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Introducing the canter

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  • Introducing the canter

    Curious how others first introduce the concept of cantering under saddle.

    Does it depend on the nature of the horse? (Naturally forward vs naturally pokey, fearful vs trusting) or do you to the intro the same?

    Do you first make sure to canter them on the lunge with the saddle or do you not think that matters?
    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

  • #2
    I teach voice commands on the longe first, then do it under saddle. I do it under saddle as soon as I have steering and brakes and reasonable balance at the trot.


    • #3
      I do w/t/c on the longeline, then w/t/c on the longeline with the saddle, then w/t with the rider on the longeline, then w/t/c on the longeline with a rider. Then w/t/c off the longeline with a rider.

      I have dealt with horses that didn't canter much while being broke and with horses that did w/t/c right away and I feel that it was easier to canter 'not such a big deal' for the ones that had it introduced in their work routine earlier.


      • #4
        Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
        I teach voice commands on the longe first, then do it under saddle. I do it under saddle as soon as I have steering and brakes and reasonable balance at the trot.

        I don't really wait, as long as they are stopping/steering/walking/trotting without any problems, I introduce teh canter. The first time I cantered my horse under saddle, I just said "Conner, Can-TER!" and off he went!

        After a few tries, I try to give the aid, then ask with my voice and slowly try to wean him off the voice command. He was pretty quick to learn the leg aid, so it really didn't take long.

        I only do a few rounds each way until they are a bit stronger and fitter so they don't tire out too much.


        • #5
          What an appropriate thread! I've cantered a few times on my youngster, but I really should do it more, we've mostly stuck to w/t. For some reason I am afraid he's going to take off, even though every time he's cantered under saddle it's been fine (and I thought pretty well balanced for a young, green horse), it's just the transition from trot to canter gets really ugly and then I lose my nerve

          Does anyone have any other suggestions on getting the actual transition? He w/t/c on the longe to clucks/kisses pretty consistently, but under saddle the kiss sound for a canter just isn't quite getting us there


          • #6
            froglander, if your horse is getting hectic with the transition, I'd work on the transition on the lunge line a bit more. Try to get your horse to canter off the word (I cluck to get them more forward in a gait, but not to move up a gait, if that makes sense? I'll actually ask for a trot, or canter by using the word)

            I insist that they listen to me when I'm lunging. I'm a bit more forgiving as they are learning the command, but once they know it, if I ask for a canter and I don't get a reaction, I'll ask again and immediately give a light flick with the lunge whip on their bum if they ignore it. I don't care if they make a mistake, I just want the to TRY.

            I have to say I'm really lucky, my horse has been a star with it. He doesn't run into the canter, I just ask and he goes. Now I don't use my voice at all, he knows the aid.

            Anyway, I'm sure others have some other ideas, but that's how I did it with my horse and he's been awesome.

            Just be patient, all of a sudden one day, he'll put the pieces together. I wouldn't stress out over it, I'm sure he'll be just fine.


            • #7
              Thanks CZF, I'll see if working on transitions on the lunge line will help. His transitions there aren't hurried or messy, they usually seem light and sometimes can get it from a walk. I've always used cluck to trot and kiss to canter for him (got that from a gal I used to take lessons from, she trained her horses that way so the younger lesson kids didn't sit there kicking the crap out of the horses to go and it's worked well), but I can try transitioning to the word 'canter' instead, I have added 'and trot' to get downward transitions from a canter out of him so he's pretty forgiving

              Okay, thank you for the advice, didn't mean to steal the thread from the OP, hope they don't mind my question


              • #8
                I suspect it's just a balance issue under saddle, if he's doing it ok on the lunge. That will just resolve with time. I'd keep working at it, but it's amazing how much they can learn in so little time.

                Don't worry about all the stuff that can go wrong, you'll make yourself too tense, just try to relax and trust him. He'll figure it out.

                Sorry to the OP - back to your regular scheduled thread!


                • #9
                  My experience with trainers (most recently a Pferdewirtschaftsmeister) is that the canter is introduced first on the longe/lunge just as jetsmom and CZF suggest, and in the same order of development.

                  I also have learned to use voice commands while l*nging horses and the little sounds as "move up within the gait".


                  • Original Poster

                    froglander (and any others worried about stealing the thread) go ahead! I was looking for an open discussion so hearing of issues others have is useful.

                    Now, what if you have a horse that you really aren't supposed to lunge (injured fetlock, lunging puts more torque on joint), so hasn't been lunged other than a few loops a year ago as a 2 year old?

                    Would you just go ahead and do some canter on the lunge after warming up under saddle? Or is there some other way to shift the horse's balance so they step into the canter on their own? Horse in question is naturally forward.
                    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                    • #11
                      froglander, you can ask in phases. Pick up your energy, then use seat, thigh, calf, heel. Then hold, and spank. I usually have a rope I slap myself with, going back and forth, one side to the other, on my upper body. I increase in intensity as I progress to touching more and more of the body of the horse. Of course, the horse is already accustomed to ropes being flung about it, etc. You could also use a whip if you desired - as long as you did it in phases. Use your energy, seat, thigh, calf, heel, and hold that pressure. Then create a little commotion with the (dressage, preferably) whip, and get more and more intense in your commotion until you are increasingly touching the horse, with increasing intensity.

                      When you do it in phases, the horse can predict and thus is comfortable with your request, rather than reactive because he perceives you as unpredictable. Since he knows what phases you will follow each and every time, he has the chance to respond to the lightest phase (your lifting your energy, maybe squeezing with your seat). As light as possible but as effective (ie, touch) as necessary.

                      If your horse is really resistant though, it is very likely it is a strength and/or balancing issue, so don't push it. Things should be a natural progression for the horse and if the horse says 'no', go back and develop the foundation/basics further, then re-ask when the horse is better prepared. Ask him to canter on the longe to further develop his strength and balance and to continue to establish the canter u/s - you don't have to do endless laps, 4 max is good unless you're otherwise engaging his mind (ie, having him work over poles or such).

                      CHT, I introduce all concepts initially to the horse on the ground, including canter, even if it is only half a lap or a few strides. Preferably, I do a few laps over the course of several sessions, until the horse is calm, relaxed, and confident. That said, if it is not possible for whatever reason, I don't lose sleep over it.

                      The naturally fearful horse requires lots of repetition and further development of the basics and of the foundation, and the horse who's maybe less respectful requires mental stimulation and more challenge/demand.

                      My process/program and the steps I take with each horse are the same, however I might focus more on certain exercises with one horse and less with another, so the process is tailored to each horse.

                      In the specific situation you mentioned, any reactivity is what I would be worried about and would want to work to eliminate, keeping in mind the horse's limitations. If the horse is simply forward but generally accepting, relaxed, and confident, I wouldn't be worried. If possible given the horse's limitations, I'd maybe ask for half a lap of canter, or only a few strides, each direction. Doing so would intro the concept and allow me to gauge how the horse will react u/s. Canter as minimal as possible, but until the horse is relaxed and calm (relatively at least) if possible. It depends on the horse and the extent of the injury, but likely a few laps, especially over the course of several sessions, is not going to take any more toll than what the horse does in his own pasture/paddock. It's the endless and repetitive circling that really is detrimental to a horse's joints and body.

                      In this case, if canter weren't possible whatsoever, I'd simply focus even moreso on the foundation and ensure the horse was prepared 100 percent prior to asking for the canter: ensure the horse is comfortable with walk and trot, and engage the horse in various trot exercises that develop the trot (ie, strength, co-ordination, balance, and the horse's mental and emotional state overall). If the horse has a prior injury, a lot of focus on strengthening and balance and co-ordination overall will be of great benefit anyways.
                      ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                      ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                      • #12
                        Now, what if you have a horse that you really aren't supposed to lunge (injured fetlock, lunging puts more torque on joint), so hasn't been lunged other than a few loops a year ago as a 2 year old?
                        I followed my horse on the lunge (indoors) he was too big to do a lot of circles unbalanced.
                        Under saddle (for frog) pick up the trot on the long side, switch to the wrong diagonal halfway down then ask for the canter in the first corner.
                        Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. –Sebastian Junger


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bogey2 View Post
                          Under saddle (for frog) pick up the trot on the long side, switch to the wrong diagonal halfway down then ask for the canter in the first corner.
                          Thanks! I'll give that a try. I just have to remember to keep breathing...

                          I wish the arena actually /had/ a long side and a short side, lol.
                          It's nice and big, but is more square than rectangle. The size of it has been part of the reason I've been so hesitant to canter on my greenie.

                          (Not a beginner rider, but not riding for 4 years and then adopting a 2 year old mustang is probably not the wisest choice for getting back into horses, lol. Not that he's been wild and crazy or anything, just the whole green horse bit and me not having the confidence I used to have).


                          • #14
                            LOL Froglander!

                            Don't worry, I bought a yearling and I had to back him after not riding for two years. I'm still so freaking out of shape! A mustang, eh? They're so cool!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by CZF View Post
                              LOL Froglander!

                              Don't worry, I bought a yearling and I had to back him after not riding for two years. I'm still so freaking out of shape! A mustang, eh? They're so cool!
                              Just a quick side note then back to our regular programming/thread, heh.

                              Yeah, got him as a 2ish year old about 2.5 years ago. Have done all his training so far myself and while we could probably be further along, I've had fun and he doesn't seem any worse off for it. Getting him as a two year old we've had time to do lots of groundwork and stuff and he's been a blast. It's funny, people are often impressed by the little bugger and how nice of a horse he is. I figure it's partly he's reasonably level-headed and partly I guess I haven't done a half-bad job training him We've been at the new barn since the beginning of January and have made some good progress, I just need to take a deep breath and work on cantering more amongst many other things. Mustangs rock

                              CHT-can you work your horse on a long lunge line and walk around as you do it to make the circle even bigger and cement the canter with a verbal cue that way?


                              • Original Poster

                                Originally posted by froglander View Post
                                ....CHT-can you work your horse on a long lunge line and walk around as you do it to make the circle even bigger and cement the canter with a verbal cue that way?
                                Yes, I likely can, I just worry as I know how silly horses can get on the canter on the lunge for the first time! But likely better with me on the ground than on her.
                                Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by CHT View Post
                                  Yes, I likely can, I just worry as I know how silly horses can get on the canter on the lunge for the first time! But likely better with me on the ground than on her.
                                  Hopefully she'll just have one episode of the sillies and then settle in to it

                                  If you are worried about lungeing her at a canter, will she be okay to be ridden at a canter on a circle?


                                  • #18
                                    I always do my first couple canters out on the trail- usually towards the end of the ride and usually with a slight uphill and following another steady horse. Works fabulously as they just kind of naturally go into it and are much more balanced then when on a circle.
                                    "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
                                    So you might as well have a good time"


                                    • #19
                                      Like some others have said, my babies first learn verbal commands on the lunge line. When I first pick up the canter under saddle, I really don't expect more than a few strides. I do it in our round pen and I always have an assistant on the ground in the middle with a lunge whip, as if she were lunging me. If need be, she can wiggle the whip and say the verbal command, too. It takes a while for a baby to build the strength to carry a rider at the canter. Even if they only canter for 3 strides the first time, they get lots of praise from me!
                                      "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."


                                      • #20
                                        If you can't use the longe line to really install the verbal command (which personally I think is better than arbitrarily 'spanking' when the horse has no way to associate "leg" with "canter please"), try having another horse give you a lead.

                                        Then when the horse picks up the canter, be very deliberate about associating the leg cue with the depart.

                                        ie, find a way to get the canter and THEN associate the leg cue with it, not the other way around where people leg leg LEG ESCALATE as if the horse is supposed to psychically know what a leg aid is.
                                        The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
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