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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My lesson horse hadn't been cantered that day before I got on him and I only gave him the chance to canter 5 or 6 20m circles at the start of the lesson as well as 3 or 4 small distances after jumps.
Later when I went to use the whole arena to canter I could feel that he had a lot of energy. He was stretching out and heavily using his muscles to produce a strong but not collected canter, and trying to round him up resulted in him going back to a fast trot. If I attempted to maintain the canter at the slower speed I could feel that his muscles were tensed and he was desperate to stretch out, which also meant that he did not want to collect.

In this case, would it be better for me to allow him to stretch out in a canter or controlled gallop for a bit before bringing him back and retrying collection? He normally has a beautiful collected canter but he was very pumped up with energy that morning, bucking a couple of times as well (which he only does if he has not been worked for a while - he had a week or two for christmas off so is still coming back into work from that).
 

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I don't know what kinda shape he's in, but if he is just coming back into work after time off, it may have been difficult for him. I would not push him and bring him back slowly.
 

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I would be 98% confident it sounds like a problem of not having the muscle tone to maintain collection. It takes a lot of muscles to be able to hold a canter like that, and it takes time and training to condition your horse to be able to do that. A lot of times bucking in a collected canter comes from falling on the forehand, maybe from not being forward enough, maybe being too crooked, maybe not having the muscle tone to hold it.

When you ask for a canter, let it be fast and strung out like that, then sit up for a few strides and bring him back into a more collected canter. If he quits to a trot, just politely bring him back to a canter to show that's not what you want, and start again. At the start, accept just a little slower canter for a few strides, then push him back out to his comfort level again. Just do a couple of strides at a time, and slowly increase over days or weeks until he's comfortable. I like to think of his body like an accordion, stretching him out and pushing him together, at any stride increment I ask for.

Remember: A collected canter should not be covering very much ground, but there should still be a lot of impulsion, so each stride should still have the energy and lift with suspension of the faster canter. Collection does not lose energy, don't let him get slow and dragging when you're playing with adding strides.
 

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A horse can't buck when trotting and some get pretty frisky on a chilly day.
I didn't know that! (about the trotting/bucking). So interesting!

How long do you need to get a horse in shape before you start thinking about asking for collection? We've been doing a lot of circles/serpentines and transitions with our horse around 3x a week for about 6 weeks. I really wasn't thinking we'd try to do anything additional until we can regularly be outside this spring, but maybe that is too soon?

Sorry to hijack the thread a bit! Thanks to the OP for bringing this up. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Unfortunately he actually puts the most bucks in while trotting - he tends to do a single step of canter and bucks at the same time before going back to a trot. We trotted most of the lesson and the only times he bucked was in the trot.

He has the muscle tone and fitness to be able to maintain the collected canter, he has a beautiful canter normally but after his 2 weeks of low work he hasn't had as much time to really stretch out. He is back in full work though now and doing well otherwise.

I am confident that I won't come off him if I let him stretch out - I haven't fallen off him yet with all the tricks he likes to pull and I've experienced him playing up so much that it's extremely easy for me to tell when he's about to buck (by changes in his movement and muscle tensing, plus the obvious ears). I don't however want to let him think that I will allow a stretched-out canter every time. Would it therefore be better to stretch him out at the start of my lesson a little, come back to a trot and do some other work then attempt a collected canter so the two different canters are clearly separated?
 

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A lot of exercises are used to train a horse to have a more engaged canter.

I'm guessing what you mean is instead of a long-strung out canter, you want one more organized and more up in front of you. Your seat, core, position, leg and hand control the canter.

For example if I'm on a schooled horse and am asking for a true collected canter, they already have the prework I half half and ask them to come up more and compress their frame. I feel like I'm holding them almost in my stomach and I shorten my reins according to how compressed the horse's body becomes. I half halt within that connection to have them soften and I feel them in my hand. I feel as you do more collected work, your timing has to be that much more spot on to maintain the suppleness and throughness.

Good exercises for developing collection are leg yield is important for lateral flexibility and balance. Nearly halt, half halt transitions which is the aid given to bring the horse back onto the hind end and articulate their hocks and sacrum. Playing with bigger canter stride and smaller canter stride for adjustability. The impulsion should not change between working, medium, extension or collected gaits but you can play with how active/fast or slow it is as a part of schooling. Sometimes going into a 10-12m circle helps with developing a collected canter because you have the inside hind more underneath the horse, so it's easier to kind of have that "jump up into your hand feeling"of the inside hind leg into the outside rein half halt. The exercise assists. Shoulder in or haunches in can also help. Once you have the collected gait, you can leg yield out to a 15 or 20m circle and maintain that same level of activity and engagement through your seat and core, leg and half halt. Lots of half halts, nearly halt half halt transition every time you feel the horse speed up but focus that you don't lose the activity or energy. When doing it I usually don't ask a horse to maintain collection for very long and if they lose activity I'll send them on to a working or medium gait for a little bit and then bring them back but it depends on how conditioned/trained the horse is. But if the horse is breaking into trot I would not consider it ready for a true collected canter but you can still work on developing it.

Useful for developing the canter is leg yielding from centerline to quarterline or quarterline to the rail and you use your hip and seat. I feel like my hips are almost like a big ice cream scoop bringing the horse up to my hand like I'm picking the hind legs up underneath and as my hip slides forward I half halt and add leg and sending the horse up into my hand. If the horse breaks just go back into canter. I ignore the bucking (though it can be an indication of something hurting) and just say onward this is our mission today. 10-12m circles and shallow loops are good exercises. Leg yielding and shoulder in are good basic exercises for developing a good canter. To me leg yield is a basic exercise, shoulder in is a little more advanced to do really well but it's an important basic to know.
 
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