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View Full Version : 3-2-1 Blastoff! Or, how to slow down canter transitions



LuvMyTB
Oct. 5, 2010, 10:50 AM
I have an 11-year-old TB who has struggled with canter transitions since I got him 14 months ago. Initially, he would just respond to aids by running into a really fast trot and then eventually fall into the canter.

After 3 months off due to injury, he was having the same issue. A "trainer" I started working decided to fix the problem by hooking him with her spurs and scaring him into the transition. This somewhat fixed the running-trot problem, but made him very anxious about the canter transitions (can't blame him). He now anticipates the transition and will get very tense, raise his head, and almost jig if he thinks I'm going to ask for the canter.

Currently, he is back in work after another 3 months off due to injury/surgery. I have worked a lot on getting him more balanced and rounder at the walk and trot, and he's doing great. The canter transitions are somewhat improved in that he doesn't throw himself on the forehand anymore--but he now rocks back and sort of LEAPS into his canter. I'm talking a fairly big move here. Once he gets into the canter he is fine--very strong and forward, but not scary and fairly adjustable--it's just the transition that causes the issue.

He does this when transitioning up from a sitting/collected trot, working/posting trot, and the walk.

He has done this under different riders, different saddles, in different arenas and footing, etc. He has been evaluated for lameness multiple times over the last year, checked by a chiro, checked for saddle fit recently, had his hocks done over the summer, etc.

I know that part of it could be lack of muscle due to time off, but he was doing this even when he was in full work, so I don't think that's the entire problem.

He will pick up a canter quite easily from small jumps, with no leaping/rushing/anxiety. Goes in a plain d-ring snaffle, although I have considered bumping him up slightly since he does get strong at the canter.

He is 16.3h, long neck, long back, long legs, huge step. Sometimes I think he just doesn't know how where to put his legs to get the transition, but after all this time I am sort of at a loss.

Advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

alibi_18
Oct. 5, 2010, 11:03 AM
I would say that, at least for now, it seems more like a fitness problem.

And I would have lots of lungeing and free lungeing sessions in a big space.

And then maybe a new trainer.

And if he does it right in front of jumps, would it be possible to put some bars on the ground to canter over or just <pretend> going to a jump, start cantering but not going to the jump? Just practicing the departure?
Maybe you are doing something <right> when going for a jump that you are not doing when just doing flat work?

LuvMyTB
Oct. 5, 2010, 11:10 AM
"Trainer" only worked with him for a week or so, and that was several months ago.

Can I ask why you suggest the free lunging? Haven't heard that recommended before for a fitness issue.

Regarding the jumping--what I meant was that he will trot small fences and land in a canter with none of the above issues. I can definitely try practicing departs over ground poles.

STA
Oct. 5, 2010, 11:47 AM
Trot along the rail, make a smallish circle, circle again if the horse anticipates the canter, just as you are approaching the rail ask the horse to canter. The bend from the circle should have him correct to canter. Go right into the circle again when cantering. The circle will slow him down - try not to grab at him. Let the circle get larger gradually. When you feel him relax, even if it is one stride - trot then walk. Start again - patience is a virtue.

alibi_18
Oct. 5, 2010, 12:09 PM
I don't mean having the horse just going free wherever it wants but a more <controlled> free lunging in a arena, like in a round pen but not a round pen. Listening to voice commands. Mine does w/t/c/change of direction/extending/slowing down at any gaits in a 30m X 70m arena. I just have to stand in the middle and give the cues! And mine <loves> to jump free too! I make her works on 1 strides and bouces lines with ground poles and all! Talk about fitness!

Long horses are better when lunged on a fairly big circle or free. You can even put side reins if your horse is used to them and lunge nicely. (No rolling down allowed!!!, make sure the horse can<t get stuck anywhere and that he won<t just be panicking around...). I would not put any other sorts of lunging devices. I usually put nothing as I want the horse to be <free>.

Free lunging is good for fitness/endurance and would also allow you to see what is going on with those transitions when the horse is free. Is he rushing, leaping, going side ways, going wrong lead, changing in the back, putting is in a crooked position....I've seen few TBs starting their canter with their two hind feet pushing at the time...couldn't figure out what the problem was when riding, only realized what was going on after putting them loose...

Free lunging in a arena VS lunging on a 20m circle will put less stress on your horses joint therefore allowing you to lunge longer! (if needed of course!)

LuvMyTB
Oct. 5, 2010, 12:40 PM
[QUOTE=alibi_18;5139271]I've seen few TBs starting their canter with their two hind feet pushing at the time...couldn't figure out what the problem was when riding, only realized what was going on after putting them loose...[QUOTE]

WAIT a minute--this is exactly what it feels like!

I can toss him in the indoor and see if that's what he's doing--but with the ones you had that did this, how did you fix it?

RugBug
Oct. 5, 2010, 12:43 PM
"
Regarding the jumping--what I meant was that he will trot small fences and land in a canter with none of the above issues.

Well, he's is doing the "leap" it's just over a jump so it doesnt' seem like a leap.

Every canter transition should have some sit and elevation in the front end. If it's exaggerated, the horse is losing the forward that needs to accompany the transition. Are you doing the transition from the walk or trot? Do you have a particular routine you follow (i.e. walk-trot-canter) so there is some time to build anticipation?

From your description it sounds like the horse sort of stalls into the transition. Stops a bit and goes up and then forward? I'm imagining a transition stride that looks something like a pirouette stride in dressage...all up/no forward. You've got to get some forward back into the stride.

I would be doing transitions on this horse at the trot...but only from a good trot that is coming from behind. Horse needs to be in front of your leg before you even attempt to ask for the canter. If he leaps, canter a few strides and go back to the trot, re-establish a balanced forward trot and then ask again.

LuvMyTB
Oct. 5, 2010, 12:52 PM
Well, he's is doing the "leap" it's just over a jump so it doesnt' seem like a leap.

Every canter transition should have some sit and elevation in the front end. If it's exaggerated, the horse is losing the forward that needs to accompany the transition. Are you doing the transition from the walk or trot? Do you have a particular routine you follow (i.e. walk-trot-canter) so there is some time to build anticipation?

From your description it sounds like the horse sort of stalls into the transition. Stops a bit and goes up and then forward? I'm imagining a transition stride that looks something like a pirouette stride in dressage...all up/no forward. You've got to get some forward back into the stride.

I would be doing transitions on this horse at the trot...but only from a good trot that is coming from behind. Horse needs to be in front of your leg before you even attempt to ask for the canter. If he leaps, canter a few strides and go back to the trot, re-establish a balanced forward trot and then ask again.

RugBug--yeah, it feels like a big push from behind. I'd guess that the loss of "forward" is partially my fault as I'm anticipating the big move and probably holding back unconsciously. I have experimented with transitions at the walk and trot. Trot-canter gets less of a leap than walk-canter, but feels more rushed if that makes sense.

Yes, I do follow a routine and I am trying to break that habit. Perhaps warming up at the canter before the trot would help break the anticipation?

IrishWillow
Oct. 5, 2010, 12:59 PM
Had this problem with a lot of OTTBs .. they either A) Want to run from a trot into a hap-hazard canter or B) Do the leap leaving the starting gate transition.

Here's the thing... letting him canter off soft after a TINY crossrail will really help. Resist the urge to pull on his face or react after the fence at all. Trot the jump, let him land cantering, and just cruise around on a loose rein. Most OTTBs will do this, I promise!! Resist the urge to do anything more than the slightest calmest half halt. I mean, steer with your knees, seriously.

Also, this applies to the "leap" into the canter on the flat. Ask for the canter and just let him get cantering before you 'correct' him. This is ALL just anxiety on his part. Ask for the canter, resist the urge to pull back on the reins, canter 5-6 strides, bring him down to the trot and tell him he's a great guy. Repeat repeat repeat. It will happen, but it is difficult and requires patience.

RugBug
Oct. 5, 2010, 01:12 PM
RugBug--yeah, it feels like a big push from behind. I'd guess that the loss of "forward" is partially my fault as I'm anticipating the big move and probably holding back unconsciously. I have experimented with transitions at the walk and trot. Trot-canter gets less of a leap than walk-canter, but feels more rushed if that makes sense.


There will always be some up for a canter transition and there will be more from the walk than the trot. But you need to make sure the transition still goes forward as well.

I would stop doing walk/canter transitions for a bit and just work on them from the trot. Don't let him run into the canter. when the trot gets unbalanced and race-y...stop. Re-establish a balanced forward trot, then ask again. If he starts to get racey, half-halt and re-establish the balance.

I would also do a series of walk/trot transitions in the beginning of your ride to make sure the horse is moving off your leg well. Walk for 8-10 steps, trot for 8-10 steps. Rinse/repeat until you barely have to close your leg to get a nice balanced step up to the trot. That's the same type of response you're looking for at the canter. Maybe trot a tiny bit and then do the same from the canter (but be careful not to do so many the horse gets anxious. I find they need more time IN the canter (a lap of the arena or so) than they do at the trot so that they don't anticipate the transition.)

It takes strength for the horse to step into the canter, so you may be feeling some of the weakness from the lay-off. Just remember to think 'forward and balanced' and they should come as horse gets stronger and more responsive to your leg.

LuvMyTB
Oct. 5, 2010, 01:12 PM
IrishWillow--thanks!! So glad to hear I'm not alone with this issue.

I have no problem with the jump and canter off quietly routine. He is a lot of horse and does get strong, but he's not stupid or scary, if that makes sense. Flatting is more difficult as I get the urge to "package" him when he gets rushy/anxious going into the transition. I will try hard to control myself. :)

RugBug--will focus on the trot-canter transitions. Also, I HAVE been doing walk-trot transitions till I'm blue in the face, so at least I'm doing SOMETHING right! LOL.

sptraining
Oct. 5, 2010, 03:52 PM
I worked with an ottb horse like this. She could only canter him if she jumped him over a little cross rail and then he picked up the canter from there.

We left the issue alone for a while. Worked on the lunge line with lots of trot-canter transitions in side reins. The side reins weren't super short, but not super long either - just the right length to help him balance himself and keep a nice shape. When he bolted into the canter, I'd just ask him to come back to the trot. When he picked up the canter nicely, he got lots of "good boys". It didn't take him long to figure out how to pick up the canter nicely. Once he was solid on the lunge, we tried it under saddle. His canter greatly improved, both balance-wise and transition-wise.

That was my experience. Good luck.

Alibhai's Alibar
Oct. 5, 2010, 04:13 PM
I'm having the SAME experience with the TB I'm riding, except we're behind you training-wise, since walk-canter is not even on the menu at this time :lol:

Two things that have really helped:

1) Ride a leg yield from the quarter line to the rail and ask for the canter when you get to the rail. In my experience, this gets the horse on the aids and in a good position for the canter departure.

2) Do transitions within the gaits (big trot, little trot). I like to do a big trot down the long sides of the arena and then a little trot on the short sides. We do this a few times and then when we get to the long side and he's anticipating the big trot, I'll keep the little trot and then do a canter at the end of the long side. This creates impulsion with minimal fretting and then he's more willing to jump into a canter.

I'm not sure if it goes hand in hand, but this horse I'm riding is also very challenged with lateral work (long body, big stride, etc). Shoulder-in is a big challenge for him. My hunch is that as he gets more supple, the canter departs will become more graceful. Best of luck with your guy!

LuvMyTB
Oct. 5, 2010, 09:22 PM
Small update already!

Took him outside today and just hacked around--didn't ask too much of him. The outdoor arena is at least twice the width of any arena I've had him in so far.

He was going so nice and quietly at the trot that I thought, what the heck--let's see what happens if I ask him to canter. Put him on a BIG circle, got up off his back, pitched the reins at him a little and just squeezed.

And there it was--a perfectly nice and quiet upwards transition, exactly what you'd want from a horse at his level of training. I let him canter a few laps on the circle, back to walk, lots of GOOD BOY, then turned and did the same thing the other direction (from the trot). Again, perfect transition, correct lead, lovely canter--not the big strong gallopy canter he usually gives me.

Could the size of the arena make that big of a difference?? We had this experience once before in a slightly bigger arena we hauled to for a lesson--but I attributed that to him just being more fresh and forward since it was a new place.

I have to say that I was so happy with him that I damn near cried, LOL. And I also have to mention that it's the first time the horse has been ridden outside since June, and the first time I've cantered him outside EVER--I've always been a bit too afraid of what might happen given the crazy transitions.

Thoughts?

SunflowerMeadowsFarm
Oct. 5, 2010, 09:57 PM
Small update already!

Took him outside today and just hacked around--didn't ask too much of him. The outdoor arena is at least twice the width of any arena I've had him in so far.

He was going so nice and quietly at the trot that I thought, what the heck--let's see what happens if I ask him to canter. Put him on a BIG circle, got up off his back, pitched the reins at him a little and just squeezed.

And there it was--a perfectly nice and quiet upwards transition, exactly what you'd want from a horse at his level of training. I let him canter a few laps on the circle, back to walk, lots of GOOD BOY, then turned and did the same thing the other direction (from the trot). Again, perfect transition, correct lead, lovely canter--not the big strong gallopy canter he usually gives me.

Could the size of the arena make that big of a difference?? We had this experience once before in a slightly bigger arena we hauled to for a lesson--but I attributed that to him just being more fresh and forward since it was a new place.

I have to say that I was so happy with him that I damn near cried, LOL. And I also have to mention that it's the first time the horse has been ridden outside since June, and the first time I've cantered him outside EVER--I've always been a bit too afraid of what might happen given the crazy transitions.

Thoughts?

I personally have had similiar issues with a past TB of mine. Canter transitions were a bit frantic at first, and we were working strictly in an indoor because we didn't have an outdoor where we were.

When we moved and began work in an outdoor much larger than the indoor we'd been schooling in our first few months, the transitions became much more free and what you would want from horse of his level.

I'm actually reading Molly Sivewrights book Thinking Riding 2 right now, and she also talks about the difference between the "indoor horse" and "outdoor horse" and her diagrams show a much happier, free-er moving horse in the outdoor horse.

In time my gelding became much stronger through his transitions and could perform them properly indoors in a smaller area as well. Practicing our transition work in the outdoor regularly really strengthened him!

We worked from the outdoor to transitions in an open field, the space really made a difference. He was a bit of a high strung horse, and could get tense in smaller places.

TB's in general tend to be more sensitive of course.

Hope you guys are enjoying your progress :)

LuvMyTB
Oct. 6, 2010, 11:53 AM
Sunflower--YES, we are enjoying the progress! This horse has been laid up for 6 of the last 12 months so this is our THIRD time re-starting under saddle--hopefully the 3rd time's the charm!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Did you stop schooling transitions completely in the indoor for a while? I'm wondering if I should combine your's and IrishWillow's advisce--school transitions outside only, and canter indoors only after little jumps. Your description sounds so familiar; he does get frantic during the transitions and then strong at the canter. I could NOT believe how soft he was last night in the outdoor.