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- - Maintaining a Canter (http://www.horseforum.com/english-riding/maintaining-canter-87721/)
Maintaining a Canter
I recently started riding a different horse. She's a little black pony named Holiday, and she has a really bad reputation for kicking and biting people and other horses. So when I went to tack her up, I was a little nervous. But I quickly found that with a little love and gentle care, she's a real sweetheart.
She was great for riding too: no corner cuts, very responsive, very honest... except for one thing. She can't maintain a good canter without breaking stride. Unless my legs are death-grip tight around her at all times, she'll just go back into a trot.
It's not because she's stubborn (ok well maybe a little), she just doesn't like cantering. So as soon as I stop the leg pressure, she takes it as a go-ahead to stop cantering. She's still unsteady, as though she's unsure of whether or not she's allowed to trot. When I do have my leg on, she'll canter for me.
The problem is, I can't just squeeze her at all times. It makes my position all wonky, is uncomfortable for her, and makes her canter strides unsteady. My instructor suggested using a crop or spurs, but I'm not going to do that. When I'm riding with her, we have a sort of 'connection', and it's like we're working together instead of me just kicking her forwards. Crops and spurs will ruin that completely.
My goal is to be able to canter a full course of jumps with her without breaking stride and without having to squeeze her to death with my legs... but so far I'm not sure that's possible. Any ideas?
Oh, and she's a lesson horse, so I can't do any extra riding or lunging with her.
No 'connection' will be lost using a crop and/or spurs. It's not like you'd be beating or stabbing her. You may not even have to use them much after the first couple of times. Your legs will thank you & the pony probably will too.
Is there a reason you don't trust your instructor's judgement?
Using a crop or spurs will absolutely not harm your relationship with your horse as long as you are using them correctly and not abusing her with them. They are aids and are only as harsh as the person who uses them same as everything else in the horse world. I would definitely carry a crop, then ask for the canter like you would on any other horse. When she picks it up release the pressure of your legs if she tries to break to trot give her a tap with the crop behind your leg to send her forward again. This horse needs to learn that cantering is like any other gait, you don't break gaits unless the rider says so
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I am afraid I cannot help you much. I have been having the same problem with Yapa, the mare I ride. But, I do not dare carry a crop, since she has a tendency to get into a really fast, strong canter. I usually have to use my legs to control her speed. She goes from one extreme to the other, fast canter-trot. I am afraid that carrying a crop will make her even faster. Have not figured out what to do just yet. Still working on it. Any ideas will be welcome!
I've worked so hard to gain her trust already, and I don't want to ruin it. I know that the moment I pick up that crop, it'll all be gone.
I do trust my instructor, but this time its different. See, I think that it is very important to understand the language of horses and always communicate with them both ways. If a horse tells me something, I listen. My instructor just sees Holiday as a lazy pony, but she doesn't share the connection that we have.
I guess you couldn't really understand it unless you were in my shoes, so you'll just have to trust me. I refuse to use a crop or spurs with her. But thanks for the reply, anyways.
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The problem is that she doesn't have her own motor and doesn't know how to keep going. I assume people have all ridden her with a death grip with their legs and she now thinks that that is the cue to keep going, and now can't do it without. That's a terrible habit for a horse to learn as you've realized!
First of all, you need to understand how a crop/spurs work. When used properly they are very very effective in training a horse and improving communication between horse and rider. I very rarely get on a horse without on or the other, no matter how well trained or sensitive that horse is.
To fix it.... Not sure how dull she is to picking up the canter in the first place but make sure that she is tuned up to your aids. A crop or a spur is the best way to do it. Cue her for the canter, asking softly once (squeeze), ask her harder if she doesn't listen (kick) and smack her with a crop behind your leg if she still ignores you (or use your spur). Don't let there be too long of a pause between the 3 if you need to use all 3. Then as soon as she canters soften up your body and just canter. The second she drops the gait do the same thing, again using the squeeze, kick, spur method if she's dull to your aids. Make sure your legs are soft once she canters. As soon as she drops to a canter do it again. And again. And again. The key is NOT to tell her every single step to canter, but to correct her every time she breaks. Eventually she will learn to keep going until you tell her otherwise.
On the contrary I don't know a lot of upper level riders who get on a horse without!
So I am asking you all to PLEASE respect that. I'm not looking for an argument. I just need some advice. If anyone has advice that doesn't involve crops and spurs, I'd love to hear it.
Here is your problem.
As long as you DO a death grip you are in effect TEACHING her that this is her only cue to canter.
So when YOU relax the aids she FALLS out of the canter because the support she IS USED TO is no longer there. She has gotten used to YOU supporting her and now never developed the balance to hold it.
You need to teach her to respond to lighter aids.
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