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Canter Question


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#1 Lysette

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 01:34 PM

Well, after putting it off for longer than I care to admit I'm finally getting my mare to canter under saddle with me. We've been working on it for about the past week and a half or so and I'm having an issue that I want to check with the more experienced about!

Moon has been picking up the canter well while being free lunged, but when I'm riding her she tends to break into a very fast trot before she will give me the canter. I'm working hard at sitting deep and quiet and giving her plenty of rein, so I don't think I'm pulling her back.
1. Is this just a normal learning stage where she is trying to figure out how to balance at the gait with me on her? Do I just keep cuing her on through the yucky trot until she canters?
2. Is this a sign that she needs to spend more time cantering on the lunge and doing circles with me in the saddle to improve her balance?
3. Since I don't want her to get in the habit of racing into the canter, do I need to put my foot down now and bring her back to a halt when she gives me the fast trot instead of the canter I asked for?

Thanks so much for your help! I'm ashamed of how long we've stuck to the walk and trot but I'm determined to conquer the canter!
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#2 VanAlma

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 02:28 AM

First of all :) The canter can be a very tedious endeavor depending on the horse. In my experience, the same verbal cue you use on the lunge needs to be used in the saddle (I don't remember if you said you had one).
I've trained lots of horses to canter and not one just picked it up perfectly in the beginning stages. My experience has been do the trot to canter thing first. Your horse doesn't know what you want, which naturally makes her uncomfortable. Think of the first time you asked for a trot. They'll hesistate and then go slow, sometimes stopping until you urge that a trot is what you really want. Sometimes they'll trot really fast because that's what they think you want, too, which I think just depends on the personality and physical capabilities of the horse. From the trot to canter, she'll get used to your body cues and eventually will put 1 x 1 together. Once she starts becoming more reliable with that then you can start from the walk. She'll probably race but you never know. I've always found the best step once cantering is just letting them go around at their speed (as long as it wasn't dangerous) and just letting them know you want that gait. If they go around a time or 2 let them stop. It's tiring for them and can be awkward with a person on their back.
A mistake I made years ago training a "racer" just like your saying is getting frustrated and pulling her back to a walk. That just confused her because I was asking her to go forward and then pulling her back. Forward then back. My poor mare. If you want the canter, ask for it until the horse gives it to you but that cue has GOT to be there the whole time. Your release of the leg cue and calmness of body will be the reward that they have chosen the correct thing to do.
Sorry for being so long winded. I just "formally" cantered a greenie for the first time yesterday so had to go back into my training vault and pull out stuff I hadn't thought about in years. Please keep us posted.

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#3 VanAlma

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 02:31 AM

Oh, and my old trainer always said "let 'em know you're going to ask for something". Meaning: have a hand cue, which was usually a finesse for me and saying their name quietly. That mentally focuses and prepares them to think about what you're going to ask them.

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#4 Lysette

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 12:12 PM

Thank you so much! Yes, we've been working off the same verbal command from the ground and the saddle. I really like the idea of "let 'em know you're going to ask for something" and while I have been working on making sure she was focused on me before cuing her, I probably do need something a little more formal!
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#5 VanAlma

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 06:18 PM

Well, I'm looking for an update to see how the little lady is doing.

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#6 Lysette

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 06:48 PM

Just realized I hadn't updated! We're making some very good progress. A little after my last post I started carrying a crop again and after she tried to ignore my verbal cue I gave her a small tap and that seems to have cleared things up. Happily, I've only ever popped her in the past when her mind was really wandering and she was trying to ignore me--so she knows the whip does *not* mean "go faster" but rather "pay attention to what the human is saying!" I've been working on making certain she is entirely focused before asking her--flexing my fingers a bit on the reins seems to help do the trick. She's cantering on the left lead fairly solidly, we're still working on solidifying the right. She still needs a tap every now and then, but that is tapering off nicely.The weather had been a bit wetter than I would like, so we've been sticking mostly to the long sides of the ring and not taking the corners so much. A few months ago she slipped badly in the mud and went down to her knees when I was on top of her, riding without stirrups, so I've been quite cautious whenever the ring is a bit damp.
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#7 ponygirl

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Posted 18 June 2010 - 03:53 AM

When teaching the canter first of all there are many right ways. I find a nice big arena and fit the horse with reins down to the knees. I smack the reins lightly on each time of the neck once to ask for the canter and give the cue to canter. the horse will start out at a faster canter but that is ok for now. I don't do anything else until( never nag the horse with repeating the cue until he breaks the canter otherwise he will begin to ignore you) the horse breaks the canter and then i repeat the cue and tapping with the reins. The horse will begin to slow down the canter on their own to conserve energy and you will see the horse begin to collect and go at the pace you want. this will take lots of practice.
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#8 hansi

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Posted 01 December 2010 - 01:44 PM

Well, after putting it off for longer than I care to admit I'm finally getting my mare to canter under saddle with me. We've been working on it for about the past week and a half or so and I'm having an issue that I want to check with the more experienced about!

Moon has been picking up the canter well while being free lunged, but when I'm riding her she tends to break into a very fast trot before she will give me the canter. I'm working hard at sitting deep and quiet and giving her plenty of rein, so I don't think I'm pulling her back.
1. Is this just a normal learning stage where she is trying to figure out how to balance at the gait with me on her? Do I just keep cuing her on through the yucky trot until she canters?
2. Is this a sign that she needs to spend more time cantering on the lunge and doing circles with me in the saddle to improve her balance?
3. Since I don't want her to get in the habit of racing into the canter, do I need to put my foot down now and bring her back to a halt when she gives me the fast trot instead of the canter I asked for?

Thanks so much for your help! I'm ashamed of how long we've stuck to the walk and trot but I'm determined to conquer the canter!



Lysette, ride down the long wall of an arena. Ride deep into the corner (no noodle please) and when you come out of the short corner it is easy to go into a canter.
Actually a horse, just started in training, should not be asked to canter for at least the first 3-4 months. Its all walk and trott to become gymnastiziced and balanced under the rider. Once balanced, the canter is easy to achieve.
It is also important to start a young horse out with wearing blind spurs, to enforce the aids, because we females dont have that strong calf muscle pressure. However, one has to learn to use them, meaning one has to exercise one's own ancles, and of course has the heels way down, and toes up and feet almost paralel to the horse.
iF THIS IS REVERSED, THERE IS NO MUSCLE STRENGTH IN THE CALFS. A rider "siting in the horse" has no problems with that, it comes automatic.

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#9 VanAlma

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Posted 07 January 2011 - 06:11 PM

First of all, I'd love an update to see how you're progressing and what your experience has been.
For me, Bubba went through a tight phase and it was all my fault. He was getting a little heavy on the reins and I wasn't correcting myself, which caused him to be stiff and unbalanced.
Well, I re-thought my approach and took him into my pasture and gave him a looser rein and just cantered around and didn't allow myself to really pick the reins up for collection. Talk about a different horse! Once he realized I wasn't going to "hold" him, for lack of a better way to put it, he began holding himself underneath me. He became very balanced and cadenced and started coming into a frame without a formal request. I haven't done that a lot, but it has really helped ME re-adjust MY riding instead of attempting to adjust the horse. Mentally, the field helped. Don't know why. It's translating into the ring.
Anyway, that's my 2 cents on practicing the canter. An update? Please?

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#10 VanAlma

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 01:33 PM

Well, I'll update on my progress (cough cough) and see how others are doing.
I watched a series where a dressage trainer encouraged only a few strides at a canter and then bringing the horse back to a walk for a few strides and then back up the canter etc. It is hard on a horse, but good and sometimes necessary to teach them control. I tried it with Bubba and he did really well. He tried 110% for me and had some excellent up transitions to the canter, some not so good transitions, but was really sitting on his butt and sinking into the canter in a very controlled manner. I did this both ways a few times, went back and forth, and it really helped him be collected and helped me feel how he should feel. The key is that you bring them down before they can fall apart (or right when they fall apart), which teaches them control. I have not had the footing to do this again, but will practice it when we dry out. I didn't do it for long as this is something that could burn a horse out, so I quit when he was still working 110% for me, pet him, dropped the reins and cooled him off. I would receommend this to those trying to work on the canter BUT on a horse that is good with up transitions from the trot and is mentally and physically ready to work hard. Here's one of the cool pics my boarder got of us.

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  • Bubba Cantering 2 (C. Miller).jpg

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#11 An American Breeder

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 02:08 PM

I believe I will be here shortly. I am working on placing the 2 fillies from the "rescue mare" and have a young filly/mare coming, started. I suspect we will be working a long time for the walk/trot under saddle before going to the canter. I am told she canters okay but then wants to rush and start bucking. For me I don't care for that. Stay tuned.

#12 JacqueB

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 02:43 PM

Well, I'll update on my progress (cough cough) and see how others are doing.
I watched a series where a dressage trainer encouraged only a few strides at a canter and then bringing the horse back to a walk for a few strides and then back up the canter etc. It is hard on a horse, but good and sometimes necessary to teach them control. I tried it with Bubba and he did really well. He tried 110% for me and had some excellent up transitions to the canter, some not so good transitions, but was really sitting on his butt and sinking into the canter in a very controlled manner. I did this both ways a few times, went back and forth, and it really helped him be collected and helped me feel how he should feel. The key is that you bring them down before they can fall apart (or right when they fall apart), which teaches them control. I have not had the footing to do this again, but will practice it when we dry out. I didn't do it for long as this is something that could burn a horse out, so I quit when he was still working 110% for me, pet him, dropped the reins and cooled him off. I would receommend this to those trying to work on the canter BUT on a horse that is good with up transitions from the trot and is mentally and physically ready to work hard. Here's one of the cool pics my boarder got of us.

That's a great looking horse, I'm so happy for you- especially being a gelding - can always ride 'em & no emotional ying/yang!
I'm going to suggest something that is probably a quibble - very dressage of me to bring it up - I would suggest that Bubba was not "collected" in his canter, simply balanced with control over his body as you suggested. Collected, I haven't looked it up, but that is quite specific & what you are working on is him developing the muscling & showing him how he can be in control of his body - muscle memory for balancing & control for the transitioning & during the canter, not necessarily a collected canter which comes later in the dressage pyramid of work.
Keep up the good work & love the pictures.
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#13 VanAlma

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 07:25 PM

Well, since I have nothing other than riding updates, I figured I'd add some new stories to this thread.
Bubba's canter is sometimes amazing. He has come along so much in the past year I can't always believe it. He is finally a big boy - going to be 7 in March - and is showing it physically and mentally. This has helped the canter.
We are beginning controlled, slow, up-transitions to the canter right now from the walk. It doesn't always happen. Usually, I'm to fault if it doesn't happen. Sometimes he gets over anxious and knows what I want and needs some refining in doing what I want versus anticipating. The other day, I was cantering both ways and I had stopped, done a turn on the haunches (another thing we're working on in small increments) and he picked up the canter from a halt. I didn't really even mean it but, clearly, I was thinking it and since I was preparing and he knew what I wanted it happened. He sat down, lifted in the front, and off we went. :monopoly_horse:
He can hold it for much longer now and we're beginning to get better through the corners and better with keeping lift off the front end. I have to admit, I'm getting better myself: more in shape, stronger and more flexible. It helps a lot.
Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I wish I had some pics of video but I rarely have someone around that can do that. Maybe sometime soon!

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#14 desertrat

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 02:12 PM

Go Bubba! Keep up the good work!



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