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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am having some difficulty with the downward canter transition.

When I ask my horse, who is a Tennessee Walker, to come down, it's as if she can't control her legs; she does a very fast, vertically trotty/pacey (nearly impossible to post) gait. Her legs are all over the pace. It's feels as if you asked a horse to quickly trot down a hill, but we are on (relatively) flat ground. She's not pulling and I'm not pulling; she comes back quite nicely.

Her upward transitions are decent, and her actual canter is fine. Her downward transition from her gait, even if she is quickly gaiting, is good, too.

I don't think it's the saddle or me because she does it out in pasture, too. Her back isn't sore when I palpate it. Her leg conformation is fine as well as her hooves.

I don't really know what to do. It's as if she can't figure out the correct leg pattern/foot fall. I'm not asking nor expecting her to go from her canter directly to her gait but so that when she slows down, it isn't all crazy.
 

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Bad downward transitions are often the result of poor balance. This may be balance in the canter or balance in the new gait or both. Try to feel where your horse’s center of balance is and, also, where your center of balance is.

Unless you are shifting your center of balance to effect your horse’s center of balance, your center of balance should be directly above your horse’s center of balance. Understand that this center of balance is constantly changing. Experiments have shown that even the act of breathing while at a standstill without a rider will cause the horse’s center of balance to shift slightly. Think how much more this center will change when the horse is moving.

As riders, we should seek to follow our horse’s movements. The more we follow the movements of our horse, the more our horse becomes accustomed to the feel of this sympathetic movement. Then, we can begin to use changes in our own movement to influence changes in our horse’s movement as it seeks to regain the unity of movement in our two bodies.

If we are moving with our horse in a balanced canter, we should be able to influence our horse to transition downward by briefly stopping our movement. Then, at the moment our horse pauses his movement, we should use our body to tell the horse what new movement to begin.
 

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Shorted the canter before the transition. Don't slow it down, just compress it to get the balance together and feet under her. You can do a few transitions between a working canter and a shortened canter. I'd also be tempted to down to the walk instead of dealing with a trotty pacey mess until the balance is there.

Another way is to only canter 3-4 strides, transitioning down before the balance shifts. If you do those in succession, she will anticipate and carry herself accordingly.
 

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Although I am not familiar with gaited horses (none in my country :) ), sounds to me that the horse is lacking balance and confidence in this transition, and is falling on his forehand, causing frantic, speedy gaiting/possibly trotting sometimes? The answer to this mostly is - transitions, transitions, transitions. Canter for 5 strides, transition, gait/trot for 5, again, canter, count to five, transition. Rinse, repeat, do this after a good warmup both in the arena and in the trails.

You will also benefit greatly from pole work in the arena, hill work in the trails (or just walking over fallen logs/deep moss/any uneven surface in an active pace) and I deeply recommend straightness training exercises from the ground to build up that power in the hind end and a natural collection.
 

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I have experienced this EXACT phenomenon on my friend's TWH. She is the most wonderful mare EVER. In fact, we barn rats call her "Saint Esmerelda", because she will put up with anything. And, her canter is way fast, but the downward transition is rough.



I am truly not sure how much you can affect that. I mean, one would say in a general sense to prepare her , BEFORE the actual transition, by shortening and gathering the canter, sitting up a bit straighter, firming up your abdominals, maybe exhaling in steps . . . but, I think gaited horses just have trouble with this. They need to reorganize their feet, and it's a bit like watching sausage get made; MESSY.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
She has always done this (for the almost seven years I've had her), both with and without a rider. Does that mean she has always been out of balance?

ETA:
I only ask for the canter at either a halt or a walk.
 

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It might mean that, yes. Without seeing the horse and at least some pictures of the transition in the past, I wouldn't be able to swear on it.


Also, cantering from a halt or a walk actually calls for a great deal of concentration and collection so, unless the horse is actually naturally very collected, the horse might lose some of this concentration of gait during the transition which could cause falling through and out of balance during the transition down to a trot/gait/walk. What is the canter like if you ask for it from a trot/gait?
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The only way I can get her to canter from her gait is by make her go faster and faster until she is basically forced to change her footfall into the canter. It feels and looks disgusting; we both don't like that.
 

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Cantering from a walk is probably best for a gaited horse. The footfalls of the canter are much more closely aligned than that of most gaits. Walk-canter-walk might be the best thing to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Okay. If that's just how she moves, then that's fine; I can just two-point. I was just wondering if there was anything I could do to help easy her down so it's not as rough.

ETA:
Yes. I've been doing walk-canter-walk and she's great with those.
 

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It can be helpful, with downwards transitions, to think of it as starting a new gait. So, don't think about it as ending the canter, but starting the trot. Something about changing the thinking seems to influence me, at least, into executing it a lot better.

Actually, same goes for things like flying changes: if you think of it as asking -- from a canter -- for a new canter, it goes much better! Demystifies the process.
 

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She has always done this (for the almost seven years I've had her), both with and without a rider. Does that mean she has always been out of balance?
Some people think all horses move well when not being ridden. But horses, like people, vary in gracefulness and efficiency of movement. People may turn to physical therapists, sports coaches, etc. to help improve their movements and athletic skills. In the same way, skilled trainers can help horses learn to move better – especially when being ridden. Skilled trainers can also help riders learn to help their horses move better. While some of this can be learned from books and videos, nothing is quite as good as immediate feedback from a skilled instructor. A good instructor can also ride the horse, make evaluations, and experiment with various techniques to find what will help the individual horse in a particular situation.
 

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You might be able to train her to go from a canter to a walk, then right up to the trot you want. Practice it enough that you can reduce the amount of walking time until she is just taking a half walk step between the canter and trot. That may help her identify where to put her feet if it's not a balance/strength issue. Maybe she just needs it broken down so she knows what to do. Then try it from canter to trot. I'd think it's worth a try.
 

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Walker downward transition

Hi there from Virginia, USA. I grew up watching only sored Walkers at horse shows, but when I moved all the way to the east coast I began seeing pleasure walkers. My observation has been that a Walker needs to "hurry up with its hind legs to catch up with its front legs, so it can then slow down." That's the only way I can describe it. That is how Walkers move, and I don't think there's anything to be done about it. They almost look like they stumble into a downward transition, no matter the terrain. I've seen it many times.

And oh-so-important!!! Tennessee Walkers are never, EVER supposed to trot! EVER! It's the greatest insult to say a Walker can trot. It's my understanding that trotting can damage the running walk because it requires a complete rearrangement of the legs, thus muddying the purity of the running walk and confusing the horse. They were bred not to trot. I've heard spectators at shows disdainfully say that horses that "didn't MAKE IT as Walkers" became racking horses. These people almost spat their words out.

My specialty is European carriage driving with Welsh ponies. I don't do gaits and I find them very weird to feel. I literally can't ride a gaited horse!
 
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