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help teaching Arab to canter?

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  • help teaching Arab to canter?

    I come mostly from TBs who normally start with 1/2 decent canters, or at least a good hand gallop. I have a nice Arab filly that I think will have a good canter when she sorts it out, but at the moment seems to want to canter so butt high, quarters out, that it really must be as uncomfortable for her to do as it is for me to be on. She swaps out and gets very quick instead or sitting down and trying to carry it, it's become her go to thing now. She is learning to lift her back and balance in trot and seems to be coming along with that ok, but she doesn't seem to make the connection to try it in canter as well. She looks like she ought to have a good canter, once she sits down and connects back to front. I have tried (for a couple days now), asking her to canter in long lines, as it helped her trot a lot before. So far she canters fast in uncomfortably in them and swaps out, or slows down and carries herself nicely for a few strides, but only because she is pulling herself up to stop, not to actually try to work that way in the gait . She is so smart that I feel like if she just understood how much more she could do, lifting her back cantering nicely, that she'd want to keep doing it, but I need help conveying the idea in the first place. I wondered if anyone could give me some ideas on helping a very green Arab to organize her canter better.

    Thanks and happy holidays to everyone!
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  • #2
    I've worked with a lot of arabs. Rarely have they come with a great canter.

    I've worked with them on the longe, sometimes a double longe situation and voice work. You need to let them relax into the work. Not easy as most are very responsive.

    Time and consistency is your friend.

    Ask and allow, ask and allow.

    Verbally ask for the canter, get a wild response, have them fall into trot, settle, relax and ask again. Just a few times each session. Don't overdue, just let it come. Using two lines and finessing the outside rein lightly can help.

    Under saddle I have found that when the walk is where you want it, ask for haunches in, shoulder in and then the same at trot. When the haunches in at trot is good the canter under saddle comes more quickly.

    I have had people question this, saying that it can produce a crooked canter but I have not found that to be the case.

    Also, if you feel safe on the trail or have another safe horse to ride with, allowing her to canter freely on the trail is also a big help.

    They are not tbreds for sure.
    “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
    ? Albert Einstein


    • #3
      It sounds as if she likely has straight/weak stifles. I would do lots of strengthening, going up hills and caveletti to help strengthen her. This is often a weak "link" in arabs


      • #4
        I agree with Horsefaerie.
        Long line training is wonderful for this sort of thing.
        As you say she is young. She has to learn the right way to do things.
        I found the Arabians I had in m y life were great horses but feared doing things wrong. "What if I make a mistake and do it wrong." Then they would become emotional and go silly on me.
        In time though they did get it right and did go very well.
        Just be patient and take you time. The rewards are worth it.


        • #5
          I used to train for an Arab breeder, and I think I know what you are talking about... Only some of the guys I trained had that problem. Those that did seemed to trail out behind in the hind end at the canter and even at the trot they did not have the big gaits that I was used to on TB's and WB's. They seemed to be very limited in motion in the hind end.

          One thing you can do is use massage and stretches to help them bring their hind legs underneath them more, which will encourage them to use themselves behind. As far as massage you want to target two areas, one being the medial glutes which originate near the point of the croup and extend backward and slightly downward toward the point of the buttock. This muscle group needs to relax fully in order to allow the thigh muscle to (help) bring the hind leg forward. The thigh (tensor) muscle would also be a muscle group to massage and stretch before riding. The massage doesn't need to be complicated, and when in doubt don't get too deep into the muscle as that's best left for someone trained and practiced in massage. The important thing to remember is that you need to 'open' the muscle (basically breaking any adhesion of the fascia of the muscle with the skin) with gentle strokes before you get further into the muscle...I recommend you google a few phrases like "cross fiber massage" "basic massage tenchniques" , etc. Don't worry about horse or human...HOWEVER- I would recommend highly that you google for images of the muscle structure of the horse so you can identify your target groups and see which way the fibers run...you DO NOT want to go in blindly. After a little research you will find it quick, easy, theraputic for both of you, and very rewarding in his performance.
          As far as leg stretches you may also want to google that too for hind legs. i personally use a lead rope- I run the lead rope aroud the back of the fetlock and back to the same hand (both ends in my hand) and stand by the horses shoulder. I can then pull the leg forward and under the horse. i can gently manipulate it inward, outward, in small circles, gentle give and take pulls underneath the belly and never lose my balance, be in a danger zone or drop the foot because of resistance. You can also stretch the leg to the rear like this without ever putting down the rope...but it is a little harder to keep on the leg. Take it slow and let your guy get used to it. Be sure to hold the snap end VERY securely and the rope end with only a finger or two...that way if he really pulls it out of your hand there's no risk of the snap going flying. The forward stretches will help stretch out those huge hamstrings that span the point of the bottock down to the gaskin area. The backward stretches will help stretch out those thigh tensor muscles. REMEMBER that excessive massage and stretching can actually cause temporary muscle soreness!!!! (and even damage is done excessively!) Don't over do it and let your horse tell you how much is enough. Neither stretching nor massage should be painful so watch carefully for signs of it. in both cases they should relax and be licking and sighing. (the rope trick may take some getting used to...don't aim to stretch him the first time you put it around his fetlock...)

          I hope that helps! If he's one sided (which it sounded like) You'll probably find one side has more of a range of motion...

          GOOD LUCK! I hope you see some results soon!


          • #6
            Welcome to the witty world of Arabians! My guys weak canter "move" is him throwing his haunches in to the inside, bucking, and then giving me 3-4 beautiful strides before breaking into a trot, rinse, repeat. I would agree and say that the canter is not at all his strong point. Every one has given great advice! Merry Christmas!
            Last edited by SunsAfire; Dec. 25, 2010, 03:57 PM. Reason: Forgot to add Merry Christmas!
            "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" -Winston Churchill


            • #7
              Weird to hear all your experiences. All of the Arabs I have worked with have had naturally great canters and have been very easy to train, develop and improve the canter. I usually get 8s on my canter work on young Arabs training-3rd level. Maybe I have just been lucky? I would worry that there may be something physically wrong. Once that is ruled out, I vote for just lunging in side reins for a while and letting the horse get the strength and figure it out himself.


              • #8
                I have not had the experience you are having with Arabs or Arab cross breeds at the canter. But there is a clue in what you said....

                "slows down and carries herself nicely for a few strides, but only because she is pulling herself up to stop..."

                There is your good canter work, on the lunge line. Ask for the canter, if you don't get it or you get a flying mess, go back to the trot. Ask for the canter again. Transitions up and down from gait to gait for 5 minutes are more work - a LOT more work - than 5 minutes of trotting. this will make her stronger without hammering her joints and tendons with excess lunging.

                Good luck. And remember to praise a lot. They are so sensitive.


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you so much for the advice. I have 4 in training - 1 has nice canter to start and seems to find it easy and interesting to work in, 1 struggles but has good instincts and a great work ethic, 1 has not cantered yet, and the other is the one in question -
                  Should I keep asking her to canter on the long lines or leave it all together until she becomes more confirmed over her topline in trot? The haunches in in trot makes a lot of sense, considering she swings hers out and up to get away from the canter. TY for the idea. With some TBs we will let them canter/gallop in a large field for a while, to let them strengthen in the gait before attempting the smaller turns of the ring. Would this help her at all?

                  I am new to Arabs, but I am really enjoying their quick minds and generous spirits. I think it will be a very interesting journey with them.

                  Happy holidays!
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                  • #10
                    My arab will do the butt high canters when push too forward without loss of the tension that they so often have

                    Get rid of the tension and have him/her really step into the canter, and relax relax relax. You wont feel the tension throughout the entire horse, maybe just a few muscles in the back, or neck, but its there.

                    Arabs are notorious for hiding tensions somewhere and they require LOTS of technique. Even if YOU are quiet and relaxed and going round and round, instead of loosening like the average joe, they just go along holding onto their tension without a hint of it other than poor choppy movement.

                    Ive had to have lots of ground help over the year and patience to be sure.

                    Acceptance the aids is key
                    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by NOMIOMI1 View Post
                      My arab will do the butt high canters when push too forward without loss of the tension that they so often have

                      Get rid of the tension and have him/her really step into the canter, and relax relax relax. You wont feel the tension throughout the entire horse, maybe just a few muscles in the back, or neck, but its there.

                      Arabs are notorious for hiding tensions somewhere and they require LOTS of technique. Even if YOU are quiet and relaxed and going round and round, instead of loosening like the average joe, they just go along holding onto their tension without a hint of it other than poor choppy movement.

                      Ive had to have lots of ground help over the year and patience to be sure.

                      Acceptance the aids is key
                      I loved this post! My gelding hides tension in his shoulder/wither/lower neck area. But I'm going to try this loosening like you're suggesting. It occurred to me that I'm so prepared for a good buck that I think I'm forgetting to ride for a minute! Thanks for the post!
                      "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" -Winston Churchill


                      • #12
                        My horse as a 4/5 year old use to cross fire in his canter to the right almost every other stride! He has a wonderful canter with great suspension but just found this hard and I wondered if he would ever 'get' it.

                        Couple if things 1) I found it helpful to teach him walk/canter and canter/walk on the lunge and used this under saddle. I kept the canters brief! I found that he could start ok then would become unbalance so there were times I would litereally ask for a few strides and walk before he lost it.

                        2) time, as they get old they get stronger! He's now 7 and unless I totally mess up he holds his canter on both reins with ease.

                        I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.


                        • #13
                          Supermodel has "moments" of a great canter. She does a ton of w/t lessons and not many can ride her moments of great canter as they are huge strides and she tends to tense into it. We've been working on really engaging her haunches in the trot and not letting her get away with the "pretty" trot. Only after she gives me the correct trot and the right bend (both directions) will I ask for the canter. Even I have problems with that huge canter though I really do enjoy it. (Retired can chaser)
                          I echo the check her tenseness and BREATH!! I always picture the way I want it to look before I ask, usually it works and sometimes my trainer stops and asks wth was I thinking....
                          Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
                          Originally Posted by alicen:
                          What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.


                          • #14
                            To teach mine I had to get off her back to let her go, really ride her forward (quietly obviously, not chasing her and making her scared), then half halt "whoa" and then as soon as she was on the verge of cross-gaiting or breaking into trot i would ride her forward again.

                            I didn't sit for months and months and months. Yep, it took a long time. She has a great canter now


                            • #15
                              Good thread. My new morgan is the super tense type and I am working on rhythm and control at walk and trot...she gets SO tense at the canter, I'm just going to let her figure it out on the longe first, then u/s. Drives my trainer crazy, but I don't think she's ready for canter (she'll do it, and her canter is GORGEOUS, b/c she bucks going into it (more like throws haunches outside actually--she hasn't accepted my outside leg, which I am dealing with at the walk and trot) and she's just SO tense...she's only been undersaddle since November 1 though. She's six and just had a late start, so she's STRONG, but I'm going with my gut and am holding off on the canter for now. It's ALL about relaxation in my rides for now.


                              • #16
                                The hand gallop is your friend. My mare spent a depressingly long time swapping in the back or just short striding around all tense and wiggly.

                                My instructor got me to get up off of her back and really push her forward, letting her stretch everything out and figure out how to balance it all. I didn't sit for a year or more and we still warm up the canter with 2 point hand gallops.

                                We also worked on lots of strengthening exercises - transitions, lunge work, poles, you name it. The swapping was very strength related. It drastically reduced when we got a real top line built up on her.

                                Now she can hold her canters like a pro and (barring noisy hands on my part) will keep her back up and butt under us. It does get better.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks all, great to hear from everyone.
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