Counter-bent at the canter - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 02-21-2020, 01:23 PM Thread Starter
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Counter-bent at the canter

Pony had two months off where he didn't have to canter. The first month was him being on stall rest due to injury, and the second month was me riding bareback. I'm still riding bareback, but we're cantering now (woo hoo!).

He does really well to the right. The left, however, has always been sticky for him, and two months off haven't helped. I got him to pick up his left lead twice today, but it involved an awful lot of fighting and resistance. The worst thing, to me, was that he was counter-bent the whole time. I think that's the right phrase. Basically if you can imagine how a horse on a circle, you want its body to be nicely bent around that circle so it sort of follows the line of the circle, right? Well, his bend was the exact opposite.

He can trot a circle to the left with a really nice bend, BUT once he suspects he's going to be asked to canter left, all the sudden his bend goes the wrong way.

I'm going to try to use more inner leg, but I'm wondering if anyone else has any thoughts about getting him cantering better to the left.

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post #2 of 24 Old 02-21-2020, 01:38 PM
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With the training I have been doing, I have to deal with my horse being counter bent in the trot. Was he like this before? Has he had any chiro adjustments?

For my mare, I always just ride whatever bend she gives me. So for example, if I am trotting a circle to the left, I will ask for her to stay in true bend. However, if she insists on being in counter-bend I will not fight her, but rather change my diagonal and ride the bend she gives me. She actually starts to find that it is harder on her to ride in incorrect bend, so will eventually come back to true bend. I also do a lot of spiral in/spiral out circles - as the circle gets smaller it is harder for her to be in the incorrect bend.

This is a constant struggle I have with my mare - granted, she is due for chiro. But even so, she is better in one direction than another (horses are like people and often have a more dominant side).

I have not done much canter work, but would assume the same principle would work. Meaning you ride the bend he gives, so your inside leg now acts as the outside leg, etc. Sounds confusing but it has worked for me and it is better than forcing or fighting him to keep a bend.
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post #3 of 24 Old 02-21-2020, 01:46 PM Thread Starter
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I had the chiro out as part of his rehab. Except for a little lingering back pain that seemed to be from his old saddle, she didn't find anything out of whack. I have a body worker, but she's crazy expensive and I hope to not get her involved in Pony's care, LOL.

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post #4 of 24 Old 02-21-2020, 03:17 PM
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Yes, the body work does add up. I try to get my horses done in the spring once most of the ice is gone and before we really start riding. I'm sure that both of my riding horses need some work done, but it just doesn't make sense to me to fork out the money when they could easily slip on the ice 2 seconds later.

Besides, my chiro/body worker mentioned it also didn't make sense until I sort out the saddle issue - as they will change a bit as they adjust to a new saddle.

Too bad horses can't go under our benefits plans through work. That would be awesome.
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post #5 of 24 Old 02-21-2020, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by cbar View Post

Too bad horses can't go under our benefits plans through work. That would be awesome.
I feel like my insurance should pay for my horses' upkeep, as my horses keep me physically and mentally fit! I doubt they'd agree, though.

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post #6 of 24 Old 02-21-2020, 07:40 PM
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How's your shoulder in? Shoulder in/shoulder fore before and through the transition will set them up to keep the inside shoulder free and inside leg stepping under. Similarly, doing the transition through a leg yield will set their body up correctly.



Working on Fléchi droit at the walk and trot will help teach both of you about how to mobilize and control the shoulders. Fléchi droit is where you travel in a straight line with the head and neck bent to the inside or outside. At the walk you can go to almost 90*, at the trot best to stay less than 45*. You go slow, the point isn't how fast you can go, but the ability to keep them balanced and straight through the body without them bearing down on a rein or a shoulder.
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post #7 of 24 Old 02-21-2020, 07:44 PM
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Keeping up with chiro and re-checking saddle fit are always a good idea.

Besides that, it sounds like your horse is hollow right and stiff left? You say he bends well at the trot. Are you able to give your inner hand straight forward ( loose inner rein) and have him keep the bend?

I'd guess that he is still pretty weak after two months of stall rest and only one riding bareback (depending on how much work has been done), so is having trouble lengthening his right side (hollow/ weaker side) for the bend. I would keep at it and only add little spurts of canter in here and there to try and develop the correct muscles.

I've also found that a common evasion to bending is for the horse to drop his inner shoulder. This makes it more difficult for our inside leg to be effective, but lifting up (higher) the inside rein only, may help stand the horse back up, and enable your leg to be more effective.
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post #8 of 24 Old 02-21-2020, 09:12 PM
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It can also be that YOU are gripping more cantering to the left, and he is counter bending in some kind of defense to your gripping. I'm worthless as a bareback rider, so I worry that I would negatively influence any hrose I rode bareback.
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post #9 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
It can also be that YOU are gripping more cantering to the left, and he is counter bending in some kind of defense to your gripping. I'm worthless as a bareback rider, so I worry that I would negatively influence any hrose I rode bareback.
This! Never blame the horse first, especially if you're rehabbing bareback (something I wouldn't suggest whatsoever, seeing as your adding unbalanced weight to a weak musculoskeletal system). I would see what he does with a well balanced rider in a saddle.
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Originally Posted by Jolly101 View Post
I'd guess that he is still pretty weak after two months of stall rest
You cannot expect a horse to do well and be perfect if they don't have the right muscles to support correct movement. You couldn't walk into a gym right now and do a perfect weighted squat, from the get go. First you have to build the muscles from the easy stuff then work up from there. Give him time, and reward the correct bend, even if he does it for a millisecond, let him walk and give lots of pats for the right idea. He'll understand and keep trying for it as his muscles improve.

Another thing to consider is what was his injury? Was it to a hind right? Or fore left? Those are considerable weight bearing loads in the canter to the left and he may have residual pain.
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post #10 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 10:52 AM Thread Starter
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I rode him with the other instructor this past weekend, and yes he was dropping his inner shoulder. This is not something I am able to feel, so it's nice to have someone point it out. We did a lot of backpedaling, and finally ended up working on just one side of the arena. Make a 15-meter circle to the left to set him up, ask for the canter, and just ride straight down that side. Then stop, and repeat in the other direction. He didn't counter bend when we did that, and he picked up the correct lead each time. One time he did drop to a trot (my bad) in the middle and then picked up the right lead when I got him going again. I guess we'll do more of that this weekend. Start building those muscles.

@Interstellar I'm not really riding bareback by choice. Check out the saddle fit section of HF. I think three or four of the last threads have been started by me. His injury was due to a poor fitting saddle and I have not been able to find a saddle that fits him. He is happier being ridden bareback than in any saddle I have tried on him.
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