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Tips for getting a horse more round (particularly in the canter)?

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  • Tips for getting a horse more round (particularly in the canter)?

    Last time I got quite a quick and helpful response, so here I am, asking for advice again. Recently my trainer has been saying that I should try to get my horse more round in the canter, but I'm not quite sure what she means and how to do that. I've looked around for the definition of round and am still unclear on what it means. What are some things to look for when trying to decide if your horse is currently round or not? If the horse isn't round, what are some ways to try to improve that and make him or her rounder?

  • #2
    IMO, "round" is working over the back and to the bit. I don't know what kind of horse you have, but the caner feels like your horse is "leaping out of the water" or at least "swimming above the water" at each stride. If your horse isn't used to "using himself", expect this for half a circle until you can build more strength. It doesn't feel up and down", it feels like you can apply your legs and get a response, and successfully half-halt and get a response. In the trot, you can feel each shoulder moving and you can control the shoulders and the haunches.

    Round is your horse on the bit - face vertical, poll properly bent or even low to build back muscle, neck evenly arched. The back is arched and it feels like your saddle is coming into your crotch because the hind legs are stepping under the body. You should see the "bulged" muscles along the topline of your horse. Also, this way of going is a thousand times easier to sit at all gaits. Just remember to keep your horse actively moving forward. Even when yo're half-halting or picking up the reins.

    The very best way to appreciate this is to find a quality instructor who can be "eyes on the ground" and help you feel these changes in your horse's posture, even if it it only a few steps (hard for some horses just starting).
    Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

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    • #3
      Sounds like you should have a deeper conversation with your trainer and ask him/her what they mean by "rounder". People have different opinions.Then ask trainer how to achieve it. Better yet, have them video your canter and then trainer gets on to demonstrate what they would like you to do so you can see the difference. I would never tell my student what I wanted to see and not make sure they knew how to achieve it and why. Doesn't mean they'll be able to achieve it immediately, but they should have a clear idea how to work towards a goal.
      Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by ThreeTerriers View Post
        Last time I got quite a quick and helpful response, so here I am, asking for advice again. Recently my trainer has been saying that I should try to get my horse more round in the canter, but I'm not quite sure what she means and how to do that. I've looked around for the definition of round and am still unclear on what it means. What are some things to look for when trying to decide if your horse is currently round or not? If the horse isn't round, what are some ways to try to improve that and make him or her rounder?
        You are paying your trainer to answer these questions and explain to you how ride your horse. Communication is essential between you and your coach if you are to learn.

        Have you asked your trainer these questions? If he/she cannot or will not instruct you, you need to find another trainer.
        Don't hesitate to ask questions. Your trainer may not realize that you don't understand.

        Comment


        • #5
          I think J-Lu provided a good description.

          I try to feel for that moment of "leap" and it should feel uphill. The key to this is keeping the hind legs just as quick as they were when the horse's frame was longer and flatter. To get this, I start in a brisk canter and then think about riding for shorter and longer strides--- three or four of each-- in longer- or shorter frames from 1 to 5.

          Here, a 1 is the horse so collected that I could step down in the walk. A 5 is a hand gallop. I'll usually go in the range between a 2 and a 4. I count out loud and if I pick up a canter (which is a bit sprawling on my green horse), I might call that a 3 and count "3, 3, 3" for three strides. Here, I'll feel the speed of the foot falls, knowing that my horse is unbalanced and stiff or inverted or heavy. I don't care. From there, I might allow her to open up for 3 strides of a 4 canter. I'll count "4, 4, 4" while I allow her to relax mentally. Note that her hind end is still quick and pushing along. With that moment of relaxation (because I'm not nitpicking or wrestling her about her balance), I'll come ask for "3, 3, 3." If that was good, I might ask for 3 strides of a "2" canter. But no matter how good, bad or ugly that 2/her most collected canter is, I don't get more than three strides. So I can't wrestle or nitpick her (which slows the hind legs), and she doesn't have to worry that I'll hold her in a spot she's too weak to maintain. You get the idea-- I just go up and down that scale, making transitions within the gait.

          A couple of key points:

          1. The key to getting the uphill, round, ahead-of-your-leg canter is keeping the hind leg equally quick (or almost) at all canters. So use the bigger canters to speed up those hind legs. Use them to teach yourself the "RPMs" of those hind legs when you know your horse is moving out. Then, ask for only a few strides of shorter, such that you and your horse can maintain that quick hind leg. If the horse gets worried or lazy, no problem-- go back to the next higher canter; go get the hind end's RPMs back and then try for some collection again.

          2. When you ask for more or less canter in these transitions, try to do that with your weight and your body, first. This is especially true for coming "down" to that canter that's more collected, but uphill and just as active. So when you know the next number you will count out loud to yourself is lower (that is, you'll come to, say, a 2 from a 3) promise yourself that you'll sit up first, bring your shoulders back first, say the new number *and then* add hand. And look, you only have 3 or so strides of the shortness, so try to ride to half halt with your hand on, say, the second stride in there and then stay up with your body for the third stride and see what you get. If the horse stays with you, live it up and take two more strides at the nice, round and active canter you have. If it's a struggle, don't start pulling. Rather, gallop on a bit, get the hind leg quickness and mental relaxation back and then try again.

          The bit about riding with your body will help you keep the right kind of "round"-- where the hind end is still active and where there's minimal risk that you just pulled the neck in and left the shoulders low as well as the hind legs trailing. Best of all, your horse will start to learn to "stay with your body" so that you don't need so much hand to get the job of making the horse round done.

          Hope this helps! Oh, and you might have to spend a month of this, doing many, many transitions within the canter each ride. If the horse gets more rideable, celebrate! But keep trying, even if it's hard and you have to spend lots of time at a "big" canter because the truly round, active, uphill canter takes a lot of strength. This is how you send your horse to the gym to do squats.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat

          Comment


          • #6
            One way to get a rounder canter is to get a more engaged back. You can do this by doing the canter depart from the piaffe or from a pirouette.

            Which means, of course, that first you need to be able to do a pirouette & piaffe. The piaffe is not just a GP movement....the piaffe is actually a training exercise used to engage the abdominals and glutes.

            There are a number of ways to school piaffe which include diagonalizing the walk, and reinback-trot-reinback-piaffe,

            As others have said, asking what your trainer means by his comments is a good place to start.
            Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
            Alfred A. Montapert

            Comment


            • #7
              Pluvenel, that is the strangest response I've see on this BB yet. Well maybe not, but close.

              OP Most horses go round more easily in the canter. If your trainer can't help you, and just keeps saying "He needs to be rounder", you need a new instructor.

              First make sure you are not holding in front. Keep your fingers soft and your arms following.
              Then make sure that you are carrying your self, and that he is not running flat. Lift your upper body on each stride, while continuing to add leg. If your hips go no faster, even perhaps a little slower, still staying in canter rhythm you should be able to feel a small change in his jump. Play with small changes in how you seat moves at first. He is probably not strong enough to carry a really slow pace. What ever you do, do not hold in front.
              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


              • #8
                Ask what your trainer means, as round to some is different than round to others. Generally I have heard trainers use round to ask for a deeper frame - not always correct, but that's usually what I hear "round" refer to.

                I imagine a round canter as a canter with good and even rhythm, quiet clean strides with separation of the hinds, softness over the back, good reach behind, and stepping up into the contact (uphill). There should be some bend, but I don't necessarily look at the neck so much as the contact and the way the horse is carrying himself.

                A round canter:




                A not round canter:




                The last thing that falls into place for me with my OTTBs is a round canter. They tend to have a harder time cantering soft and round, vs trotting soft and round - probably in relation to their previous career. Asking them to lengthen their topline and soften over their back is very counter-intuitive to their prior training. I've had good luck working on adjustment of the canter stride to get them to soften over their back -- ask for a "showjumping" canter (think deliberate strides) and then down the long-side, ask for a bigger step and push from behind. Repeat with the short-side having them come back and step under themselves and become more uphill, and the long-side for pushing from behind and 'lengthening' their stride. This exercise is very useful for teaching adjustability, which does play into roundness and relaxation in the canter. You may find at first this exercise is quite hard for a horse that is not used to carrying himself.

                Another good exercise is to get the good canter you want, and then work on leg-yielding out to the wall. Working on straightness while doing so.

                Part of it is also just cantering more. I find a lot of riders don't work on much canter besides the usual lap or two in warm-up. So they spend most of their rides working on trotting exercises. Make sure you are working on the canter as much as you work on the trot - part of getting a good canter, is learning to ride it -- and you will never learn to ride it if you don't canter consistently.
                AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                Comment


                • #9
                  Canter trot canter transitions can be very helpful to get your horse more engaged.

                  A simple but challenging exercise: canter a 20m circle. When you get to an open spot, trot, change bend and do a 10m circle. When you get back to the canter circle, change bend and pick up the canter again. Essentially, you’re doing a figure 8 with a 10m trot circle attached to your 20m canter circle.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It's kind of impossible to give good advice without knowing what level you're riding at. My instructor will say "a little rounder" with both my training level horse, and the 2nd levelish mare I ride. However, she gives me exercises to achieve the roundness if I can't just develop it automatically on the circle. A big part of it is getting the horse straight, so that neither hind leg is escaping out the side, and then developing from jump from there. We use leg yield in canter to get some jump, and then get a bit of stretching feeling in canter (especially on the more advanced horse, who also has a naturally higher neck set), then put the two things together to get a round, jumping canter, where the energy is coming through from the hind legs. Also, within this, riding quality transitions into the canter, and spiraling in and out onto larger and smaller circles helps with the development.

                    If my instructor just told me "rounder" and didn't provide me the tools to achieve it, I wouldn't be paying her much longer. If you can't get a different regular instructor, try to at least get to a clinic to get some better tools and tips.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                      Pluvenel, that is the strangest response I've see on this BB yet. Well maybe not, but close.

                      OP Most horses go round more easily in the canter. If your trainer can't help you, and just keeps saying "He needs to be rounder", you need a new instructor.

                      First make sure you are not holding in front. Keep your fingers soft and your arms following.
                      Then make sure that you are carrying your self, and that he is not running flat. Lift your upper body on each stride, while continuing to add leg. If your hips go no faster, even perhaps a little slower, still staying in canter rhythm you should be able to feel a small change in his jump. Play with small changes in how you seat moves at first. He is probably not strong enough to carry a really slow pace. What ever you do, do not hold in front.
                      Well....talk to the Cadre Noir instructor who suggested the exercises.

                      I didn't make this stuff up out of thin air.
                      Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
                      Alfred A. Montapert

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by pluvinel View Post

                        Well....talk to the Cadre Noir instructor who suggested the exercises.

                        I didn't make this stuff up out of thin air.
                        I think it is more that those exercises are way beyond the skill-set of the average trained horse and rider.. and also.. not something someone or something of that level would generally be struggling with. Reading between the lines a bit, one can tell the OP is not riding at the level where pirouettes and piaffes are commonplace.

                        When does the pirouette first appear in tests? Is it Fourth Level? That is way beyond the pay-grade of most riders, even on COTH. Myself included.


                        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Beowulf, even though your second photo is "not round" because the horse isn't on the vertical, I'd imagine every other aspect of roundness was there in that moment. What a lovely canter!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by beowulf View Post

                            I think it is more that those exercises are way beyond the skill-set of the average trained horse and rider.. and also.. not something someone or something of that level would generally be struggling with. Reading between the lines a bit, one can tell the OP is not riding at the level where pirouettes and piaffes are commonplace.

                            When does the pirouette first appear in tests? Is it Fourth Level? That is way beyond the pay-grade of most riders, even on COTH. Myself included.

                            Ahhh...but that's the problem with the way dressage is conceptualized in the US. Training gymnastics are thought of only as elements of "test movements" to be done at such and such a level.....and not as tools in a toolbox to be used as appropriate for the athletic development of the horse.

                            Kyra Kirklund said that if a horse offered piaffe or passage from the excitement of returning back to the barn, she does not reprimand the horse as that is something she will want later. The horse's normal athleticism allows him to express himself.

                            If a horse doesn't have that innate athleticism, then one has to show the horse how to use its body. There is NOTHING that says you have to wait til GP to start to play with collection at the walk, with reinback-to-trot, etc....which eventually allow the horse to OFFER the piaffe.

                            Additionally, the pirouette is a turning of the shoulders around the haunches....it is a training tool to mobilize the shoulders......nothing particularly advanced here. It doesn't happen overnight, true.....but the education of the horse to rock its balance rearward starts with turning the shoulders around the haunch....until that becomes a pirouette.

                            From that level of communication with the horse, you ask it to transition into a canter. Eventually the animal figures out how to use its body and can express a movement without being "forced."
                            Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
                            Alfred A. Montapert

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by pluvinel View Post

                              Well....talk to the Cadre Noir instructor who suggested the exercises.

                              I didn't make this stuff up out of thin air.
                              There is a huge difference in a rider doing exercices to train the horses, and riders learning how to train a horse.

                              Does the OP wants to make the horse « round » as in « it’s not round yet/it’s flat/Initiation-training level » or as in « rounder - 2d level and up »?

                              Obviously, suggesting half steps to someone who’s starting 3rd level would help tremendously in the sitting and building of core strength to the horse.

                              But suggesting so to a training level rider would only make things worse as s/he does not yet possess the feeling of thrust, pushing power and sitting/engagement needed, let alone the type of contact needed.
                              Especially if the horse is not a school master.

                              You are suggesting exercices that are the equivalent of
                              asking a kid to do algebra when they haven’t finished to learn simple math equations...

                              Wanna learn to drive kiddo? Here’s the Lambo’s keys.
                              ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                              Originally posted by LauraKY
                              I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                              HORSING mobile training app

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by pluvinel View Post

                                Ahhh...but that's the problem with the way dressage is conceptualized in the US. Training gymnastics are thought of only as elements of "test movements" to be done at such and such a level.....and not as tools in a toolbox to be used as appropriate for the athletic development of the horse.

                                Kyra Kirklund said that if a horse offered piaffe or passage from the excitement of returning back to the barn, she does not reprimand the horse as that is something she will want later. The horse's normal athleticism allows him to express himself.

                                If a horse doesn't have that innate athleticism, then one has to show the horse how to use its body. There is NOTHING that says you have to wait til GP to start to play with collection at the walk, with reinback-to-trot, etc....which eventually allow the horse to OFFER the piaffe.

                                Additionally, the pirouette is a turning of the shoulders around the haunches....it is a training tool to mobilize the shoulders......nothing particularly advanced here. It doesn't happen overnight, true.....but the education of the horse to rock its balance rearward starts with turning the shoulders around the haunch....until that becomes a pirouette.

                                From that level of communication with the horse, you ask it to transition into a canter. Eventually the animal figures out how to use its body and can express a movement without being "forced."
                                It's not a US specific issue.

                                I don't know many average riders across the pond asking their green horses for a pirouette or piaffe either.

                                The pirouette and piaffe are only in Dressage tests at some of the most advanced levels. Not something in the toolbox of any average rider/horse pairs I know.

                                The pirouette at the canter is not an easy exercise, even for school horses. It requires a tremendous degree of collection to do so correctly - I don't think a horse struggling with being round at the canter, has an easy time with collection.

                                You arrive at the pirouette after the fundamentals have been laid down - not before.
                                AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Whatever......the OP asked a question.....I gave suggestions.

                                  No reason to diss the suggestions......this is what keeps riders from advancing......a believe that someone at Tr level is too uneducaged to do "X".....well how are they going to get educaed if they don't get out of their same-old rut?
                                  Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
                                  Alfred A. Montapert

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by pluvinel View Post
                                    Whatever......the OP asked a question.....I gave suggestions.

                                    No reason to diss the suggestions......this is what keeps riders from advancing......a believe that someone at Tr level is too uneducaged to do "X".....well how are they going to get educaed if they don't get out of their same-old rut?
                                    Getting a trainer who can offer more specific instruction such as "rounder" would be a good start. Without that oversight, I wouldn't think that much good would come out of a TL rider/horse combo trying to learn piaffe and pirouette. Now I was playing with getting a bit of half steps with my training level horse in-hand, and I use TOH and RB more than most lower level riders I see, so definitely not against playing with movements and not being a slave to only riding the movements in the tests for the level I'm at. But there's such thing as overfacing a horse and rider before the foundation is solid, and creating more problems.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      1: ask your trainer what they mean. It should not mean holding or asking him to carry the nose in.
                                      2: be sure your horse is forward enough that he can be round. Forward is not fast. It’s energy. You will know it when you feel it.
                                      3: be sure your half halts are not just closing your fingers. They must rebalance the horse and that means you must keep him forward by using your legs and being sure you are tall in the saddle not leaning forward at all. Firm your gut and back so you don’t fall forward when he half halts.
                                      4: someone suggested being sure your hind legs are quick. Yes. But when you slow into more collection/roundness be sure it’s not just a rein thing. Slow the shoulders. Your thighs can help. Not pinching the knee. Keep hinds active with your seat and perhaps spur.
                                      Eventully you will get to ask him to rebalance and come rounder with only your seat. 😎

                                      Trot -canter and canter- trot transitions only help if you do not allow him to fall into the trot or throw his head up to canter. If he has walk/canter that’s good. Be sure you do it from a bit of SLIGHT haunches in to get him carrying on the outside hind. If he is slow to the aid school that! No dribbling into transitions!

                                      Comment

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