Saddle for learning to canter? - The Horse Forum
  • 1 Post By Kalraii
  • 2 Post By tinyliny
  • 5 Post By mmshiro
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post #1 of 9 Old 08-17-2019, 06:00 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: CenTex
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Saddle for learning to canter?

I would like some thoughts about which of my two saddles would be best for learning to canter. Iíve been cantering off and on in lessons for a couple of months, but I think itís time for me to start doing it consistently. Iím planning on cantering on Teddy right now, then working my way up to Pony, because Pony is unbalanced and I am unbalanced, and neither one of us is happy when he canters (he tosses in little bucks every now and then). Plus Teddy is a lot more forgiving and doesnít act up. I rode Teddy today in Ponyís saddle, and to my surprise it seemed to fit him pretty well. The two saddles are pretty much as far apart as you can get, for English saddles.

Ponyís saddle is an old-school European dressage saddle. It is high in the front and especially the back, stiff as a board, and super slippery. It sort of forces your upper body to be straight, because man it hurts if your posture is not right.

The other saddle is a jumping saddle, but it has less forward flaps than a lot of jumping saddles (but itís not an AP saddle). Itís super soft and plushy, like a Barcalounger. I mean, your butt just sinks right into it. Also sticky! Your butt is literally stuck to the saddle.

My main problem, right now, with cantering, is that I donít feel like I quite have the rhythm down right. I feel like my upper body needs to be doing one thing (being perpendicular to the ground, I guess), my lower body needs to be doing another thing (following the motion of the horse, I think), and hips and pelvis need to be doing something else in order to keep the top and bottom of my body moving together. I further feel like I need to be sort of sliding my pelvis in the saddle in order to do this, and the sticky saddle doesnít really encourage that. But itís so, so soft. Oh, and also I still feel off-balance when cantering. I guess Iím thinking the dressage saddle is better for what I need to work on.

FWIW Iíve fallen off once when riding in both saddles, although with the plush saddle I was just learning to canter and I fell off in the field when I lost a stirrup, and in the dressage saddle Pony was really acting up. But I am not sure that either one of them is really better or worse in terms of keeping me on the horse.
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post #2 of 9 Old 08-17-2019, 06:24 PM
Join Date: Jul 2015
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nO sAdDle (kidding, sort of :P)

When you say the dressage saddle hurts what do you mean? Hurts your back? o.o You shouldn't be sliding around at all in the saddle and I know people that pick "sticky" saddles and/or seat covers to better stop them from sliding around specifically. You might find that your core isn't quite strong enough coz I sure noticed the difference when I let my fitness drop some. Lots of no stirrup work is what made the biggest leap for me in terms of improvement in the canter. In fact I felt safer and still do cantering without stirrups than with. Also wearing proper riding boots or muck boots helped 10x more than tiny ankle riding boots which used to perma slide around in the stirrup. Something a bit bigger with more grip. Having something on the calf to better hold my position (once first finding the correct position) also helped. I would say go for the saddle that DOESN'T hurt even if it doesn't offer as much support. I'd rather be bareback and learning than using something that makes me very uncomfortable!

edit: also what is your weak side and strong side? I am weaker going left but mostly ok. My friend on the other hand is SO wonky that she often looks like her left stirrup is 2 holes lower than her right. It's not - she just tilts that way. It's so odd but she sits in an office chair a lot and also leans the same. Do check that out as well :)
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post #3 of 9 Old 08-17-2019, 09:09 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Seattle, WA
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Why does the dressage saddle 'hurt'? is it that it has large thigh blocks, which force your thigh to have an uncomfortably vertical orientation? And that hurts your back? Sometimes the thigh blocks are removable. If they are, try riding in that saddle without the thigh blocks. I HATE big thigh blocks so much that when we changed to a saddle that bit my lease horse better, but it had ginormous thigh blocks, we called out a saddle fitter , who literally CUT them off the saddle! Now the saddle is acceptable.

what might give you a lot of confidence is sticky breeches. Full seat, sticky breeches. This helps a lot in feeling like you won't slide off balance with every minor bobble.
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post #4 of 9 Old 08-17-2019, 10:24 PM
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Your main problem is that the canter is the least natural way to go around in a circle - to end up where you started. A canter (or gallop) is a great way to get from A to B as efficiently as possible. So never mind the saddle - I have always found it easier to canter a horse outside the arena than inside, even when there was a lot of steering involved. If you get bouncy in the saddle - no worries, go to two-point for a second or two, and lower yourself gently back into the saddle, feeling the rhythm as you go. What's more, in order to lower yourself slowly and controlled, your stirrups need to be in exactly the right position - under your center of gravity.

My advice would be to practice your canter, in whichever saddle, where you can go in a straight line for a while, without having to worry about turns. Once you have the rhythm, you can work on your steering and your balance in the turns. If the task you want to master is too complex, master a simpler one first. That's how we do it in math, too. :)
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post #5 of 9 Old 08-17-2019, 10:58 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Several options:

1 - Canter in two point.

2 - Canter in a half-seat (or 3/4 seat if you are like me)

3 - Polish the saddle

Watch this for what I mean by polishing the saddle:

Notice the upper body movement in this performance:

You might also want to watch this:

"I feel like my upper body needs to be doing one thing (being perpendicular to the ground, I guess)..."

Your upper body does NOT remain perpendicular with the ground. It moves back and forth because the horse's back is rocking back and forth. If you get a little out of the saddle (3/4 seat), then it can rock under you with less motion on your part.

Like @mmshiro , I feel a big difference when cantering down a trail. In my little arena, cantering means a 60' diameter circle, which is tough on us both.
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post #6 of 9 Old 08-18-2019, 01:06 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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The dressage saddle hurts my lady parts, LOL, unless I sit up really straight. Which, in a way, is good, because it sort of forces me into the right posture; but on the other hand, when I don't sit up straight... ouch.

@tinyliny it's not so much that I am concerned about coming out. If I were, I would just go with the sticky saddle (it's really sticky). I feel like my problem is that I'm not getting the feel of the motion, and I'm somewhat unbalanced (tend to lean forward too much and tend to lean into corners)

@mmshiro yes I totally agree with you, and at the old place I used to canter out in the fields a fair amount. But the new place is much smaller with about the same number of horses, and smaller pastures, and it's hard to find a place where there aren't other horses and the pasture is suitable for long straight lines. We did it once, in one of the long pastures when they were riding the horse that usually lives there, but generally I haven't found another good pasture. I thought about cantering down the gravel driveway that runs down the middle of the place, but it has some pretty big rocks in it, and I didn't think that would be really nice for their hooves. And I don't really want to buy boots just for that.

@bsms that "polishing the saddle" thing is why I thought maybe the slick saddle would be better than the sticky one. Because I can move in it. Whereas with the stick saddle my butt just stays in the same place.
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post #7 of 9 Old 08-18-2019, 02:03 PM
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I'm going this from a different perspective...
You're going to ride Teddy.
What direction is his favorite to travel...
That is the direction you go first so he is most balanced, stride soft, even and forgiving...
Then for him to carry you as you learn the rhythm and how to follow the motion with your body will be easier for him to give you a good, safe ride.

As for saddle...
I would say dressage because it holds the body, giving support where a close contact style is more what the other one described sounds of is less supportive.
You need to learn to relax your spine and absorb the motion in your spine and hips...
Feeling safe and secure to me is so important cause if you don't relax all you are going to do is thump and bounce...
That is my take on it...
Good luck...once you figure it out you'll love the freedom of cantering and then galloping with wind rushing past your ears...yeehaw!!
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post #8 of 9 Old 08-18-2019, 02:51 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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@horselovinguy thanks, I like your perspective here. If I'm being totally honest, I'd say I am probably more relaxed in the sticky saddle because I really think less likely that I'll come out of it. Because it's so sticky! Not to mention, the cushiness of the padding makes my butt sort of sink into it more. I'm going to think about this some more.
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post #9 of 9 Old 08-19-2019, 12:26 AM
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I have shared this many times on HF, regarding how to get in sync with the motion:

You want to sync yourself with the horse's 'DOWN" beat of his canter.

The canter has basically 3 beats;

the first he strikes off with (for a right lead) his left hind leg . this is ONE, and it's an Upward lifting feel.

Then the front left AND the rear right hit the ground at the same time, and this is a Level sort of feel, TWO

Then the horse's leading leg, his right front, hits the ground (as the other legs are just leaving the ground), and it's the most downhill feel to the canter, as the horse is tipped forward onto that leading leg. . . . THREE . . or "Down"

So, start cantering and feel for that front leg hitting, and call it "Down'. Count it out, literally, "One, Two, Down and One, Two , Down, and . .. "
When you find the down beat, you really think of sinking your pelvis forward and down into the saddle, your feet down into the stirrups as if you are going to drag your heel on the ground.

Then allow your horse to carry you up, and get ready to go into that 'down' beat! Over and over again.
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