Gaining A Nice Relaxed Canter?
Licorice has always had the most funny and annoying canter I have ever seen, and I don't know what to do about it. He always runs really fast with his head up in the air. I've tried gently pulling and releasing the reins in a slower rhythm, leaning back, and riding with a longer leg, but he just won't slow down and relax. Any suggestions? (That's not me riding in the pictures)
I am no sort of an expert or even a fantastic rider, but it sounds like helping him relax is one avenue. What kind of bit do you have on him? Do you feel like you can sit his canter pretty well without supporting yourself with the reins? How does he move without a rider on his back (lunge or round pen)?
If he wants to go fast and energetic, maybe it's worth working him through it. When my boy is a little silly, I let him move out and if I can't sit his energetic canter, I will literally take one hand, reach behind and PULL my butt into the saddle so I'm not (1) leaning forward encouraging him or (2) bouncing around and making him sore. When he feels me sit deep like that, he might get his energy out for a few more strides, but he'll bring himself under and quiet down so that I can ride more comfortably and focus on him. Another alternative is to get the sillies out without you on his back!
Well the rider is definitely not helping your horse relax. He/she is braced against the bit, gripping tightly through the upper leg and seat and bouncing off the horse's back.
A relaxed canter starts first and foremost with a relaxed rider, and a balanced rider. The rest will come.
Sit quietly in the centre of the saddle, breathe deeply and look where you are going. Stay on a 20m circle initially, leg yield out a little in trot before asking for the canter. Rest your hands on her wither, allow your seat to gently flow with her back. Canter for no more than one circle, then come back to trot and regain your rhythm and relaxation before asking for canter again.
For a horse that is anxious about cantering, rather than working solidly on canter, which may raise anxiety levels, try to just 'sprinkle' the canter in throughout your rides. When the walk or trot feels really good, soft, relaxed etc. Try asking for some canter, and bring it back before it becomes uncontrollable. Then carry on doing what you were doing before without making a big deal of it.
It's very important that you don't grip, grab or in any other way restrict her from going forwards. So many people that have canter issues, will kick and kick and kick, get the canter, then panic and seize up. This doesn't help the horse in the slightest, and you can't blame them for getting anxious about cantering.
^^^^ Thank you!!!
is the horse ridden by a lot of different people? and sometimes a horse that hollows out and tries to race along is trying to run out from under an ill fitting and painful saddle.
Poor you and him! A tense fast canter is no good for anyone! Kayty's advice is wonderful, and is what helped my guy get much more comfortable with his transitions into and out of the canter, which had continued to be an issue even after his canter itself was okay.
For my guy, he was anxious and inexperienced under saddle. Anxious and stiff about the transition, anxious and stiff and fast about the canter. He would get fast, but I never felt like I was going to come off, or he was going to fall, so we just. practiced. cantering. I'd get him up to a canter and he'd start and then rushrushrush with his head up in the air and going fast, so I let him run. One, two, three times around the arena until he started to slow and want to drop out of it. I'd ask him to keep going another half lap and then transition down. Rinse, repeat. After a few sessions, while his transitions still needed the work Kayty suggested, once he was IN the canter he would relax and slow to a more comfortable speed after 2-4 strides. We would also gallop out on the beach. The more he got to practice running under saddle, the less anxious he got about it until like now, it's just part of the routine.
I don't know if what we did was 'right' but a) it worked and b) I now KNOW that no matter what we have solid brakes even from a dead run out in the open. This works because my horse is essentially lazy and would rather stop than run forever (wasn't sure of this at first), and he knows that I may make him keep running for a while, so he'd best conserve his energy. He's also a horse for whom holding still is difficult and makes his nervous energy level go through the roof, so actually getting to move out and burn that off helped his mindset tremendously. The better I keep his mind and body working and moving and occupied, the less he worries. YMMV.
Looking at the pictures in your "barn", your position is a lot better than the rider in the picture on this thread. The barn pics have two leg positions: long & short. I've always liked riding with a long leg, But I've recently brought my stirrups up about 1". What I'm finding is that when I canter using the longer leg position, I tend to reach with my legs so that my feet keep contact at the high point of the horse's movement. I think when I stretch my legs like that, I'm also unintentionally squeezing with my knees & legs - at least, when I sit in the saddle on a rack and try to imitate it, that seems to be what happens - legs more rigid and knees come closer together. If so, then that would be telling my horse to go faster even while I'm using the reins to slow her down, and the confusion may be causing some of her frustration. Although in fairness to me, marginal rider though I am, some of her frustration is wanting to race the other horse...:?
So I brought my stirrups up one hole, then another. Since the stirrup strap on my Aussie-style saddle folds over, that makes my stirrups 1" shorter than before. Based on the last couple of rides, I think it lets me canter AND keep my knees apart - something I always have problems with since my 54 year old male hips are super tight.
Note:even after nearly 5 years of riding, I still get cramps in my hips regularly. Am I the only person who gets cramps on the outside of his hips when riding? :evil: :evil: :evil:
Since you mentioned you've been doing this with a longer leg, perhaps try shortening your stirrups about a hole's worth - somewhere between the two pictures that I assume are of you in your "HF barn" (Nelly the horse).
I'm neither a teacher nor even a good rider, so all I can do is share what I'm discovering as I ride & learn. But if it doesn't help, at least it costs you nothing...:wink:
Thanks for the help!!
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