This seemed like the best forum to post this question in. I've worked with a lot of OTTBs, but all the ones I've had have sort of leapt into a canter/gallop. My newer guy is quite the opposite. I need a runway to get the canter. We literally trot down the entire long side picking up speed as we go until he finally breaks into canter for just a few strides. He will NOT pick it up on a circle, he seems utterly confused by that idea. I have to use tons of leg just to keep the canter going. I had the vet out, we did a full work-up, and vet gave him 100% clearance, so I feel he is just confused somehow. Anyone ever have a TB like this? What helped? He has been off the track for a year, but only had about four months of actual retraining. Any tips would be SO appreciated!!!
I can only tell you what helped my horse. He is an OTTB also and would trot, trot, trot, until he pretty much fell into a very unbalanced speedy canter, usually on the wrong lead, when working in the arena. I quit asking for a canter in the arena, got myself a dressage trainer, taught the horse to go round, stretch, then gradually got him more collected, on the aids, and BALANCED. One day, after many days of correct work at the walk and trot, I asked for the canter, like any other horse, and got the canter I dreamed of. Like, I pretty much had tears in my eyes I was so happy and proud of him (and a little bit of myself, too, for getting it right).
You may need to take a step or two back to make sure your horse has the tools and education to do what you are asking, but it will be well worth it!
Best wishes to you and your horse on reaching your training goals!
I agree. My prior OTTB, I only walked and trotted, asking for correct frame, push from behind, softness, etc for 2 months. Then, when I asked for canter, it was quite good. Current guy is not allowed to run into canter, though he would like to. He is on circle, I give aid and say "can-ter" in same tone I use when he is on the lunge. If I don't get a transition or if he sticks his head in the air, it is back to the trot or walk and getting round and soft again before re-asking. We are currently getting prompt transitions, but need about 3 tries to get an acceptable one. Do you have a trainer? Mine have been a huge help with this
Most of mine (and I've had tons) do very well cantering out in a field, on the gallop track or other relatively unconfined spaces at first, and not so well in the arena. If you think of it--a dressage arena at its full length isn't as wide as most tracks--never mind the length...so it can be a bit confusing at first, trying to find a balance and turn at the same time.
I trot forward, long and free, swap my posting to the "wrong" diagonal & encourage the canter with a kiss. Most of them get it pretty quickly. The posting on the wrong diagonal puts your body on the correct position to get the lead, the lack of sitting lets them keep their backs up and off they go.
I also do a lot of canter up off their backs with the reins bridged at first--it's what they are used to and then we transition to a more competition type connection once they understand it is possible to canter in that small rectangular box.
I used to have this problem with Jay. To be totally honest I've gotten professional help with his canter! No shame in it, he would trot trot trot and it would get me all jumbled and unorganized and that wasn't helping him!
I found a trainer that was really good with OTTBs to do some canter work and with a stronger and more balanced rider he learned very fast and then was good for me.
Stay light on his back and ask for it using a ground pole. You'll get it - takes practice. It was already suggested, but use voice commands with the lunge line. Make sure you've got the space so that it's around 15m+ in size and change direction often.
He already knows his leads if he was a race horse and has been taught to do flying changes.
Not sure how recently he's off the track... but the canter depart (when done correctly) takes a lot of back end strength to sit down and take off, which isn't really the same kind of strength they develop at the track. Sounds like your horse is pretty sane and willing, and isn't confusing the canter cue with the gallop cue, so I'd bet his issue is strength, even if he's pretty fit.
Lots of uphill work, correct upward and downward transitions from the trot, and then when he has the muscles, he'll be easier to train. I had to back off from even asking mine to canter for a while because if you continue to ask while the horse isn't really strong enough to give you what you want, you risk creating anxiety over the transition.
It's nice to see not every OTTB comes with the perfect canter installed. I thought it was supposed to be the gait that came the most naturally to them, and that I was the only one who got the oddball TB.
My guy had a work-with-it canter all the way up until we conditioned for P. Worse to the left, better to the right, but a struggle no matter what. Galloping was not a problem and over fences he would balance back, but canter in a circle? No thank you very much, I'd really rather not sit down, and what is the point anyway, Mom, exactly? A regular riding and fitness schedule plus D lessons did help but still - struggle.
When we got ready for our move-up to P we did a ton of trot sets on hills. A couple months of this and suddenly, there's the canter. Go figure.
Now, after he's had a couple of years off, it's back to struggle. But at least I know where to start this time.