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Picking up the canter —help!

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  • Picking up the canter —help!

    My horse is 11 and I am 20, I'm fit and trying to maintain my horse's fitness. I've been riding for 13 years. 4 years with my horse.

    After recently having trouble with my horse picking up the canter in the arena, my fault with a splash of my horse's laziness, I've been thinking about how stirrups may affect my riding and maybe even my horse's back. I've been taught to swing my leg back slightly on the outside and give a light squeeze with both legs to cue the canter. This feels very awkward, my weight shifts a bit out of the outside stirrup and my entire inside leg closes against my horse. My horse dives into the inside. He also dives into the inside when I've tried switching my weight to the outside stirrup. I feel like I'm juggling between trying to keep him straight through the take off and wrestling with discomfort with my stirrups. I watch videos of myself and my position is fine, all the lines are straight and bent where they need to be, but I still have this problem.

    I've tried shortening/lengthening my stirrups ridiculously in order to get back to my balanced, unshakable, comfortable seat, which has worked, but eventually I reach this point of bracing after a month or two of riding and have to cycle through this again. Then, when I ride without stirrups all my problems go away. My horse seems happier, any pain I experience goes away, why should I go back to riding traditionally with stirrups??

    Do you think something else could be causing my discomfort?

    Any riding weight distribution suggestions? I've heard "weight should always be even across the stirrups" but how is this achieved with such an awkward feeling cue?

    My horse is sound and smart, but after all the things I've tried to get through this one, I've gotten us both frustrated.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Spotted View Post
    My horse is 11 and I am 20, I'm fit and trying to maintain my horse's fitness. I've been riding for 13 years. 4 years with my horse.

    After recently having trouble with my horse picking up the canter in the arena, my fault with a splash of my horse's laziness, I've been thinking about how stirrups may affect my riding and maybe even my horse's back. I've been taught to swing my leg back slightly on the outside and give a light squeeze with both legs to cue the canter. This feels very awkward, my weight shifts a bit out of the outside stirrup and my entire inside leg closes against my horse. My horse dives into the inside. He also dives into the inside when I've tried switching my weight to the outside stirrup. I feel like I'm juggling between trying to keep him straight through the take off and wrestling with discomfort with my stirrups. I watch videos of myself and my position is fine, all the lines are straight and bent where they need to be, but I still have this problem.

    I've tried shortening/lengthening my stirrups ridiculously in order to get back to my balanced, unshakable, comfortable seat, which has worked, but eventually I reach this point of bracing after a month or two of riding and have to cycle through this again. Then, when I ride without stirrups all my problems go away. My horse seems happier, any pain I experience goes away, why should I go back to riding traditionally with stirrups??

    Do you think something else could be causing my discomfort?

    Any riding weight distribution suggestions? I've heard "weight should always be even across the stirrups" but how is this achieved with such an awkward feeling cue?

    My horse is sound and smart, but after all the things I've tried to get through this one, I've gotten us both frustrated.
    Im a little confused. Have you been cantering ok up to now? What cue has been successful in the past?

    Have you changed anythung up? I have observed many riders when they get to the point of wanting "frame" or collection, that they hang on the horse's face to "make him round," and impede impulsion, making the horse appeared "lazy."

    IME moving your legs around should not unbalance you like this, and balance or leg position problems are rarely really about legs or stirrups. They are more likely about seat or hips.

    In no particular order I would suggest:

    A good tune-up set of lessons with a coach who has a good eye for seat, and some longe lessons to address your imbalance.

    A good look at the saddle flockinf to see if its become asymmetrical.

    A good look at the horse's back to see if the saddle still fits and if horse is now asymmetrical.

    A few good pro rides to tune horse up.

    Get a video of yourself. My guess is you've developed some position problems like tipping forward or leaning that are unbalancing you. Also are you able to let go of the face to let him move?

    What happens if you try the same transition without stirrups?

    Get a good lameness vet workup to see if there are subtle problems you are missing.

    Evaluate horses workload and diet.

    Go to a human body worker or physiotherapiist to check you out for imbalances and tight hips.

    Comment


    • #3
      When you lose your outside stirrup, it is because you are pulling your leg up.

      When asking for the canter. the weight stays on the inside seat bone, the outside lower leg bent at the knee reaches back to tell the outside hind leg to reach under to initiate the first stride of canter. It starts from the outside hind. Meanwhile, your hips lift into canter. During the entire canter, one leg, and its corresponding hip stays slightly back, so that every stride rides as another transition. If your hips fail to follow through, it breaks the rhythm and your horse obediently drops to the trot.

      As suggested some longe time working on your canter position and stability would help.

      You are focusing too much on weighting your stirrups and not your seat bones. Riding without the stirrups makes you sit on your seat.
      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by merrygoround View Post

        You are focusing too much on weighting your stirrups and not your seat bones. Riding without the stirrups makes you sit on your seat.
        ^^^This is the crux of the problem, IMHO. Scribbler has some good suggestions for fixing it, but you might just need to be reminded to focus on your seat bones.
        "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thank you for answering!

          I use the reins as a supplement to my legs and seat, definitely do not hang onto his face. Saddle fit has been an issue in the past, but I have a saddle that fits him very well now and he's had adjustments, which I am keeping up-to-date on. This feels like more an issue with something I am doing since I can tell he tries very hard, but I must be getting in his way somehow. He is very spry otherwise, it is just this transition.

          I will look into a chiropractor for myself and some tune-up lessons. I bet you are right, I may be doing something that is causing me tension and working through my tension may be causing me even more problems body-wise that get reflected while riding. Didn't really occur to me until you mentioned it, lightbulb moment. After getting adjusted I'll use the lessons to make sure I don't continue compensating for where I held tension. Thank you for reminding me that I may need an adjustment myself not just my horse!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Spotted View Post

            I will look into a chiropractor for myself and some tune-up lessons. I bet you are right, I may be doing something that is causing me tension and working through my tension may be causing me even more problems body-wise that get reflected while riding. Didn't really occur to me until you mentioned it, lightbulb moment. After getting adjusted I'll use the lessons to make sure I don't continue compensating for where I held tension. Thank you for reminding me that I may need an adjustment myself not just my horse!
            Good point often overlooked, unless we are balanced, how can our horse be balanced.

            "He's not even a good pathological liar." Mara

            "You're just a very desperate troll, and not even a good one. You're like middle-school troll at best. Like a goblin, not even a troll." et_fig

            Comment


            • #7
              Get a friend to video you too. There might be an obvious ahah! moment where you see a position thing to fix.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                Im a little confused. Have you been cantering ok up to now? What cue has been successful in the past?

                Have you changed anythung up? I have observed many riders when they get to the point of wanting "frame" or collection, that they hang on the horse's face to "make him round," and impede impulsion, making the horse appeared "lazy."

                IME moving your legs around should not unbalance you like this, and balance or leg position problems are rarely really about legs or stirrups. They are more likely about seat or hips.

                In no particular order I would suggest:

                A good tune-up set of lessons with a coach who has a good eye for seat, and some longe lessons to address your imbalance.

                A good look at the saddle flockinf to see if its become asymmetrical.

                A good look at the horse's back to see if the saddle still fits and if horse is now asymmetrical.

                A few good pro rides to tune horse up.

                Get a video of yourself. My guess is you've developed some position problems like tipping forward or leaning that are unbalancing you. Also are you able to let go of the face to let him move?

                What happens if you try the same transition without stirrups?

                Get a good lameness vet workup to see if there are subtle problems you are missing.

                Evaluate horses workload and diet.

                Go to a human body worker or physiotherapiist to check you out for imbalances and tight hips.
                Thank you for answering!

                I use the reins as a supplement to my legs and seat, definitely do not hang onto his face. Saddle fit has been an issue in the past, but I have a saddle that fits him very well now and he's had adjustments, which I am keeping up-to-date on. This feels like more an issue with something I am doing since I can tell he tries very hard, but I must be getting in his way somehow. He is very spry otherwise, it is just this transition.

                I will look into a chiropractor for myself and some tune-up lessons. I bet you are right, I may be doing something that is causing me tension and working through my tension may be causing me even more problems body-wise that get reflected while riding. Didn't really occur to me until you mentioned it, lightbulb moment. After getting adjusted I'll use the lessons to make sure I don't continue compensating for where I held tension. Thank you for reminding me that I may need an adjustment myself not just my horse!

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                  When you lose your outside stirrup, it is because you are pulling your leg up.

                  When asking for the canter. the weight stays on the inside seat bone, the outside lower leg bent at the knee reaches back to tell the outside hind leg to reach under to initiate the first stride of canter. It starts from the outside hind. Meanwhile, your hips lift into canter. During the entire canter, one leg, and its corresponding hip stays slightly back, so that every stride rides as another transition. If your hips fail to follow through, it breaks the rhythm and your horse obediently drops to the trot.

                  As suggested some longe time working on your canter position and stability would help.

                  You are focusing too much on weighting your stirrups and not your seat bones. Riding without the stirrups makes you sit on your seat.
                  I understand and agree! I also think that I may be avoiding sitting on my seat bones due to me avoiding pain, it just didn't occur to me until Scribbler mentioned it what was going on. So even if I did sit on my seat bones now, I would just be tense through that movement which explains my discomfort and my horse's reluctance.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Well if you have something going on such that sitting on your seat bpnes causes pain, then that's going to mess things up for you considerably.

                    What is the pain? In seat bones or back? Would an Acavallo gel seat saver pad or similar help? What gait are you transitioning up from? If you can canter from a walk or a very collected trot its much easier on the body than having to sit a bigger trot for a few strides!

                    Or do you have a known issue with your back or hips?

                    Sitting on your seat bones shouldn't cause pain, and you need to be there for all dressage riding, so this is something to figure out.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                      Well if you have something going on such that sitting on your seat bpnes causes pain, then that's going to mess things up for you considerably.

                      What is the pain? In seat bones or back? Would an Acavallo gel seat saver pad or similar help? What gait are you transitioning up from? If you can canter from a walk or a very collected trot its much easier on the body than having to sit a bigger trot for a few strides!

                      Or do you have a known issue with your back or hips?

                      Sitting on your seat bones shouldn't cause pain, and you need to be there for all dressage riding, so this is something to figure out.
                      I think it is more the change of movement transitioning from trot to canter, when my horse hunkers back to take off I feel myself brace through my back, its slight but I think the repetition of my bracing, due to the misalignment, has caused me to have the bracing habit (feel like I'm bracing in preparation of whiplash) and other bad carriage habits.

                      I actually think it probably started from my neck (had an accident a year ago) and has affected how I carry myself in the rest of my body. Never realized how much it was affecting me until I sat down to think about it after reading your reply. It's probably just slowly gotten worse so I just got used to the way I was going. Stretching through my stirrups may be activating muscles just differently enough from when without them that I'm reacting negatively and my horse is feeling that. Sitting on my seat bones AND holding myself through the stirrups is when my reaction occurs. Its all very slight but enough that it drove me to post my questions now that the issue has gotten to this point.

                      Your reply made sense even though I may not be the best at describing how, so thank you for the suggestion to get myself checked out. Made me think about it from another perspective that seems embarrassingly obvious now that it's been pointed out.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Any neck/shoulder issues you may have almost certainly will affect your hips and knees.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Stop thinking about it. Instead think up. Move inside seat bone forward and give the inside rein when you ask just to see what happens.
                          It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Physiotherapy. Get the neck issue addressed. Don't canter in the meantime. Or just canter in longe lessons where trainer cues the horse.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Definitely address the physical discomfort on your side. Remember that you compensating for YOUR pain will also force the horse to compensate. Once I realized not fixing my pain was actually hurting my horse, self-care got much easier to schedule!

                              What I've found helps me with my canter departs? Half halt with seat, weight to the inside seat bone, inside leg, then gently move the outside leg back to ask for the depart. If you're trying to do it all at once, you can psych yourself out, tense up, and exacerbate existing pain issues plus you draw your leg up. Keep it a very methodical formula.
                              Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I ask for canter slightly different. Half halt, sit deep, outside leg moves slightly, slightly back as my inside hip comes slightly forward, (almost just turning your body towards outside sort of speak), but cue with inside leg and lift hips into the canter.

                                I tend to be very tight in the sciatic area and ever since a coach guided me this has helped
                                https://demirazaespanola.blogspot.com

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by pryme_thyme View Post
                                  I ask for canter slightly different. Half halt, sit deep, outside leg moves slightly, slightly back as my inside hip comes slightly forward, (almost just turning your body towards outside sort of speak), but cue with inside leg and lift hips into the canter.

                                  I tend to be very tight in the sciatic area and ever since a coach guided me this has helped
                                  Could you describe what "lift hips" means/feels like to you? I have tight hip flexors and various surrounding muscles, and I know for sure my hips are a problem since I wind up bracing in the stirrups unless I'm in my much deeper dressage seat. Working on PT myself but desperate to try anything that might also help with my position issues, since I know for sure I'm blocking the horses.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by ToughShet View Post

                                    Could you describe what "lift hips" means/feels like to you? I have tight hip flexors and various surrounding muscles, and I know for sure my hips are a problem since I wind up bracing in the stirrups unless I'm in my much deeper dressage seat. Working on PT myself but desperate to try anything that might also help with my position issues, since I know for sure I'm blocking the horses.
                                    To me the best way to describe it is to bear more weight on your opposite seat bone. Just by thinking to turn your body to the outside you can feel your body lighten up on that inside seat bone. Hope it helps. It is hard!
                                    https://demirazaespanola.blogspot.com

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by ToughShet View Post

                                      Could you describe what "lift hips" means/feels like to you? I have tight hip flexors and various surrounding muscles, and I know for sure my hips are a problem since I wind up bracing in the stirrups unless I'm in my much deeper dressage seat. Working on PT myself but desperate to try anything that might also help with my position issues, since I know for sure I'm blocking the horses.
                                      Lift the inside seat bone up and forward. Allow the leading leg to come forward.

                                      Your seat is important. You don't want to be grounding their legs with your seat.

                                      It includes using your stomach muscles.

                                      What saddle are you riding in if you are not using a dressage saddle?
                                      It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                      Comment

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