The disunited canter AKA cross cantering - questions
Do you think that a horse that has trouble with 'clean' changes while playing free will have trouble learning lead changes under saddle?
I have an 8 yo TB that often cross canters when playing in the field and changes leads. More like almost always. He changes in front but goes around cross cantering. Additionally, he often gets disunited on the longe.
We've started changes under saddle, but I'm wondering if his lack of fluency while free of tack is any indication of his ability to have clean changes under tack.
In my experiences with my own horses, the ones that swapped freely in the field were the ones that picked up on their changes under saddle the quickest. I realize that's probably not what you wanted to hear, but the situation certainly isn't hopeless. Even if all else fails, you could always just teach him to land on his leads.
Also, I realize you've probably already thought of this, but does he show any significant one-sidedness (ie always maintains the left lead in the rear, etc)? If so, I would expect a soundness issue may be involved.
Good luck! My young one is on "winter vacation" for the next two months, but once spring arrives we'll be back to work on our lead changes... ooh, what fun lol.
your changes? On easy and hard learners? My green mare swaps easily in the field and out on trail rides and in big fields, but tends to just get the front in the ring. Know it's supposed to be back to front, but how?
How is your lateral work at the trot? Is he fluid yielding both ways and can he hold a proper bend? Can he do the haunches in/out well? Especially at the trot, he needs to be strong and you need to be able to displace the haunch both ways.
Alot of them will screw around when fresh and free out in the field and it's not tragic if they swap off on the lunge...as long as they don't have trouble holding one lead obviously more then the other and that "bad" one is always the one they swap off of.
Need a little more info here.
Not a huge fan of the "just swap in the air over every fence". Requires a fairly advanced rider very comfortable over the fences and able to be really subtle for a Hunter or the horse will drift off center or kind of wiggle the rear a little over the top in reaction to the leg. Awfully hard to execute a Jumper or Eq course with multiple roll backs trying to swap over the top when you have to ride to the base of a spread fence or angle a vertical for more room on a sharp roll back. Impractical and limiting.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
He raced once as a 3yo and has been a our 'pet' since. Lots of saddle miles, just no formal training until last fall. He's been in consistent training since Oct. He yields off both legs, comes on to the bit and works from back to front. Haunches in/out - not so much. He's is stronger on the left lead - his right is the weaker.
In the past when we've ridden in the fields, he can change from right lead to left at a 'collected gallop'. I don't believe I've ever seen him change from L to R. I think it's harder for him now that we're in an arena and we're slower and much more collected. I have gotten some changes from L to R over a pole placed at the corner. Having more trouble with the changing the other direction.
This is my daughter's eq horse, so I don't want to rely on changes over fences. While it is possible, it's not something she wants to bank on doing. He needs his changes.
I've had a recent in depth discussion with my vet about possible hock issues and I wonder if this could also be a possible cause of not wanting to change. We will address the hocks in the next week or so.
5 months of serious work (regardless of age) is not a ton of time to condemn him as unable.
And you bet the hocks may need a little relief, but please don't just stick him, get some pictures and make sure it is the hock and not the stifle. Don't care how good the vet is (or thinks s/he is), they cannot see inside. Not so much to get a set of pics on those back legs.
On the positive side, most of them are left "handed"-we always handle them left, get on and off left, start working or lunging left and they train and race left. Switch that up and spend more time working right, start right, do 3 right bends for every left bend and do alot, as in ALOT, of medium trot work bending right, big right circles, haunches right and so forth to get that right side stronger and more flexible. And remind DD to keep coming forward-no slow down and pick, more forward helps with straightness...and he is probably not straight. Bet he crabs along with a slight left bend as many, many, many do and that kills a change and some distances off corners.
If he has never been asked for much, he is not going to give it up. Work with that right side. Maybe a little dressage guidence.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
findeight: thank you for your reply. I know we're just beginning his formal career, so it's still far to early to make a clear cut call. I'm trying to help him be the best he can be.
I'll definitely have pics taken of the hocks before any injections. He is base narrow and sickle hocked, so there is definitely added stress to his hindend.
I'll have DD work to the right as you've suggested. I'm sure he's weaker to the right, so spending more time building the right makes sense. We have a dressage instructor that she likes (not so much the dressage work itself) so perhaps we can set up some lessons with her as well.
Interesting post - I was just thinking about this today.
Anyway, from my experience, my answer: No!
One horse CONSTANTLY canters disunited when playing on his own. I dont think I have ever really seen him canter normally when playing around in the indoor. He does this both directions. He has been doing this since I bought him 3 years ago.
Under tack, he never misses a change, never canters disunited and lopes around a 3'6 hunter course.
Second horse always "plays" with a normal canter. I dont think I have ever seen him disunite, however he will counter canter. He will also do lead changes solidly while playing.
But will he do a solid lead change under saddle? Nope!!
Anyway, if you are concerned, I would snap some rads to make sure nothing is bothering him. Some horses just "do" this because they can, others hurt. Best to rule pain out, but dont be suprised if the rads come back clean and your horse just likes to be different!!
Just want to add that my horse went through a wierd phase when he was seven. He was started on courses at five and was an auto-changer. Then at seven for some reason, he started losing his lead behind to the right. On course, he would lose that lead behind in the corners. He could not lunge to the right without losing it behind. This started in April '07. I did everything, including xrays and injections of hocks, stifles, SI. Also tried shoeing solutions on the rear. Nothing helped. Then in the fall, I pulled his back shoes, and he basically rested for a few months. He was fine in the spring. I kept his back shoes off and he is still fine. Maybe some kind of fusing issue? Bad bruise? Who knows???
Although most of my experience is with cross cantering arabians I'd say no.
My experience is that horses cross canter when their heads are up and their back drops. Keeping their heads down and their backs rounded greatly reduces the cross canter.
I would lunge him in sidereins or a neck stretcher type device on a smaller then normal circle. Encouraging his head to be level with his withers or even below at the canter for short periods will really help to stretch his back. Use short sessions and bring him down to a trot if he cross canters. As he gets stronger and uses his back right he will cross canter less.
This is all very useful information and I'd like to thank everyone for your replies. We'll incorporate many of the suggestions and continue to work with Conrad. I'm sure the changes are in there - it's just helping him get there
I'm in total agreement with EnjoyTheRide. I find that the disunited canter is far more likely to be due to the head being up and the back being hollow. Your horse is probably out in the field playing, head and tail up, back dropped, so he wont make the full change. The way I address lead changes is to do LOTS of changes of direction under saddle, at the trot and doing simple changes, that stress the neck relaxed and the back round and relaxed. I want to teach the horse that the change of direction is about body posture as much as bending and balance. These are the foundations for the lead change. While I do like the rails to help the horse to learn about changes, I feel that how the horse uses his neck and back through the change of direction is the critical issue for the horses that are not consistent in both directions and who stick behind.