Getting the Canter
So I've had Sandie now for a little over 2 weeks. Her walk and trot are beautiful, but I've found that she has trouble picking up a canter. Basically she just trots faster and faster until she is all of a sudden RUNNING, more like a hand gallop than a canter really so she skips the canter altogether! She will canter on a lounge line (although it is fast, so it may still be categorized as more of a hand gallop than anything).
She's still a little overweight and working on gaining her muscle back, so I don't want to push her too hard to get the canter right now until she has more of her balance back. So here's my question -- I've been riding her every day for over 2 weeks now, doing a lot of walking and some regular trotting too. She went from being completely covered in sweat the first week after just a little trotting to being able to trot around the arena for 5-10 minutes straight without even breaking a sweat now -- so she's really improving. But when should I start really focusing on her canter, and what's the easiest way for me to teach her how to pick it up -- and then SLOW IT DOWN?! :-)
Firstly, don't let her run. If she starts running and you let her do it then she will always do it. When she runs pull her in a circle and then push her out with your inside leg, but don't start pulling on her mouth to slow her. Do a lot of work getting her moving of the leg straight away, like walk to trot transitions. Don't just kick her either, squeeze lightly, squeeze again and if she doesn't move straight of get a dressage/schooling whip and tap her behind your leg. If she's not used to that she should jump right of it. She will learn to respond to your legs more eagerly so you will not have to chase her into a canter.
Then make sure that your canter aid is significantly different from a go faster aid, and exaggerate it if she won't listen. Hold her head and keep her on a circle so she doesn't run.
If you think that her reluctance to canter is due to balance or something like that, then take her out on long and straight trails, and push her to a canter, or the hand gallop, and keep her at it for long distances, reducing her speed to a manageable canter, so she gets used to that pace.
If these do not work then you can try and teach her walk to canter transitions, but that may be difficult if she does not really understand that aid, but cantering from the walk can help a lot with the running.
Thanks Andi, those are some very helpful tips!! :-) I'm going out to the barn today, and I think I may work on trying to canter her in small circles to keep her under control like you suggested...I'll let you know how it goes!
make sure you are asking the right way. Some horses were taught to go into gaits differently. My horse goes into the canter if I lean back and give him a little squeeze...or if I bring back one of my legs (each leg is a cue to pick up a different lead).
How is your saddle fit? A poorly fiited saddle will discourage her from wanting to canter...or skip the canter in your case.
If she is overweight and you are lunging her before hand she may not have the energy or will to canter, and when you keep nagging she goes iinto "I'll show you how fast I can go" mode!!" (my horse does that). Personally, I'd stop lunging and focus more on other groundwork to get her to trust you more
Before you got her, was she in consistent work or was she just a pasture pet?
If she wasn't being worked she may be really unbalanced to have a nice slow canter, and for her going faster may be easier for her. My mare was like this until we built up some muscles. Then her canter slowed down.
I would stop trying to canter her undersaddle until you have built up her muscles a bit more.
Work on a lot of transitions(halt/walk/trot) undersaddle.
I would encourage you to canter her on the lunge line, but take your time. Ask her to canter and if she starts to speed up, ask for the walk(or trot) immediately. Let her know that it's not acceptable to run away like that while lunging.
You might want to look into side reins, though I only suggest you use them if you have someone to show you how they work or have used them before.
one thing though on stopping your horse immediately when she takes off....
some horses learn that if they don't want to do something, all they have to do is take off and they will be asked to slow down. I wouldn't think immediately stopping is a wise decision, but that's just me
(also, wanted to say, that how Sonny was, and still is a little bit. But thankfully I can ride it out lol)
Well you're not asking for a complete stop. They are still going forward, just a different, more controlled pace.
If you let them take off and then a while later you slow them down, to me, it doesn't teach the horse much.
Like if I were riding Vega, and I asked for the canter and she went into a hand gallop, i'd bring her back to a walk or trot to let her know that not what I wanted. Then I'd ask again, and I'd keep doing this until she gave me good canter steps. And then I'd quit doing that for the day. (that what I did with her and she is still forward. I haven't had any problems with that)
Let, if I were to ask for the canter and when she went into a hand gallop and I just let her go (say 15-20 strides) and then brought her back to a walk or trot, what would I be teaching her? That it's ok to do that when I ask for a canter?
I'm not trying to start anything Sonny, just giving my opinion, But if you got on Sonny and he took off in a trot, when all you wanted to do was walk, would you bring him back immediately or would you let him trot for a while and then bring him back?
It sounds like she's majourly unbalanced. Work on transitions, leg yeilds, shoulder ins, bending, turning, etc. Can she canter on the lunge without a rider? If not - start with that.
IMO, if my horse randomly wanted to take off in a hand gallop, and I didn't ask him, I'd tell him (and i do say this verbally lol) "You want to run? Then run" and I'd ride him out and wouldn't let him stop until he didn't want to run. Then I'd ask him to do whatever I was originally asking him to do (unless he was breathing heavy, then I'd give him a time to cool down)
Sounds like the horse does not understand the aids and is rushing not really knowing what it is doing. It then loses its balance and is running to "catch up".
This can be aided by taking it slower and making sure the aids are given correctly and REMAIN on the horse until the canter occures. If it fails then revert back to the trot and try again. The rider can also help by putting the horse in a slight shoulder in position when asking.
The rider must be very aware that they themselves are not making it difficult for the horse by not supporting the horse. A lot of people have the reins too long and the horse falls on the forehand and put its balance in peril. The rider must stay sitting back and not fall forward.
So shorter reins...sit back in the trot. Put the horse in a slight shoulder in position and ask for the canter. Ask for the canter as the horse goes into a natural corner ( like the end of a side going into a corner).
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