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When cantering, where are your legs?

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  • When cantering, where are your legs?

    I just had a revelation in my lesson today. I used to ride hunt seat, and would ask for a canter transition with the outside leg back, but then return my legs to "neutral" and expect the horse to continue cantering until I gave a new aid.

    The last few weeks in my dressage lessons, I was having trouble with the pony constantly wanting to break to the trot when cantering. Today my trainer finally spelled it out to me--"You have to keep your legs in canter position while cantering. You keep putting them in trot position and that's why he trots." So I cantered around with my outside leg back, as if constantly requesting the canter departure, and lo and behold it worked.

    So, is this correct for dressage? I was kind of surprised by it.

  • #2
    I think it depends. I don't really think about bringing an outside leg back for cue as much as i think of sliding my inside seatbone forward (kind of like a shifter on a car) that's the cue for my horse to canter and I find it keeps him straighter.
    if it works for that horse, roll with it, I say!
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


    • #3
      Hopefully one leg on either side of the horse. Sorry, couldn't resist.

      In dressage, you ask for the canter from your inside seatbone and leg, because of all the lateral work and even just regular bend on a circle, you don't want your horse to canter off every time you put your outside leg back.

      But once cantering, yes, you remain in the canter seat, that is inside leg slightly forward, outside leg slightly back.
      "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


      • #4
        If you want a canter to continue, you ride every stride as if it were an upward transition. If you stop following with your hips or let your legs slide back to "neutral", your canter will slow or break to trot.

        The drawnback leg asks the horse to reach under with the hind leg on that side. If done while your hips maintain trot rhythm, it will move the haunches under more, if the inside leg is steady and maintains bend, you will get haunches in, assuming the rest of your position is correct. If done while your hips lift in canter rhythm, your canter will continue. If your leg maintains position, while you maintain bend and change direction, you get counter canter.

        So yes! leg position is part of dressage, as is maintaining the position required for the movement you are requesting.

        No problem!!!
        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.


        • #5
          A different point of view. I ask for the canter by putting my seat in canter position and asking with both my inside leg and by swinging my outside leg back a la Jane Savoie technique. After asking, my outside leg is slightly behind the girth since my inside seat bone is forward, but nowhere near as far back as when I ask for the canter. While cantering, I move my outside leg back proportional to the amout of bend I desire. I may move it back to reinforce the lead during counter canter, but otherwise, it's pretty much in neutral.

          When I square my hips, that's the signal to trot.


          • #6
            I guess it depends on the horse you're riding. When I'm riding Lilly I ask for the canter by sliding the outside leg behind the girth, but it doesn't stay there. I get a down transition by half halting my outside rein (Wendy's horses have a slow-outside-rein aid).

            He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


            • #7
              A horse is ridden 'in position', therefore the inside leg is a smidge closer to the girth and the outside leg back. It is a touch of the calf/ankle which asks for a depart (whether one chooses outside leg (a la srs), inside leg at the girth).
              I.D.E.A. yoda


              • #8
                It's not about where your legs are, but how your seat is weighted and positioned. You need to be cantering with your seat. A friend of mine teaches kids to do this by having them pretend to be a horse and canter, to get the feel.
                ... _. ._ .._. .._


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                  I think it depends. I don't really think about bringing an outside leg back for cue as much as i think of sliding my inside seatbone forward (kind of like a shifter on a car) that's the cue for my horse to canter and I find it keeps him straighter.
                  if it works for that horse, roll with it, I say!
                  Same for me. I shift my inside seat bone forward, even though everyone says to move myoutside leg back. I just get a counter canter. Inside seat bone is the trick, plus slightly raising the ouside rein.

                  Here's the thing - idealy, for dressage, you want to ask for the response, you want to cue and then not have to keep asking. You want "self carriage" - and the horse should maintain the response until you ask for something else. However, the way to do that is ask for the response and get it, then if he breaks, ask again, and train him to keep the response - yes, aske again before he breaks, insisit, use at tap from the crop to keep him going, if he breaks ask with the legs and keep him going, tap if necessary

                  If he really won't learn to keep going, you may not be communicating the canter with your seat. If you are too passive, he may be thinking "come back".

                  Remember, the "halt" is maintained by the lack of movement at alll. At the canter, you need to be telling the horse with your seat move out more, come back more, bend, you need to be moving with the horse, and if your seat is very passive, or stiff you may be telling your horse to break. If you have a firm leg on him, and a seat going with his motion, he should be able to garner from you the inclination to maintain it wihtout you constantly giving the canter cue.

                  Make sense?
                  Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                  • #10
                    Here's an exercise. Ask for the canter, keep your leg on him, move your hips with him, and every fourth stride, as for an extension - move him out - use your seat to do this and imagine just a lengthening of the stride, not an increase in speed - then after 6 strides long with your seat ask for four strides more compact - think energy - Just as he is thinking of quitting (after four strides) ask again for a lengthenoing. Really ask, and go for a half seat and hand gallop if he doesn't give it to yyou, then sit back for four regular canter strides, then before he can ever break ask for a lentghinlg again (sorry, keyboard is bad) and don't ever let him break without you telling him to, handgallop around the arnea before he can quit on his own, if he even thinks of it, lengthen - if he actually dos break, give him a whack, get back to the canter any way you can instantly, no way is he allowed to break without you telling him - and make sure you are loose and strong in your core and seat and moving with him and TELLING him to canter with your seat.

                    Also - make sure you have your weight in your outside stiffup - stand into it - if you are leaning into the turn, he will lose balance and break.

                    Good luck!
                    Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                    • #11
                      I was taught outside leg behind the girth, inside leg on the girth and ask with inside seat bone and leg. I was also taught that once you ask and get what you want you do not continue to ask or hold your horse in the that gait, you let your horse work underneath you. While there are adjustments that may need to be made, the idea is not to hang on the rein or nag with the leg.
                      ~Amy~ TrakehNERD clique
                      *Bugs 5/86-3/10 OTTB Mare* RIP lovely Lady, I miss you
                      *Frodo '03 Anglo Trakehner Gelding*
                      My Facebook


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                        It's not about where your legs are, but how your seat is weighted and positioned. You need to be cantering with your seat. A friend of mine teaches kids to do this by having them pretend to be a horse and canter, to get the feel.
                        This. Also, my outside seatbone is a touch more grounded and back than the inside, so that right there puts my outside leg behind the girth and my inside at the girth. The only thing is, you have to make sure your outside leg isn't active, otherwise the haunches will come in. If I move my legs around, my horses will probably give me a flying change.
                        'Like' my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Calla...946873?sk=wall


                        • #13
                          If you expect your horse to ever hold a counter canter and to learn flying changes, you'll need to keep your seat and legs in a solid position that tells the horse clearly which lead you want -- outside leg slightly farther back than the inside leg.

                          "The outside leg says what and the inside leg says when," according to my instructor.


                          • Original Poster

                            Thanks all.

                            One of the issues is that this is a lesson pony--a dressage lesson pony, but a lesson pony nonetheless--and he packs around a lot of kids. So he does have quite a few bad habits that I'm not going to be able to fix in my one ride a week. I'm going to just do my best to ride as correctly as possible and not give him any excuses! He's extremely smart, possibly one of the smartest horses I've ever ridden, and he KNOWS what he's supposed to be doing. That's the nice thing--If I ride very accurately, he WILL respond correctly. He just doesn't cut me any slack at all if I'm not correct.

                            It's good to know that outside leg slightly back is apparently considered to be correct by many of you. He does canter from an inside leg/seat aid if you set him up correctly, which includes outside leg positioned a bit back. I just didn't know I was supposed to keep it there! LOL.