Fear of Cantering - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 40 Old 11-12-2015, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Fear of Cantering

I read, always, anything on the forum that has advice on cantering, I won't give a long story about my own story (except to say that I'm older, had a bad horse crash 11 years ago & am finally for real learning). Just am am interested in knowing how others have dealt with the basic fear of cantering. In short, I've been in lessons for over two years & finally braved 2 canter attempts this past summer. On the lunge line, I get very dizzy but it's the speed that gets me (w/visual swirling around, I forget my seat). Am not yet confident enough to go out on my own on a straight line. It looks so easy & so pretty. It's just...fear...

Anyone else been here?
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post #2 of 40 Old 11-12-2015, 09:41 PM
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My first canter was terrifying. I was about 11 and my first reaction was to stop. I think the only way to get over it is to keep doing it. Any chance you could find a horse with a really, really slow canter to start with? There is one at my daughter's old lesson barn that could canter slower than most horses walk :) We called it her cheat canter! A slower horse might give you time to get used to the motions of cantering without the speed, which you could work up to.

Were you afraid to canter before (you mention a bad horse crash 11 years ago so I assume you rode more then)? Unfortunately, as we get older, we scare more easily. Just keep at it on a quiet horse.
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post #3 of 40 Old 11-12-2015, 10:31 PM
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First of all great sympathy from me, and empathy, because I do know what it feels like, my bad fall was 2 1/2 years ago, and I went from being nervous about cantering, to terrified

First thing I had was a very patient and understanding coach, who understood when to push, and when to hug! I also had a horse that I trusted, I knew he wouldn't buck or bolt through the transition, but his natural laziness meant that we had to go through a rough trot before picking up the lope...not fun.

So, what helps:

Visualisation, you were a rider, you know what a canter feels like, I spent a lot of time sat on a gym ball in my house, just remembering what a good canter felt like, and more importantly how to ask for it.

Singing! I know sounds strange, but singing does a lot of things, makes sure you are breathing, relaxes you, gives you something else to think about, and in my case I swear frightened Gibbs into picking up a lope. Mine was "One Man Went to Mow" has to be something you know well and can belt out.

Sit up...when we are nervous we instinctively try and curl up, so we lean forward hunch shoulders, and become ineffective. So sit back a little, head up, practice rolling shoulders back and down, opening up and lifting the chest .

EFT, not for everyone but boy did it help me, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) - Emotional Health I was introduced by a physiotherapist, who realised quickly that my recovery to riding was both mental and physical. Came up with a positive affirmation to say that got me through, it was very helpful.

Bachs Rescue Remedy Rescue Remedy Drops and Spray - Original Rescue Remedy this stuff is excellent, have used it for years in many a stressful situation, and it does help you relax just a little.

“Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity”
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post #4 of 40 Old 11-12-2015, 10:40 PM
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Yes, the fear factor does start to plague one, as one gets both older and has had several bad wreaks over the years!
What really helps is to first have a`broke horse, the type that never tries to charge off, guides well and has a good whoa
I have never quite understood the practice of someone lunging a horse with a rider, although I do understand that it is a common English practice
I want to be in control of that horse, and not rely on another person
If you are riding in an arena, where can the horse go.
Also, when I was taking a working cowhorse clinic, I was given a comment that really helped, when I was a bit hesitant to take a cow down the fence at speed, after my horse had gone down, turning another cow on the fence
The clinician told me to `ride, as I could,ride as fast as my horse could run!
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post #5 of 40 Old 11-12-2015, 10:41 PM
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i was terrified of cantering for the longest time! it just felt so fast and i felt as though i wasnt in control. what i would always do was do a lot of sitting trot first to kind of get my seat together and feel comfortable that i could do it. my next step was actually asking for the canter. the horse i learned to canter on was not good on the lunge line, so i was on my own. it helped me a lot to know i could control him if i needed to. i would do a lot of circles at the trot, trot to halt transitions, just stuff like that so mentally i could tell myself that he was really listening. so i would ask him to canter around the first corner and my trainer would stand around the second corner, in the middle of the line, this would mean that i would do approximately six or so strides if that once i would finally get the horse to canter. it wasnt too bad. i would just tell myself that i knew i could stop him anytime i wanted. only two strides and then halt? okay. i can do that. and we just kept working our way up by doing a little at a time. i was like this for over year, barely even to get a lap around the ring (i would take a lesson pretty much every week, sometimes i would have to skip a week) and then i got an injury and was off 7 months, then completely restarted the process again. now im showing and started to jump and its awesome! there will be a time where it will just "click" and you will realize you can do it and itll be fine. it just takes time. i also wouldnt try to focus a lot on my seat or anything, i knew i would be okay and stay on, but i needed to learn the motion. what the above poster said about the slower horse could be a good idea too. a smooth one is nice too. your also on the lunge line..so talk to your trainer. hold the front of your saddle and if your nervous after two strides, then your done. just take it a little at a time. youll get it. also, dont forget to take deep breaths and keep breathing!
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post #6 of 40 Old 11-13-2015, 12:09 AM
Green Broke
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I had a bad fall five years ago that shook my confidence terribly. I only knew how to ride a horse at the walk but it was terrifying even getting back on. I didn't trot for the first time until 2 years later, and I didn't canter until 2013. That canter lasted 1 second but I remember being so excited about it. Last year I tried to canter more but I was still scared because it was fast, and I still hadn't regained all my confidence.

It wasn't until this year that I pushed myself to start cantering a lot more. And having riding lessons really helped too. I've learned to ride a canter and now ENJOY it and always look forward to doing it.

My advice to you, talk to your instructor. Tell her/him that you are scared and maybe need to do it more often. Only do it if you know you are ready to do it. Just relax. When I first started cantering more last year, I'd get all nervous and lock my hips instead of letting them move with the horse. Some horse's canters are rougher than others, so that may not help a lot. Find a good horse, and time your time. You'll get it!
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Keep going, keep moving forward. You'll get it together someday.
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post #7 of 40 Old 11-13-2015, 02:11 AM
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I'm afraid i'm In the same boat, still. I have been trying everything people suggested and I'm still scared, just a tiny bit less every week. So don't expect the fear to go away in a single lesson. What helps me is to go into two-point. That way I don't have to think about my seat, I just focus on looking ahead and steering. And, for me, riding a foreward horse which I don't have to encourage all the time. I tried a lazy and slow horse, it was terrible.

What I would also suggest is trying a different location. I discovered by accident that I'm only scared of cantering in the indoor school. In the open arena and on trails I absolutely love it. Weird. So I practiced my balance out on trails and I still deal with my fear indoors. I know, it makes zero sense as the trails are much more dangerous and I'm not suggesting it but maybe try a different riding school.
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post #8 of 40 Old 11-13-2015, 03:05 AM
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The place where it is easiest to learn to canter is on a long, steep hill with another rider in front. I've seen lots of beginners get confidence this way. The lead horse picks up the canter, and the horse behind will naturally want to follow, so there's less cueing involved. Going up the hill, it feels like the horse is moving toward you and is the easiest to sit with no corners to worry about. On the straight line there's no worry about getting on the wrong lead and feeling off balance. The horse will tend to go slower since it is steep, and will want to stop sooner.
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post #9 of 40 Old 11-13-2015, 09:58 AM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Thank you everyone for taking the time to reply (& I'll check out that EFT). I realize I should've clarified a bit.

The crash happened when I was just starting to learn Had made the newbie mistake of an unsuitable (for me) instructor & barn. A friend offered to teach me & the horse spooked badly (when a roadworker ran around the corner waving papers).

So, never did even get to the canter. My instructor now is very good, very patient. My goal was learning the canter this past fall/summer but work upheavals/changes prevented my going out to her place for any real lessons (time crunches for both of us).

Maybe when the weather warms up again; it's already going into snow season here. You all have given me much food for thought.

I do think the fear is all in my head, & a lack of confidence (although that has gotten much better).

I should add that the 2x I tried I was on my instructor's very good school horse that has a "cadillac canter" that takes care of her rider. She knew I was becoming frightened/unbalanced before I did & would stop. So, the horse is there.

Thanks again!
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post #10 of 40 Old 11-13-2015, 10:05 AM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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PS My 2nd attempt I did do 9 strides without realizing it then my head took over (my instructor told me the strides #, I'd had no idea). Yup, it's all in my head, & it needs to leave.
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