Back to square one? Cantering, gripping.. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 06-10-2019, 11:00 PM Thread Starter
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Back to square one? Cantering, gripping..

So, this is my first post here so I hope it's a good one.


Up until a year ago I knew nothing at all about horses. I had only ever ridden them as a child under supervision on a farm.. and most of them were either ponies or just guided trail rides at a friends farm.


Fast forward, I'm an adult and I got hired for a job that requires me to ride a horse in a theatrical show.
The horses are very well trained and taken care of and I was trained to ride on the job. I thought to myself.. "I get paid to learn to ride? Sweet!" Because lessons are expensive.
I got about 2-3 months of lessons, 2-3 times a week before I started riding in the show. I was taught how to tack and maintain/care of the horses and to find my "seat" and sit the trot/canter etc.
We ride with english saddles and most of our training is to ride with our seat/legs vs. our hands.

In the show, there's a predetermined pattern/marks that I must hit, including walking in a big circle, and cantering out into the center of an arena in a straight line and stopping.
When I started training, the horse I ride (a friesian) was a veteran horse who was not only an old guy, but he'd done the show thousands of times at this point and you could literally ride him with almost no cues because he just knew what to do without much intervention from the rider. Which was great for me, being a green rider.

But, he retired and we now have a new MUCH YOUNGER Friesian who has far more energy, far more get up and go, and needs way more direction from the rider to get him to go where he's supposed to go. He's very responsive to leg cues, but his mouth is very sensitive and with me still being a very green rider.. I'm sort of struggling. Our horse trainer had been riding him/working with him for several weeks before they felt confident enough to allow us newer riders to ride him.

The first time I rode him, it was great.. but I didn't push/ask for a canter at all, we only walked/trotted everywhere. He was very responsive and I had fun riding him. There are 3 of us who ride the same horse, and two of us are very green riders.. so I'm assuming part of the reason it's become more difficult is because he has 3 different people doing 3 different things while riding him.

What has happened to me lately, is that during the 3 points that we must canter, there's no issue with asking him.. he's more than willing to go, but he's got so much energy that when he does go, it's either into a full on run/gallop in which he takes me all the way to the other side of the arena before he stops, OR... it feels like he's bolting so I get scared and grip and since we wear spurs, I accidentally spur him when I grip, which causes him to buck and all sorts of other fun things that's not good for either of us.

Now, I'm scare every time I ride because I've had this problem the last 3 or 4 times in a row that I've ridden him and I'm terrified of getting bucked off or worse.
The spurs I have are the short nub type, and we're only supposed to use them as an enhancement to our leg aids, so I really shouldn't be touching him at all with the spurs unless there's a reason and he's so responsive he really doesn't even need them.

The other issue that we're dealing with is that he likes to paw CONSTANTLY in the sand, when he's standing still. I've been told it's because he's bored, and he's made himself fall already once by digging a hole and tripping in it. So we've started to try to stop him from doing it, but that has been causing him to dance around and be fidgety and when you ask him to stop with one leg, he just switches to the other one.. and well, it's exhausting.

So, any tips, tricks, thoughts on how I can improve all of these things would be greatly appreciated.

I'm trying to get in more riding lessons/practice with my trainers, but we're so busy it's difficult to get in to do it.
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post #2 of 28 Old 06-17-2019, 09:32 PM
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Are you riding for something like medieval times?

I would practice the canter transitions in your lessons. The horse sounds really sensitive, so instead of actually asking for the transitions, just picture them in your head. Your body will make subtle movements the horse will pick up on. Try that and see if it makes any difference for you. When you picture the canter in your head and while preparing for it, imagine it's this nice peaceful rocking canter for 2 or 3 steps then walking calmly. Try that walk canter walk canter really relaxed calm no pressure.

As for the youngsters energy, can you lounge him first?

With the pawing, he's a young horse, I don't think this can just turn off for him. I usually tell my guy no! and if he doesn't stop I step towards him with a finger wag and a no! then I just amp it up little by little, maybe give him a little wack, and he stops. But I always start at level 1 with a little no reminder, and on days where my horse is listening he will stop the first time I ask! No need to go that far with it.

Let us know how it's going!
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post #3 of 28 Old 06-17-2019, 10:08 PM
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Can you leave the spurs off until you're more comfortable on him? Doesn't sound like he particularly needs them!!
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post #4 of 28 Old 06-18-2019, 07:18 AM
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The situation you describe presents a number of different issues.

You are only accustomed to riding a horse that already knew its job; you were primarily a passenger. The new horse requires much more guidance from you.

The new horse is not fully trained and is being asked to learn several different languages at one time. Every rider speaks a different language. Even if the riders are using the same cues, the horse may perceive them as different accents or dialects.

First, I agree that riding without spurs may help. But your main “job” is to learn to relax. This does not mean to collapse but to release all unnecessary tension in your muscles. This will help the horse release tension in his muscles, making the ride more comfortable and pleasant. You may find this hard to do under the circumstances. However, think of yourself as being a parent trying to calm a child in a tense situation; you must control your emotions to help your child (horse) control his. This relaxation process may also help eliminate the pawing issue which may be similar to a child bouncing around because of pent up energy due to unreleased emotions.

When you ask for the canter, don’t think about “cuing” for it; thinking about giving the cue may be causing you to over-cue. This may be thought of as shouting and startling the horse. It may help to think of “whispering” for the canter or, as Filou suggests, simply picturing the canter as progressing into a smooth rocking motion.

Even if this horse is treated differently by other riders, calm guidance on your part should help him give you a better ride. I am currently working with a horse others think hard to control, but my student is about to get calm transitions regularly and stops the horse with almost no rein tension.

Training riders and horses to work in harmony.
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post #5 of 28 Old 06-18-2019, 08:37 AM
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Tagging @knightrider here, who has done a lot of theatrical riding and might have some tips given the scenario you're in (which, to be honest, sounds particularly difficult for both horse and riders- not sure how fair it is to a green horse to be in this position, nor to you!)
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post #6 of 28 Old 06-18-2019, 12:28 PM
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I feel badly as it's a bit of a catch 22. The problem isn't really you so much as the horse, but he's not being bad he just doesn't know. I like to think the trainers are aware of this? Given what you have to work with though-

Do you need to ride with spurs on him? Spurs are typically only used when needed by riders with the leg control to not accidentally jab the horse (as you know it can be easier said then done!). I understand they may be part of your costume... maybe you could take them off for practices? Wear them every other time? Wear cardboard spurs? loll I also agree with giving him another outlet for his energy. Lots of time to be a horse, lunge him before getting only, long warm ups etc. What about the horse that was retired? Is it possible to bring him back for performances while you continue to work with the youngster?

Unfortunately I think the biggest factor is time, the experienced riders should keep working with him, and you should keep riding him under supervision. Try NOT to get upset/nervous, it sounds like youre past that point and I know it's hard but the horse WILL pick up on it and it WILL make things worse. Meditate, take some NyQuil, whatever you need to do lol, what you expect to happen WILL happen good or bad. I would also continue riding other horses if possible, practice practice practice.

A few other thoughts, ride him a lot, in a way you're comfortable with, enjoy riding him and feel happy and confident! On the flip side, I would also just canter him around some rides, get used to how he feels, if he's sensitive work on less being more and calm and relaxed, this will also help you be more confident that he won't run off with you, I wouldn't ask for much while doing this, just that he behave and you guys get more comfortable with each other too. The more you stress about marks and stuff the more he will too.
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post #7 of 28 Old 06-18-2019, 02:17 PM
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Having inexperienced riders doing shows is something I've had a lot of practice with. It's a really tough problem too. In my troupe, we made sure the least experienced riders got the most experienced horses. We also found that some inexperienced riders "clicked" with certain horses and did fine with them. So whatever combination of horse and rider that worked best is what we went with. My first suggestion is to try other horses if management will allow it.

But I've found working with other troupes that it's done the other way 'round. I know this sounds sexist, but I found it to be a "man" thing. The folks who are quite good at what they do like to show up the newbies by giving them the rougher stock. It's sort of an unkind initiation gimmick that used to drive me wild. Sort of a way to separate the men from the boys kind of thing. The fellows who couldn't cut it usually quit. It's really dumb, in my opinion, and they lost some potentially really good people.

I live next to a huge hunting compound where there are 8 employees who manage the hunting land for the owner. They also put the least experienced riders on the toughest horses, I assume for the same reason. But at least there is no "show" to be spoiled. The young men either "get it" or they quit.

I understand cowboys used to do that sort of thing out west--giving the rough stock to the newbies. And yes, they would laugh and taunt them when they had trouble. Really stupid if you are paid to be doing a show. I was doing jousting shows, and I guess it had something to do with knights having to be bold.

Hopefully that is NOT what is happening to you, @wholesomejoe , and you are getting plenty of support, help, and positive feedback. If that is the case, and you simply cannot get put on a more experienced horse, then I agree with what everyone has suggested. Lose the spurs, relax, practice, breathe. It will get better with experience.
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post #8 of 28 Old 06-18-2019, 04:54 PM
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I just want to add it sounds like you're doing an amazing job for someone just starting out, I'm impressed you also have a good grasp of what is going wrong even if it's hard to stop it from happening. You're doing a lot better then most people would, chin up!
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post #9 of 28 Old 06-24-2019, 11:09 PM Thread Starter
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That's exactly where!


I've been getting in some more riding practice and it's getting a little better. I have more lessons this week!
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post #10 of 28 Old 06-24-2019, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Filou View Post
Are you riding for something like medieval times?

I would practice the canter transitions in your lessons. The horse sounds really sensitive, so instead of actually asking for the transitions, just picture them in your head. Your body will make subtle movements the horse will pick up on. Try that and see if it makes any difference for you. When you picture the canter in your head and while preparing for it, imagine it's this nice peaceful rocking canter for 2 or 3 steps then walking calmly. Try that walk canter walk canter really relaxed calm no pressure.

As for the youngsters energy, can you lounge him first?

With the pawing, he's a young horse, I don't think this can just turn off for him. I usually tell my guy no! and if he doesn't stop I step towards him with a finger wag and a no! then I just amp it up little by little, maybe give him a little wack, and he stops. But I always start at level 1 with a little no reminder, and on days where my horse is listening he will stop the first time I ask! No need to go that far with it.

Let us know how it's going!

That's exactly where! I have been getting in more lessons with my trainer so that's definitely helping. The last practice, he had me walk, trot, and then canter for a few strides.. and repeat. We also worked a good bit on "bending."



One thing that's been pointed out is that I have a tendency to have my legs out, and not hugging the horse slightly so that when he tries to fidget or move or what have you, by the time I make the correction, it's too late and he's then confused by what I'm asking.
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