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> Advice On Cantering Under Saddle
Lysette
post May 17 2007, 10:12 PM
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I'm working on getting my mare to canter under saddle and need a bit of advice. Moon is 10 years old and before I got her a year ago she only had a few weeks under saddle and riding was not yet a "normal" thing to her. I've been riding her pretty regularly for the past 8 months or so. We've been going quite slowly with things because while I have several years of riding experience, all of it was under the guidance of riding instructors. Plus, I'm simply not in a rush and having fun and enjoying my first horse is more important than meeting any timetables. She's been cantering well under saddle while being free lunged for several weeks and is good at the walk and trot with me in the saddle. The past couple of time I've ridden her, I've tried to get her to canter with me on her, and that hasn't gone as well. When I give her the verbal cue, she basically will just trot faster. The first time I finally got her to canter about 1/4 of the straightaway in an inside area. Today she just wanted to rush around at the trot and I may have gotten a few canter steps out of her. I'm working hard at just sitting still in the saddle so as not to throw her off and making sure she has plenty of rein so I do not jerk on her accidentally. I'm wondering what my next step should be.

Options:

A) Keep cantering her on the ground and continue working on her balance under saddle.
Positive: Safe, improving her balance and sharpness to verbal commands can only be a good thing.
Negative: May just be postponing the inevitable roughness of starting something new. I've never worked with a horse just learning to canter under saddle, so I'm not entirely certain how much to expect from her. She may be reacting in an entirely normal manner.

B) Keep pushing her on at the trot until she canters. Possibly start carrying a whip to back up my verbal cues.
Positive: Actually gets the mare to canter. She may just not really believe that I actually want her to do that or may just not want to canter with someone on her back. When working on the ground it took her a while to agree to actually canter rather than "play." She is also very sensitive to having her rider be perfectly balanced; I'm certain cantering with someone on her feels strange and she may just not want to deal with that.
Negative: I don't want to teach her to race into the canter. I don't want to push her if for some reason she isn't ready to do this.


I've currently been riding her in an indoor arena. There is also a round pen available if anyone thinks that might help.


The barn owner where she is boarded is also a trainer, so there are a couple more options. The problem is, Moon decided on her second day at the stable that she despises the barn owner. (This is strictly a personality conflict on Moon's part--she is used to very small, very quite people. The barn owner is much taller than me and has a commanding presence. This is a lady who deals with stallions and retraining spoilt horses so she has an air of authority.) The mare tends to "show out" whenever the barn owner is around. She does this even when I don't realize that the owner is around, so I know she isn't just reacting to me expecting her to be bad.

C) Have the barn owner give us a few lessons
Positive: Gets the opinion of a professional.
Negative: May be working the mare up for no real reason. There's always a risk when moving on to the next stage of training, and I don't want to add to her anxiety and get myself thrown off.

D) Tell the mare "life is tough" and hand her over to the barn owner and let her ride her a few times. I am quite confident that the barn owner would do nothing abusive to her.
Positive: Makes use of the professional's expertise. I'm not the one who gets thrown off.
Negative: Mare has to deal with a strange rider (only myself and her breeder have ever ridden her). Mare would be upset and unhappy and I don't want to get her stressed out if this is something I could handle myself. Just because she canters for the trainer doesn't necessarily mean she would canter for me.

Any words of advice would be appreaciated! Presently I'm leaning toward option A or B...
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Marilee
post May 17 2007, 10:39 PM
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Some horses really don't like to canter, trot is easier for them.

She may not be muscled up (she thinks.... if she is sensitive to you on her back) sufficiently to carry a rider and adjust to the weight if she is unsteady underneath.

You could try any of your ideas. Force will do it, but at what price?? I would think that some work (with the least amount of stress on the mind and legs) in the round pen at liberty.....so she can roll back and change directions and work both sides of her body evenly. Some horses are very developed on one side of the body over the other, so observe and try to equal out the sides of the horse. Speed from the trot is not the way to canter. She can canter (lift off) from the walk. So a slow, consistant, and visible or audible cue (I would say CanTER and raise my voice on the second syllable and show the whip or point it at her rear to encourage movement. ) Faster speed makes it harder for her to switch gears and then she might learn to crossfire or counterbend, which then creates more problems. So a nice engaged trot and then ask for the canter at liberty both ways, to build her up over time. Then if you want do it bitted up or on a lunge line, the same technique, slow, quiet, and steady. Not a negative experience. If your horse works better for you and you are calm, then that sounds good. I would rather have calm and smooth transitions than yelling and yerking and a scared off balance runaway horse. Then you will know when to climb up there and do it. You may even want to use a bareback pad (no spurs!) with a friend to assist on the lunge line if you need help (you with a helmet). You can feel the response of the horse better this way. You want this to be a positive experience.
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Riverside Arabia...
post May 17 2007, 10:55 PM
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Lysette,
I can very much relate!

I bred, raised and am training my mare myself. This has been a work in progress from the day she was born. Like you, I enjoy every step of the way and am in no big rush. She has recently turned 8 and just last fall was the first time I got her to canter. Up to that point she'd been my riding horse, my small town parade horse, and my broodmare (foaling 2 colts and pregnant with a filly to be born in 2006).

Now I am admittedly very inexperienced and can only share what I have been through. I had some bad wrecks in my day, so I was scared to push this unbroke mare beyond her or my own comfort. I was so nervous about being caught up in the saddle in the event of anything going wrong that I've started her bareback and that's the way we always ride. It's improved my seat and given me direct contact with the mare. There is indeed a safety issue, but I did all the ground work I possibly could before getting on- plus I'd raised her and knew every nuance of her personality.

In fact, I've done everything with her bareback- with just a halter and long line tied for reins. She has been saddled and sacked out and bridled, but for the riding I do (pleasure, trail)- bareback suffices.

Ok- on to the cantering thing. I was so nervous to try! And like your mare, initially last fall, all mine wanted to do was trot faster. Well- that was rough as heck, so I nixed that idea. I went back to the drawing board, and consulted my natural horsemanship program (Parelli)- I found that I had to work it all out on the ground first- consistent progression into a canter on cue, and consistent STOPPING on whoa- this is so important!

So I did all that, but it still wasn't enough- then, I got my brother to ride her while I long lined her- and he tried to cue her up into a canter. She just trotted faster. So we had to go into the Parelli progressions- there are 4 phases: ( from: http://www.parelli.com/info_page.php?page=...0Go!&t=lit) By using four distinct phases of polite assertiveness, the horse can quickly become a willing partner; happy to take our lead to the dance floor.

Phase 1 – Smile with all your cheeks (that's face cheeks and butt cheeks)! Take a long focus, stretch your hand out in front of you with the reins, and tighten your cheeks. If the horse has not moved forward from this suggestion, continue through the phases and be ready to release as soon as there's forward movement.
Phase 2 – Squeeze with your legs, starting at the top, then all the way down to your heels (turn your toes outward to make smooth contact). This is not a strong squeeze. If you are straining or getting cramps, it's too strong! Remember, a horse can feel a fly land on him.
Phase 3 – Smooch while holding the squeeze, do not let go with your legs.
Phase 4 – Spank. There are phases within this phase- To avoid creating a negative, resentful buck reaction- Start by spanking yourself lightly slap your shoulders from side to side with the end of a rope (like the 12' Lead section of the Horseman's Reins on the Natural Hackamore). Allow the rope to grow longer and keep up the flapping rhythm until it starts touching your horse on the sides of his hindquarters, letting it get progressively stronger if he has not responded.
The moment your horse responds, release your legs, quit spanking, and keep smiling. If he stops or slows, repeat the phases again. Always begin with Phase 1.

So- my brother used those phases to get her up into the canter- while I was on the long line to control if need be. (There was no need- she was great! biggrin.gif )
This year, after a long winter off, we had to start over. I found my mare was much more receptive to move out into the canter if she was uninhibited by spacial restrictions- that is, get her out into a large area. Again, make sure you have the WHOA in hand before going up to the next stage of speed!

Another great bit of advice was a topic I'd found on this site about having a specific cue for the canter (you can do a search for canter cues)- not to confuse with any other gait. I've worked with my horse to teach her that I bring my life up for a walk, I squeeze for a trot, and I softly make a "kiss" sound for a canter.

Last but not least, to control the mare's desire to just break into a faster and faster trot, work to get the transition from a walk to a canter. It sounds difficult- but if you cue her with the kiss to canter and she understands it and performs it consistently, you'll get a smoother and more controlled transition into a more collected canter.

Best of luck! The sense of accomplishment is well worth the time and effort!
Kristen
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Riverside Arabia...
post May 17 2007, 10:56 PM
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Marilee,
Great minds think alike! biggrin.gif tongue.gif
We must have been typing at almost the same time!
Kristen
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CenturyOak
post May 18 2007, 02:11 AM
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If you've got a quiet buddy horse you can ride her with it might help to trot them together, then when you're ready cue her for the canter and have the buddy horse canter as well. This has worked well with our young ones to let them understand they can canter with a rider. It works really well if you are on a trail or a pasture with a slight hill (easier to canter up a hill rather than trotting it wink.gif ) but an arena will work just as well. I always train the voice cue for a canter on the lunge as a kiss, trot is a cluck so it's easier for them to understand the difference once Im on their backs as well smile.gif
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larapintavian
post May 18 2007, 02:30 PM
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I too, many years ago, had to teach my own horses to canter ..... and I had very little formal training ....just a few saddle seat lessons. Thank goodness I was learning Competitive Trail Riding with very good mentors AND learning to canter with another horse out in the open IS easier.

That said ... I wouldn't recommend doing it that way, just because it worked for me and others. I also ended up having to relearn and retrain a lot when I DID learn the proper, universally accepted leg cues, etc.

(From your post it seems as if you are "chasing" her into the canter rather than knowing the appropriate leg cues and enabling her to figure out what you are asking..... this is something that cannot be learned from a book.)

I see SO MUCH BETTER RESULTS when the rider is taking lessons on their horse (even a very green horse), preferably with a dressage or eventing oriented instructor/trainer. BOTH horse and rider learn correctly. This pays off later when both do NOT have to re-learn balance, LEG cues, etc. If it ever becomes necessary to place the horse with another person, and that horse has NOT been taught the proper leg cues, etc., the poor horse is the one who suffers.

Among instructors, eventing oriented people are very used to teaching the horse and rider PAIR. They are strongly dressage oriented, but are also all round horsemen both inside and outside the ring. (Dressage, of course, is basic for horse and rider to ALL disciplines and styles of riding.) Horse and rider training together is slower, but does work well and gets the basics solidly established ... you're also not turning your horse over to a stranger and then left to figure out how to ride that horse when it comes back to you, or in the case above, handing it to someone the horse has already displayed a dislike for. YOU are in controll and can question and recieve REASONS for each thing you're asked to try.With each lesson, you'll have goals to accomplish, and a proceedure for getting it done.

If you are lucky enough to have someone near you with a BHS certificate, they have the best of credentials. BHS certified instructors are difficult to find, but there are also others with excellent credentials of other types (USEA certified, national level USPC, etc.). Some of these instructors require you to bring your horse and come to their barn for lessons, while many others are willing to travel to your barn .... if your BO will allow them there.

I might add that this need not be very expensive .... we did it on a shoestring budget (my daughter's horses learning with HER on board, under the supervision of an excellent intructor/trainer), Now people love to get hold of a horse my daughter has started because they are so solid in their basics, willing and responsive.... no shortcuts or gimmicks used.

Lessons may be taken on either a weekly, two week intervals , or even monthly basis ... I've seen all of them be successful, it just depends on the individual horse/rider pair how quickly they progress. But, generally, both horse and rider end up being happier campers than going it alone.
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Lysette
post May 18 2007, 04:13 PM
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Thank you for all your wonderful replies! I am still sorting through all the good information... I am thinking I will work with getting a solid walk-canter transition before I try riding the canter again. She does not race into the canter from the trot when lunging.

One more thing I wanted to ask--is it better to add the leg cues her very first times cantering with a rider? I ask this because I have been told it is better to stick strictly with the voice cue her first lessons and then in later lessons add the leg cue to the voice cue.
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larapintavian
post May 18 2007, 04:36 PM
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We use the leg cue from the beginning ( assuming, of course, that the mare doesn't freak out whenever a leg bumps her). That way the horse comes to associate the leg with the voice command so when you no longer want to use the voice (such as in the show ring or dressage court) the animal doesn't have to re-learn with the leg ... it has already learned that the leg cue and body position mean canter.

Forgot to ask, do you have another knowledgeable person at your barn (other than the BO since your mare tends to tense up in her presence) who can watch you when you attempt the canter? A lot of times an observer can see things of which the rider, when dealing with a green horse, may be unaware ... little things that might be effecting the ride. That extra set of "eyes" is one thing that makes lessons (and I include group lessons) so valuable. However, anyone with knowledge and observation skills can be of assistance. Even now, Chrissi will sometimes ask me to watch her on a certain horse and tell her what I see. Now, she is FAR more trained than I, but if something isn't going quite right she starts looking for "why" the results are not as planned. I might see something that she isn't feeling, and while I do not know how to correct whatever isn't quite right, she can use my observation to appropriately adjust her technique.

(OT, but I might add here that good instructors often attend clinics, coaching sessions, etc. themselves both as riders and auditors, to keep their own skills polished.....beware the instructor who thinks he/she knows it all and never seeks out an evaluation of his/her skills both as a rider and a teacher.)
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almoussami
post May 18 2007, 06:48 PM
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Hi Lysette
I read your concern about the Canter ..You mentionned that your mare strike the canter on the Lunge line whithout hesitation but When On her Back she rushes into a Fast Trot ..
What the mare is telling us is that I am getting confusing signals and My option is To run Away from Work ..
Let me take you Step By step into Initiating the Canter ..
1- You work daily with her on walk and Trot both directions ..15 to 20minutes
2-when you reverse directions try to teach her at the walk the leg yielding(the directions must be reversed diagonally in the riding arena)....After few days of this work try to proceed into the Leg Yirelding in a sitting trot ..
(as few readers suggested try to have someone on the ground to help you with the Leg Yielding)
3-Once the leg yielding in a sitting trot is attained then we are ready to move to a canter transition ..With my students and their horses I take one direction at a time usually the left direction as Most horses are left handed and it is their easiest direction to start with ..
Before the canter i work my horse 3 t0 4 laps to the right so when I reverse, the horse is ready to releave the work of his left hind to his right hind..
After the 4th lap i will go into a sitting trot and try my reverse, once i reach the center of the ring I ask my horse for a Leg Yielding(Your Left Leg Is 4 inches behind the Girth close your Left Hand on The Reins to Get A slight bent to the left ,Outside leg dormant on the horse at the girtht..
One stride before reaching the wall put A slight pressure with your outside leg(right one)While your Right seat bone engaging the seat and your outside rein always on the horses neck the horse is obliged to strike with his hind right leg to give you a smooth transition into a left canter ..after few stride bring your mare to a trot while rewarding her for using properly her hind right leg while you gave her the proper aids..
Try this for few days and when you are pleased whith the results then you can continue into the canter to teach you mare how to use herself accordingly ..
I hope this will help a bit ..
Keep us posted ..
(by the way I have a certified license as A trainer from Europe and The Middle east ...Any question you have let me know )
Bachir/Al Moussami
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Liz Allen
post May 20 2007, 02:01 AM
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Hi Lysette

I'll just add in a few more cents worth as it sounds like you have been given really good advice from other people on this forum.
It's great your mare isn't lazy on the lunge and will listen to the cue to canter, however does she canter easily on the lunge? I.e is she balance, doesn't dis-unit or 4 beat? Because if she can't canter properly on the lunge she's going to have even more trouble with a rider on her back. When I started my mare under saddle I backed her bareback with a halter, I then left her for a while since she didn't object to this and lunged her with side reins to build up muscle and balance.
When I started riding her again I concentrated one the walk and trot and getting balance and good rhythm with them first. The problem with Arabians when riding them is they have awful canters (most of them anyway) and the dressage riders giggle at this and some call it the 'Arab Waltz'! When I say they have awful canters I mean they usually have a 4 beat canter or almost a 4 beat and a lot of them dis-unit easily when you change where your legs are. This was confirmed for me when a judge showed me the Purebred Arabian Gelding Undersaddle class from the Australian National Championships from about 5 or so years ago, most of them did not display a 3 beat canter.

I jalso ust wanted to say Lysette is that I think cantering on an Arabian (particularly in an arena) is particularly difficult especially with a green horse.
I personally would seek help and if you horse is frightened by this lady who owns the place you horse is kept at I would get someone else as I once had lessons with another horse who was a particularly sensitive mare and she hated and was frightened by this dressage instuctor and it just wasn't worth it as she would muck up every time she was around him and I got no where.

Good luck and I am sure you will fix this problem very soon smile.gif

Liz

smile.gif
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Al Sahra Arabian...
post May 21 2007, 09:29 PM
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Hi,

I had a half-Arabian mare that resisted the canter--it was because she was unbalanced with a rider. ohmy.gif You need to get the mare trotting up under herself well, then give her the cue to canter--and as others have indicated, follow it up with a whip tap if she doesn't respond. Ask at first on a straight wall, be happy with two or three strides, and let he go back to trot. After she understands that you are asking for only a few strides, she will relax and give them to you. Gradually ask for more, and be sure the you have anough width at the end of the arena to make a half of a sixty meter circle. With patience, your horse will learn to balance you and herself at the canter. rolleyes.gif

I had a trainer who wanted me to "dump" my mare. I worked with her myself, and attended dressage clinics with her. Within 18 months, that little 14'2" hand half-Arab mare was beating expensive warmbloods at lower-level dressage! laugh.gif

Be patient, caring and persistent--and you will get a horse that will not only be able to canter with you well, but will be able to do more and more as you build on the proper balance and training that you are providing now.

Best wishes

Sue smile.gif
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LMGG
post May 22 2007, 02:03 PM
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An unbalance rider and a green horse have difficulties making the transition for any gait to the canter. I really like the advice of many, partiuclarly Bashir.

The first question is what gait are you going to be using as the transition into a canter, and it will have to be the trot. It is the only gait with significant forward impulsion. And, the horse does sometime "fall" into the canter as it is easier than to keep up the trot, but the circle method does make it much easier.

Some say, that while on the rail, one can slightly tip the horse's nose to the rail, and sitting down at the trot, put more weight on your outside hip, in order to engage the horse's outside hind leg under it for balance, and while using your outside leg on or just behnd the girth, thus (in theory) causing the horse to strike out on the proper lead as it moves off into the canter.

But the best of all possible worlds, is as said, get someone with experience to observe you.

LMG (aka LMGG)
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