke into a canter. We did perhaps 3 strides, then he slowed down. Once he realized I wanted him to canter, he was eager to comply.

I had to hold the horn when he would start, and I had to neck rein him with the free hand since he wasn't very good at judging turns. And I bounced. A lot. That was because I was trying to sit the canter, which doesn't work like it does at a trot. See buffoonery below - I'm flying in formation with Trooper, not riding him:

I then realized I needed to move my hips with the motion. I stink at dancing, and it showed. However, I also was losing the stirrups. So I stuck my feet into the stirrups as far as they would go, wearing my cowboy boots with 1 5/8 inch heels. I then sometimes lost contact with the stirrup, but my foot stayed in the stirrup. With my boot and the stirrup I was using, I wasn't worried about it going THRU the stirrup.

Then Trooper and I started cantering. Anywhere from 30 sec - 2 minutes at a time. I quickly realized that holding the horn makes it harder to canter, since it hunches me over and prevents me from moving my hips as needed to ride the wave. So I would hold on for the quick start, then practice releasing it for a few strides.

After a couple of 30 minutes practice sessions (with maybe 5-8 minutes of total cantering), I started to get the feel. As of yesterday, I didn't grab the horn once. Not even going from a walk to a canter direct. It is tempting to grab the horn, but it makes riding much harder.

I need to tilt forward a little, and move so my hips are under my shoulder at the most forward position. Some people move their hips from behind then to in front, then back - but if my hips get in front of my shoulders, I lose the rhythm.

And based on my whopping two weeks - almost - of cantering, getting in rhythm with the horse seems to be the key to keeping my butt on the saddle, shining it with my butt cheeks.

Now, how not to be scared? I don't think there is a way. But you can cut your risk by using a reliable horse, and a deep saddle - western or Aussie. If you can't use a lunge line, use an arena big enough so the horse isn't stuck on the rails, but small enough that he can't go wild. If you are good at sitting the trot, your seat will be good enough that you shouldn't come out completely, even if you buffoon it the way I did my first try. But don't try to sit the canter. Polish the seat with your rump. Breath in thru your nose, hold for a 3 count, then exhale loudly thru your mouth. Try to force your knees away from the saddle - you cannot rock in motion with your horse if your knees are gouging the saddle!

Then do it. 30 seconds to a minute. Slow. Relax. Repeat. You cannot learn it without doing it.

But there is also no rush. I've been riding for 3.5 years. I'm a very slow learner, and my previous experiences with cantering was for Mia (my mare) to do it for 1-2 strides as prep for a full-bore panic bolt - so I had lots of bad memories.

All just IMHO. I am painfully aware how utterly lacking I am as a rider - but maybe that gives me some insight into how other beginners feel. And this picture from Wiki helps me get the idea of moving my hips:

All Shook Up 10-17-2011 09:07 PM

Hi, everyone has those first few canters at some point, and they are scary, to some. The reason you bounce is simply because you are holding your breathe because you are nervous and tense. The reason you loose your stirrups is because you are probably gripping on with your calves. That is bad for two reasons: one, you loose your stirrups easily, two, that just tells the horse to go faster. The thing that will help you become less tense is smiling, without realizing it, you are relaxing your body. So breathe, smile, and enjoy your ride, and remember to keep your calves out and just go with the horse. In my opinion, cantering is smoother than trotting haha. Good luck!

ChingazMyBoy 10-17-2011 09:16 PM

I agree - if you relax and calm your nerves you will be able to sit deeper and enjoy cantering a lot more.

When we start new things (specially with 700kg of horse) there can be many emotions - including excitement and nervousness. Try to focus on relaxing and dropping your heels more, you might be gripping with your heels too much. Defiantly consider doing some work on the lunge & slowly take control of the horse instead of asking someone else to do it.

tinyliny 10-17-2011 09:20 PM

Boy, both of those were great posts! I learned a lot. I think nearly everyone has some fear associated with cantering when they are first learning. Don't feel like you are the only one, and don't think that it will never change. It WILL get easier. I don't think I can add anything better to to two above posters. Except to say, remember that your horse can canter til the cows come home. He /she does it all the time on their own. So, LET him carry you and do his job. Relax, sit down INTO him (visualize your seatbones something like 6 inches INSIDE his body) and then go with the rythm. and breathe, and smile!

VACowgirl 10-18-2011 06:36 AM

When I first started cantering, I was scared to death - I held onto the saddle horn for dear life! It took lots of practice and short 'bursts' of canter before I really got used to it. I agree with the other posters: Remember to keep your heels down, shoulders back and 'confident' and seat planted. Take a few deep breaths before you ask for the canter.

Another trick I used was 'false confidence.' I always arrived at my lesson nervous to canter. So I would repeat to myself that I was excited to canter, not nervous. When I hopped on, I sat up straight, kept my shoulders back as if I was truly confident and I thought of John Wayne and Roy Rogers. I took a couple breaths and went into a canter. Eventually I found my seat and got used to the gait and have real confidence. It takes time, but when you canter it's the most exhilarating and relaxing thing in the world. :)

Amber and Mac 10-18-2011 07:59 PM

I also think that if YOU don't think you're ready to canter then you probably aren't. I learned to canter on my old mare and she would NOT let me until she KNEW that I was ready. I kept telling myself "It's no big deal you can do this! Come on stop being a wuss!" But I was telling my self lies! I really was not ready to canter yet and the only reason I wanted to was because I wanted to impress my mom.

After I cantered for the first time, I was not that uncomfortable. Of course I was worried if I'd fall off or lose balance. Lose my stirrups perhaps? I put ALL of those thoughts out of my mind. If you think negative you will get negative back in return. Think positive and just remember to be confident! I would also try to exaggerate the movement of the canter. When I cantered for the first time on my new gelding he was not the best.. He's young so he still needs to find his..rhythm. I found that if I exaggerated my seat it helped me as well! I was able to sit him properly and he actually got into a smoother canter. Remember the rhythm of a canter, 1 2 3. (At least thats what a trainer told me xD) I feel that cantering is all in the hips NOT the calves. Just relax and don't try to scare yourself!

ringosmomma 10-18-2011 09:08 PM

I used to be just like you when i started but im past that now :-) it really does get easier and you only get better with practice. I was terrible and bouncy and the lope/canter at first and i would read everything online and nothing would make sence to me. So ill tell you what i did.
1. I started riding bareback some only at a walk, it really helps you understand the movement of you worse alot more and it helps to relax your seat for when you do lope later.
2. Put your heels down like everyone else said and just put light pressure on your stippurs dont try to use them for alot of balance or to lift off the seat.
3. Relax the whole bottom part of your body, its kinda hard to seperate the two but think of you body as the waist down and the waist up, the waist down should be VERY relaxed and just kinda going with the movement.
4. If you need to hangon to your horn or cantle for the first couple of rides just to get the feel of it dont feel bad itll help you feel a little more comfortable as long as it doesnt make you tense and nervious.
5. Sit as deep as you can and on your pockets.
6. watch other people cantering and pay attention to their movements.

Now all this will seem to you like it looks silly while you are doing it right for the first couple of times. Just because it feels weird at first and kinda slinky.
This only clicked for me when i really relaxed everything from the waist down and just felt my horses movements.
It will click for you and feel natural as you get better. Good Luck :-)

horsieluver29 10-19-2011 10:06 PM

Thank you for all ur tips and advice!!! I will try them next time!!! I will let u know how it went
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