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cfralic 06-19-2011 12:44 PM

Bouncing Around at Canter (or other pace?)
Now I've cantered many times before, athough I am still rusty I cantered in lessons just fine, but man, when my lease horse canters, I feel like I'm going to fly right off of her.

It felt like when she was cantering her hooves were falling at a different pace then I'm used to and she was charging forward not in an even pace but like really pulling forward with her front hooves - almost as if they were hitting the ground in front of her very heavily. It also sounded different then usual when her hooves hit the ground.

I tried gripping with my legs and bum as much as I could but like I said, I am rusty, so I was next to flying out of the seat every time her front half hit the ground. It felt like I was riding on a missile!

Now I don't know much about paces, but did we gallop, or does my horse just have the wildest canter I've ever ridden? I've never galloped before so if you think it is a gallop, do you have any tips for body positioning? If it's just a silly canter, what are some steps I can take to correct her? My horse seems to have only 3 paces: slow, sad walk, super-fast trot and whatever the heck I just rode - no in betweens!


Kayty 06-19-2011 09:09 PM

Your mare is cantering heavily on her forehand, which makes for a terribly uncomfortable ride for both horse and rider. Being on the forehand means that she is essentially in 'front wheel drive' rather than 'real wheel drive'. We want a horse to be in rear wheel drive, because this allows the horse to be far more balanced, carrying more weight on the it's hind legs. Thus your 'steering' becomes easier as the shoulders are lighter, and the canter becomes more uphill, allowing you to sit far more easily.

Basically you are being a passenger in your riding rather than a driver. I'm assuming the horses youve cantered previously were school horses, which are generally in autopilot mode and maintain a steady, relatively balanced canter for a beginner to learn on. Your lease horse is probably not so well educated as a school horse, and as a result you are struggling to be the 'boss' when in the saddle.
You are doing yourself a disfavour by gripping with your legs and bum. As soon as your bum tightens, you're guaranteed to fly out the saddle. It's physically impossible to follow the canter motion with a tight bum and gripping knees/thighs.

I suggest you have a few more lessons on school horses, on the lunge, with no stirrups and reins, and preferably with your eyes closed. Sounds scary, but it will give you a really good feel of how your body should be moving to stay with the horse's motion, and also help you to start developing some skills to become the driver. By gripping yourself, you are just putting your horse further off balance, so she will go further onto the forehand, which will make you grip even more. It's not the horse's job to balance, thats YOUR job.

When she goes to rush in canter, take a big breath in, and slowly let it out through your nose. Just relax, go floppy. Allow your body to be taken with the canter motion. When you can relax, allow your legs to just hang, THEN you can start taking control. Hold your core muscles and feel that if you brace them slightly, your horse will slow down a little. This is the start of becoming a driver, learning to use your seat to control the horse.

As I said above, you can only control the horse when you have balance yourself, so take some more lessons on the lunge, and get a really good feel of how to sit into the canter and drive it, rather than just perching on top and hoping for the best.

cfralic 06-19-2011 11:00 PM

Good advice, Kayty. I have not only ridden lesson horses - I had a horse of my own but it was yeaaaars ago. I am just coming back into riding and I know that it isn't the horses' job to make my position correct, but I am having trouble remembering how to move my body like I used to. It can be very frustrating, haha. I think taking lessons will definitely be on my itinerary, but any tips on how I can work on it myself are definitely better because lessons aren't very affordable where I live (we chose leasing over lessons).

Perhaps I could get my riding partner to lunge us instead? Would that be totally rediculous and unsafe?

Kayty 06-19-2011 11:32 PM

What's she like to lunge? I would not lunge you on a horse unless it is VERY good on the lunge and totally reliable. The point of lunging the rider is so that you can concentrate on you, rather than what the horse is doing, so the last thing you want is a horse that is going to take off on you when you've got no reins or stirrups.

tinyliny 06-19-2011 11:51 PM

just to say that I doubt the gait you described was a gallop. Usually a gallop is actually easier to sit in many cases, as the horse tends to kind of flatten out and just have their legs move under them; no rocking horse feeling.

As you get better it will get easier. Also, if your horse hasn't been carrying a rider much lately she may be unbalanced at the canter iwth a rider up. That, too, will get better as she becomes more in shape and more balanced.

Just to give you hope!

Dusty and Olivia 06-23-2011 08:09 AM

Yeah i was very much like that when i first started riding. All you need is a bit of practice. And when you are cantering try to get your horse on the correct leading leg, some times it helps. And when i canter i normaly sit to the canter by, well, moving my hips, sort of like rocking them back and forth as the horse rocks back back and forth. Try doing this without reins or stirrups or even a saddle at lunge.

hope i was helpful

cfralic 07-20-2011 12:16 AM

Just in case anyone's interested, I figured out the problem. It's so silly and really shows how rusty I am - I was bouncing around because I lacked flexion in my knees. Sounds simple enough but it took me awhile. The past few times I was riding with extra-short stirrups because I adjusted them incorrectly, and my knees were getting seriously sore... That's when I thought, hey, maybe if I lengthen the stirrups it'll help my leg position?? And voila... No more discomfort and loosey goosey knees. Haha.

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