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Rider struggling in canter...

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  • Rider struggling in canter...

    I have been working very hard on my position, trying to go back to basics and correct flaws in my use of aids and in my overall position. So, I've embarked on a self-imposed bootcamp of 1 month without stirrups.

    The trot work is coming along well, I feel as though I've really unlocked my hips and my legs are quiet and I have increased dexterity in my aids because I'm not gripping.

    The canter is my bug-a-boo and I'm looking for other ways to think about the movement so that I can practice. I can "sit" the canter, but I'm not effective. I feel as though I get left behind the stride and I let myself slide to the back of the saddle, whereas in the sitting trot, I can stay nice and centered. I have a tendency overall to tip a bit forward on my pelvis, and grip with my calves, instead of letting the direction come from my seat.

    Things I've tried: making a backward oval movement in my pelvis, actively leaning back to really feel my hips open to let my legs drop (holding onto grab strap), sitting very tall-taller-tallest...

    So far, my efforts have been met with mixed success - I feel like the key is in unlocking my hips and I feel like I can get moments of what it should be, but it's not consistent. And feeling like I'm getting dumped into the back of the saddle is disconcerting.

    Any tips or other ways to think about the canter movement or anyone else working through this issue?

  • #2
    Have you tried riding bareback? That or do you have a steady eddie horse that someone can lunge while you concentrate on your seat.

    Or: I recently worked with a western trainer (I ride English/dressage) on getting a green horse going under saddle. Supposedly he had been "started" by another trainer, but aside from letting you climb up onto his back, didn't seem to know what to do with himself after that. So I took him to her and we put him in the round pen and after we got his front end and back end moving around to my aids from the ground and the saddle, sent him around walk, trot, canter. It was the HARDEST THING to just completely let go of his face and ride his gaits letting him figure out things as he went along. If he got too rushy or into to trouble, we just circled him in. He was worried about having me hold onto his face but when I gave him a free rein and just grabbed a hank of mane, he traveled around very nicely. A little rushy at first but with more confidence, slowed down and settled into a rhythm nicely.

    Not the same I know, but if your horse or someone else's you can practice on is trustworthy, I can see it being a good exercise for just concentrating on your seat. That or going out to a nice flat field if you have one, or even up a gentle slope, can be good canter practice. You can always add circles in as you get better.

    Also, is your saddle fitted properly to you, meaning, there's not too much room in it? Is Centered Riding still considered a good resource for rider position and body mechanics? Might be worth checking out. You may be able to find some recorded clinics on youtube too. Good luck!
    Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses on Facebook
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    • #3
      I know exactly the feeling you are talking about, it is awful! It's real common though, that's why people learning to ride can sit fine when they hold the grab strap or front of the saddle (or worse yet, reins!), but lose their seat when they let go. When you feel like you are getting left behind, think about pulling your hips forwards (towards your hands, or towards the front of the saddle, whatever image works for you) with your core. Sometimes a very deep exhale (like you are blowing out candles) helps to engage the right muscles, but on a very sensitive horse it's too much and makes a downward transition! Good for you on the self-imposed bootcamp!!
      Gallant Gesture "Liam" 1995 chestnut ottb gelding
      Mr. Painter "Remy" 2006 chestnut ottb gelding
      My Training Blog: www.dressagefundamentals.com

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      • #4
        get thee to a longe line.
        Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"

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        • #5
          I too know this feeling.

          My mare has a very bouncy canter, I had trouble sitting and gluing my rear to the saddle.
          There were two things that helped me.

          One - make sure your horse is up off the forehand and is cantering uphill. Your coach can help with is as I found it hard to tell if my seat was not correct. I half halt and do a few 20M circles to help balance my horse due to her level of training.
          If your horse is slightly on the forehand you are going to be pulled down into his shoulders.

          If he/she is balanced then...

          Two- I sit deep almost behind the vertical to get the feel for it... and relax... Allow your hips to move towards the horses shoulder and hold your upper body with your abs.
          If you cannot get a feel for it. Allow your reins to go loose and just let your horse canter.
          I find for some riders we unknowingly balance using our reins. This helps.

          Good luck.
          http://dotstreamming.blogspot.com/

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          • #6
            One thing to check is, whether you are hollow backed. And don't rely on your own feeling, get someone to video tape you, and watch it very carefully. If you are hollow back, you cannot sit the canter effectively.

            And the more powerful the canter is, the more you have to have a strong core. At every first canter stride, tuck your butt under (if you tend to be hollow back), really engage your core so your own back is filled. Once you get this really good, you will have an easier time to allow your legs to hang down nicely.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by CFFarm View Post
              get thee to a longe line.
              This too!
              http://dotstreamming.blogspot.com/

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thanks all for the great suggestions so far...

                I have an "appointment" with my friend to longe my horse while I ride - she's fantastic on the longe, so hopefully I feel some things there! She and I just haven't had a chance yet in this bootcamp to get together. I'm excited!

                I do ride a number of different horses - my instructor has wonderful schoolmasters and then there's my horse and my friend lets me practice on her horse. I do much better on horses that have less powerful gaits. I guess my point is, that even on the very balanced uphill horses, I have the same issue, so it's me, not just the balance of my horse.

                Gloria, I don't consider myself to be hollow backed - but I will take a VERY close look to see. I do have very strong abs - but I do think that I need to strengthen the lower core - my upper abs almost overpower everything (I white water kayak as well) I think the motion that I'm doing may be hollowing my back, so I think I might over-emphasise the butt tuck to see if that gets me going in the right direction. I just get scared that I'll start breaking in the waist again instead of staying connected...But I need to try different things at this point. Thank for the advice!

                Saddle fits my horse and I, it's been checked several times over the years by a wonderful saddle fitter - I'll check out the Centered Riding site again, they usually have great explanations and imagery.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Reddfox View Post
                  I just get scared that I'll start breaking in the waist again instead of staying connected...
                  This description bothers me... When correctly engaging your core, your posture should be long and tall and elastic, not breaking in the waist, even when your butt is well tucked underneath you. You should feel strong and flexible, with your shoulders back, stacking naturally above your hip. In fact, the stronger your core is properly engaged, the taller you should appear.

                  To feel the engagement of core, sit tall in your chair, put one hand behind at your lower back, and engage your core. You should literally feel your back to fill your hand and the rest of your body should not even change. And you need to do this, every single stride, at the first canter beat. Eventually this will lead to more collected canter.

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Gloria, I see what you mean... The breaking at the waist comment was in regards to my old habit which was when I asked for canter, or pushed for more canter - I would bring my seat bones forward and then in my waist I would crunch down instead of sitting tall. I worked so hard to undo that, that I think that I sit almost too still and don't do enough to fill my back.

                    When I sit tall, I feel like the engagement in my core travels to my high abs (this is probably me hollowing), instead of staying down low - I think that this is something that I need to work on. When I try to engage my core (right now at my office desk l - I feel like my middle abs crunch a bit, so when I really start to push my seat under, I'm working the middle instead of lower down and pulling my upper body into a bit of a roached back up high...

                    So, maybe what it comes down to is that I need to engage the correct part of my core

                    THis is really helpful for me to talk through...I'm going to pull my exercise ball out from under my desk and "experiment"

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Reddfox View Post
                      Things I've tried: making a backward oval movement in my pelvis, actively leaning back to really feel my hips open to let my legs drop (holding onto grab strap), sitting very tall-taller-tallest...
                      If I'm understanding what you're saying, it's exactly backwards from what you should be doing. Your hip joints need to allow your horse's outside hind leg to push them forward. If you don't, you get duck butt and your horse hollows its back:
                      http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6161/...a1c8ae689e.jpg
                      If you do get the hips moving forward, your horse will round and lift its back:
                      http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6171/...f768615e67.jpg
                      http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6172/...afdf20bfbb.jpg

                      I'm working on using my body properly, too, and finding it a challenge. The first pic is basically the kind of curve my back was stuck in for my entire adult life until recently, and to which I return every time I don't think about my position. My horse's canter is pretty easy to sit, but my mom's horse canters a bit like an antelope, and I always found her VERY hard to sit. My improvement in position is making her canter far easier to ride, which is in turn improving her canter a lot.

                      As far as getting the abs working properly, the feeling I get is almost trying to pull the front of the pelvic bone together, then trying to push the rib cage back. This only works if you're sitting up at the same time, so I think of a string pulling out the top of my head and lifting me - which naturally helps my legs stretch down. There's a way of sitting the canter which looks more like the last pictures (though not exactly) and nothing like the first which makes the horse suddenly feel soft and spongy under you, and makes it feel like you're floating together rather than a separate horse and rider. That lift/stretch together with the use of abs helps get you there, becuase it is what gets your seatbones positioned just right on the horse. And once you get it - you will FEEL it. You won't always be able to get it back on demand at first, but it'll help you get it again in the future.
                      Originally posted by Silverbridge
                      If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Ok, I'll be brave and share pics...
                        http://s1080.photobucket.com/albums/j325/dresseur626/


                        The chestnut is my mare, the white horse is the very tolerant schoolmaster. You can see how when I sit to horse that a more uphill balance, the problem gets worse. When I ask for a more collected canter - things go really wrong.


                        I feel like I'm not doing the right thing in the trough of the stride (inside hind reaching forward - and poor maresie is pissed at me) but that the moment before - the suspension part seems to be sitting correctly.

                        Looking at it - I am doing duck butt in the trough (and hollowing) and not following the whole stride. I should be sitting very tall as that leg comes forward, but my butt is somewhere out behind me. I'm guessing that this is why horses are breaking out of the canter with me...

                        This is what I watched that gave me the "backward oval" idea to try.
                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fbbm_...eature=related
                        Last edited by Reddfox; Oct. 4, 2011, 01:18 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Oh what fun to finally pick at someone else's riding! *laughs gleefully*

                          Muah ha ha.... Okay, kidding.

                          Looking at your photos on the chestnut mare, 1-4 what I see is the standard: eyes up looking where you want to go; shoulders back, chest up, pubis bone down against my seat, hips over your heels, heels down, (don't hollow your back) and think of "lifting" into the canter. No?

                          http://www.janesavoie.com/blog/tag/sitting-the-canter/
                          Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses on Facebook
                          Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses Website and Blog

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                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by FatCatFarm View Post
                            Oh what fun to finally pick at someone else's riding! *laughs gleefully*

                            Muah ha ha.... Okay, kidding.

                            Looking at your photos on the chestnut mare, 1-4 what I see is the standard: eyes up looking where you want to go; shoulders back, chest up, pubis bone down against my seat, hips over your heels, heels down, (don't hollow your back) and think of "lifting" into the canter. No?

                            http://www.janesavoie.com/blog/tag/sitting-the-canter/

                            BAH!!! But then it all goes horribly wrong!!!

                            I read that Jane Savoie link yesterday - trying it today.
                            Side note: the pics on my mare are about 4 months after the video pulls from the white horse. I have improved, but the terrible-ness that happens in the trough of the stride is still there.

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                            • #15
                              Practice will make you better.
                              Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses on Facebook
                              Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses Website and Blog

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                              • #16
                                Redfox, you are a good rider, and very fit with good body control. As far as I can tell, you are bubbling in overcoming the big obstable, and it won't take much for you to overcome it, but you "HAVE TO" tuck your butt under in order for you to glue to the saddle and sit the big beautiful canter both horses have.

                                You are actualy not hollowing back as I had imagined, but you aren't really tuck your butt under and really engage your core either. If you watch carefuly, you are sort of rolling onto your crotch (see the belly sort of round out, instead of sucked in?), especially at the first beat of canter, when that is the most important part where you have to pluck your seat bone into the saddle to form the connection.

                                I think you were engaging your upper abdominal muscle that is on the surface of your body instead of the deep, lower part that is closer to your spine.

                                Once you get this piece figured out, you can then concentrate on allowing your core to lift your torso upward, which will open your chest and bring your shoulders back. I imagine you can get this accomplished within fifteen minutes once you have the first piece in place.

                                The more collected canter you wish to get, the more you have to do this, and really use your core (not your shoulders) to lift your body upward.

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                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  This may not have been a productive work day, but very productive in other ways. I can't wait to get to the barn tonight to keep working on this!

                                  Gloria, you hit the nail on the head with what I'm doing - and hearing...errr...reading you put it that way helps me to pin point the part I'm doing wrong.

                                  So, as I come off the suspension phase, I really need to engage the low, deep muscles to keep my pelvis/butt tucked under to keep the connection.

                                  Your comment about me lifting my shoulders to lift my body really resonates....NOW I see why my instructor keeps telling me hands and shoulders down. I'm picking myself up with my shoulders, which in turn raises my hands. AH! AH HA!

                                  I will be doing some targeted yoga/pilates/ whatever I need to do to get my low/inner core strengthened. Thank you!!!

                                  And thank you for the kind comments - I'm trying my best to get myself as correct as possible so that I can help my mare as much as possible.

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Reddfox View Post
                                    BAH!!! But then it all goes horribly wrong!!!

                                    I read that Jane Savoie link yesterday - trying it today.
                                    Side note: the pics on my mare are about 4 months after the video pulls from the white horse. I have improved, but the terrible-ness that happens in the trough of the stride is still there.
                                    Jane's link really helped me and I say to myself , "Go with, Go with, Go with." Good luck!
                                    We do not have an overpopulation of dogs, we have an under population of responsible dog owners!!!

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                                    • #19
                                      No you should not be "picking up your shoulders". Shoulders back but down and lift your chest or to be crass - Boobs Up! Think standing at attention here, eyes forward.

                                      And I thought this was a decent illustration:

                                      http://www.myvirtualeventingcoach.co...0positions.jpg

                                      I just want to say that just as riding with a duck butt is wrong conversely so is tucking your butt in too far, riding more on your butt than on your seat bones.
                                      Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses on Facebook
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                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by FatCatFarm View Post
                                        No you should not be "picking up your shoulders". Shoulders back but down and lift your chest or to be crass - Boobs Up! Think standing at attention here, eyes forward.

                                        And I thought this was a decent illustration:

                                        http://www.myvirtualeventingcoach.co...0positions.jpg

                                        I just want to say that just as riding with a duck butt is wrong conversely so is tucking your butt in too far, riding more on your butt than on your seat bones.
                                        Haha...unfortunately, what I should be doing and what I am doing are two different things. I have a tendency to lift my shoulders and then hands which is contributing to the overall hollowness that creeps in.

                                        I like that illustration - I work hard to keep my pelvis neutral and that's a good visualization. But, as with all things, what will happen is I'll go too far one way...then too far the other...and then I'll find the middle ground - which to quote Goldilocks is, "Juuuuussssttt riiiiiight."

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