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gabimoore 07-17-2010 09:34 PM

Green horse canter
Hi everyone!

I have a six year old appendix quarter horse mare for just a short time (a few weeks). She was professionally trained about a year ago, but since then hasn't been ridden at all.
I've been riding her everyday and she's done really well, she's getting used to me and she's getting readjusted to being ridden, and already losing weight (she got kind of fat from being a pasture pet). She does really really well at the walk and trot and everything on a lunge line, but she was never trained to canter with a rider.
I tried to canter with her last week, and it did not go well. She would buck every time I cued her to canter, eventually I got her to go a short distance without bucking and stopped riding for the day to end on a decent note. Since then I've just been working her more on trotting and walking.
She does canter on the lunge line, with and without a saddle, - no bucking, so I'm not sure if it's really a balance issue.

How long do you think is appropriate to work a horse with walk and trot before progressing to the canter? What level and behavior at the walk and trot should she get to?
Or, should I just push her into the canter right now? I don't want to rush her, but do you think it could just be a behavioral issue? She doesn't have any other issues with stubborness, she's absolutely wonderful doing everything but that.
She is very out of shape, so I suspect it might just be that she's tired and doesn't want to canter, or that it's hard for her to canter with a rider on because her muscles just aren't really there yet. In that case, what are some exercises that would build muscle for cantering?

Any other advice?

TheLastUnicorn 07-17-2010 10:06 PM

Well, this may be a little different, but I have a Saddlebred mare, 6yrs old, who also has some difficulties with the canter. She doesn't buck (at least she hasn't with me, she may buck though if a rider continued to push her)... but she's obviously off balance and struggling.

She can and does canter on the lunge... tacked or not - but it's only recently been becoming more balanced.

Now... I am talking about a breed bred to TROT (and this little mare can trot any way you'd like it!) and it's not unusual to have to spend some time creating balance within her breed when it comes to the canter.

That said, I wonder if your mare is similar to mine... and just struggling with baby balance. My little mare keeps growing, not huge amounts at a time, but enough that she's unbalanced one day, and caught up the next... etc.

How does your mare canter on the lunge? Is she still on the forehand, or does she travel round? Are her transistions clean... or does she tend to "run" her canter? Have you taught her a vocal cue to go with the canter?

What I've been doing with my mare (other than the lunging to help her balance herself) is working on a lot of transitions... up and down, without using my reins... this helps her balance. She is NEVER allowed to run into the canter - if she starts to speed up her trot so she's running it, she is asked to do a circle, half-halt, or change direction until we have balance again.

Another thing to consider is how much cue you're giving her. Are you removing pressure the instant she has responded to you? Are you balanced enough as a rider to help set her up, or could it be possibly you're off balance enough to disrupt any balance she does have.

I have other suggestions, depending on your answers.

gabimoore 07-18-2010 10:30 AM

She does kind of run into the canter, but once she's cantering on the lunge she seems perfectly balanced. When being ridden and cued to canter, she often rushed the trot before going into the canter, but she does know the cues, vocal and leg cues. What makes me tend to think it might be a behavioral thing is that actually just upon hearing a verbal cue to canter when I'm on her back she puts her ears back and tenses her back like she's about to buck.

I think working on transitions would be good, and definitely the thing about not letting her rush into the canter. As far as cues go I let off of her as soon as she's cantering (though now that I think about it, I could be letting go a little too soon, not pushing her hard enough when she just starts to trot fast). I would consider myself a rather balanced rider, but I'll make sure to pay more attention to that as well.

Deerly 07-18-2010 02:05 PM

My first reaction is that maybe your saddle is not fitting well and is making her uncomfortable. She could also have some little tweak in her back but since she does OK while lunging that's probably not the issue.

It could be your position and balance throwing her off. I know that that's something I'm working on with my horse. A lot of his under saddle problems and rushing at the trot are really my balance problems that I need to correct so that he, in turn, behaves himself and understands and accepts what is going on easier.

My trainer advised me to not let him rush into the canter as well. If he starts running at the trot I need to stop, bring him down and try again.

Edit: My horse had not been ridden in a very long time, much like yours! He's under developed on his top line still (we are working on it) and while he LOOKS muscular the important ones aren't really there yet. It's really noticeable when we canter around corners, it's difficult for him to keep his butt going. We were recommended to do walk/trot transitions up and down and to walk slowly and calmly up hills on the trail to build up his butt and make cantering work easier for him.

LateInLife 07-18-2010 02:49 PM

It is quite natural for a horse to want to pitch a little when cantering especeally with a rider when first learning. Watch your horses out in the pasture. When they run the like to buck a little. You need to correct it out of them. When they pitch, you need a good quick jerk on the bit and make sure you are using bit the horse respects. Also, for your safety, work on the canters going up a hill as then you will have a fightning chance.

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