Canter Transition Troubles
So, my horse's canter transitions are a little iffy. The thing is, it's quite random. During one riding session he will do all of the following when asked to canter (from either walk or trot):
-a beautiful transition, collected, and right on command
-a sloppy transition, right on command
-nose dive towards the center of the ring w/o changing gait
-raise his head, hollow his back, and choppy-trot faster & faster
-a nice transition, then immediately falls back to a trot
-a nice transition, then drop to a trot at the next corner (or turn)
When I really focus on my aids, looking up, and preparing him for the transition, I'll either get a beautiful transition or the nose-dive to the center of the ring.
My aids (I've tried varying methods, and have found this works the best with his previous training):
-Inside leg at the girth
-Light contact on inside rein
-Outside leg back
-Squeeze outside leg to push hip in
-Lift outside heel and *kiss* to cue for canter
I had a thought today that maybe he's just bored doing circles in the arena. We once did an exercise where we'd transition from trot-to-canter or canter-to-trot at each corner of the arena. This seemed to liven him up and he picked up each transition much better. Also, if I point him towards a cross-rail, he perks his ears and never breaks gait (well, until a few strides after the jump).
The most frustrating part for me is when he picks up his canter depart, and then falls back to a trot after 1 or 3 or 10 strides. When I start to feel him falling apart, I squeeze and *kiss* and do everything I can to keep him going...only to have him fall apart at the next corner. I don't want to make him dead-sided either! Arg!!
How can I prevent the nose-dive to the center of the ring (and/or properly correct it)?
How can I get him to keep going at a canter once he picks it up without constant nagging?
What exactly should I be doing with my reins during the canter depart and while cantering? I basically just have VERY light contact the whole time (except for slightly more inside rein contact at departure).
He does beautiful transitions and continues with impulsion while lunging, at liberty, or in his pasture. It's just when I'm up there messing with his business that we have these problems! :oops:
I am working with a trainer now, but so far it's just "ask him again" when he doesn't transition properly. She (and I) are both very open to trying new training methods! Let me see what you've got!
PS (oh boy this is getting long): Anyone who's Parelli-familiar, we've started the 7 Games and guess what our problematic game is...The Circling Game! He'll send just fine, but then when I allow him to go, he just stops (usually behind me). I don't think we've gotten a full circle yet! He likes to do what I ask, but then stops doing it when I stop asking (Circling Game AND Cantering undersaddle!)
Definitely round up your reins when you get ready to canter. Don't try and worry about what he is going to do. First corner, go into a sitting trot, make sure he's nice and slow in the trot. When it comes to a corner, push with your hips, make sure your inside leg is on the girth and your outside leg a little behind the girth. Click with your toung. As soon as you feel him slow down, push him on more, move your heaps each stride. My instructor used to tell me to pretend that you're cleaning your saddle. When it gets to a corner, push him on even more. Remember, don't loosen up your reins. When you're happy with what his done, make sure you give him and good pat and praise and reward him. Reward=good job to horses. Once they know they've been rewarded, they know they've done something good!
My new horse, Montana, would do the canter for a few strides and then go back to a trot or walk. I didn't want to keep asking for it if he didn't want to do it, so I just did a lot and I mean A LOT of transitions. At first it was walk to halt just whenever i felt like it. I would stay in a halt for 10-30 seconds and then continue onto a walk. Then i did trot-walk and trot -halt transitions. I always made the trot longer than the walk or halt. I did that throughout the arena (going all the way around, doing the diagonal lines, down the center line, etc) so it varied up the arena (instead of just going around and around and around)
Then when I asked for the canter, the first time I only let him do a few strides (because that's what he would do previously) then I brought him to a trot, from the trot we'd go to a walk or halt, and I'd repeat.
I always brought him back down when I could feel him almost slowing down. (I know one Parelli DVD was to end the gait before it gets bad.. i think it was one of those savvy DVDs) So that's what I would do. Anytime he felt unbalanced, or was slowing down, I made him slow down before he did.
After a while of doing that, I was able to canter half way around, then 3/4 around and then finally all the way around. And I always made transistions to a walk to halt (or trot).
By the end of the day, he was doing really well. and it only took the slightest movement on him to get him to go (he tends to be lazy)
Another thing I did, while doing that, was NOT to adjust my reins. I kept that at one length for everything. I kind of feel when you tighten the reins before you trot or canter it makes the horse anxious, and just wanting to break right into that gait that you're asking.
I hope I explained that well enough. If you need clarification on anything, let me know:-)
Thanks for the responses! Appylover, I think you're on the right track...it's not about the cantering, it's about the transitions! I'll step back a gait or two and get those halt-walk-trot transitions seamless first.
Asking him to transition down to a trot BEFORE he fizzles out in the corners is a good idea too! Then he'll be doing the right thing that I ask and won't be psychologically "punished" for doing something wrong. Plus, it'll give us another chance for some more transitions!! :D
When i was doing that with Montana I did all those transitions (but canter work) to get him motivated. (it took a lot of leg for him to trot down the straight away, and he too would almost always slow down in the corners)
I would start on the straight aways, and ask him to slow down before the corners, then I would ask for 2-3 strides at the trot between the corners.
I kept at it until i was able to get him to walk or halt with just seat pressure.
I probably shouldn't have cantered him the first time I did this, but I just wanted to see if it helped at all, and it did. But i would just suggest to do a few lessons of halt-walk-trot transitions before moving onto canter work.
You can even do halt-back up-walk (or trot).
It worked really well for me and really motivated Montana. i hope you can have the same success!
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