cross cantering and being off balance
I have a question. Vega seems to cross-canter a lot. I'm not 100% sure if she does it under saddle, but if she canters on the lunge, or if i turn her out, i see that she'll cross-canter most of the time.
I was thinking it had to do with her not being balanced, but i just wanted other peoples opinions.
Yes, its mostly to do with being unbalanced. Horses generally have a "good" side and a "bad" side, and tend to canter on their "good" lead regardless of direction when they're out in a field - however, the fact that she's doing it while lunging really makes me think she's very unbalanced to that direction.
she seems to do it to counter clock wise (the left lead) more so than the right lead.
I do have the pessoa lunging system to help get her balanced. I have yet to do it at the canter though. I'll have to give that a try.
She is turning five right?
A lot of it is just age and experience. If you keep working at her balance, and correcting her leads (I am thinking more about in saddle work for the corrections), it will come to her.
Dez more naturally picks up his left lead on his own. But with a lot of practice, he has gotten very good about picking up the correct leads. I actually have been doing a lot of exercises specifically asking him to counter canter, and you would not believe how hard it is to convince them to do it when they have learned to canter on the correct leads and know what if feels like to be balanced. :)
Vega's been 5 for a couple months now.
I know when i first got her and they'd lunge her in the round pen, not only was she not balanced, but she'd lean when she'd canter because of the footing in the ground. It took a while for her to realize it was easier and better to canter straight. That's really when I ran into the counter cantering i believe.
I remember reading on some horse test that they had to counter canter and i thought that was kinda odd. As i was always taught that counter cantering was wrong.
Here's another question. How do you tell (in the saddle) when they're counter cantering? I've tried looking at shadows but it doesn't help, and i usually ride by myself
Counter Cantering is wrong unless being asked for specifically :) In judges command classes they will often ask for it to see if you have that kind of control and communication with your horse. If you can specifically ask for a counter canter, you can certainly ask for the correct lead, you can easily change between leads during a riding pattern that requires direction changes, you can work at getting flying lead changes down.
To find the lead you are on, I was bad for a long time...I leaned to the direction of the lead I was checking for and looked down at that leg to see if it was jetting out. I cannot begin to express how bad of a habit this is, as it throws your horse off balance, and looks tacky. A more subtle way could be to watch her shoulder, it will have a more pronounced movement than the other. That also is not most desirable. The best way is to learn the feel. It will take a lot of time and practice, and maybe even someone's help. You can call out what lead you think you feel, and a helper can tell you if you are correct or not. The more you practice picking up the different leads, the better you will get at feeling which lead you are on.
Try to work on picking your leads up on a straight stretch to keep her from learning to pick up the lead in the direction of the bend, but instead to pick up the lead that your legs are asking for.
You of course want to keep working on balance at the slower speeds, but also practicing with your leads in saddle will help her learn to balance over time.
One thing to remember is that it is her hip that drives the lead, and the shoulder follows. It is possible for the shoulder to pick up the correct lead and for the hip to be on the wrong lead (feels horrible). Since the hip actually drives the lead, you want to work with her ability to move her hip over when you ask with your legs/reins, which will in turn help with your leads, h.alf pass, etc.
Do you know how to do hips in?
I hated learning it, but now that dez has it down (much room for improvement...I want to be able to trot and canter with hips in), he picks up his leads very easily. Our communication is much clearer.
I worked on teaching hips in, and then went to cueing for a particular lead at canter...I put my inside leg on girth, and outside behind. I press with my outside leg saying move the hip in...then squeeze with my inside leg to cue the gait change....it works really well.
Just for my clarification, are you talking about counter-cantering or cross-cantering?
Thanks AK. I can tell when she's on the correct front lead, but it's her back legs that i can't see.
Maybe it is cross-cantering Tim. ok so i googled counter-cantering and that's definitely not it. She is cross-cantering. Sorry for all the confusion.
So how do i correct her cross cantering?
And no, AK, i don't know how to do hips in. Would that help with her cross cantering?
When I first bought my horse he cross cantered quite a bit. He would pick up the correct lead and then lose it in the back after a couple of strides and then end up in a cross canter. I had my vet do a lameness eval on him and he said it looked like he simply didn't know how to canter. He was also fairly unbalanced and pretty heavy on his front end. So we did a lot to strengthen his back end and balance up a bit (lots of hill work, lots of lateral work, etc). What helped the most was what I did with my body when he cantered and I wish I could explain it. :D The best I can say is that that I sat tall and deep in the saddle and pretended that my seatbones were like suction cups 'telling' his back legs where to go. I wasn't exactly 'driving' him with my seat... more of a 'using my body' to control his legs if that makes sense. I found that if I tipped my body forward he would get heavier in the front and lose his canter in the back. After a good month or two he finally started to get consistant, but i do find that sometimes now when we're jumping and he gets heavy or I lean on him at all he will occasionally lose that back lead. I also don't make a big deal out of it if he does. I just slow to a trot for a step or two and then pick up the lead again, and pet him. Sounds like Vega might be in the same boat as my horse was, lack of strength lack of balance, and she just needs to learn how to canter.
It's hard to describe how to tell if they're on the cross canter other then it doesn't feel right. :D Instead of being smoother it's more of a scramble? Or his body twists differently? I could actually feel his back legs move when we lost the lead too. The biggest tip I can give you is to ride with a feel and learn how to tell exactly what your horse's back legs are doing and where they are. Once you can do that you will know exactly when Vega's cantering or cross cantering. (and when she's on the correct lead without looking down!)
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