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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone, this is my first post. I am an junior hunter rider (3 foot children's hunters) and I just got a new hunter 2 months ago after a 6 month break from riding. He is a lovely horse, amazing jump and movement. But we have one problem here: When I am flatting only, and I pick up the canter on the left lead he will swap on the long sides of the arena after a couple steps. When I first got him it wasn't bad but its been getting worse and worse. It is not a soundness or soreness issue as he just got injections and a full vet check. I have tried keeping him intensely bent to the inside with both of my hands to the outside which worked for a few times then he swapped. He gives me warning when he is going to swap by hopping a bit and putting his head up and when I que him to canter forward or pull either of my reins he swaps. I have also tried holding firmly my outside rein which kinda works but he still swaps eventually. When I canter him on the long side, he tries to come off the wall and I pull him back or push him to the wall with my inside leg then he swaps. He is extremely sensitive and I believe the issue is my own error and lack of balance because I had two of my friends ride him and he didn't swap. I have tried changing each body part individually as well as not doing anything and letting him canter loosely and it feels like nothing is working and my trainer is at a loss because he has no idea what I am doing to make him swap either. I am at a loss, any advice will help. When he does swap I usually just trot then pick up the canter again only for him to swap a few strides later. I believe I am doing something to que him to swap but I have no idea what I am doing and my trainer can't figure it out either.
 

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Your problem may be the result of a number of issues but let's consider only two.

Your horse may simply feel more comfortable on a particular lead. This may be the result of physical development and flexibility. If so, the solution might be proper exercising, particularly lateral exercises. The other riders may not experience the lead changes because of their knowing or unknowing prevention of attempts.

But let's consider another possibility. When the horse is in a particular lead, are you moving with the horse in that lead? If the horse is in the left lead, for example, its left hip and shoulder will be moving slightly in advance of its right hip and shoulder. This is similar to when a person skips with his or her left hip in advance of the right. Therefore, when your horse is in the left lead, your left hip and left shoulder should be slightly in advance of your right hip and shoulder. In addition, your right leg should be slightly back. In the right lead, your body parts should be reversed.
 

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I am terrible at cantering, so take what I have to say with several grains of salt.

My understanding is that the signal for cantering involves your outside leg moving back a little and pushing. So if you want him to pick up the left lead, for instance you'd push him with your right leg. So, imagine this:
  1. Your horse is very well trained and understands this signal clearly: I want you to canter on the other lead.
  2. He has a particular spot in the arena where he ducks into the middle.
  3. You try to push him back over with your leg.
  4. He interprets this as meaning you want a counter-canter.
Could that be the case? If so, your problem isn't him lead swapping, it's him ducking in. Maybe that seems like a distinction without a difference, but I think you'd handle it different ways. For instance, work him a lot at that spot just walking and trotting, and making sure you always keep him at the rail. Or, what I did in a similar situation, is try to really keep your head up and eyes on where you are going, not where you think he is going to go. Once your horse starts ducking in at a particular spot, you tend to start anticipating that, then your body sort of acts like it knows he's going to do it, and he takes that as a signal that you're OK with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Your problem may be the result of a number of issues but let's consider only two.

Your horse may simply feel more comfortable on a particular lead. This may be the result of physical development and flexibility. If so, the solution might be proper exercising, particularly lateral exercises. The other riders may not experience the lead changes because of their knowing or unknowing prevention of attempts.

But let's consider another possibility. When the horse is in a particular lead, are you moving with the horse in that lead? If the horse is in the left lead, for example, its left hip and shoulder will be moving slightly in advance of its right hip and shoulder. This is similar to when a person skips with his or her left hip in advance of the right. Therefore, when your horse is in the left lead, your left hip and left shoulder should be slightly in advance of your right hip and shoulder. In addition, your right leg should be slightly back. In the right lead, your body parts should be reversed.

Thank you so much I am going to try that today positioning my body differently. He is an extremely well trained horse with many buttons and I feel like an uneducated rider on him! Should I step into my right or left stirrup more or keep the pressure even? I also do think he prefers the right lead of course but how could I get him more fit and comfortable on the left lead if he swaps so much? thank you again
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I am terrible at cantering, so take what I have to say with several grains of salt.

My understanding is that the signal for cantering involves your outside leg moving back a little and pushing. So if you want him to pick up the left lead, for instance you'd push him with your right leg. So, imagine this:
  1. Your horse is very well trained and understands this signal clearly: I want you to canter on the other lead.
  2. He has a particular spot in the arena where he ducks into the middle.
  3. You try to push him back over with your leg.
  4. He interprets this as meaning you want a counter-canter.
Could that be the case? If so, your problem isn't him lead swapping, it's him ducking in. Maybe that seems like a distinction without a difference, but I think you'd handle it different ways. For instance, work him a lot at that spot just walking and trotting, and making sure you always keep him at the rail. Or, what I did in a similar situation, is try to really keep your head up and eyes on where you are going, not where you think he is going to go. Once your horse starts ducking in at a particular spot, you tend to start anticipating that, then your body sort of acts like it knows he's going to do it, and he takes that as a signal that you're OK with it.
Wow that is spot on and yes, at the far end of the ring at this one spot is his "swap spot" lately where he comes off the wall and swaps. But sometimes he is so strong I cannot keep him on the wall so when he does come off what should I do? because if I push him back over he will swap?
 

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So he swaps on the far end of the ring? Is he gravitating towards the gate? Because that would be a well-known behavior (usually known as gate-sour). If he is becoming gate-sour, there are quite a few ways to correct it but it is a rather long process, not just a technique on how to ride that particular spot.

My mare was gate sour. At first it was evident at all gaits and canter was the last gait that I got fixed. This could be the reverse - first showing at canter.
 

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You may be sitting crooked, in that your whole body is twisted slightly to the right. You may benefit from physio/massage work. You can try cantering with your inside hand behind your back as that will open you to the inside.

How are you riding the canter? I'm assuming in a half seat? Do you know how to do changes or is he all auto changes? It good that hes not the type who thinks the inside lead is the only lead, you need the counter canter for Eq classes. I would focus on correcting yourself vs correcting him.

How's your lateral work? You can exaggerate the canter by riding a shoulder fore or start your canter on the quarter line and leg yield to the wall gradually. This will help keep that inside bend. Can also do a traveres down the long side, they may be more difficult.
You might also want to play with doing progressing circles down the rail to establish the feeling of the inside bend.
 

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Thank you so much I am going to try that today positioning my body differently. He is an extremely well trained horse with many buttons and I feel like an uneducated rider on him! Should I step into my right or left stirrup more or keep the pressure even? I also do think he prefers the right lead of course but how could I get him more fit and comfortable on the left lead if he swaps so much? thank you again
While there are instances where putting extra weight on one stirrup can be beneficial, cantering normally does not call for this.

Lateral work, especially work in the shoulder-in, was designed to build the strength and flexibility of the inside leg (the leg on the concave side of the horse's body). For those not familiar with the shoulder-in, simply riding deeply into the corners of an area can also prove beneficial.

Building the strength and flexibility of a horse's hindquarters promotes proper canter alignment with the horse's body in line with the direction of movement. A horse without this strength and flexibility draws its hindquarters to the inside to avoid the effort required by the inside hind leg when it reaches further beneath the horse's body while cantering.

This natural tendency for the horse to draw its hindquarters inward is also an argument against using outward leg pressure to ask for the canter lead.
 
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