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View Full Version : Exercises for riders who are fearful to canter



beckzert
May. 4, 2012, 04:19 PM
Hi there!

I have a student who gets very nervous about the canter. Once she's into it, it's fine and she actually can relax and sit nicely with the horse, but the idea of getting into the canter is a huge mental block her her. So she contorts her body and scissors her hands in all different directions, which is very hard on her horse, who isn't so fond of trot-canter transitions himself! She's generally a good rider, just has a mental block about this one thing, but is stuck at intro level, until we can move past it. Has anyone had this happen and gotten through it? What has worked for you or for one of your students or friends? I've tried all kinds of things with her, but none of my usual tricks seem to be working!

Thanks!

SuZQuzie
May. 4, 2012, 04:24 PM
I really have no idea about training someone fearful to canter, but what about putting her on a horse that has an easy and simple canter depart? Often times it is difficult to tell "who" is at fault for a mutual quirk: the horse or the rider. For example, is a horse really heavy on the right side or have they just adapted to the rider's own straightness issues? Separating the two may be very beneficial for all.

joiedevie99
May. 4, 2012, 04:26 PM
How well does the horse longe? I'd put her on the longe line without reins and have her hold on to a grab strap. Do lots and lots of trot/canter transitions with her almost as a passenger (i.e., you cue the horse for the transition, she just sits and focuses on relaxing in the transition).

Will the horse pick up canter with her out of the saddle? Try having her ride in jumping position with both hands grabbing on to the mane, then asking for canter. It is a heck of a lot harder to contort when your seat isn't in the saddle and your hands are both holding on.

analise
May. 4, 2012, 04:30 PM
I had a problem with the canter transition too. It's just...I started thinking about it too hard. "Okay, sit down from posting, outside leg behind the girth, inside leg on, make sure you're giving with the reins so you don't make him stop, you've got to really squeeze to get him to go you might have to kick him, don't forget to look up!" And so on that...body position just kind of flew out the window.

What helped a bit was working on walk-canter transitions and holding on to mane for a while during them.

What helped even more was a couple of no-reins lessons on the longe.

Velvet
May. 4, 2012, 04:30 PM
Longe line work--on a saint who doesn't care what she does. Do a lot of old time exercises at the halt, walk and trot. Get her to move around the horse and even act like a vaulter. Get her over that, then move on to the canter and it will seem easy for her! Make sure there's a neck strap at all times! Even get her to sit up and leg go of the reins at the canter.

A tightly controlled situation can teach her a LOT.

Velvet
May. 4, 2012, 04:32 PM
How well does the horse longe? I'd put her on the longe line without reins and have her hold on to a grab strap. Do lots and lots of trot/canter transitions with her almost as a passenger (i.e., you cue the horse for the transition, she just sits and focuses on relaxing in the transition).

Will the horse pick up canter with her out of the saddle? Try having her ride in jumping position with both hands grabbing on to the mane, then asking for canter. It is a heck of a lot harder to contort when your seat isn't in the saddle and your hands are both holding on.

I was going to suggest the jumping position, too, but figured she probably didn't know it and would feel even more out of balance and afraid, based on the OPs description.

Equibrit
May. 4, 2012, 04:33 PM
Take her trail riding on a steady horse.

enjoytheride
May. 4, 2012, 04:36 PM
I would have her take the canter transition from a 2 point or "with most of your weight in the stirrups and less in the seat" and hold onto a grab strap with at least one hand.

Can you get on her horse and school his transitions? That would also be very helpful.

Then have her "canter for 4 more strides past where you are comfortable" Thinking about her fear and pushing herself slightly past it with a definite goal will help build her up.

beckzert
May. 4, 2012, 04:36 PM
I've had her try on other horses, and she can do nice transitions on them, especially from the walk, but there is a mental block with her horse. I've tried putting her on the lunge to do them, and she does ok on other horses, but not her own horse. I have the horse in training and his transitions used to be DREADFUL. Like he was charging the enemy. But after 2 months of me forbidding her to try to canter him on her own while I fixed them, the horse does nice transitions, and they are pretty easy to get if the trot is balanced-another one of my students at a similar level tried and got them easily. It's not surprising to me that she's afraid to ask for the canter on this horse, as they were really terrible and it took me longer than I had thought to fix them. But, yeah, I don't think I was clear. The mental block definitely has to do with this horse/rider combination in particular.

analise
May. 4, 2012, 04:45 PM
I'd probably still do the longing thing on this horse....but take her reins away and give her other things to think about than how difficult it is to make the horse canter. Like holding her arms out to her sides or above her head as she asks him to canter (and you cue him at the same time to make sure he does it). And then repetition.

Or do like equibrit suggested and go out for a ride on the trail (assuming the horse can handle cantering outside the ring without running off with the rider or otherwise being stupid?). That gets them in a different situation (so you're hopefully bypassing the mental block) and most any horse will canter outdoors, particularly if another horse is cantering first and then you can just do a lot of transitions out there so she can get comfortable with them before going back and doing them in the ring.

paulaedwina
May. 4, 2012, 04:46 PM
I concur; put her on a horse that rides like a sofa, knows its cues, and is tolerant of learners. If she has the opportunity to take her mind off her horse (that has issues with trot/canter) that would help her a great deal. I loved learning on horses that just seemed to give you all the time in the world to get things right.

Paula

beckzert
May. 4, 2012, 04:48 PM
Longe line work--on a saint who doesn't care what she does. Do a lot of old time exercises at the halt, walk and trot. Get her to move around the horse and even act like a vaulter. Get her over that, then move on to the canter and it will seem easy for her! Make sure there's a neck strap at all times! Even get her to sit up and leg go of the reins at the canter.

A tightly controlled situation can teach her a LOT.

This is a great suggestion, and I think we will do more of this. The horse gets a little concerned when people move around too much on him, but it would be good for him to get over that as well. If anyone has any mental tricks, I would be very interested to hear those.

beckzert
May. 4, 2012, 04:50 PM
Or do like equibrit suggested and go out for a ride on the trail (assuming the horse can handle cantering outside the ring without running off with the rider or otherwise being stupid?). That gets them in a different situation (so you're hopefully bypassing the mental block) and most any horse will canter outdoors, particularly if another horse is cantering first and then you can just do a lot of transitions out there so she can get comfortable with them before going back and doing them in the ring.

This is a great idea that I had actually thought of-the horse is super bomb-proof and great outside. Guess what? She made great transitions on the trail and in the field. Back in the arena? Nope.

Keg-A-Bacchus
May. 4, 2012, 04:53 PM
I agree with the longe on a seasoned horse doing all sorts of exercises. Then transition to her horse on the lunge using a neck strap. You do all the asking. She just sits quietly. Repeat until it's old hat. Then have her start asking on the lunge with you backing her up...still using grab strap. Repeat until old hat. Then have her use her reins and ask on the lunge with you backing her up. Repeat until old hat. Then off the lunge. She just needs safe repetition. Good luck!

myhorsefaith
May. 4, 2012, 04:54 PM
i agree with everyone who has said: seasoned horse w/ honest canter who can get it from the walk. One who is balanced and slow - a calm, no rush, balanced canter.

I am a recovering canter-weenie myself. I don't know why, I've never been in a wreck when getting into the canter, I've always just been scared of it- even when learning to ride- even just recalling childhood memories of being asked to canter for the first time still cause me uneasiness! Its weird how some things just stick with you.

Obviously the more i do it the better it gets. The biggest confidence builder is riding horses that are honest about it, and that can pick up from a walk - it allowed me to get and keep my ish together and get over the fear.

But even before I figured out that worked for me, I figured out that if i trotted over a small cross rail and my horse picked up the canter, i was much much better emotionally about it. Probably because i was more focused on the stupid cross rail than the canter that came afterwards.

good luck!!

analise
May. 4, 2012, 04:57 PM
myhorsefaith,

The crossrail thing sounds like a good idea too. :)

I really think the mental trick here is getting the rider to think about something else besides how to get the canter or ride the transition. It just becomes this big epic thing (or it did for me in my mind) that's so difficult that if I was actually supposed to be specifically working on canter transitions...it was hard and that just made it even worse in my mind.

But if we worked on other things where we just happened to also be doing canter transitions...well...after a while I realized, "hey...I'm sitting and asking for a canter and he's doing it and it's no big deal. Huh. Cool."

Gloria
May. 4, 2012, 05:05 PM
What helped "me" the most is to forget about the sitting trot before the canter. There was no way I was able to sit the horse's trot, and as I got nervous in anticipation of the canter, the horse' trot get rougher and rougher, and I got more and more out of balance attempting that sitting trot. And then the rest.

Eventually I decided to just post the trot, give the canter cue, and the moment the horse cantered, I sat. If he instead of cantering, he got into rougher trot, I just kept on posting until we were both more organized. More than one clinicians have given me thumb up for this method (as long as I don't "post" that canter, all is well lol). That really was what got me over the apprehension.

beckzert
May. 4, 2012, 05:06 PM
myhorsefaith,

The crossrail thing sounds like a good idea too. :)

I really think the mental trick here is getting the rider to think about something else besides how to get the canter or ride the transition. It just becomes this big epic thing (or it did for me in my mind) that's so difficult that if I was actually supposed to be specifically working on canter transitions...it was hard and that just made it even worse in my mind.

But if we worked on other things where we just happened to also be doing canter transitions...well...after a while I realized, "hey...I'm sitting and asking for a canter and he's doing it and it's no big deal. Huh. Cool."

I think this is exactly it. The crossrail thing sounds like a great idea. With this horse, since he had bad transitions, you have to be very clear with the aids, and I think she gets too focused on giving the aids and makes it harder than it is. Then each time she does a bad one, it psychs her out more and she gets impatient with herself because she knows she can do it. But she can hop on my schoolmaster and do trot-canters, walk-canters, and even 4-tempis all day long!

myhorsefaith
May. 4, 2012, 05:14 PM
That must be it. Because now that i think about it- a few years ago I had a little stint doing western drill team (:eek:) and I never really thought about all my canter issues- but then again i was waaaaaay too busy trying to do the drill with 15 other horses - no time to worry about that! LOL

Thoroughbred in Color
May. 4, 2012, 05:25 PM
How well does the horse longe? I'd put her on the longe line without reins and have her hold on to a grab strap. Do lots and lots of trot/canter transitions with her almost as a passenger (i.e., you cue the horse for the transition, she just sits and focuses on relaxing in the transition).

Will the horse pick up canter with her out of the saddle? Try having her ride in jumping position with both hands grabbing on to the mane, then asking for canter. It is a heck of a lot harder to contort when your seat isn't in the saddle and your hands are both holding on.

^^^This:yes::yes::yes: I had a hard time with transitions after a bad wreck. My trainer put me on a longe line so that I could focus on my position/transitions/etc. It made a huge difference in my confidence level.

carolprudm
May. 4, 2012, 07:02 PM
This is a great idea that I had actually thought of-the horse is super bomb-proof and great outside. Guess what? She made great transitions on the trail and in the field. Back in the arena? Nope.
Sophie will halt with a voice command so I started riding one canter stride at a time. I lunge her first...her first few canter transitions tend to be exuberant so she get them out of her system without me onboard. I always asked for the transition turning into the short side.
Then I just added a stride or so a day and stopped if I got stressed.

xQHDQ
May. 4, 2012, 07:17 PM
I've had her try on other horses, and she can do nice transitions on them, especially from the walk, but there is a mental block with her horse. I've tried putting her on the lunge to do them, and she does ok on other horses, but not her own horse. I have the horse in training and his transitions used to be DREADFUL. Like he was charging the enemy. But after 2 months of me forbidding her to try to canter him on her own while I fixed them, the horse does nice transitions, and they are pretty easy to get if the trot is balanced-another one of my students at a similar level tried and got them easily. It's not surprising to me that she's afraid to ask for the canter on this horse, as they were really terrible and it took me longer than I had thought to fix them. But, yeah, I don't think I was clear. The mental block definitely has to do with this horse/rider combination in particular.

All good. Coming from the point of view of experience with similar issues, I think she just needs more time on the lunge. Not one or 2 times but weeks (maybe even months) of time. Have her ONLY canter when on the lunge. She'll get it.

Niennor
May. 5, 2012, 07:15 AM
You know, for a long time I had a mental block with going into canter too. Mostly because I was afraid to loose control. So I'd canter in defensive position - leaning forward, with my body so stiff that it seemed like i was preparing for a plane crash lol. Obviously that didn't help make the canter a very pleasent experience, either. And it only improved until I actually learned to RELAX. My former trainer had an interesting way to see if her students were relaxing. She would ask random questions during the canter and if we didn't answer right away she'd say: "You're not breathing! You need to remember to breathe!" Once she had me tie the reins and trot and then canter with my hands behind my back to help me relax. And I'll be damned if that didn't work:D

To this day, I still have a tendency to lean forward sometimes, mostly out of habit, but I finally learned to move with the horse, not against it.

NOMIOMI1
May. 5, 2012, 12:48 PM
Luckily in dressage you can do TONS of work at walk and trot :)

I would suggest doing that work until she is begging to canter.

Two of my friends had to go back to just walking due to fear for a while and after some training on how MUCH you can do with walk, halt, stretch and lateral and keeping the horse on the aids they are so glad they had that time to work on it.

Incredibly you CAN work up a sweat at the walk in our discipline :lol:

She was promised that her transitions to trot and canter would be better for all of the walk work and it was the truth after the detour she had better scores all around.

NOTHING wrong with even just sitting on your horse and working on position at even a standstill lol being that relaxation is must for both horse and rider making things interestingly boring is great medicine for nerves.

NotGrandPrixYet
May. 5, 2012, 09:54 PM
Put her on the lunge line on HER horse and make her sing her favorite song while YOU ask the horse for a canter.

She has to sing the whole song while you control as many transistions as you can without her losing her composure in the saddle.

And I agree with the one stride - two stride - three strides succession.

rlmatherly
May. 10, 2012, 03:31 PM
I'm just getting over my canter-deathgrip and I concur with what everyone is saying about lounging and You asking for the transitions while she does arm circles or repeats the alphabet backwards or sings her favorite songs... anything to distract her while you retain control. And make sure to take her reins away at first because that was a key factor for me in addition to the security of the controlled lounge enviorment/not having to do anything but sit.

*lol* This is my first month of breathing while cantering...

BetterOffRed
May. 10, 2012, 04:21 PM
How well does the horse longe? I'd put her on the longe line without reins and have her hold on to a grab strap. Do lots and lots of trot/canter transitions with her almost as a passenger (i.e., you cue the horse for the transition, she just sits and focuses on relaxing in the transition).

Will the horse pick up canter with her out of the saddle? Try having her ride in jumping position with both hands grabbing on to the mane, then asking for canter. It is a heck of a lot harder to contort when your seat isn't in the saddle and your hands are both holding on.

Joiedevie99 has got it right! Twelve years ago when I started riding, I first learned on a schoolie that bucked at the canter. Finally, wised up and change riding instructors who had patient 'dressage' horses, not sour schoolies. But I was still scared at the canter. She did those exact exercises with me...cantering on the longe, no stirrups, no reins, eventually got me to lift both my hands in the air....the most thrilling experience ever....then riding canter in a 2 point position, and then letting me canter over some ground rails. After that, asking for the cantering wasn't as scary!

GotMyPony
May. 10, 2012, 05:07 PM
OK, this may sound crazy but has she watched you canter the horse over and over again - I mean till it gets boring for her? When I was learning canter departs I felt like my horse was a bolting rocket ship (which he is decidedly not) but that's how it felt to me. Then my trainer got on and I could objectively see what my horse was actually doing (or not doing). I watched her over and over again until I was convinced that, yes, I could do that. I had built the fear up in my imagination which really did not reflect reality. I needed to "come down"! She could even video you cantering him and watch it over and over again.
I've interviewed top athletes for publications and they all believe in visualization as a form of practice. If I've gotten nervous about something I go to youtube and watch the pros do it until I've got myself back under control ;-) It works for me...

beckzert
May. 10, 2012, 05:23 PM
OK, this may sound crazy but has she watched you canter the horse over and over again - I mean till it gets boring for her? When I was learning canter departs I felt like my horse was a bolting rocket ship (which he is decidedly not) but that's how it felt to me. Then my trainer got on and I could objectively see what my horse was actually doing (or not doing). I watched her over and over again until I was convinced that, yes, I could do that. I had built the fear up in my imagination which really did not reflect reality. I needed to "come down"! She could even video you cantering him and watch it over and over again.
I've interviewed top athletes for publications and they all believe in visualization as a form of practice. If I've gotten nervous about something I go to youtube and watch the pros do it until I've got myself back under control ;-) It works for me...

This is exactly one of the things we are doing. She isn't going to canter at all (for real, for a while, on her own). I've tried to help her visualize, but she tends to have trouble focusing anyway. But watching really does seem to help. She watched me ride him last night and did many trot-canter transitions, and we will do the same on Sunday. Saturday she will have a lunge lesson on her horse, not my usual lunge horse (but I will have her lunge me first, since I have a feeling the horse might get a little freaked).

Actually, I was reading Jane Savoie's book (sorry, I know she has multiple books, and I have all of them, but I can't remember which one), and according to her, imaginary experience is actually the same to your brain as real experience. So you can do it over and over in your mind and, as long as you're "doing" it right, gain the same benefit! Great suggestion, GMP.

carolprudm
May. 10, 2012, 05:38 PM
This is exactly one of the things we are doing. She isn't going to canter at all (for real, for a while, on her own). I've tried to help her visualize, but she tends to have trouble focusing anyway. But watching really does seem to help. She watched me ride him last night and did many trot-canter transitions, and we will do the same on Sunday. Saturday she will have a lunge lesson on her horse, not my usual lunge horse (but I will have her lunge me first, since I have a feeling the horse might get a little freaked).

Actually, I was reading Jane Savoie's book (sorry, I know she has multiple books, and I have all of them, but I can't remember which one), and according to her, imaginary experience is actually the same to your brain as real experience. So you can do it over and over in your mind and, as long as you're "doing" it right, gain the same benefit! Great suggestion, GMP.


Can she videotape you cantering the horse safely? Video her on the lungeline cantering?

When I was having confidence issues I watched a video of me riding decently....see I COULD ride.

You are probably thinking about "That Winning Feeling" or "It's not about the Ribbons". They were a HUGE help to me. She also has a new program
http://www.janesavoie.com/shop/freedomfromfear.htm

beckzert
May. 10, 2012, 05:41 PM
Can she videotape you cantering the horse safely? Video her on the lungeline cantering?

When I was having confidence issues I watched a video of me riding decently....see I COULD ride.

You are probably thinking about "That Winning Feeling" or "It's not about the Ribbons". They were a HUGE help to me. She also has a new program
http://www.janesavoie.com/shop/freedomfromfear.htm

This is so true. Her daughter's coming out this weekend, so I'll put her on video duty:)

And I think it was "That Winning Feeling".

BetterOffRed
May. 10, 2012, 06:06 PM
I think video taping her ride is a great idea. What is it about video tape that magnifies all of our mistakes. :)

Also, asking her to make even small adjustments will yield great results for her- opening her chest, looking up, lowering her hands, stretching her inside rein up the horses neck. Sometimes when we try to make all of these corrections at once, it blows our scared little brains.

I don't know if you are doing this, but have her ask for the canter aid with her voice. So she is doing it on her terms and she isn't caught by surprise. Before she asks for canter Have her go through her check list-out loud- of asking for the aid and correct position, so that she is focused on what she has to do and doing it.

You said the horse isn't into trot-canter transitions, but what about walk-canter?

I would also like to know if she goes out on trail rides, out of the arena, etc? I really think that doing this was what helped me get over the anxiety. If I can do these things (that are much scarier to me) than cantering in a sand box is no big deal.