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  1. #1
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    Aug. 15, 2006
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    Default is it possible to improve hind leg movement in the canter?

    My friend/fellow boarder has a mare who is super-cute, very willing, and has an outstanding trot and walk. Did VERY well in her intro tests this last fall, and friend wants to start showing her in training in the spring.

    So far, her canter is... "bleh".

    At the canter, she is very stiff-legged and doesn't seem to articulate her joints at all. She looks like she's just bouncing around the arena on pogo sticks. She also rushes and gets heavy on the forehand, which I know is because she is still figuring out how to use her body properly, and I fully expect it to get better/lighter as she gets stronger.

    But will her leg action improve? She canters like this even when being free-longed, so it's not ONLY an under-saddle thing.

    horse's background: she is a 19-year-old Morgan, former broodmare/"pasture pet" until my friend decided to start seriously getting into dressage this year. She's been checked by a chiro, has a custom-fitted saddle, gets her teeth done religiously every year. Used to be somewhat stiff coming out of her stall in the morning, and this issue went away completely with the introduction of joint supplements.

    So.. can her canter movement be improved? My friend's goal is to someday show at 1st level, *maybe* 2nd with this mare.... but we would really like to see if we can improve the "pogo-stick" canter...



  2. #2
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    Nov. 9, 2005
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by oharabear View Post
    My friend/fellow boarder has a mare who is super-cute, very willing, and has an outstanding trot and walk. Did VERY well in her intro tests this last fall, and friend wants to start showing her in training in the spring.

    So far, her canter is... "bleh".

    At the canter, she is very stiff-legged and doesn't seem to articulate her joints at all. She looks like she's just bouncing around the arena on pogo sticks. She also rushes and gets heavy on the forehand, which I know is because she is still figuring out how to use her body properly, and I fully expect it to get better/lighter as she gets stronger.

    But will her leg action improve? She canters like this even when being free-longed, so it's not ONLY an under-saddle thing.

    horse's background: she is a 19-year-old Morgan, former broodmare/"pasture pet" until my friend decided to start seriously getting into dressage this year. She's been checked by a chiro, has a custom-fitted saddle, gets her teeth done religiously every year. Used to be somewhat stiff coming out of her stall in the morning, and this issue went away completely with the introduction of joint supplements.

    So.. can her canter movement be improved? My friend's goal is to someday show at 1st level, *maybe* 2nd with this mare.... but we would really like to see if we can improve the "pogo-stick" canter...
    you can but you have to go back to basics and start over with the wlak and the trot and build her strenght up and balance look at helpful links pages of mine and use the half halt stride



  3. #3
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    Mar. 9, 2006
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    Default

    If she were younger I would say yes, but at 19, this may merely be due to arthritis and possibly fused hocks, very common to have the back leg move as a "unit" in those situations and if fused, nothing you can do. I would first have vet examine hocks, perhaps joint injections could help some, but honestly, I would doubt she'd make it to second level. If not a hock issue then I would use lots of cavletti and hill work to encourage her to bend her hocks as well asn build up the appropriate muscles to do so.



  4. #4
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    I don't think the solution involves going back to basics and just walk and trot.

    The walk and trot supposedly score very well already. This is a canter problem.

    Some horses do have a naturally deficient canter, but almost all can be improved.

    It's not at all unusual for a horse to have a 'canter problem' and have a fairly good walk and trot. At the same time, the intro test doesn't involve much, so it might not really indicate a lot.

    My friend/fellow boarder has a mare who is super-cute, very willing, and has an outstanding trot and walk. Did VERY well in her intro tests this last fall, and friend wants to start showing her in training in the spring.

    If the horse were mine, I would read over her tests again carefully, for indications as to what is going on, and I'd take those tests to my instructor and talk to her/him about it and decide what is reasonable to work on for this older horse that's just started dressage.

    There is not too much to judge at intro, so those tests might not bring that much to light, especially because they have no cantering, but I'd assume there would be something helpful in the test comments.

    I'd be looking to my instructor for help, if I wasn't sure what to do. Instructors usually can offer guidance when one doesn't know what to do next.

    So far, her canter is... "bleh".

    I can't find 'bleh' in the USDF glossary...

    At the canter, she is very stiff-legged and doesn't seem to articulate her joints at all.

    She looks like she's just bouncing around the arena on pogo sticks.

    She also rushes and gets heavy on the forehand,

    Maybe all these things are related. Heavy in front, rushes, stiff legs. What instructors usually just call stiff and on the forehand.

    which I know is because she is still figuring out how to use her body properly, and I fully expect it to get better/lighter as she gets stronger.

    Not necessarily. Horses get habits and quite often, unless one does something actively about it, it won't change. They'll just get 'stronger and wronger', LOL.

    The way I think about it, the stiff legs are a result of being generally stiff, and the rushing and the on the forehand are all basically parts of the same problem.

    But will her leg action improve? She canters like this even when being free-longed, so it's not ONLY an under-saddle thing.

    The same thing that makes her stiff in the canter under saddle might affect her when she's free longed - loss of balance, stiffness.

    horse's background: she is a 19-year-old Morgan, former broodmare/"pasture pet"

    dressage this year.

    So she really hasn't had much training. Many horses stay very green at the canter much longer than the walk and trot - many people don't canter much, espeically when they're doing intro level.

    been checked by a chiro, has a custom-fitted saddle, gets her teeth done religiously every year.

    How about her legs? Feet? Did she get any xrays when she was put into work?

    Used to be somewhat stiff coming out of her stall in the morning, and this issue went away completely with the introduction of joint supplements.

    I don't really believe joint supplements do anything, research backs me up. So if she is 'stiff coming out of her stall', does that mean she was visibly uneven in her trot strides? Visibly lame at the walk on the concrete aisle? I would expect that whatever made her do that is continuing to progress. Exercise might still be very good for her, nevertheless, but if she has physical problems she may be limited in how 'unstiff' she can get. Sometimes the pogo canter doesn't have anything to do with any arthritic sort of conditions that might cause a horse to stiffen up as it comes out of its stall, but it certainly could be related.

    ....goal is to someday show at 1st level, *maybe* 2nd with this mare....

    but we would really like to see if we can improve the "pogo-stick" canter...

    If she's doing it because she's unsound or stiff or uncomfortable, at 19, there may or may not be a lot that can be done about it.

    If she's doing it because she's excited and green and off balance, the situation might be a lot more remediable. If so, it's just about general training, getting the horse bending, going forward, loosening up, the rider learning to ride the canter better, getting the horse fitter, etc.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec. 16, 2003
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    Staunton, VA, USA
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    Default Canter is a very different gait

    and some horses have a hard time 'getting it'.
    Also at 19 yrs old there might well be arthritic changes and other problems.

    Just cantering and getting fitter and stronger in the canter would help. learning to go forward and back in the canter, cantering circles, leg yield at canter will all help, But not if she just charges around.

    Truthfully without seeing the horse and rider it's very hard to make suggestions since so much depends on the skill level of the rider and the rapport or non-rapport that they might have with the horse.
    Get thee to a good dressage instructor, and see if they might have some insight.

    And I would consider putting the mare onto a joint supplement just to see if it helped.
    Yours
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  6. #6
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    Feb. 9, 2005
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    Have you tried any of Dr. Clayton's stretches with her? After warming up, of course. Some involve the hind legs, others are just the carrot stretches many of us are already familiar with.

    I have used them with my horse, and his canter has improved, although other training tools are also in play...

    What about ground poles or low caveletti? She will have to articulate her hocks to negotiate them, at any gait.

    loretta



  7. #7
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    Aug. 15, 2006
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    Default

    We do the carrot stretches at the recommendation of the chiro, but they don't include stretching the back legs, and I'm not even sure how to do that.

    And she used to be stiff coming out of her stall for the first few strides on the concrete aisle, but would walk out of it by the time that we got to the cross-ties. We did put her on a joint supp, but now that you mention it, that was also the same time that she started regular work.

    We tried the cavaletti but she got really worked up about them and we had a hard time keeping her calm. I might suggest that my friend start introducing them really slowly (like one ground pole at a time?) so the mare remains calm...

    And, sadly, lessons are really sporadic, since my friend's fiancee just lost his job and so she is supporting both of them, and I know that money is tight at the moment. Regular lessons can resume when her hubby-to-be finds gainful employment again, but who knows when that will be? (Our state has a ridiculously high unemployment rate at the moment)

    I think I might try riding the mare myself tomorrow so I can get a better idea what's going on. I was just wondering if it is possible to fix poor hind-leg action at the canter, but it appears that it's an "it depends" kind of question. ;-)

    Thanks for all your responses so far!!



  8. #8
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    Aug. 25, 2008
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    Florida
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    Default

    It depends . Vet workup - may need a course of Adequan or joint injections, but depending on what the vet finds these may not help. I haven't really found general joint supplements to be that helpful, although I have used MSM to help get the horse into regular work which CAN help. At 19, you will want to get some film of those hocks and fetlock areas, to see what kind of arthritic changes you have going on. That sounds like what's happening - arthritis can make cantering very difficult, and was the main reason for our decision to retire our daughter's 23 year old from showing. He was perfectly sound at the walk and trot, and was doing fantastic, but he started swapping leads and cross cantering at the canter, because he just couldn't hold up in the hock area. So rather than keep pushing him, he is now her hack around the pasture and check the babies ride, and she is riding a younger horse for showing. He had a great career, and deserves a great retirement (with plenty of movement, just not the same TYPE of movement).

    Oh, and try 24 hour turnout if possible - I've found that can help the arthritis a lot.



  9. #9
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    Mar. 16, 2003
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    We tried the cavaletti but she got really worked up about them and we had a hard time keeping her calm. I might suggest that my friend start introducing them really slowly (like one ground pole at a time?) so the mare remains calm...
    Yup, if she's getting worked up take it down to basics of one pole walk/trot both directions then once calm add a pole rinse and repeat.
    I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.



  10. #10
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    May. 30, 2006
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    Given the breed, the age and reluctance to/pogo stick canter my first thought was, has she ever foundered? Have her feet ever been x-rayed?



  11. #11
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    so. chester co.
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    It could also be a stifle issue, having a vet do a work up might be a good idea considering her age. Flexions should show something if it is hock or stifle pain.



  12. #12
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    19 and 'pasture pet' and red flags to me that lead me to think health problems and unfit.

    slc is right that going back to walk/trot won't really help the canter but they will help in getting the horse fit. Canter work will improve the canter.

    But I'd start with a good vet to see if this horse is capable of much and then I'd get the horse fit. I'd imagine that those 2 things alone will improve the canter.
    "ronnie was the gifted one, victor was the brilliant intellect, and i [GM], well, i am the plodder."



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