Thoughts on starting proper canter work with Latte...
So now that we are getting a good handle on trot work, I would like to start thinking about starting canter work for real.
We have cantered, but very un-structured, out in the paddock, please-god-don't-do-anything-crazy canters.
I don't have an arena - I have a sheep yard that is too small for her first cantering experiences. I have some flat-ish areas and lots of paddocks.
The few times i've cantered we just ran into it. Should I insist on a proper depart from the beggining? Or get the actual canter solid then work on tightening up the cue?
Should I start on circles and work on leads, or just work on getting calm and steady on a straight-away and then work in circles?
I'm thinking I will put her in a lengthened trot and then ask, so she can run too much into it, and leave asking from a slower trot until she is more balanced.
Any ideas/exercises appreciated! For background info see thread called 'Breaking Latte!' in member journals.
Running a horse into the canter is generally the hardest way to teach a canter. Does she lunge well? Can you get decent canter departs on the lunge line? Teach her to pick up the canter at the walk and trot on the lunge first through whatever oral cue you want. I always start my babies with cluck to trot and kiss to canter. So you get them going off this on the ground and when you ad the new leg cue but retain the old oral cue they canter off and you praise them. Voila! No-stress canter. As far as how to ask for it...You ALWAYS want a balanced, forward moving gait before asking for anything else. So I would suggest a good, solid working trot versus a lengthened trot. The structure of the trot is not really similar to the canter at all, actually the walk is much more similar. Most people do not know how to teach a walk to canter so therefore they teach trot to canter first, which in most cases is fine. I would work on a nice working trot, then ask for a moment of collection then cue the canter how you want it to be cued. If she picks it up then great, ride it out and praise her. If she gets confused, resume a forward, supple working trot and do it again. You need the moment of collection at the established gait (trot) to balance them and set them up for a good canter. Lurching into an off balance canter is not going to make them want to repeat the experience and it makes riding it much harder for you. Teaching that cue is going to be trial and error but you ALWAYS want the canter to be a collected, calm upward transition. Horses that are taught to run into the canter generally have problems with more upper level movements and collection as from the beginning they have been taught to "get excited" about the canter. You want the canter to be just another gait, not an overly exciting adrenaline inducing pace because once they get keyed up about the canter it takes much longer to get reliable departures and pace regulation within the canter.
I love walk to canter, and it's something i've taught all my horses - However they were all broken in and had a solid understanding of the canter aid already established.
This is the first horse i've started from scratch.
Lunging - So far I haven't really had the equipment/location/motivation to do it properly. My own experience lunging is quite limited and I don't have a cavesson or roller - Just a halter and lunge line. I do send her out on the circle and work with her there but it's a much smaller circle than usual lunging and we have only worked at the walk and trot.
The thought behind starting to ask from a lengthened trot is so that she physically can't rush into the canter - And once she is picking it up calmly and understanding the cue I would bring her back down. I really doubt I could get a canter from a steadier trot with no rushing the first couple of times - As shown by past experience. I have never let her canter from a death trot but there was definitely some rushing.
We are working on flexion, leg yeilding, adjusting pace etc. within the trot but we are a loooong ways off anything resembling collection yet! A together, relaxed trot into canter is all I would want or expect from her for a while yet.
I might have a play with lunging this weekend, and see what we can get.
If you can work in a paddock (ie, somewhere confined, should she do something goofy and cause an unexpected dismount), that would be best.
I don't train a horse to canter from the walk, initially, that can come later, once they are comfortable actually doing the canter work. So doing a depart from the trot is fine for now.
When you get her into the canter, just to the perimeter of your pen, each way, once, for a start...don't worry so much about speed, or direction, just sit it, and let you and her get comfortable in the gait. I am assuming she has a good stop and turn on her by now? If she gets over exuberant, either push her through it, or use your stop or turn ability to calm her back down.
When you have her going around the pen 'smoothly' then start doing some circles each way. Refinement can come later, just get her going out foward, and calmly. Even leads can come once you get the 'grunt' work done, of teaching her to canter out willingly.
Stop is fantastic, turns also good and if worst comes to worst she also can be one rein stopped. However I don't expect any issues.
I don't really have a pen, just big sheep paddocks, however the few times I have come off she just stood nearby to be caught, thank god!
Sounds much like what I was thinking. We have a long flat paddock where I can just let her canter for a fair way to get used to it, as well as enough space to bring her into some large circles.
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I have personally always basically done what I can to get them to canter, and work on nothing but balance and forwardness in the beginning. Sometimes, running them into the canter is simply how it has to happen. Learning the cue on the lunge won't help most horses, because the issue isn't learning to canter, it's learning to canter with a rider. Jynx can step into a perfect canter every time with a single cue, and yet trying to transfer that cue to saddle was almost impossible because she KNOWS how to canter - she just didn't know how to do it with a rider.
For the first few canters, I love a BIG open field. I don't want to fuss with them a lot the first couple of times, because they need to associate the cue with the motion, not a lot of holding back and re-balancing. I find if you sit back, urge them forward, and let them pick their spot and stay out of their way, it's not so much "running them into" it as it is simply letting them transition. I like a big field because I want to push them straight and let them balance before I ask for large looping circles.
Really, there are numerous ways and sometimes it simply depends on the horse. Some are balanced enough to pick it up easily, others struggle a bit. I've always found staying out of their way and letting them figure it out the first few rides has worked best and THEN concentrate on refining cues, tempo, speed, etc.
I have to agree, it depends on the horse. Some are more comfortable with loping on the straight to begin with and others are more comfortable starting in circles. Lots of times, though, I start them out with circles, that way I can begin to establish cues for each lead to begin with. I like a decent sized area with fences on at least 2 sides, that way you aren't always having to be on them about direction. Anyway, I just urge them on once they are in the trot and let them kinda pick it up in their own time. Some of them will step right on up into the lope and others will take a few circles before they go ahead and transition. For the first little bit, I just worry about actually getting the canter without any shenanigans, refinement on cues and walk-lope can come later when she is more balanced and comfortable actually in the canter.
I have to totally agree with smrobs, MM, and M2P. The most important thing is to establish the lope, and then refine the queue into it. I'm going to assume that you have established seat and leg aides up through the trot. Let her learn to lope comfortably with you on her back before you start trying to refine your queues. Some horses transition into a lope better in a circle and others in a straight line. You may have to play around with her a little to figure out which case she fits. When she first starts to lope, relax and try to stay out of her way. Try to sit it like you normally do, and let her find her balance with you on her. Just remember to keep your balance so you don't interfere with hers. It will feel awkward at first, but she will find her balance. When she can consistently lope off balanced with you on her, then you can refine your queues and work on the walk-lope transition, and collecting her lope even more.
Pretty much confirming what I was thinking, and have been doing. I'll work on getting the canter itself calm and solid before refining cues and asking for trickier things. Kind of sucks not having any fenced flat areas - The only flat areas I have are out in the middle of very large paddocks :] But oh well, we do what we can with what we have.
Random note - She has the cutest canter, it reminds me of a Labrador running, really eager and bounding-like!
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