Is it possible I forgot how to canter in a western saddle?
I have always ridden western and rode my first horse western. Then I went on a 4 year hiatus and then took english saddleseat lessons for a couple months. I recently bought another horse whom I ride western. I need to train him how to pick up the canter (or lope) from a walk because he does this really fast trot then canters.
But anyway, I cannot for the life of me sit his canter!!! He comes up pretty high with his front end and his back end while he canters and I don't know if it's that or if I've just been thrown off balance because of his trotting first. But my butt comes up pretty high and smacks back down and I can't seem to grip the saddle with my thighs at all!!! Do I need my muscle memory back (how can I do that), is it the horse, is it ME??? AHH HELP ME!
A) gripping with the thighs is only going to make the problem worse.
B) Can you sit his trot?
Are you giving him a half halt or two just before asking for the canter? The fact that he runs into the canter from a trot means to me that he's unbalanced and heavy on the forehand.
I can sit his trot but it's VERY choppy...probably the worst of all the horses I've ever ridden. And I guess I don't know what you mean by halting. I try asking for the canter when he is at a halt and he bursts into this very choppy trot then after a lot of squeezing and "kissing" he canters but then it's a fast canter. He was a trail horse and I believe he was only trained to walk and trot to catch up with others. I don't know if it's my doing or if he just isn't trained properly yet......
What are your legs doing the moment you ask for the canter?
Do you have the same problem when asking for the canter from the trot?
Ok...I suppose I do a version of a half halt. I sit more upright, gather my reins, and start thinking about what I want him to do next then I give the cues. My legs are firm against the sides/putting pressure to ease him into the canter but as soon as he does they flop all over and I'm just really unbalanced....and yup...same thing.
Are you releasing the tension in your body as soon as he departs into the canter? It kinda goes back to gripping with thighs and legs....always a losing proposition.
Are you swinging your outside leg back slightly behind the cinch to help him strike off on the correct lead? Even if your legs are both on the cinch, is he still on the correct lead? As you likely know a counter canter feels all wonky.
Just throwing out food for thought.
The difference I feel from English to Western riding is that one does less gripping with the thigh in a Western saddle and rides more directly on the seatbones, less dependent on the stirrup. To be able to do it well, you must be really loose in the hips to move with the horse. I dont' mean that English riders don't use their seatbones, but they do tend to ride with more leg /thigh contact and more of a grip through the whole leg, down into the stirrup.
Correctly ridden Western means staying really on your seatbones, not bracing into the stirrup and letting your legs hang down, ala bareback riding.
My guess is that you are gripping too much and this alone will keep you from being able to really get connected to the saddle via your seatbones.
That kind of unbalanced "fall" into a canter from a racing trot is very common for horses that are not well balanced, and/or the rider is leaning too far forward and unbalancing the horse.
Next time, when you ask for canter, sit back a little, think of "scooping " the horse with you leg and seat, scooping it UP and in front of you. Be sure you have a little bend to the inside when you ask, and keep asking for the canter if he trots. If he gets wildly strung out, bring him back to walk and ask again.
I disagree that there is a significant difference in how one rides a horse regardless of the saddle. Horses all move pretty much the same, and so do humans. So the biomechanics are all the same.
Even in a two point position "bracing" into the stirrups is wrong. It implies tension and stress, which is incorrect no matter what you are doing or what saddle you are on.
I do agree with the rest of your advice.
It may also be the horse and not your riding.
I own several horses, and most have lovely canters. I have an older arab mare that gets too enthused when going into the canter and puts all her energy into going more up rather than stretching out and relaxing. She is better than she used to be, but she is really hard to ride at a canter. If she were ridden an hour a day by a professional rider, I think she would get better. As it is, she is ridden about once a week by someone that is glad to survive. (Not me; he can't touch my main horse........ )
Ok this makes the most sense so far. I used to always go "with the flow" of the horse and never had a problem. Now I seem tense and that I'm fighting that motion. But I feel like I'm over exaggerating with my hips when trying to go with his canter....is this how it's suppose to feel?
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