Canter Transition Terrifies Me - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 11-14-2019, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
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Canter Transition Terrifies Me

I've had two canter lessons. One was learning how to signal the canter, ride a few strides, then sitting the canter.

I'm fine with sitting the canter. My trainer actually complimented me that its better than some people who have been cantering longer than me. But asking for the canter?

No. Nope. I freak out. The second my trainer tells me to pick up the canter at H, I freeze. I try to position his head to the outside, he turns. I take my inside leg off, ask him to turn his head to the outside. He turns his entire body.

I try it. He takes one stride then falls into a fast trot. My outside stirrup fell back onto my heel. I go forward. My trainer is screaming at me to "Get my self together and ride that horse."

I ask him to walk and I'm literally hyperventilating.

Once I get him to canter, I'm fine. I relax into my saddle and enjoy the ride until I'm told to stop. But asking for the transition feels horrible.

My trainer says I'm getting too much into my own head. I'm psyching myself out, thinking for him. I just don't know how to feel anymore.
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Last edited by QtrBel; 11-25-2019 at 07:45 PM. Reason: Language. Even when quoted.
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post #2 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 02:20 AM
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Several things strike me with what you are writing - most about what you have been taught.

First off, it is easier to ask for the canter in a corner. Secondly I was taught, and taught, inside leg on the girth (in the normal position) outside leg behind the girth (slightly back) horses head slightly to the inside .

Sitting trot before asking for the transition.

The reason for the above is so the horse is bent around the inside leg, they find it easier to canter on the inside leg so bending them around the inside leg is setting them on a 'circle' for the transition up.

The trot should be active but not fast, the bend to the inside is minimal, just enough that you can slightly see his inside eye.

If the horse is actually turning to the outside when you ask you are using to much rein.
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post #3 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 02:30 AM
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I presume you are a beginner. I get a feeling most of us (adult beginners) went through a stage of being scared of asking for canter so that isnít unusual.

The only cure is to do it over and over until your body learns it. Can you ask for lunge lessons? Get the instructor to ask for canter instead of you the first few times.

Also, I got over my fear of canter by doing it in two-point. There was a thread on here where the general consensus was that it wasnít a good idea to learn canter in two-point, but it was a game changer for me and made riding much more pleasant.
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post #4 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 02:53 AM
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I've never heard of being taught to position the horse's head to the outside.

Initially, your instructor should help you , perhaps, by asking the horse by herself, FOR you, so all you have to do is feel the transition. She can do this with a long lungewhip, just a soft motion and a 'kiss' sound will likely get your hrose to canter.

I think your experience is practically universal for beginnners; falling to pieces at the 'canter' transition. Try WALK to canter . . .it might be easier.
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post #5 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 07:18 AM
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I'd recommend watching lots and lots of videos of canter transitions, and really look at the motion and what the rider's body is doing to follow it.

That said, it can take a while to get used to how a particular horse strikes off into the canter. I've never quite got it figured out on my coach's horse. He's a weird one. But I'm okayish -- now -- on most others. If there's a different horse you could try it on for a bit, to get used to the feeling, it might help?

Also, it doesn't sound to me like your coach's attitude is helping you here. Being yelled at and sworn at over something you're already nervous about is not a helpful approach. And being told to turn your horse's head to the outside is plain wrong.
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post #6 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
I've never heard of being taught to position the horse's head to the outside.
I've seen old school horse people do it with unbalanced horses. I asked about it and the general consensus was that horses in nature do it that way so it would help an unbalanced horse to do it "naturally". I don't know if that explanation is true but I have seen it work. Well, the horses were still unbalanced but they were picking up canter on the correct lead. I am not sure if it was due to the head position or despite it.
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post #7 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 08:07 AM
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My understanding -- and there are many more experienced here than me, also, this cue may vary from barn to barn -- is that you just lift your inside hand very slightly. You don't bend the horse's head or pull back, you just indicate the bend to the horse by lifting the inside hand. This helps them get the right lead. More advanced riders and horses don't do this anymore, or do it imperceptibly, but it does help. My feeling is that if the horse is completely turning, you're pulling back too hard on the inside rein. So basically, you're telling him to go faster while pulling back which is very confusing for the horse.

And the outside leg should be behind the girth, inside leg at the girth as already explained, but think of it as gently urging your horse forward while asking for the right bend. Kissing for the canter helps them understand exactly what you are asking for, but generally, that is reserved for beginners.
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post #8 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 10:45 AM
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More ways have been devised for asking for a canter than asking for any other gait. Still, I have never heard of using the combination of cues described in the original post.

While I have heard of turning the horseís head to the outside, the general consensus is to turn the horseís head just slightly to the inside. In no instance should the head be turned enough that the horse thinks it should turn its body.

When a horse goes into a fast trot rather than a canter, the rider becomes uncomfortable and hesitant to ask for a canter. Instead, the rider should return to a more relaxed gait and regain composure. Then, every effort should be made to get the horse relaxed, moving smoothly, and well balanced before asking for the canter.

I really recommend looking for a new riding instructor.

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post #9 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 11:45 AM
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When I took western lessons, I asked about the cue for a canter. Everyone looked at me like I was from Mars, and then one replied, "Kick harder?"

From a western trail rider perspective, horses already know how to canter. All they need to know is that you want them to canter now. I was also told the "Turn the head to the outside" thing. The idea was, if you think of the horse as a rectangle, to shift the orientation of the rectangle so the inside front corner was ahead of the outside front corner, thus supposedly encouraging the horse to canter on the correct lead. I believe that is also the idea behind the "inside leg on the girth (in the normal position) outside leg behind the girth" teaching.

"Kissing for the canter helps them understand exactly what you are asking for, but generally, that is reserved for beginners."

That's why I'll always be a beginning rider! Kiss, to Bandit, means switch to a higher gear. "Easy" means either relax a little or shift down a gear. And if Bandit takes the wrong lead, we just counter-canter. I mean, really...cantering was not designed for going in circles! One canters to cover more ground in less time to get somewhere sooner. And we lean into turns!

Except that isn't equitation. It is just beginning riding...which is where I want to stay.

Still, if transitions bother you as a beginning rider, there is nothing too horrible about letting the horse take care of the transition while you get comfortable with the feel. Learning to ask for a specific lead, or to change leads, could be left for a later date. I"m past 11 years without feeling a great need for it.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #10 of 28 Old 11-15-2019, 06:53 PM Thread Starter
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So, I have to ask. At my Jumper barn, I was just taught to straighten my horse, kick behind the girth on the outside, kiss and say 'Canter' with possibly a tap from the whip. (Depending on the horse I'm riding)

Which one would you say is more correct?

I've wanted to switch to that barn for a while, but I have friends at my main barn, like the OTHER trainers there, and love the horses. Plus my mom loves it (and is friends with like, everyone there.) And they've offered me a lease, which I find is pretty suspicious, like - I find a new barn and now they offer me a lease? Blah.

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