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CloudsMystique 08-15-2009 09:29 AM

What are some good exercises to improve balance at the canter?
My mare has really bad balance at the canter... She cross canters sometimes, has trouble with her leads, and can't canter slowly. What are some exercises I can do with her to help her balance?

ThatNinjaHorse 08-21-2009 12:07 AM

try lunging maybe?
Trail ride too with a fair amount of canter is good i think.
I'd get her checked out by a chiropractor too, just to be safe

riccil0ve 08-21-2009 12:11 AM

Make sure she is really balanced at the trot before you try and canter. Also make sure that your canter transitions are smooth. Ask for a canter from a good, steady trot. If she trots faster, bring her back to that nice steady trot and ask her to canter again. My mare has such a big canter, it's been really hard to get it balanced and upright so that I can actually ride it, lol. She also crossfires fairly consistently. I find that when I can "perfect" the trot, she doesn't crossfire. We do lots of circles and serpentines at the trot to get her bending, and I have to make sure that I myself am super balanced, otherwise it throws her off. Good luck!

Oh, PS. I find doing lunge work at the canter only lets me see her crossfire. It's hard to get her to balance on the lunge line, but you can correct the crossfire when she does it. When I lunge my mare and she does it, I give an "Ahh!" and bring her back to a trot and pick up the canter again. I would also rather ride than lunge though, so we don't do it very often. It also helps if, while you're riding, someone watches you so they can tell you when your horse crossfires. Sometimes, my mare actually starts on the two different leads, and it's kind of hard to tell if she is right or not.

mom2pride 08-21-2009 12:18 AM

Do you have an arena, or large round pen you can work in?

I am doing this with my Appy now, in which I put him in a gait, and don't guide him with the reins, just let him go where ever he wants too...the only time you interfere is if the horse speeds up (into a different gait), or slows down. If she speeds up, do some large circles to get her to slow down, and if she slows down simply cue her to pick it back up. My boy has no sense of 'rating' his speeds, due to his previous rider's lack of experience, so rather than 'hanging' on to him I'm just putting him in a gait and 'forcing' him to figure it out. He is also learning how to balance himself on his own (he's lazy and doesn't like to pick up his feet), which is why it will probably benefit your girl; you're not interfering, you're just there to correct her if she speeds or slows.

Valentina 08-21-2009 03:49 PM

Use counter canter to help her balance. First level Dressage has "movements" with counter canter that will help.

mayfieldk 08-21-2009 03:56 PM

With the canter being as dynamic as it is, 'cantering more' does not improve the canter. Jean-claude racinet (sp?) said to a horse, there is no 'good' or 'bad' canter--they only give you the ONLY canter they can at the time, given their current state of fitness and balance. Philippe Karl says that you can't really improve the canter, from the canter--the canter is a test of balance for all gaits. If she has bad balance at the canter, chances are, she has bad balance in the other gaits too--they're just naturally more stable so you don't realize it.

Start doing transitions, and build on them. Don't go asking for walk-to-canter transitions, she can't do them yet! Walk-to-trot is good, walk-to-stop. Trot-to-walk, eventually trot-stop. You're not trying to chase her in and out of the gait, you just want the transition to be smooth. Don't hold onto her head when you ask for the transitions, let her find her own balance. Making a pretty big circle, ask for at LEAST two transitions in one rotation. LOTS of transitions build up your horses topline, which she'll need to canter. Start doing leg yields and shoulders in at the walk and trot--by loading all of the weight onto one back leg seperately, it begins to teach the horse to take more weight on both legs when traveling straight.

Remember, the canter is a measure of your horse's progress, not something you just keep doing to improve! If you have any questions on the exercises I suggested, just ask. ;)

kevinshorses 08-21-2009 04:16 PM

Mayfield K Excellent advice. I ride western but I wish I had some dressage training as I think everyone should. There is so much going on with a horse that most of us are missing but you can't miss if you want to be any good at dressage. The funny thing is that I rode in a Ray Hunt clinic (Ray was as cowboy as they come) and he said the exact same thing. If it doesn't work at the trot it won't work at the lope.

mayfieldk 08-21-2009 04:23 PM

Thank you! :) Ray hunt knew a bit of 'cowboy dressage', which is much better then none at all, and he was an incredible horseman. I actually ride western pleasure and APHA Huntseat horses, but I ride them with a LOT of classical dressage principles. ;)

RiosDad 08-21-2009 04:33 PM


Originally Posted by riccil0ve (Post 384218)
Ask for a canter from a good, steady trot. If she trots faster, bring her back to that nice steady trot and ask her to canter again. .

I have an endurance horse. I want a good long trot and I want to be able to ask for trot at times without breaking into a canter.
I also have a really good canter and I want to be able to almost stall the horse in his canter with breaking into a trot.
SO I never ask for a lope from a trot, never. I always go to a lope from a walk or stand still.
I never allow the horse to break his lope into a trot, never. I ask for a walk while cantering and the horse drops in a stride down to the walk.
This way I can really push the trot without breaking or I can really slow the lope down without breaking.
Lots and lots of circles in an arena teaches the horse balance. In the beginning I would ask for the lope and then just hold it around and around, large circles, small circles but constantly circling. First left and then right to work both sides equally.

kevinshorses 08-21-2009 04:36 PM

It is evident when you watch a western pleasure class which riders understand dressage principles and which riders just bully thier horses into dragging around at some absurd imitation of a trot or lope. Incidently I was talking horses with this guy that sounded like quite the expert and I mentioned Ray Hunt and he got this blank look on his face and said "who's Ray Hunt". I knew then that he had a lot to learn but I doubt if he ever realized it himself.

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