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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I need help. My mare Eva's canter is insane, and nothing I've done or my trainer has done has really "fixed" it. She's been like this since square one. She was started under saddle about one year ago, and has been ridden very regularly ever since. At first her motorcycle-leaning-neck-braced-hollow-backed-shoulders-collapsing-in-hindquarters-spinning-out canter seemed like "normal" green horse stuff. But now that it's been about a year and we have made little if any progress.

We have certainly developed in other ways. At the walk and trot Eva accepts contact much more readily (rather than to brace against it). Her trot is much more steady and rhythmic. She can do some very basic lateral work. Her muscling and fitness has improved greatly. Health wise, she's doing great. Her saddle is professionally fitted, she has gotten massages which haven't revealed anything too concerning pain wise.

Something has to change though, because we just aren't getting any closer to having a somewhat normal canter. I think that part of it is attitude. It's as though this is the only way that Eva knows how to canter, and she doesn't trust me enough to listen to any of my input on how best to rebalance. If I try to be more assertive with her, she just gets worse -- bracing even more, spinning off course (we have come close to running into other horses, and one time earlier on when she was fighting with me she actually lost her balance and we both went down).

Her canter isn't even that great when she's on the longe line. Should I try to do more longe work with her in an effort to allow her to figure out her canter? I thought that it would be more beneficial for her to have a rider's input than to fly around on the end of the longe line, but as I said she ignores her rider and will in fact fight with her rider. If I do decide to do more longe work, I need to figure out how to do it in a way that will be productive rather than to have her just flying around hollow backed and braced against the line. My trainer has told me that she thinks side reins are necessary, however on the couple of occasions that we attempted to introduce side reins Eva became extremely tense and edgy -- it was clear to us that there was a chance she might panic so we backed off. To be clear, the side reins were very loose when we first attached them. They had obvious slack. We weren't trying to crank her head in or anything. My trainer has suggested that Vienna reins might be less panic-inducing. Does anyone have an opinion on that?

Would ground poles be beneficial? What exercises do you do when your horse's canter is just out of control? On the ground? Under saddle?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Her skills at backing up could be improved -- at least when doing it under saddle. She'll usually take about two/three steps back before she starts to get frustrated and resistant.

Leg yield is coming along pretty nicely at walk and trot. I still let her lead with her shoulders a bit more than a "real" leg yeild, but we can get some pretty nice steps under and across with that inside hind leg. Sometimes she tries to rush through me or ignore my leg, but we're making progress. We have some shoulder in coming along too. (At the canter she really doesn't care what I do with my leg though. I can dig my spur into her side as hard as I can and she'll still be throwing her weight against it.)

Her canter is pretty much horrible going either direction, but at walk/trot she definitely has a preference for going to the right as opposed to the left. If she's going to lean, it's usually into your left leg. She also loves to hate the corner where the mounting block lives. It's always a fight to get her to go into the corner. She acts like it's frightening, but it's been the same corner for the 6 months she's been there. She's fine with stepping into the corner and standing to be mounted. She's fine with going into the corner when we're going to the right -- but try to go into the corner while going to the left and it's suddenly the place where boogie men live and must be avoided at all costs.
 

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How is her saddle fit and back health? Do you canter in a full seat or in a two point? Is she the same, if you canter in a two point? Thing is, the pressure of a seat at a canter is greater than in any other gait due to the powerful movement and, if there is something wrong in a horses' back or in the saddle, it may not show up in any other gait, but cause extreme reactions at the canter. Learned it the hard way. She might be "running away" from discomfort.

Edit - sorry, I somehow missed where you mentioned her saddle fit and her being massaged. But maybe my point will help someone else.
 

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A video would be great.

I have a student with a horse who had a similar issue, however it was definitely trained into him. It has taken a good 8 months for him to learn to accept the aids, develop a connection from back to front, come truly round and through his body and build the muscles required for a "normal" canter. Now the canter can still become unbalanced, but it is much, much better.

So while riding around, bopping along and doing some laterals is all well and good, can you truly put the horse to work through her body? Once the horse is truly on the aids and working through her body correctly, the canter will be easy.
And if you do lunge, it should be with side reins and the inside one about 4 holes shorter than the outside. And not loose, useless things either. Really get someone to show you how to lunge correctly.
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A video would be awesome! I agree with Anebel. The canter is something that I find increasingly interesting, since I have been trying to teach my horse to canter. I can't offer any advice, but I would like to watch this thread (and maybe a video?) just for the sake of following along and learning!!

:lol:
 

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You said that her trot is coming along nicely, balanced, working through herself and such, then how is the upward transition to canter? I am a very firm believer that if the transition is bad, the canter will be bad and it's much better to bring it back down, get the trot under control and balanced again, then try again. If you cue the canter and the trot gets all rushy crazy and she runs up into canter, she won't be able to rebalance and check herself into good form.

To this day I can struggle with this with my guy. His walk-c transitions are so much better than his trot-c ones.

A vid would also be nice. And pics of your girl.. Because, pictures rock ;)
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
A video would be great.
So while riding around, bopping along and doing some laterals is all well and good, can you truly put the horse to work through her body? Once the horse is truly on the aids and working through her body correctly, the canter will be easy.
And if you do lunge, it should be with side reins and the inside one about 4 holes shorter than the outside. And not loose, useless things either. Really get someone to show you how to lunge correctly.
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We are still far from perfect when it comes to working through herself, or leg yeilding more than a few steps. She can "get" it for a few strides at a time, but then pops back up. It's not completely steady and even all of the time, although I'd like to think that we are getting a bit closer.

I have taken an assortment of longeing lessons and I feel that I do know how to longe fairly correctly. I'm not a master of it or anything, but I don't just throw them out there and chase them around then stand there examining my fingernails while they sail around me completely out of control (unlike some people I see). I agree that side reins would probably be useful and that in order to be useful they can't be completely slack, but my dilemma is how to introduce them in a way that reduces the chance of having her flip out (literally).

I will try to get some video and conformation photos soon. Her conformation isn't the greatest, so we may be working against that to some extent. The photos will be easier to obtain. I'm not great at setting things up for video taking. Here's a "glam" shot in the mean time. Just 'cause I think she's pretty. :D

 

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I would try going back to longing and try with side reins. You can start of with them very loose until she gets use to them or start with just one on the inside. Go slowly and don't rush it :)

My husband got me this book for my birthday and I LOVE it! Horse Training In-Hand: A Modern Guide to Working from the Ground by Ellen Schuthof-Lesmeister.
She takes you through from the very basics on up.

Good luck!
 

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I am also a very big fan of side reins when working my girl from the ground. It seems to have really helped with building the back muscles she needs to canter. Although introducing them was very easy, I think because she was used to wearing a harness for racing.
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We are still far from perfect when it comes to working through herself, or leg yeilding more than a few steps. She can "get" it for a few strides at a time, but then pops back up. It's not completely steady and even all of the time, although I'd like to think that we are getting a bit closer.

I have taken an assortment of longeing lessons and I feel that I do know how to longe fairly correctly. I'm not a master of it or anything, but I don't just throw them out there and chase them around then stand there examining my fingernails while they sail around me completely out of control (unlike some people I see). I agree that side reins would probably be useful and that in order to be useful they can't be completely slack, but my dilemma is how to introduce them in a way that reduces the chance of having her flip out (literally).

I will try to get some video and conformation photos soon. Her conformation isn't the greatest, so we may be working against that to some extent. The photos will be easier to obtain. I'm not great at setting things up for video taking. Here's a "glam" shot in the mean time. Just 'cause I think she's pretty. :D

Ok, well then there is your answer.
You have not gymnasticized the horse, helped her to build any of the correct muscles, NOR pushed her to learn things in a reasonable timeline. Of course she has not progressed.
If you think the horse will flip out, she will. If you train the horse properly, she will not.
In a year undersaddle I would expect the horse to be at least beginning collected work, counter canter, simple changes through walk, shoulder in, travers, renvers, half pass, medium gaits, etc.. not able to leg yield a few steps is not the fault of the horse, they can fly sideways quite quickly when so motivated. At the very least, a good working w/t/c with leg yeilds and a shoulder fore.
JMO. If you do not challenge the horse, she cannot learn new things. If you do not stress the muscles, they will not build. The mind is a muscle - challenge it.

ETA no horse ever in the whole world will randomly teach themselves the correct thing to do - you have to show them the way. You can't plunk a book in front of a child and leave them alone and then expect they will magically learn to read. You have to get down into the knitty gritty.
 

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Your mare is just lovely--she has such a sweet face.

I wanted to second side reins while on the longe line. Keep us updated!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Ok, well then there is your answer.
You have not gymnasticized the horse, helped her to build any of the correct muscles, NOR pushed her to learn things in a reasonable timeline. Of course she has not progressed.
If you think the horse will flip out, she will. If you train the horse properly, she will not.
In a year undersaddle I would expect the horse to be at least beginning collected work, counter canter, simple changes through walk, shoulder in, travers, renvers, half pass, medium gaits, etc.. not able to leg yield a few steps is not the fault of the horse, they can fly sideways quite quickly when so motivated. At the very least, a good working w/t/c with leg yeilds and a shoulder fore.
JMO. If you do not challenge the horse, she cannot learn new things. If you do not stress the muscles, they will not build. The mind is a muscle - challenge it.
Ouch.

I'd hate to think that it's entirely my fault that she hasn't progressed. She has been in training with our trainer since September. The trainer rides her twice a week, and I take a lesson on her once a week in addition to riding her another time or two during the week. She's ridden a good 4-5 times per week, and we do work on pushing her out of her comfort zone. The problem is, if I push too hard she'll fight with me (bracing, throwing her weight against my leg, tossing her head, bucking in very extreme cases). I'm not saying that this is okay or that I should give up the moment that she becomes resistant (because I don't -- I often make her deal with it anyway). I don't think it will do either of us any good to fight it out during the entire ride however. I'd end up heavy-handed, she would be either behind or above the bit, and we would both be tight and unhappy.

As a note, she IS capable of flying sideways. Is she working through herself and under control when she does so though? Nope. I'm talking about getting a somewhat decent leg yield. We do also have a basic shoulder in, and we have dabbled with renvers.

Like I said, I'm going to try to get a video. Hopefully you'll be able to see how we interact.

I wouldn't say that it's completely my fault that she has such a problem with the side reins either. I don't expect her to freak out when I put them on, but I am capable of reading her body language and observing that she is extremely tense and edgy. She isn't the only green horse I've been training. I have been bringing along our 3 yr old colt as well. He longes quite nicely, has no problem with the side reins, and his canter is far more controlled. He has been under saddle for less time overall as well.
 

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Ouch.

I'd hate to think that it's entirely my fault that she hasn't progressed. She has been in training with our trainer since September. The trainer rides her twice a week, and I take a lesson on her once a week in addition to riding her another time or two during the week. She's ridden a good 4-5 times per week, and we do work on pushing her out of her comfort zone. The problem is, if I push too hard she'll fight with me (bracing, throwing her weight against my leg, tossing her head, bucking in very extreme cases). I'm not saying that this is okay or that I should give up the moment that she becomes resistant (because I don't -- I often make her deal with it anyway). I don't think it will do either of us any good to fight it out during the entire ride however. I'd end up heavy-handed, she would be either behind or above the bit, and we would both be tight and unhappy.

As a note, she IS capable of flying sideways. Is she working through herself and under control when she does so though? Nope. I'm talking about getting a somewhat decent leg yield. We do also have a basic shoulder in, and we have dabbled with renvers.

Like I said, I'm going to try to get a video. Hopefully you'll be able to see how we interact.

I wouldn't say that it's completely my fault that she has such a problem with the side reins either. I don't expect her to freak out when I put them on, but I am capable of reading her body language and observing that she is extremely tense and edgy. She isn't the only green horse I've been training. I have been bringing along our 3 yr old colt as well. He longes quite nicely, has no problem with the side reins, and his canter is far more controlled. He has been under saddle for less time overall as well.

I never said to fight or be heavy handed.

Each horse needs a different approach. Most healthy horses can progress at a rate where a good w/t/c can be expected within 2 months of being undersaddle. Into a contact, forward, and being submissive.

There is obviously something not clicking with you and the mare.

I am not trying to be harsh or mean, but this is the reality. You asked for help, and I am saying that it is likely not going to be an easy fix, but will require an entire 180 of your training program and ideas and thoughts on training. Every time I begin to work with a new horse I always have to find a new, different way with each horse. Never is it forced or heavy handed - however the training should always result in a happy, cooperative athlete who is progressing well in their work. If that is not the outcome, it's time to take a serious look at what you are doing and who you are training with and whos methods you are following. Your current methods might work great on another horse - but maybe not for this mare. This, unfortunately, is horses and training, and the reason why we always need to be awares about who we are getting to help us and always avoid having the wool pulled over our eyes. I always expect to see progress in myself, my horses and my students week to week, let alone year to year. No progress is almost always an issue with the fundamental training program - and usually an unwillingness to adapt to the horse.

Good luck!
 

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I am not a fan of lunging and really not a fan of side reins. I find them static and unforgiving in a way that can be destructive. And, the horse can learn to fake a bend as well as learn to bend properly. They also don't help a horse to lighten the inside shoulder but can actually increase the shoulder load, if allowed.

That's why I prefer to ground drive. There is a positive connection with the horse to the driver's hands. You can do much more to train a proper bend and increase impulsion much more constructively.

Ground driving is something you need to learn how to do, however. It is not something people should just try without being shown how to do it properly. Find someone in your area, usually in a more dressage oriented barn, and ask to watch when they drive. Offer to pay for the lessons and be willing to really pay attention.

Sadly, few Americans are really interested in learning this skill, these days. You more often see it with the European trainers. Too bad, as it is an incredible tool.
 

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I looked in youtube for some videos on ground driving and found VERY FEW that use good technique. Most show people using the "off rein" as going behind the haunch, which is TERRIBLE technique. How can you ever develop a good connection and contact with the rein popping the mouth on every step? I saw one that had the correct method of bringing the off rein over the back to the hand. While this driver is a bit awkward, especially in the turn, you can see a fairly decent way to begin a horse.


Unfortunately, she does a bit more counterbend than she should.
 

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I'd like to see video of you lungeing her and riding her. It sins very similar to what I'm going through with my guy. He's green and is having to learn to use his body correctly. We have flight hats for every inch of improvement over the past year with my current trainer.

There are a lot of ideas I could potentially offer, but seeing the issues on video will help you get the advice (from everyone) that will be the most useful to both of you.
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Okay, I'm by no means an expert, but I did have a similar problem last summer. My mare had the same choppy,out-of-rythm, jumpy canter for a long time.
What do you usually do when you do the first canter transition? What do you ask from her, if all?


IMHO, the first few rounds of canter should be for the horse to loosen up and stretch her muscles :) I didn't ask anything from my mare the first rounds, maybe urged her a bit more so she would take longer strides. Most times she just went faster, but even that made it better. I asked nothing else.
After that, my trainer suggested we just do a lot of canter. No transitions for a while, just canter. So she could develop a rythm and built her muscles. Training to training, it became better. It was a slow, though. Her stride was still edgy and choppy. We used some poles for her to lenghten her step and tried to make the whole experience as enjoyable as possible (rewarding her with unmounting and giving her treats for good behaviour, just releasing all pressure, etc. ). The most important tip for me was not to rush with it. Some horses just take longer. She finally, after about 3/4 of a year, has developed a nice rythm. Now, she is the most pleasant horse I know when it comes to canter :)
I don't know if you got anything out of this small novel :p at least I tried.

Edit:

Oh, I forgot. Yes, I would advise lungeing for a longer period. Maybe she could have a rider on her back, too, but just keep cantering her on the lunge for longer and longer, until she relaxes into the rythm and finds out how to balance herself better. IMHO, it could help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for the constructive input Allison and Kyro!

I have had a couple of ground driving lessons, but by no means do I feel like an expert. I may look into learning more about proper technique, etc.

In terms of just allowing her to canter without asking a whole lot from her all at once, I agree that this might be a good approach (because she does just seem to get overwhelmed and even more upset/uptight when I'm trying to get her to rebalance). Unfortunately when I have tried to do this, I often find that she will suddenly veer off the rail and get completely out of control. I think she's trying to avoid going around the corners because she doesn't feel balanced -- but it just ends up a big mess because no matter where she goes in the arena naturally there is going to be a corner or a curve that she has to go around... it's not all straightaways. This has led me to wonder if she might be able to settle down a little more if we were in an especially large arena or even on a nice straight wide trail.

I do have an update! I just got back in from longeing her. With side reins! The last time we put the side reins on was at least a couple of months ago. As I said earlier, she looked like she was very tense and anxious about them at the time. Today I put on the side reins and she readily accepted them! She wasn't "in a frame", but I didn't see any of the same indications of panic setting it. I'd like to think that she was much more comfortable accepting the side reins this time around because my trainer and I have been working well with her under saddle.

I promise to get some video -- It may not happen until Monday though. Tomorrow the vet is coming to do dentals, then Saturday I have a formal dinner event to attend (yuck) and the arena will be pretty busy with lessons and such on Sunday. >_<
 

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Allison--I do agree that ground driving is a good tool to use if you know how to do it properly.

How do you feel about elastic side reins? ^^
 
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