One thing I tell my students is that if they are imagining that everyone else is doing only things they aren't scared of, they are mistaken. Lots of people including professionals ride with fear, they have just learned how to be afraid and still ride. Even GP jumper riders look at the courses sometimes and go, jaysus, they built those so huge you could LIVE in the triple bar, and go back to their tack stall to cry before pulling themselves together and kicking on. The difference is not that they aren't scared, they have just learned how to still carry on and ride effectively in spite of it. They WANT IT that much.
So with my students, I never pressure anything. I never even discuss the canter. Generally we have plenty to work on at the walk and trot for several weeks anyway. I start laying the prep for their canter weeks or even months in advance, focusing mainly on ateral control over the horse and prompt transitions. This is very slyly building a stockpike of "credibility and confidence," while they consistently celebrate small successes like good transitions and start to learn that following my instructions has not made anything scary happen When they start to feel their horse tell them "yes ma'am" I start to see them ride a little more effectively and decisively, and then I sneak the canter in.
We'll do walk trot transitions on a 20m circle at one end, with 10m circles in the corner. Then I have them do a 10m circle in one corner, walk again, and the second the horse is walking one day I just say, "and outside leg back and canter four steps". This is why you spend weeks building your stockpile of credibility and confidence: because now you as trainer are going to make a big withdrawal. You want that leg to go back and cue, and your student is probably going "OMG WHAT??!" and the only thing that will get their leg back over their fear is the trust you have built up prior.
So hopefully they cue, and then they canter across the short side and have help from the wall (and me strategically standing IN THE WAY of the longside) to whoa. Everything is planned, from the transition set up to the figures ridden, to which lead is easier for the horse, to using the walls strategically, to where I am standing, to set them up for success.
I canter them on only the shortside for a while and only gradually do more and more use of the ring. For several weeks only the one shortside canter per ride may be what they do. Three or four steps of canter into a wall is much easier for a fearful student to accept than going up the huge longsides for an indefinite time. I always make sure to say "canter four steps" or "canter to the next corner and halt" so that they know there is a very short end point. If you just say "canter" without saying you only want a couple steps it is too big a withdrawal. And sneaking it in like that without even mentioning it for weeks I have found takes away a lot of the "preparation anxiety." They have no idea it's coming, and the four or five steps later it's already over. I don't give them the opportunity to get their panties in a twist, and then when they do four steps of canter almost by surprise I cheer and jump up and down and try to make them feel like they just won the Olympics.
Last edited by meupatdoes; Nov. 18, 2012 at 06:55 AM.
My trainer worked with a friends daughter who was also afraid of cantering. Different age, but similar problem.
What she did was ride double with her (kid on the saddle, trainer on the horse's back) and canter with her. They used a very safe horse who is used to this sort of "adventures", and it worked because it gave her a sense of confidence and trust on the horse ("if the horse behaves with both of us here, he will behave even better without a nuisance of a second rider")
And....try having her take 1/4 pill of Tylenol PM about 30 minutes or so before she rides. It may help to keep the fear down and maintain rational thinking while she works thru the issues. It also works for going to the dentist and getting on airplanes
i will just offer a bit of a different POV - when one gets older (cough, cough) our bodies dont work as well as they used to - therefore the chance of getting hurt is much larger - and this feeds into the fear factor.... so dealing with it might be different than if you were dealing with a younger person....
i think that a sports psychologist might be helpful, but also she just needs to feel safe on the horse she is riding and she will canter when she is ready. IMO pushing her will only result in setbacks because she will get tenser and tenser ....
When I started getting really serious about my riding again a few years ago, I was terrified to canter. If she's comfortable cantering on your school horse, then she's probably afraid that she is not yet able maintain her own balance or help keep a less 'experienced' horse in balance beneath her.
This might sound counter intuitive - but try having your student work for a bit in a forward hunter type canter position. I was terrified of losing my balance and not being able to stay with the horse in the canter, so my trainer had me working a lot in 2 point to strengthen my leg, use my ankle as a shock absorber, and balance my upper body. When I got to the point that I could stay up and centered over my horse through trips and spooks, I was ready to canter without fear.
It might help her if you just ask her to describe, in detail, exactly what she is imagining will happen when she canters on her lease horse. Don't let her get away with 'I won't be able to stop the horse', or 'I'll lose my balance.' Make her describe the exact sequence of events that she is imagining they'll unfold. Then you walk her through the same sequence of events and have her repeat "When I feel myself falling off to the left - I will do THIS to correct it'. 'If I feel my horse losing its balance, I'll shift my weight to help rebalance it'. This will train her subconscious to give her a feeling of empowerment.
Do this through several lessons without asking her to canter. Just walk her through the different scenarios she's imagining as well as some other's that you can think of yourself so that she builds an encyclopedia of positive actions she can take to counteract various issues (real or imagined) that can come up during the canter.
Its usually no good to tell a frightened person 'you're fine - there's nothing to be afraid of'. What you have to do is give them the tools to cope with the things they're frightened of, and it has to be broken down into exact movements she can make with her body to make her feel she's capable of retaining control.
I've had some issues with canter lately. Seize up, het stiff, nervous, plus some. A few past experiences before I took right over a year off brought it on. My horse is golden and safe as they come but I still had this irrational fear. What I did with my trainer, canter a few steps each way at the end of every lesson. I started out with maybe 2 strides before that was all I could handle mentally. Over a month it got to maybe 4 or 5 strides. All my trainer did was tell me to let his head go (because I would tense and it wasn't fair to my horse) and ride. She didn't correct anything about my position or what I was doing. All she said was that's great and talked it up like it was an amazing feat, which it kind of was for me. Over about 3 months at going at my on speed and her just encouraging I now will canter my whole ring lol. From a person that rode cross country and galloped at fences it sounds crazy but I know the fear she is feeling. It may take another 3 months for me to canter a 20m circle but that's ok. My confidence is building and now my trainer is coaching me with the canter now that I am more confident.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
This advice makes sense to me. I wonder if I ride while i teach her, she will feel less under the microscope.
When she leaves it is to the other side of the country; horse stays here, but she takes lessons at another barn...and I think she wants to leave here feeling confident about cantering and that she has progressed. She has progressed with other things, so perhaps it will also help if we discuss all the other skills she has gained recently.
The idea suggested by someone else about two pointing is tricky as she has a tendon issue that would make it difficult.
I've had issues with canter. I'm fine on certain, trusted horses. Other horses I can go for a few strides and then I start to panic. When I panic, my brain shuts off, my body goes into defensive mode and I start to lean forward and do all the wrong things. I go from actively trying to ride the horse to the point that I've stop riding and now I just want to stay on long enough to get the horse to trot.
I have gotten better and forced myself to try cantering on new horses. This is largely due to having a trainer that I trust to know what I am physically AND mentally capable of in the saddle before I reach my limit. That limit gets higher all the time and she is still always challenging me.
I still sometimes panic when cantering. It's usually when the horse is on the forehand. If I feel like the horse is constantly speeding up, that's when panic sets in. Being on the forehand gives the feeling of the horse speeding up, even if they're staying pretty much the same speed the whole time. And of course when I begin to lean forward as a defense mechanism, I only make the horse more on the forehand than before. Giving up when I feel too much pressure at the canter is a bad mental habit of mine.
On a related note, I think the close relationship a student and instructor can have is pretty amazing. My instructor is not a super close friend by any means. Yet I feel she knows some parts of my personality better than anyone else. How many people do you show fear in front of? How many other people challenge you physically and mentally on a regular basis? I also feel like I'm more myself while riding than anywhere else except with my husband and best friend.
I second the longe line -- I know you said it's not a fear of stopping, but putting a neck strap on the horse and then basically letting her just sit in the saddle to find her balance may really help. It sounds like at the canter on her lease horse she feels insecure in her seat (the slipping of the foot also suggests she's gripping with the knee/thigh and not sitting deep). Doing a longe lesson focusing on her seat may help develop that security as well as develop her confidence to handle the horse.
Plus, even if it doesn't work for the canter...you can never go wrong with some back-to-basics on the longe! It always shocks me how I lose focus on the little things sometimes because I get distracted with all the bajilllion other things I'm thinking about!
I WAS that student (well, like her anyway). Not really sure WHY I had cantering anxiety...never really had an issue except my old pony sort of went on her forehand and seemed to gain steam with every stride. My new guy can get quick, but only when I let him (ie. leaning forward in the "go" position). What helped me was my trainer having me put the reins in one hand and grabbing mane with the other on a 20m circle. (he doesn't really lunge, but likes his cirlces so it works good...otherwise a lunge would be a good idea.) I practiced breathing and we would just chat about something else while I was cantering around. Got me to relax and release tension. We would also do very quick transitions at the other gaits including lateral work. Unknowing to me, she would set me up for a good canter depart and just say canter somewhere in there. I didn't have time to get tense or think about it...I just did it.
I can now canter around on a loose rein with a smile on my face
I agree with others in that she has to get rid of the negativity. It's ok to be scared...even if you don't know why and do find it silly. She has to WANT to overcome it and have trust in you and her horse that you won't set her up to fail and that the horse isn't going to do anything bad.
The only thing the government needs to solve all of its problems is a Council of Common Sense.
So, after I responded to this I realized that I am scared of cantering.
In August, after two years of owning my horse with no issues, I fell. It was on a blustery day and he was giving my signs that I probably shouldn't ride. His whole attitude had changed, something weird was going on and I ultimately moved barns. During our canter he spooked and came right out from under me. It was a huge slap in the ego. I wasn't hurt and I have been riding for like twelve years, I know people fall, I've fallen. But this was different. I wasn't sure of my horse anymore and with his attitude changes both on the ground and under saddle, I gave up. We finally moved barns which fixed all the issues but I pulled his shoes for winter and with those sensitive TB feet, he went lame. I couldn't ride for nearly a month.
Once I was back on it was like starting from ground zero. I hadn't really been on him since I fell and he knew that. He wouldn't move forward. I finally got him moving forward, started working on lateral movement and jumping. But always at the trot. After I read this thread I realized I haven't even tried to canter! I can jump but I can't canter? So! I cantered on Sunday I was so happy and Piper was perfect.
I was this student as well. Lovely well trained Andalusian stallion with the reputation of unceremoniously dumping his riders at the canter. I was fairly unschooled. Just the thought of asking this horse to canter gave me vapors, always thinking he would live up to his reputation. My instructor had little patience with me and would endlessly ask for canter departs screaming "you can do this". When in truth I could not. After every ride I was filled with self recrimination for my lack of gumption, and so we circled and circled and circled.
One day I ( being very tired of my instructors' derision ) just went for it asked for the depart and promptly rolled over his shoulder and onto the ground. The horse slammed to a stop and came back to me, nosed me as if to say " are you ok? what are you doing down there? Am I in deep doo?" I just had to go off the horse at the canter to release my fear of going off at the canter. Not saying this is the answer for the problem but it was my answer to the problem.
"I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you..."
As a more brittle rider, one that had a 10 year hiatus and then came back to it, I can comprehend entirely.
For me, however, the longe line is MORE scary than a straight line. I will gallop on straight grassy trails outside the ring no problem, I'm pretty sure if you put me on a longe line right now and asked me to canter I would be a bit apprehensive. i like straight lines better.
I second the suggestion about the 2-point. Not an exaggerated one, but a balanced forward seat might help to start off with.
Lastly, I would suggest that the rider gets comfortable doing both sitting and posting trot without stirrups. If you know you can ride without stirrups it makes you more confident that losing them won't unseat you.
But I wouldn't 'surprise' OP's re-rider with an out of the blue canter demand.
I wouldn't ask the rider to canter at all, in any lesson. I would wait for the rider to ask for it. - "Hey, we haven't cantered today?!" -"oh, you want to canter? Go for it"
I think I would only have this rider do walk/canter transitions as it is often more easy-stable-less chances for the horse to run before the canter. And really limit the rider in the amount of canter he/she is allowed to. Not being restrictive if the rider wants to try to do more but only if this is what the rider wants.
Focus on the quality of the transitions.
If the rider wants to canter, give choices of few exercices. The rider choose how and when to canter.
If the rider never asks to canter then that will be his/her choice.
Lots and lots of good ideas here. I need to reread the whole thread! any chance you can borrow a western pleasure trained show Arab or QH? something that will lope from a walk, slowly and smoothly, and is broad-based enough to balance over his own 4 feet?
I have a older student that has a mental block/fear about cantering. Her fears are reasonibly well founded based on some past experiences, but she definitely has the skill set to safely canter, and she has a safe horse, but she just seizes up and can't do it. She also will start a negative chatter which I try my best to stop. The thing is once she gets off she feels silly for not cantering and knows she CAN do it..but once on a horse the negativity starts.
so be more assertive ------- your the instructor and to move this person forwards you got to change theway your doing things
negativity breds negativty - so change it
She CAN and will canter on my good old lesson horse Rocket, and she has cantered other horses, but she just doesn't believe in herself on anything else.
so - use her horse now and not yours if she can do it on yours she can do it on hers
have a game plan- dont tell her before hand what your plans are
just hook her up to the lunge line- and tell her firmly but nicely your are the anchor man and thats it -
then you say right we off to warm you and the horse up- so walk one circuit on lunge then up to rising trot- back down to sitting trot then move staright into canter - then repeat the other side
once she completed it say - hey there you go you have now completed all three paces on bot reins now we can work after that lovely warm up and take her off imediately
then have a struected lesson-- have some ground poles down centre line
and set them out at trotting poles - get her to work the horse in trot comming both ways dwon the centre line
so you have 9 poles out then remove - no 2 no4 no 6 and n0 8 this should now give you a canter stride with a little adjusting once the horse has gone over them in canter the 1st time and again repeat the exercise so the horse is comming both ways at the top and at the bottom of the line encourage her by saying enter at A and turn left/right c visa versa
the horse shouldnt be naughty as the trot be that rising or sitting
is a freind of pace it working the horse in so the horse is focus you job is to make sure she focus on the job/exercise in hand for her to complete pharse her well so she feels shes accomplished heaps and feels shes enjoyed it
then you can do a lot more with a more confident person
She is currently part leasing a horse to improve her skills, and she cantered her a few strides a few times, and was fine but the last time she tried cantering for some reason she lost her balance and her inside foot came up (bent knee), but didn't loose balance with her body...still it worried her.
check her stirrups are the correct lenght so many people that i have taught or had problesm with there horses is because they are not balanced properly and in a central position to the horse look here on my helpful links pages to how correctly alter your stirrups
when teaching the very 1st thing one does is check the tack and fittment of both horse and rider and as she leasing and learning then this is your job to check and guide her as this can be a major floor in ones riding abilities as it can mean they are riding one sided which in turn effects the way of going for a horse
1-- is the rider feels insecure as lack of balance and 2- as they have a lck of balance then the commands and signals one give via the legs or hands is mis matched- meaning a- the rider is hanging on the head end for support so horsey has no option but to hollow up and advade the contact or they grip so tight with legs the horsey wants to do nothing but go-- mis matched information and wrong signals confuses horsey - confusion to a horse is a fear factor and they only have 2 1st is to flee 2nd is th advade you be that ridden driven or handled
On Monday we have planned a lesson where she will start out riding Rocket while I warm up her lease mare, and then she will canter Rocket, then switch right to lease horse. Thoughts? Ideas?
dont warm him up this her job her horse the more you do the less likely she is to gan her confidence she leases him so she must ride him - period
She feels she needs to be cantering lease horse within 3 weeks as then she goes away and back to her other barn for a few months (she only lives her a few months a year), and wants to be cantering confidently before then...I think this pressure she is putting on herself isn't helping.
so she should if she feels she wants to do it- then and your her trianer then you have to change your game plan dont get on him
work with her from the ground - not on her horses back the more she does the better she will become and so will your repretation as being someone who knows what there doing keep it the way it is- then your just as novice as what she is only your a2nd rider and shes 1st one
novice riders in my book are people that want to learn
if you want to be a good instructor- then you have to up the anti and give her more constructive ground work session which include canter
1st make it lots of fun once you have the intial start as above
do - games if you school is big then keep your start finish lines 20meteres from end if not make it 10 both ends use a cone or barrel or somthing she can see-
do walk up to finish line and trot down to start line then canter to finish line, then can change it to canter1st then trot then walk which is harder, in both games if she changes pace during a set pace of the game then she must turn a circle before contining on to the next set pace
do a walk race there and back, a trot race there and back and canter race there and back change ends if you like an repeat so both reins are used
do a bending races - in either as a set pace or in all three paces
do ahandy pony game - with her getting on and off both sides and opening and closing gates or going to a parked area, going over a small jump, or getting off walking on plant pots or getting off and running through about 10 tyres thing is to make her do things with her horse which will build her confidence quickly
Aside from her canter nerves, she IS a good rider and is really improving her lease horse's walk/trot work and lateral work.
so work with her more and get doing things rather than the same old boring stuff
I was pretty terrified to canter my boy when I moved to my new trainer. Couple of bad incidents on him and other horses made my adult self afraid of getting hurt yet again. Found the right trainer that put no pressure on us (not saying that you are putting pressure on her) and fast forward three years and we are schooling tempis for a planned PSG debut next year sometime.
Let her know that it is okay to do it on her timeframe, and her comfort level. My trainer would tell me, "if you feel the moment is right, ask for the canter".
I would have her work with a sports psychologist - Tonya Johnson is really good.
I don't think anyone who doesn't have serious fear issues will understand.
About 25 years ago I was a fearless 3day rider. About 20 years ago I had a bad wreck - broke my back, nearly spent the rest of my life in a wheelchair.
Most of the time you would never know it. I am a pretty attractive, effective rider. I have shown through second level with good, often high scores. My old, now retire horse, The Exploding Pony, was a complete maniac.
But there are times when I can barely ride. Even though my horses are easy and safe. Cantering sometimes still terrifies me. Never at shows, but often at home in our big outdoor arena. My biggest issue is when there are western riders in the arena with me.
I don't think a trainer can solve this. If she wants it, have her work with a sports psychologist.
I agree that she may have fear/anxiety issues that need to be addressed by a professional, outside the ring.
Otherwise, I'd work on cantering a few strides, or just a long side. That is how I teach my wee beginner kids to canter. The horses (bless them) know the drill and crawl back to a trot or walk when they reach the corner. Maybe if you demonstrate the exercise, show her the horse will canter in a controlled manner and stop when asked, it will help a bit.
Then let her do that for as loooong as she needs to.
Also, I have one or two adults whom I teach that really have 0 ambition to canter. They just don't want to. Fine by me, if they are happy working on walking and trotting forever.... that is their prerogative. Not everyone has the same goals/aspirations, kwim?
We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.