I have a green Arab mare who cross fires frequently and would like to know some good exercises to help strengthen her and help her become more balanced. I had her chiropractically adjusted last month and there were no issues in her hind end or back which leads me to believe she is just very unfit and unbalanced. I have been working her consistently under saddle at the walk and trot and am very pleased at how strong she is becoming, however I worry about her canter. When is a good time to start working on the canter without making the issue worse or making her even more fatigued?
How does she do on a longe line?
Does she cross-fire then?
Does she cross-fire as bad both directions.
Does she cross-fire when going in a straight line?
They learn to canter by cantering. If they are not used to a lot of cantering, I would start out taking it pretty easy. I would only canter in a big arena or preferably in an open field where there are no sharp turns. I would stay with BIG circles until she is moving up into the bridle a little where you can help her get a little better collected and can help 'hold her together'.
I am really strict on the longe line or in a round pen. I NEVER let a horse cross-fire without correcting them. The more you let them do it, the more comfortable they get dong it.
Yes she will cross fire on the lunge but not as much as in the round pen.
I haven't used the round pen in a while because the circles make it worse due to lack of balance, however I have been hesitant to canter her at all in any situation to be honest.
I did ask her for some short periods of canter in both directions on the lunge when I had her in side reins (one fixed on the outside and the lunge line through the bit and to the surcingle on the inside) so that I could flex her and then release if needed. She seems to do better with this set up than with two fixed side reins. She maintained the canter longer, but still cross fired as she picked up speed.
It's hard to explain but I feel as if she "psyches" herself out when she's cross firing. I'm assuming it can't be comfortable to have half your body going one way and half of it the other way, but it is hard to slow her down as she accelerates her speed.
I have not been able to ride her outside, say in a straight line or through an open field, due to the snow and mud :cry:
Sorry for all the confusing explanations...I have been trying to do my research but I realize not every horse is going to be the same. I'd like more opinions before I start trying to work on this problem, especially if it ends up being the wrong approach.
Has she always done this? Or is this a new thing?
I have owned her for 6 months and she had cross fired since then.
Her previous owner trail rode her at the walk & trot about once a week and she wasn't conditioned or fit by an means.
I watched her at all three gaits in the pasture and didn't notice the cross firing much then, maybe once.
I think the majority of the cross firing has to do with trust & anxiety when on the lunge. She was never taught to accept a bit or engage herself to actually work herself correctly and she's very sensitive to pressure. Without some sort of side rein/suppling on the lunge she will carry herself completely wrong: head up, nose out and pointed to the outside of the circle, and back dropped with little to no engagement. This is primarily why I don't even both round penning at the canter, because I know I'm setter her up for the wrong thing letting her chose to travel inverted.
One question you didn't answer -- Does she do it going both directions or can she hold a lead better on one direction?
This is not uncommon. It has little if anything to do with trust or anxiety or psyching herself into it. It just becomes a habit as it requires less engagement of the inside hip and leg. It starts out as a way to avoid working harder and 'using' themselves right and ends up a habit because they have become comfortable doing it.
I'll come back and tell you what to do about it depending on if it is one or both ways.
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The original post said that she already did that, but that is one of the reasons I want to know if she does it the same both directions.
Yes she does it on both sides, although she is harder to bend/supple when tracking to the right and I feel that this direction is worse on some days.
How old is the mare?
Most Arabs maturely slow. Not uncommon for them to not reach maturity until they are 5 to 7 year olds. One of the most common causes of cross firing is immature hocks. The only thing you can do for this condition is wait. Trying to work then out of this prior to maturity, will usually cause permanent damage.
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