Mustang's first CT - need tips on improving canter
Took my youngster (5 years old and very green) to our first Combined Training show. I've only had him for just a little over 2 months so we are a work in progress. He has a super mind and did fabulous on Cross Country (for a horse that had never seen a jump a few weeks ago.) 2 refusals at the water (but they were tiny, a couple of steps back while he was thinking about it, then marched on through like a good boy.)
Our goal for Dressage was to stay in the arena He did step out of the practice one when we were warming up...
He was pretty steady, no spooks, no shies at all the new stuff (letters! Judges' stand! other horses running around!) so I was very happy with that.
He is still very unbalanced at the canter and pooped out during our right canter circle... Any tips to help him find his balance, either with ground or under saddle exercises?
Well, I would say there is a lack of forward in the ride. I've seen your threads before, and remember you boy having a nice forward canter while jumping, particularly for a green horse. Might take a look at what you are doing differently in the dressage ring vs. a jump school, and start from there. Perhaps it might be easier to ride him in your cc saddle. I know I've discussed it with various pro's, and personally feel, that sometimes cantering in a dressage saddle while riding a green horse encourages a seat that they really are not muscled, or trained, to accommodate. Personally, I'll think more about my 'hand' and less about the hind-end in the d saddle, for some unknown reason.
As for yourself, I noticed that your body was a bit crooked (posting crooked), dropping your shoulder, and your upper body was not quiet. Can you ride with a whip?
You have a lot to be proud of - and he clearly likes his new job, though I think he likes to jump a bit more
I think the lack of energy in the canter is mostly due to unbalance in the small arena...it will take time for him to learn his balance and be able to power through in the canter without losing it. When he loses his balance he breaks to the trot, so you have to be there w your leg (a small tap w the dressage whip helps, too so you aren't flailing your legs at him) to remind him to keep cantering.
He'll get it it'll just take time. He's absolutely precious and seems very willing. A quick tip for the trot work, don't run him off his feet in an effort for forward. Find a rhythm he is comfortable with and add push to that, rather than just fasterfasterfaster.
My past guy had an awful time with his canter, but instead of staying slow/losing momentum, he'd rush forward and be unbalanced. What we did for him was work on the 20m circle, doing a canter-trot or trot-canter transition in every half, or quarter, or whenever he felt balanced enough. Be careful that you're not locking up your hips and allowing him to move forward. I have an old injury in my right hip that will limit my range of motion, so before I get on I'll do some hip circles, etc. to make sure that I can follow the motion and not impede (and then stop, or slow down) his movement. Also watch that your legs aren't constantly bumping on him once he's in the gait/speed/tempo that you want. Constant bumping can lead to deadened sides which can hinder the "go" you may be missing in your canter.
Carrying a whip is a good thing, and placing one little tap at the right spot can do wonders!
Thanks for all the suggestions!
Yes, the "lack of energy" was due to a few factors. It was hot and he still has a fair amount of winter coat, it was our first time in a real Dressage court and my goal was for him to stay in there , he did get a little pooped warming up (more mentally than physically I think.)
Getting him used to a whip is on my list, however for right now, whatever happened in his past, he sees a whip and starts trembling, so we are putting that on hold for a while...
He does have a decent canter in a bigger arena and out hacking, so we will keep working on it on a 20 meter circle. I will do my best to fix my position so as to help him out. He is such a good boy and tries so hard, I don't want to mess him up!
We scored a 37.5 for that test. Judge likes the trot but canter and free walk (stretching down more) both need work.