Okay so I need some help. When I work at the trot I know what I'm doing, and how to improve it, and what exercises to do to improve certain thing (I do not claim to be an expert, but I am not completely uneducated) but at the canter I am completely at a loss.
The mare I'm leasing is a jumper and I've been working on her flat a lot. She is 6 this year, and is pretty uneducated on the flat. Her trot is now improving by leaps and bounds, but I have no idea what to do for her canter. On course I think I must unconsciously ride differently, because she is adjustable, and balanced in her turns and lead changes. But when there are no fences shes strung out and flying, and I rock her back onto her haunches and collect her as if she is jumping, but she soon realizes there are no jumps and starts flying (I would think maybe she isn't muscled enough to hold it, but on course she does just fine) and cantering a circle is ridiculous. She completely drops a shoulder and is very unbalanced (she's going around like this "/" instead of like this "|" and I really don't want her to end up like this "_" if that makes any sense)
I try to help her but I'm just not really sure what to do. I try to lift her up with my leg but she thinks any leg at all at the canter means lead change. I feel like her mentality is "trotting and jumping my job is to cooperate and listen, cantering my job is to run" but I'm probably not doing much to help her with it. Also on flat for a lead change she occasionally drop her entire shoulder despite the fact I'm trying to lift her up. I want to improve on this, and I know I'm doing things wrong despite the fact that I've listed all her faults, I just don't know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing but I know what she is. She gets pretty stressed out when she doesn't know what you want or what she should be doing and starts doing tempis, even in a line when you ask her to wait she complies but she's like "uhh... leadchangeleadchangeleadchange"
Are there any exercises I can be doing to help her and me?
If you can do half pass at trot I would try half pass at canter.
If she attempts to change leads KEEP the aids on that asks her to do half pass or whatever NO MATTER what she attempts to do. You can also do directional changes and again the point is she either changes nicely and goes nicely or you change the direction again.
Try that but don't get frustrated or mad if it does not come out "pretty". Be determine in what you ask and DO NOT change the aids to accomodate her.
Do something more simple. Dont expect more when you aren't getting anywhere. Start out your ride with a billion walk halt transitions. Then trot walk transitions. Do it until you feel her start to think and follow you more softly and more relaxed. You can attempt canter then, or wait until the next ride. Its really your judgment call.
Most likely her balance is very off, and the reason why she seems fine over fences is that they back her off and help her balance. Do some exercises that help achieve greater balance and more self-carriage.
Should I try to half pass at the canter if our trot half passes are not consistently good?
I try not to get frustrated or angry with her in general, because she is very sensitive to her rider. Quite often I'm singing the ABC's or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to relax myself so she also relaxes. It helps a lot but I'm only human.
Koomy our warm up before we jump is what you described. Like almost exactly, except with a lot more stuff mixed in.
Her canter after a line is nice and relaxed, even if your not aiming for another jump, just because she's anticipating you doing one. I can get like 3 good laps of canter, and I'll admit jumping her over a line just so I can work on her canter afterword because she's very compliant until she realizes that there is not another jump coming.
No, dont do canter half pass if you don't have it easy in the trot.
What other stuff are you incorporating into your warm-up?
My mare used to be like this. I'd think canter and she'd canter in place. Or I'd go to use my outside leg around a turn, and she'd canter. Any small aid turned into a huge one. She is like a magnifying glass to my mood, like you said about yours.
Any time she was too touchy, I did something extremely simple for that day. Like walk, trot, walk trot. Then I'd put her away. If the next day was better, I'd ask for more stuff. But I would never ask her to do difficult movements unless her brain was in the right place.
You need to get really really boring. Don't try and fix every little detail, just set a goal for that day, and tune out all the other stuff.
Mares like this are tricky because their want and need to please causes them to worry. When they don't feel like they're doing the right thing, it upsets them. So you need to help her out and ride her a bit more sympathetic and do something really easy so that both of you don't even get to the point of being upset and frustrated.
Now, I can do anything with my mare because she is relaxed. So get her relaxed first, then work on all the harder exercises. :)
Don't do any lateral work at all in the canter until you can get everything in one line, or any changes for that matter.
The best way to fix this is transitions. You say she is good in the trot, then make a balanced transition to trot when the canter goes SNAFU, rebalance and go back to canter.
Eventually this can be reduced to just rebalancing the horse in canter.
And when you are riding your circles remember to keep your outside hand down, and even contact on both reins and ride your circle line perfectly. Don't even let the horse deviate off of your perfect line.
Oh and one more thing, don't just "canter three laps", ride the canter every stride. Ride the long side of the arena, ride your first corner, the short side, your second corner and then the next long side and repeat. Sit and balance your horse, don't ever just be a passenger.
Koomy your mare sounds a lot like her. She is hyper sensitive and hyper focused. I try and keep to what your saying and not get frustrated and keep it basic on bad days but since she's the only horse I'm riding it can be frustrating to feel like your not going anywhere so I just have to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and remember where we were at before and take a deep breath.
You can always tell when she's extremely stressed or confused because she hugs the rail majorly, like scraping my leg against it. Days like those we work on our walk and then we're done. Its just on good weeks when we've actually been working well at the trot that I try and work with her canter. And that's where I have no idea what to do with.
Anebel, I'll be trying some of that my next ride with her, assuming we're doing wll. I'll let you know how that goes.
Thanks so much for the help guys.
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