This is a very interesting post. It can help the rider to understand the mechanics of the canter, to be able to visualize it. I think it's a lot to ask of a beginning rider, though. But that's just my opinion. I would, however, for academic enjoyement and engagement, like to adress some points of your response, in red.
Thanks, I enjoyed reading your responses. Mabye too complicated, but I've seen it help some and I found knowing more helped me overcome an anxiety I had with jumping.
Originally Posted by Jolly101 View Post
I think everyone already mentioned what I wanted to say, but here is what I would do in your situation.
First, to understand the mechanics of the canter depart is important and may help you visualize why we ask for a canter depart a certain way.
The first step of the canter always starts with the outside hind leg and is a moment of lift.
Actually, the horse can transition into a canter from a trot by either lifting from the back outside (if cantering in an arc) leg, OR by falling forward onto his front leading leg. We only call that 'falling' because in the cycle of the canter , when the leading front leg hits the ground, the horse will have a slightly downhill orientation, right before reaching foward again with that 'lifting' outside hind.
The skilled rider, who wants a lifting canter depart, will know exactly when that outside hind is about to leave the ground, in the walk or trot, and cue with his/her outisde leg to ask that outside hind to reach further under, and with greater reach, just as you say. This is , in equitation terms, a more desireable canter depart than when the horse trots faster, and changes into a canter stride with the front legs leading the change, wherein there is a sensation that the horse is 'falling' into the canter. Both are canter departs, as far as the horse is concerned.
That's a good point and true! The reason I mentioned the outside hind as the first step of the canter is because I thought it may give some context as to why horses usually are ridden with their heads to the inside vs the outside during and into the counter depart. Yes, the canter depart doesn't actually occur with a weight bearing outside hind, but it comes shortly after (1st sequence). So, by 'setting them back" onto the outside hind prior to asking for the canter by balancing them with a supporting inside leg and soft/ consistent outside rein contact, the canter will generally be easier to sit and steer (because it is starting off balanced). The horse can still certainly pick up the canter from the diagonal pairs or inside fore, it just generally isn't as comfortable or as easy to manipulate, but can work. I guess to rephrase, the outside hind, being the main weight bearing leg of the canter in balance.
When the horse has its head bent to the outside in the canter depart, it is more difficult to put weight onto the outside hind vs when they are looking to the inside and able to shift their weight to the outside.
I'm not sure I agree with this, either. An UNWEIGHTED leg is the one that can be lifted and moved, not a weighted leg. But, yes, if you put the horse's weight onto the outside, and he WAS previously weighting his inside hind, he will literally be forced to move his leg UNDER the weight . However, the rider should not shift either his own, or the horse's weight that much. Thus, we try to prepare the horse for this transition by pushing (with the inside leg at girth) their weight to the outside and 'standing the horse up' with a steady outside rein. The action of the inside rein is dependent on what the horse is doing. It may be neutral if the horse is balanced, it might lift for a time if the horse leans in or it may just maintain flexion to the inside.
Yes, I didn't explain that as well as I hoped. The OP mentioned about bringing the horse's head to the outside for canter. Bringing the head too much to the outside, weighs the outside fore and often causes the horse's haunches/abdomen to swing in the opposite direction. Eventually, one of two things happen: (1) the horse moves towards the weighted fore or (2)the horse straightens a bit and drops the inside shoulder. I'm assuming here that there is not enough supporting inside leg, but too much rein can create a similar effect. Similarly, too much inside rein without enough supporting leg and outside rein causes the horse to fall in and/or push the outside shoulder out. This all makes it more difficult for a horse to pick up a balanced canter (which balances back onto the outside hind) and instead the horse (1) refuses to canter or (2) picks up an unbalanced canter (falling in) that is uncomfortable to sit and more difficult to steer, assuming it is not corrected.
Regardless, reins should remain fairly neutral during the canter transition and I've found many new riders get stuck on using rein either by pulling back on one/both or tension. The horse should be (mostly) straight if not bending with head slightly left or right.
Since the outside hind is the first step into canter, the main cue for the canter is to move the outside leg behind the girth, which asks for the outside hind to step under. This also moves our outside seat bone back behind our inside seat bone (making it look like our inside hip is pushed forward). Your hips and shoulders should also pivot slightly to the inside to indicate direction of travel.
I heard a top level dressage instruction say that your hips should mirror the positioning of your horse's hips, when he is cantering, and your shoulders should mirror the horse's shoulders. He said that we tend to think that the horse is in an 'arc', but it's more like the horse is 'jumping' over a fence he created , at the canter, by putting down both his inside hind and outside front at the same time, then sort of falling forward onto his inside, leading, front leg, as if jumping over a small fence. And when he does this, his inside shoulder is advanced, and so should the shoulder of the rider.
This was totally counter intuitive to me, but often when a rider is overworking or pumping a canter, by bringing the OUTSIDE shoulder back a bit from the inside (the human's shoulders) the canter more smoothly matches horse and human skeletons.
ALL this has nothing to do with the OP learning to feel less fearful about canter departs. It's just horse forum expounding, for fun.
That's an interesting way to describe it. I think I might understand what they mean because as the inside fore lands, our inside hip opens more, and shoulder should move slightly forward as well. I've heard of mirroring your shoulder to your horse's shoulders and hips to hips, just never quite describes that way. Interesting for sure!
And OP, just wanted to say that I can completely understand about being frighted and fear is a funny thing. I used to and still have occasionally, bad anxiety over jumping after a fall. Personally, I went to another (higher qualified) instructor with a more trained horse to use (I only had greenies to ride). So, trying another instructor and horse may really benefit you, if only for a different perspective and environment. For me, I found gathering as much knowledge, planning rides and having a instructor that was more critical helped because I needed to feel very confident in what I was doing. My other instructor (although meant well) was too encouraging and non-critical, which counter intuitively did not make me feel as confident. So, you may find a different teacher to work better for you at this stage.
At the time, I'd also get butterflies just watching videos of people jumping, so I forced myself to watch them, including instructional videos, and planned/ visualized my rides beforehand. Sounds silly, but It definitely helped a little.
I also suggest taking some time to understand why you have developed a fear of the counter depart, using that understanding to target what, exactly you need to reduce your anxiety for. For example, mine was feeling out of control at and between fences, so I focused on planning and troubleshooting this area. Then, take things step by step. Don't push yourself into things too fast because you can set yourself back. This is why a lunge lesson would be beneficial, so that you can slow things down.
I also tried relaxation techniques and aromatherapy, but they didn't work much for me. They may help you though :)