In my lesson on Wednesday this week we did some work on shortening the canter stride and when I was able to do 1/4 of a 20m circle in a shortened canter, 1/4 lengthened, 1/4 shortened etc we moved on to do some canter loops.
I felt like by using the corners on the short side of the arena I was able to collect and shorten the canter stride well, I could maintain the shorter canter for the whole loop on a shallow loop, but when we started doing loops to X, I found that the horse would loose balance a bit and started to get longer and rush a bit. From there I found it a lot harder to rebalance the horse while keeping the bend the same.
I am after some advice on how to rebalance the horse while in the counter canter back to the outside track of the arena.
Seeing as you've only just started the canter loops, it is a little much to expect perfect balance in the steeper loop to x at this point.
Keep working on loops no more than 5m off the track, and as they get easier start adding more loops down a single long side. Once you can get 3 balanced 5m loops down one long side, then try increasing the distance from the track gradually.
You want to always keep the balance in counter canter or the horse will start trying to change.
Also work on 10 m canter circles. Try riding a short loop of 5m, ride a 10m circle at b or e and ride another loop. Canter leg yield and shoulder fore will also be beneficial to you.
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Make sure you're sittting to the inside of the canter lead.
Swing the horse's hips around at x, not the shoulders.
Make sure you aren't interfering with the horse through the reins (like pulling the outside rein to turn).
Beginning of last year I started working on the canter serpentine loop. Usually the best we could do was about three feet off the track and back. Attempting it in an indoor arena made my horse freak out. I could only practice in the outdoor arena. I spent a lot of time just counter cantering down the long side, trotting around the short side, picking up counter canter again. Then back to regular lead and some extremely shallow loops. Then we worked on counter canter through one corner of the short side (20m radius), trot the rest of the short side. Over and over again. Focus on positioning, on your seat staying balanced and correct, and think about movin the hips instead of the shoulders. Also, make sure the horse is honestly between the reins, and moves easily off the leg (moves his butt over or shoulders over when you ask lightly).
I have a friesian mix. Absolutely no balance in the canter. 2 years ago we could barely hold a regular lead canter down the long side. Now she can counter canter 20m circles. It just takes time to build up the muscles they need.
One other thing, I had to literally feel like I was standing on the inside stirrup in order to keep my weight correct. The horse tends to throw me toward the outside to avoid carrying herself correctly. Might be different with you though since half my issue is because I broke my back and I'm all crooked now.
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As the canter improves, the canter loop will improve.
Work on developing a better more balanced canter, and then the loop will come naturally. Keep schooling small loops, but only on days when you have a better canter than normal. Work on lots of transitions (good transitions! Not crappy ones - be really picky about your transitions) and some spiral in and spiral out. Also school forward and back transitions.
Thanks for the replies, but I don't actually own the horse, I just take lessons there once a week, and once a week at a different place. So it makes it really hard for me to do the kind of schooling exercises that you're suggesting.
Its starting to get frustrating now, all I want to do is practice, and work on applying what I'm learning outside of lessons but I can't.
At the same time though I can really feel that my transitions are improving a lot, in particular canter - trot transition and trot-canter.
When I get a horse I'm not going to be able to afford one with the same amount of training on it as the school masters I'm currently riding, so I want to get an idea of how to do things correctly before I look at getting my own horse.
I think one of the reasons I struggle rebalancing the horse in the counter canter part of the loop is that I worry about riding forward and holding/containing the energy because I don't want to inadvertently cue the change. I think that I completely back off at X beyond maintaining the canter...
I've got my lesson at this place tomorrow so I'll ask my instructor about it then and maybe we will be able to go over it again in the lesson.
If anyone has any tips about the best way for me to visualise (and understand) how to ride forward without cueing the change then I'm all ears :D
If he starts getting string out on long side you can use shoulder fore (at the canter or any gait for that matter) to help collect the horse.
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