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  1. #1
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    Apr. 30, 2008
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    Default Need help with the canter!

    We bought my daughter a paint mare this summer who had been a 4H type horse for years, then a trail horse for nearly two years. As a trail horse she just did trails a few times every summer, so she basically had two years off. She was in work for about a week when we bought her.

    She is 13, 15.1 and foundation bred, though her neck ties in a tad higher than your typical stock horse and she's not as heavy on the forehand as the typical stock horse, so dressage work, in theory, should be a little easier for her. Conformationally, the only thing that would make her better would be to add a little length to her neck, otherwise she's a pretty nice mare. She's a little on the lazy side and works hard only when told to. Pretty normal stuff. She is a tad stiff -- I've seen way worse. Physically, she is not overweight and is muscular, but she's not as solid as she could be. Not a really strong topline through her back yet but she's got a great butt!

    We bought her in August, rode her moderately (walk/trot/canter at least four days per week) through September then leased her for three months while we dealt with some personal issues at home. Her leasee rode, but not a lot. She did ride dressage, but doesn't ask much of the horses she rides so would basically plod along at all three gaits. We are back to riding 4-5 days per week as of January 1, pretty good workouts most of the time.

    So, there is some history of the horse.

    When we got her, her canter was really fast and stiff. Not like she's hot or nervous, or taking off, but unbalanced and she was pretty out of shape. She's gotten just a tad better and I'm surprised her canter isn't moderately better by now (not perfect, mind you). I've dealt with this before with horses and I'm just really surprised at how bad it is, still. She really fights the bit at a canter, doesn't bend, goes too fast, really cuts corners and breaks gait a lot. However, at the walk and trot we don't have half these issues.

    Her saddle fits, she is not lame, she does not wring her tail or pin her ears, ever. She seems comfortable and happy, has a good diet, teeth are good, etc.

    Is this really just a time thing? Is there something more I can do? Or should I just wait it out? My daughter can't really do five things at once on horseback right now (she's too much of a beginner), so asking her to circle at the canter to get the horse to bend, relax and accept the bit results in a big mess with the horse being so stiff and going fast combined with her lack of experience and I think she's a little scared to be honest because it doesn't feel like you're in control. When she canters she tends to just stay on the rail, which I know doesn't help. I can ride her 1 or 2 days per week myself to school her (though I'm not exactly a trainer!).

    Some suggestions would be appreciated.



  2. #2
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    Mar. 16, 2003
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    Wet and Windy Washington
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    Sounds like thats all she knows.

    If you ride her a couple times a week, teach her to understand the HH and gradually she will slow down. Keeps lots of suppling work and walk and trot and the canter should improve.

    It won't magically get bettter in time because this is what she thinks she should be doing, so unless someone shows her what they want she'll probably keep offering whats been working for her all these years.
    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.



  3. #3
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    Sep. 12, 2005
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Default

    I would start doing some regular lunging in side reins, the rubber donut kind. Make sure they are even to keep the horse straight. Make sure the horse is doing a real circle on the lunge, that the lunger does not allow the horse to drift to the outside and therefore lose it's balance. When it's going well in trot, add short canters, with lots of transitions back and forth between trot and canter. The cantering straight on the circle in the sidereins will start to help your horse's balance in the canter. The many transitions between trot/canter/trot will build strength.



  4. #4
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    Mar. 9, 2006
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    Lucama, NC
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    Default

    Lunging will help her to learn to balance. i would also consider the fact she could have PSSM< which is fairly common in stock horse breeds and can cause the type of movement and tightness you describe. May be worth testing her or changing her to a PSSM diet.



  5. #5
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    Jun. 7, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by CamdenLab View Post
    We bought my daughter a paint mare this summer who had been a 4H type horse for years, then a trail horse for nearly two years. As a trail horse she just did trails a few times every summer, so she basically had two years off. She was in work for about a week when we bought her.

    She is 13, 15.1 and foundation bred, though her neck ties in a tad higher than your typical stock horse and she's not as heavy on the forehand as the typical stock horse, so dressage work, in theory, should be a little easier for her. Conformationally, the only thing that would make her better would be to add a little length to her neck, otherwise she's a pretty nice mare. She's a little on the lazy side and works hard only when told to. Pretty normal stuff. She is a tad stiff -- I've seen way worse. Physically, she is not overweight and is muscular, but she's not as solid as she could be. Not a really strong topline through her back yet but she's got a great butt!

    We bought her in August, rode her moderately (walk/trot/canter at least four days per week) through September then leased her for three months while we dealt with some personal issues at home. Her leasee rode, but not a lot. She did ride dressage, but doesn't ask much of the horses she rides so would basically plod along at all three gaits. We are back to riding 4-5 days per week as of January 1, pretty good workouts most of the time.

    So, there is some history of the horse.

    When we got her, her canter was really fast and stiff. Not like she's hot or nervous, or taking off, but unbalanced and she was pretty out of shape. She's gotten just a tad better and I'm surprised her canter isn't moderately better by now (not perfect, mind you). I've dealt with this before with horses and I'm just really surprised at how bad it is, still. She really fights the bit at a canter, doesn't bend, goes too fast, really cuts corners and breaks gait a lot. However, at the walk and trot we don't have half these issues.

    Her saddle fits, she is not lame, she does not wring her tail or pin her ears, ever. She seems comfortable and happy, has a good diet, teeth are good, etc.

    Is this really just a time thing? Is there something more I can do? Or should I just wait it out? My daughter can't really do five things at once on horseback right now (she's too much of a beginner), so asking her to circle at the canter to get the horse to bend, relax and accept the bit results in a big mess with the horse being so stiff and going fast combined with her lack of experience and I think she's a little scared to be honest because it doesn't feel like you're in control. When she canters she tends to just stay on the rail, which I know doesn't help. I can ride her 1 or 2 days per week myself to school her (though I'm not exactly a trainer!).

    Some suggestions would be appreciated.
    I have an AppQH who had the same canter when he came to me. His response to life when the going got tough was to tighten his back and brace the base of his neck, at all gaits, but most particularly at the canter.

    We pogo-sticked around for a long time, but eventually his gait improved.

    In our endless quest to "get the back long" we did:
    -eleventy billion stretchy circles at the trot
    -even on the long sides, give the hands forward an inch and see if his nose follows, if not, immediate turn into circle and try again (at all gaits)
    -up the long side in 20m circles, then 15m circles, then 10m circles, at all three gaits
    -serpentines, serpentines, and more serpentines, and eventually a souped-up serpentine with 10m circles at each apex
    -a million and one longsides of 15m and 10m circles at the canter

    When I finally had his back reliably (but I still had to watch like a hawk! ), we started some work on the counter canter. Initially a mere attempt at a flat loop serpentine up the long side resulted in an " *scoots off running* " from him.

    Soooo every time he scooted I would just immediately abort mission and do a 10m circle off the "true" inside leg. (i.e., if we are riding clockwise trying to do a cc serpentine on a left curve keeping the right lead, 10m circle in the corner to really get him off the inside leg, then initiate serpentine on leftward curve, but if he blows through it 10m circle RIGHT to reinforce right inside leg and the right lead).
    Then we'd circle around to a larger 20m circle on the short side to get back to the corner, do a 10m circle in the corner again, and try again.
    If he got really vertutzt we would hold off on the serpentine a little and just do 10m circles down the long side again.

    We went from flat-loop-serpentine-to-the-6"-line (ha) to the 3m line to the 5m line to the 8m line...etc etc

    The more his counter canter improved the more his canter improved.


    If your mare is having difficulty even cantering around nicely, then in my world she would live on a 20m circle and do canter/trot transitions with no more than half a circle of canter at a time until she got stronger. No point in cantering around pell mell; four steps organized is better than 40 running.

    If this is too much horse for your daughter in this gait at this stage, someone ELSE needs to install a quiet, balanced canter. Either you or the professional you are paying.



  6. #6
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    Sep. 22, 2006
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    Default

    You mentioned that the horse was not lame - have you gotten a vet out to check and give you his/her opinion? I would do that first, so you can rule out issues that would make trying to work through it a waste of time.

    Otherwise, good old fashioned walk/trot/canter should do the trick. Transitions between the gates are key to building strength within them and anyone (from a beginner to an FEI rider) can do them in a productive way - just get to walk/trot/canter somehow!

    The transitions, done repeatedly, every 10 to 20 meters will build much-needed strength you said you felt was lacking in the canter and get the horse to listen more to the aids - which should help with the breaking at the canter issue. Change directions often and work on getting the horse to go exactly where your daughter wants her in the walk/trot/canter. That is something you could school on the days you ride - and really make her go in the corners and stay on a correct circle.

    I would avoid the lunge, unless you are very comfortable with lunging in side reins. A horse that is not strong on the lunge will try to pull you all over the place and may cut in so often that you are doing nothing but runnning them on an 8-meter circle for 20 minutes.



  7. #7
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    Jan. 10, 2006
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    Default

    I would lunge over some small jumps (no side reins) - asking for the canter right after the jump.



  8. #8

    Default

    Lunge her in side reins.



  9. #9
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    Jun. 1, 2009
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    Default

    supple, supple, supple. Work on really getting her loose in the neck and easily flexible at the walk and trot. Once she's reliably flexible and on the outside rein, the canter transition will make more sense to her and be softer. Then you ask for the suppleness and flexiblity within the canter.
    Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!



  10. #10
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    Sep. 18, 2003
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    Let me preface this by saying I am NOT a trainer, but I have a 14 y.o. horse whose canter was a mess after several years off. It took 6 months of suppling work before I saw appreciable improvement.

    She had other issues, too, so your horse should come around more quickly. But basically, your horse has had only 8 weeks of consistent work after a 2-year vacation. Then on vaca. for another 3 months. Give it some time and try some of the things people have suggested. I'm not much for loungeing, so we did lots of shoulder-in and leg yields, spiral in and spiral out circles. Started at the walk and then trot. Just getting her to step under on her stiff side and keeping her straight on her hollow side. If she gave me a canter depart, I took it and then asked for a down transition before she got wonky. But I didn't specifically ask for the canter for probably 3 months or so.

    If your daughter can't ask for the bend at the canter (and esp. if the horse is starting to scare her) then just have her trot. Or just have her do 5-6 strides of canter on the long sides. Make sure she asks the horse step off straight and balanced into whatever gait she's asking for. Then you can school the horse in the way -- side reins, suppling work, whatever -- that seems to work best.

    Good luck.
    __________________________
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  11. #11
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    Jul. 30, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by CamdenLab View Post
    She really fights the bit at a canter, doesn't bend, goes too fast, really cuts corners and breaks gait a lot. However, at the walk and trot we don't have half these issues.
    Does the horse do this with other riders, or just your daughter?

    My daughter can't really do five things at once on horseback right now (she's too much of a beginner), so asking her to circle at the canter to get the horse to bend, relax and accept the bit results in a big mess with the horse being so stiff and going fast combined with her lack of experience and I think she's a little scared to be honest because it doesn't feel like you're in control.
    How old is your daughter, and how long has she been riding? While I'm sure that the horse's lack of work, fitness, balance, etc., probably don't help, I can't help but wonder if it's your daughter that is contributing to the problems. The horse is fighting the bit - are your daughter's hands truly following the movement, or is she bracing to keep her balance? The horse doesn't bend and cuts corners - is your daughter keeping her center of balance or leaning into the corners, causing the horse to cut in? Is your daughter able to effectively use her legs and seat to tell the horse to bend? Going too fast/breaking gaits can both be caused by balance issues and/or confusing rider aids. If she's not really experienced enough to do circles at the canter - I doubt she's able to effectively ride the horse to help the horse balance and carry herself properly. Plus add in some fear of feeling out of control ... lots of potential problems there.

    I agree re: lunging with side reins, and also recommend that you absolutely need to be riding the horse 1-2 times a week to help develop the canter. I would have your daughter stick to walk/trot and maybe some lunge line canter to work on her confidence and seat so she can effectively help the horse more. If she does do canter work without the lungeline, I'd have her get up into two point or a half seat to make sure she's not inhibiting the horse's movement with her seat and to improve her lower leg strength and center of balance.



  12. #12
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    Nov. 10, 2008
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    Sioux Falls, SD
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    I recommend a couple things......and goodness knows I have delt with some bad balance issues before!

    1. She may not be lame...but is her back hurting? Can she bend on the ground? If not you may want a vet or a chiropractor to look at her.

    2. Side reins are your friends. I would lunge for a week without asking for a canter undersaddle at least. Till she is at least relaxing into the canter...don't expect miracles with the balance...it won't work that way. Then I would lunge before each ride for at least 10 min to loosen up.

    3. Circles and transitions. Like above posted...break things up. One of my favorite exercises for my TB when he won't bend and give at a canter is to do a spiral in spiral out. I will go around in a big circle and add outside leg until we are in a small circle while still supporting him with the inside leg. Then we work ourselves back out onto the large circle. He HAS to bend to keep himself upright.

    May also be a great exercise for your daughter cause it helps you learn how to correctly use your legs to move the horse over without actually turning and how to start bending without having your horse go every which way. If the horse is good on a lunge line you could even "help" your daughter with this. That way she doesn't have to do a million things at once.

    4. Try a different bit. Maybe something softer? Or at least check the placement of the bit. You could also try a martingale for a while.

    5. Bar all that.....and I don't say this lightly....get yourself a trainer. I don't think just shipping the horse off to a trainer will fix it completely. The horse has to learn to do it for your daughter and you. But maybe getting some outside help once a month or every other month would help. Helps me! I took a lesson on my Arab last month when we really weren't ready to progress just to get past a training plateau that I found myself on.

    Good Luck!



  13. #13
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    Apr. 30, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by shawneeAcres View Post
    Lunging will help her to learn to balance. i would also consider the fact she could have PSSM< which is fairly common in stock horse breeds and can cause the type of movement and tightness you describe. May be worth testing her or changing her to a PSSM diet.
    She is already on a "low-carb" diet. She does not exhibit any of the other symptoms of PSSM:

    generally stiff, difficulty rising, reluctant to “move out,” tires easily, saddle issues (sore back), bucking, resistance to holding up the hindfeet for shoeing, subtle lamenesses, abnormal gaits, cranky attitude, muscle tremors or sensitivity, kicks at flies that aren’t there (muscle cramps), swishes tail excessively (muscle pain), looks at belly or flanks as if colicky (muscle pain), having a preference for rubbing or rolling a lot, or the opposite, with resistance to brushing/grooming, especially over the back and rump.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by CapitolDesign View Post
    You mentioned that the horse was not lame - have you gotten a vet out to check and give you his/her opinion? I would do that first, so you can rule out issues that would make trying to work through it a waste of time.

    Otherwise, good old fashioned walk/trot/canter should do the trick. Transitions between the gates are key to building strength within them and anyone (from a beginner to an FEI rider) can do them in a productive way - just get to walk/trot/canter somehow!

    The transitions, done repeatedly, every 10 to 20 meters will build much-needed strength you said you felt was lacking in the canter and get the horse to listen more to the aids - which should help with the breaking at the canter issue. Change directions often and work on getting the horse to go exactly where your daughter wants her in the walk/trot/canter. That is something you could school on the days you ride - and really make her go in the corners and stay on a correct circle.

    I would avoid the lunge, unless you are very comfortable with lunging in side reins. A horse that is not strong on the lunge will try to pull you all over the place and may cut in so often that you are doing nothing but runnning them on an 8-meter circle for 20 minutes.
    She was vet-checked prior to us purchasing her in August and received a clean bill of health. Thanks for the advice!



  15. #15
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    Sep. 13, 2002
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    Default I'll give a different response...

    1st off people always throw out the half halt. Teach them to understand the half halt blah blah blah. Really? no.
    The half halt comes into play with collection. Not may riders know how to really work it. So forget that dressage talk.

    I ride a lot of trail horses. That means stock breeds.

    Stock breeds sometimes come with what we call, well, a bad canter.
    It's almost two beat instead of three beat and will have a pogo stick feel.
    Pretty much it sucks and is very umcomfortable.

    sounds like what you have.

    So basically you have to change the canter--which is darn hard.

    I use a vienna slide rein and the lunge line. And lots of saddle time.
    The horse needs to learn to take it's time, stretch, and take it's time.

    Counter bending at the canter sometimes slows down the beats of the gait so that you can start to feel the seperation. There should be three, tat, tat, tat.

    It's hard. I'm talking like--it can take a year to fix.
    I guess focusing on a softer, slower horse is 1st on the list.
    http://kaboomeventing.com/
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by CamdenLab View Post
    We bought my daughter a paint mare this summer who had been a 4H type horse for years, then a trail horse for nearly two years. As a trail horse she just did trails a few times every summer, so she basically had two years off. She was in work for about a week when we bought her.

    She is 13, 15.1 and foundation bred, though her neck ties in a tad higher than your typical stock horse and she's not as heavy on the forehand as the typical stock horse, so dressage work, in theory, should be a little easier for her. Conformationally, the only thing that would make her better would be to add a little length to her neck, otherwise she's a pretty nice mare. She's a little on the lazy side and works hard only when told to. Pretty normal stuff. She is a tad stiff -- I've seen way worse. Physically, she is not overweight and is muscular, but she's not as solid as she could be. Not a really strong topline through her back yet but she's got a great butt!

    We bought her in August, rode her moderately (walk/trot/canter at least four days per week) through September then leased her for three months while we dealt with some personal issues at home. Her leasee rode, but not a lot. She did ride dressage, but doesn't ask much of the horses she rides so would basically plod along at all three gaits. We are back to riding 4-5 days per week as of January 1, pretty good workouts most of the time.

    So, there is some history of the horse.

    When we got her, her canter was really fast and stiff. Not like she's hot or nervous, or taking off, but unbalanced and she was pretty out of shape. She's gotten just a tad better and I'm surprised her canter isn't moderately better by now (not perfect, mind you). I've dealt with this before with horses and I'm just really surprised at how bad it is, still. She really fights the bit at a canter, doesn't bend, goes too fast, really cuts corners and breaks gait a lot. However, at the walk and trot we don't have half these issues.

    Her saddle fits, she is not lame, she does not wring her tail or pin her ears, ever. She seems comfortable and happy, has a good diet, teeth are good, etc.

    Is this really just a time thing? Is there something more I can do? Or should I just wait it out? My daughter can't really do five things at once on horseback right now (she's too much of a beginner), so asking her to circle at the canter to get the horse to bend, relax and accept the bit results in a big mess with the horse being so stiff and going fast combined with her lack of experience and I think she's a little scared to be honest because it doesn't feel like you're in control. When she canters she tends to just stay on the rail, which I know doesn't help. I can ride her 1 or 2 days per week myself to school her (though I'm not exactly a trainer!).

    Some suggestions would be appreciated.
    ok dokey-- i would surgest you go backwards and you miight find by the nice weather you will have a decent horse read this link

    http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum...d.php?t=223453
    mouthing and bitting by thomas 1
    as i would re mouth her as sound like she hasnt got a mouth so finding it hard to accept the bit

    then go and find a trainer if you cnat do it your self dont lunge her but long rein her for tips long lineing on here go to the driving forums again thomas 1 has a wealth of expereince along with a few others like lost farmer and
    tandum
    once thats done and you have her listening to baisc commands and matey long lieing will also help build up her strenght round her off and give a nice outline plus learns her to be forwards and focused get the long lineing done right and that the basics sorted out ie her mussles etc

    then bring her back into the school and continue with the re trianing process
    hopefully you would have found a decent trianer one that can long line and one that knows how to perform the half halt stride if not look at helpful links pages here



  17. #17
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    Thanks for all the information!

    The mare doesn't have a sore back and she is pretty flexible on the ground and even at the walk and trot she is pretty flexible for a horse that hasn't been asked to be in a very long time, or forever. I've worked with a chiropractor before, on my former horse. It's truly just her canter work that suffers.

    My daughter is 14 and has been riding for about two years, with some lessons and my help. I generally have her walk and trot and most of the time I am in the ring with her to help her and remind her not to lean, grip with her knees, etc. Most of the cantering is done with me in the ring. She is not scared by the speed of the mare's canter, thankfully, but she is more frustrated that she can't get her to bend, slow, etc. She finds herself getting flustered by everything especially because she is still at the stage where she needs to watch her equitation and so forth. It's a lot at once for her. The mare will try to do this with me and I have to work hard to get her to bend, not cut corners, slow down, collect. She does try! When she's with someone who knows what they are doing, she does it. Admittedly she will take advantage of a beginner and be lazy.

    As someone mentioned, my daughter does brace a bit for balance. In fact, we did not work on keeping the mare on the bit until recently as I noticed she was balancing on her face sometimes and was too stiff, not following her face with her arms at all. So I had her riding in a loose rein to help. She is doing better. Up until this point, she just sort-of rides around without asking for anything more than a walk/trot/canter. She does not ask her to collect, etc. Just sort of rides. I have to remind her to do more than go around on the wall. We're at the point where she can ask more of the mare and she is finding that it's hard work. She's a tad humbled by it!

    We're working in a Myler loose ring french link comfort snaffle.

    She has a lesson with my former dressage trainer in a week. In the meantime, I'll only ride at the walk and trot -- circles, serpentines, figure 8s, etc. -- with some canter work if I am there and I will continue riding her to work on suppling and getting the canter down. I may try the draw reins . . . I'll give it a few weeks and see how we do without them first.

    Thanks for all of the information!



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by purplnurpl View Post
    1st off people always throw out the half halt. Teach them to understand the half halt blah blah blah. Really? no.
    The half halt comes into play with collection. Not may riders know how to really work it. So forget that dressage talk.

    I ride a lot of trail horses. That means stock breeds.

    Stock breeds sometimes come with what we call, well, a bad canter.
    It's almost two beat instead of three beat and will have a pogo stick feel.
    Pretty much it sucks and is very umcomfortable.

    sounds like what you have.

    So basically you have to change the canter--which is darn hard.

    I use a vienna slide rein and the lunge line. And lots of saddle time.
    The horse needs to learn to take it's time, stretch, and take it's time.

    Counter bending at the canter sometimes slows down the beats of the gait so that you can start to feel the seperation. There should be three, tat, tat, tat.

    It's hard. I'm talking like--it can take a year to fix.
    I guess focusing on a softer, slower horse is 1st on the list.
    Yeah, that's what it feels like and it's sort of "flat and hard." That's the best way I can describe it. There is not nice, soft, bounce. It's hard to sit!



  19. #19
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    Its hard to sit because she's not being ridden correctly at the canter.

    When you horse is examined she doesn't diagnose as in pain in her back, but when your daughter braces against her mouth, her head goes up and she becomes inverted, and the child does not hold the horse up through the bend, or use her seat in the canter, the horse you descibe goes like a horse which experiences pain at the canter. You are describing a horse which is not using its back neck or body correctly, adn if it isn't in pain cantering now, it will be eventually. When the ride stops, i am sure she feels better. If she was examined at purchased and pronounced healthy in her back, it doesn't mean she is now. If your daughter continues to ride carelessly like she is currently, the horse will become 'in pain'.

    There is nothing wrong with the horse. All horses go like you describe when ridden like you describe your daughter.

    Hopefully you can get someone up on the horse to work on her canter. After some months ridden correctly, she will begin (begin) to develop the strength to hold herself correctly into the corner at a canter, but it takes work on the part of the horse, as well as the rider, and that work is not being provided by her current rider.

    Good luck!
    Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by purplnurpl View Post
    1st off people always throw out the half halt. Teach them to understand the half halt blah blah blah. Really? no.
    The half halt comes into play with collection. Not may riders know how to really work it. So forget that dressage talk.
    Sorry but that's incorrect. The half halt doesn't "come into play with collection". It's a foundational aspect of getting any horse on the rider's aids, and I started out my training career way-back-when on QH and stock types. However, it sounds like this horse may not be balanced enough to be physically capable of responding to a half halt at this point.

    I think you've got some excellent suggestions from other posters... this really does sound like it's just a matter of putting in more hours of correct, patient training - in the saddle and on the lunge, developing balance and forwardness. Make sure that the rider is sitting back and using their core for stability and helping the horse's balance rather than hindering. If you have a few days a week to ride yourself you might also throw in cavaletti and various exercises to strengthen the back and hind end. I've had more than one horse that just takes a looong time to develop the canter, both physically and mentally. Strangely, these types often just "get it" one day out of the blue, and then it never seems to be an issue again.



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