View Full Version : new to long canters--advice please?

Apr. 10, 2010, 09:19 PM
my haflinger and i are doing so well together lately, and have begun cantering a fair bit on the trails.
today we rode out with two of her gelding buddies and we had a long, easy canter around a very large field. she was soft, came back to me and felt very happy to be moving at speed, and there was no sense of rushing.

i've been mostly a walk/trot gal and while i feel pretty stable while cantering on her, there are moments here and there when i start to feel a bit unbalanced.
i balance pretty well in two point or on her back as we go, and am learning how to stand in the stirrups, sit and stay balanced on her while going at all gaits.

btw, her saddle fits her perfectly, her back is 'chiro-perfect' according to the last two chiro vets who have checked her out, and she is responsive and happy in the western low port bit; so all systems are go.

so, what excersises should i work on to help make me a very stable canterer over hill and dale?

Apr. 11, 2010, 10:32 AM
You can do two point at the walk and trot, H/J type exercises to strengthen yourself, I think there is a good book about exercises for riders out there, Yoga is good, but IMHO you really need to canter more often to get good at cantering. The motion of the gait, the speed of it, the manner in which they transition up or down all need to be gotten used to. You can use an arena for this, in fact that is what they are best for, and practice turning, passing through cones, stopping at your spot, starting at your spot, collecting and extending.
I could walk and trot for hours but cantering was very hard for me when I started riding again, it was too fast, and too much motion on the part of the horse.

ETA, and cantering downhill has terrified me since I was young and had a nasty accident. Weight in the heels, absorbing shock with the ankles and knees, feet maybe a little forward even, very light seat all worked for me to make it less unbalanced.

Apr. 11, 2010, 09:33 PM
It doesn't hurt to grab mane for a bit to help stabilize yourself, as long as you don't lean forward too much to do so. When I first canter very green horses, I like to tangle my fingers in the mane in case they act goofy, and because they tend to have uneven strides until they gain confidence. I figure it is better to grab mane and be stable rather than risk unbalancing them. I've been riding for 30 years, and there is no shame in grabbing mane when you need to.

Cantering is good for their abs and helps lubricate the lumbo/sacral joint. The more you canter, the more secure you will feel.

Apr. 13, 2010, 09:12 PM
good advice, i'll just keep practicing and work on transitions and uneven terrain. and i already grab mane a lot!

Apr. 13, 2010, 10:46 PM
A tip I recall hearing a coach use when teaching a young hunter/jumper rider has stuck with me and been useful in many high-speed and rough-terrain moments: "Squat!" Or as another trainer once told me, feel like if the horse evaporated from beneath you, you'd land on your feet.

Often if I am feeling unstable either my knees are starting to straighten or lock up ("Squat!") or I am tipping forward ("land on your feet!") and thinking of those phrases helps.

Apr. 14, 2010, 01:17 PM
An eventing trick for galloping cross country is to bridge the reins across the horses' withers. Jockeys and exercise riders do this too. It enhances your stability and makes it easier to keep yourself off your horse's back.

If you don't know what I mean by bridging, this blog has a picture that shows it clearly.


Apr. 14, 2010, 01:26 PM
It's more about relaxing and letting your body balance itself, than anything else.

Apr. 14, 2010, 07:44 PM
oh ow, i fell off while cantering today! we were going pretty nicely along the edge of the field. i was playing with my foot position in the stirrups and leaned forward into two point while grabbing a good handful of mane. just as she decided to lower her head so i came off over her shoulder and somersaulted onto my back.
guess i need to replace my helmet, as my head did a little bounce. my left wrist is a little sprained, but otherwise i'm fine.

so, what did i do wrong? i lost focus for a moment and she took that opportunity to drop her head, maybe to snatch a bite, maybe to buck, i don't know. she used to buck transitioning from trot to canter, but hasn't in months.
i need to learn to keep my center over hers so if she swerves or slows i stay with her.
i'll keep trying!

Bank of Dad
Apr. 14, 2010, 09:50 PM
Ouch ouch, I hope you landed in a soft spot. Sounds like you lost your center of gravity, maybe the two point tilted you too far forward.

Practice lots of two-point at a trot, keeping your legs in position and looking straight ahead.

Instead of long canters, do nice short ones until you feel safe, then extend them gradually. I used to keep my canters on young greenies limited to some uphill places, where they couldn't run out on the side. The uphill kept their heads up and made them work a little harder to do their job.

Good idea about a new helmet. Maybe a safety vest too. What about more canter work in an arena?

Apr. 14, 2010, 10:18 PM
ouch! glad to hear you're mostly ok :)

My Arab has a wicked spook in him, of the stop-and-plant variety, sometimes with a little sideways shimmy and shoulder drop thrown in. When I canter him, I do a half seat instead of two-point -- it's similar to two-point, but it's deeper. So my weight is out of the saddle, but I still have contact with it. It's kind of hard to describe, but it feels like even though my seatbones are off the saddle, my crotch is still touching it. And my shoulders are in slightly in front of my hips, but still behind his withers. I also keep a good contact with my thighs - that's the biggest thing - so if he does stop and plant, my thighs are already on, preventing me from continuing forward over his head, and it's easy to drop my seat back into the saddle.

(I'm sure you can find a better description by googling "half seat"...)

Good luck, and I hope your wrist feels better!

Hampton Bay
Apr. 14, 2010, 11:39 PM
Maybe she did what my mare does if I accidentally get a bit of weight on her neck at the canter. She throws her head and neck down, pops the butt in the air a touch, and tries to dump me forwards. It's her was of yelling at me to get off her neck dangit.

I learned the hard way to never ever put my hands on her neck when cantering in 2-point. She's very sensitive to even a slight amount of weight.