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Canter progress: update

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  • Canter progress: update

    I posted a thread not too long ago about how to work on improving my horse's canter departs. She is capable of a very nice canter depart and a balanced, comfortable canter, but isn't very consistent right now.

    I had some success using suggestions people had to:
    1) try leg yielding on a circle, then out to the rail and ask
    2) focus on the transition. If she falls into the canter, then go back to 3 steps of walk, 2 trot and then ask. Repeat if she doesn't do it. Focus on the transition and then ask for the canter. (meupatdoes said this I think)

    I've also noticed that my mare is better about her canter departs if I tend to work on them towards the beginning of a session rather than at the end.

    I tried a lesson recently with a new trainer and loved everything they did with my horse. Actually lesson was for horsey (I was just watching the trainer ride her). However, their opinion on the canter is completely different. They got the same rough depart (falling on forehand, pulling) and just rode through it, working to get my horse balanced once she was cantering.

    I've found with my horse that the quality of the depart really affects the quality of the canter that follows it. There are times when I get a great depart and the subsequent canter is very comfortable to sit with not much fussing on anyone's part. Then if the canter depart is not so good what follows takes many more strides to bring to something comfortable.

    What do people think about the rationale for ignoring the canter depart and just working on the canter? Only worked with this trainer once and liked everything else, but was curious about this.

  • #2
    Originally posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
    What do people think about the rationale for ignoring the canter depart and just working on the canter?
    Only worked with this trainer once and liked everything else, but was curious about this.
    I think you should listen to meup and keep focusing on the QUALITY of the depart. If you don't go back and redo the depart how is the horse to know that wasn't what you wanted?
    Take this as an early indicator that shopping for a new trainer is still on your to-do list.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
      What do people think about the rationale for ignoring the canter depart and just working on the canter? Only worked with this trainer once and liked everything else, but was curious about this.
      It's worked for me in the past, especially recently in relation to my 7yo OTTB. He had terrible departs - he'd rush and hollow. I developed the horse overall - creating an even better (ie, progressively collected) trot and developing the canter itself (balanced, rhythmic, etc); I was then able to attack the departs more effectively once the canter was cleaned up and in fact they came easier/more naturally cleaner with a better developed canter (and thus horse, overall). It was sort of the last piece of the puzzle. I do think it likely depends on the situation and horse however, but you or your horse don't have to get everything (or even certain things) correct right away - you can refine as you go. On the other hand, if she IS capable of those good departs, I would bring her back down and re-ask... but you have to be careful not to drill. If you find yourself drilling over and over, with no positive (or even worsening) results, then you need to approach it different, which might include the approach the new trainer took.

      I say if you liked everything else, keep at it and see how it works. Simply ignoring (versus actively worsening or allowing it to worsen) is not going to create irreversible damage. Imo a lot of benefit can often come of 'ignoring' a direct issue (in a lot of cases anyway) and focusing on developing the horse overall - oft the issue disappears or at least is diminished as a result, which then makes it easier to tackle.
      ....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.

      Comment


      • #4
        Posted by naturalequus:

        It's worked for me in the past, especially recently in relation to my 7yo OTTB. He had terrible departs - he'd rush and hollow. I developed the horse overall - creating an even better (ie, progressively collected) trot and developing the canter itself (balanced, rhythmic, etc); I was then able to attack the departs more effectively once the canter was cleaned up and in fact they came easier/more naturally cleaner with a better developed canter (and thus horse, overall).
        ^ .

        Comment


        • #5
          I don't recall how old your horse is, how balanced she is in her body (which is subject to change as a young horse goes through growth stages some of which are less/more outwardly obvious), how long you've been working on the quality of the depart ...
          BUT the answer is that both methods "work" depending on the horse (& rider) & time in the training scale of the horse.

          As a just 4 yr old, FP just cantered - he needed to learn how to balance himself + his rider in the canter: he's a little horse with a huge canter that he has slowly been growing into.
          But he was rarely cantered in the ring, the improving his canter work was done in a 5 acre field.
          As he matured & training progressed his canter changed, when it became balanced, focus returned to the depart ... & he learned what it was like to be balanced in the depart & how easy that canter transition was ...
          great you think canter "done"
          Fast forward in time & suddenly he's sticky in the canter again - he's decided that if the balance is not PERFECT he does not canter. at. all.
          Instead he's going to lock his jaw & block all rider access to his body <sigh> back to double lining ...

          The upside, during that time when it all jived, he had beautiful departs & a lovely quality of canter; and he's continued to progress so much in other ways.
          (time frame for relevance ~ 7 months)

          I tried a lesson recently with a new trainer and loved everything they did with my horse.
          So why not try this trainer for a month or 2 ...

          And at the next lesson, bring this subject up with the trainer

          Comment


          • #6
            I worked with 4-5 trainers in the 90s that were really wonderful and ALL of them said that you make your canter better with good transitions.

            I have worked with a lot of TBs and I have a hot horse now - he is not a TB - he is a Connemara cross - and he used to bolt run into the canter.

            I think a lot of people FORGET there is a level of fitness needed to ask a horse to sit back and step into the canter. I agree with all the trainers I worked with back in the 90s when I started riding dressage - I think what is missed by some is that - a horse needs a level of engagement and balance in their trot work! They need to have a good half halt. There is some work you can do in the TROT and transitions inand out of the trot that can help your canter departs.

            This horse I have - I cantered him for fitness- in a field riding on hills and on the lunge spiralling him in to take weight and track under and spiral out to stretch up through his back - to get him to find a speed and settle down. I use a lot of transitions on the lunge with voice commands. The fields are best - uphill canter step is great muscle building. Also cross training over simple jumping gymnastics too - especially to mix it up and make it fun for some horses.

            But when I do canter work on his back in the arena, I never let him run through the transitions. I dont expect him to do it perfectly, but I celebrate the little victories as it improves with each ride.

            Think about it - if a horse runs into the canter, he is out of balance and disconnected. SO you have to then fix that once then in the canter. This horse would bolt run into the canter and WHEN HE REALIZED he could simply step into it - HE WAS RELIEVED and he relaxed IN the canter. So the KEY for his canter WAS getting it right from the start.

            That doesnt mean I never cantered him until he could but cantering him up a hill helped him develop the right muscles..... etc. Sometimes you have to ask yourself, is my horse FIT enough - can he engage enough - does he understand the half halt? Is my canter cue RIGHT?

            I would be wary of a trainer letting the horse run into the canter unless they have a specific reason.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Thanks for all the great responses so far.

              1) A few other things I've noticed. I used to longe for 5-10 minutes as a warm up (until maybe a few weeks ago). The quality of the depart on the longe would often forecast the type of depart I would later get while riding during that session. When my horse did immediate and balanced departs on the longe - basically going immediately from the word "canter" to the actual gait, she would be more likely to do so under saddle. There were some days though when she would trot a couple of times before actually making the transition. On those days I would tend to get not as good departs.



              2) I've done a ton of very short rides these days as part of saddle demos. The kind of rides where the rep comes out, we try a saddle on, I ride in it for maybe 5-10 minutes at all gaits to get a feel for it and then get off and try the next one. Then at the end of the session, I go back to riding a bit longer in whatever I liked best.

              During the 5-10 minute "mini sessions", I almost always get nice departs as long as the saddle fits properly. (as a note the saddle I am currently riding in does fit. I've had a saddle fitter look at it too)


              This is leading me to believe that perhaps the quality of the depart has something to do with how my mare is feeling that day in terms of her level of fatigue. Does this sound like a plausable explanation given the above observations?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by LaraNSpeedy View Post
                I would be wary of a trainer letting the horse run into the canter unless they have a specific reason.
                There's 'ignoring' the transition and focusing instead on the canter (and trot!), and then there's ignoring the transition completely. A person can 'ignore' the transition but pick at it bit by bit every session, each time they transition into the canter - asking the horse for a clean, balanced depart each time... but without actually focusing on the transition itself much, and drilling it. That is what I mean by refining as you go. The rider does not have to ALLOW the horse to run into the canter and just 'throw away the reins'; they CAN still ASK for that clean and balanced transition. They're just not drilling or focusing on it. If they get it, fantastic (and reward!), if they don't, no worries - maybe re-ask once or twice (but only if you think you might get a better result!), but then instead focus on the other ingredients that will eventually make for a good transition (balanced, rhythmic canter and trot). In such a way, developing the trot and canter themselves, and developing strength and that carrying power in the horse is the focal point. With that come progressively cleaner transitions. I agree that developing the trot is important - you can create a much better canter just by developing the trot, to start.

                Ime, re-asking until you get it within that session, essentially focusing on the transition and ignoring the trot and especially the canter, is not always the way to go. Usually it IS a lack of strength and balance and/or it's the result of an emotionally uncollected mind. Both those factors take a lot of time to develop, hence 'ignoring' the transition and focusing on the root aspects because repeatedly re-asking and drilling is not going to change the horse's lack of strength or balance (or frazzled mind) that day. You take what the horse CAN give, work with that, and continuously improve the horse - a little - each session. Drilling and repeatedly re-asking, when the horse really is not capable of it (that day) only reinforces the bad habits when that is all the horse can give you. As I mentioned, 'ignoring' the transition doesn't mean throwing the reins away and not helping the horse through the transition whatsoever - you have to do the transition to get to the canter anyway, so that is your opportunity to 'school', or refine, the transition. But you don't focus on it - if you don't get it, you move on to focus on other areas that will naturally clean up the transitions.

                So I guess it depends then on the OP's interpretation of the trainer 'ignoring' the transitions. Is the instructor still asking for a clean transition but focusing elsewhere if he/she does not get it, or are they simply allowing the horse to run into the canter (which reinforces such a habit) without any effort at cleaning up the transition when they do have to transition each time anyway.

                Practising departs and cleaning up both the trot and canter on the longe can also be of great benefit, while simultaneously working on it u/s.

                OP, to answer your question, I think yes. Her state of mind that day can also play a role. Keep it short and sweet when you are working on something specific, ie, the canter, or transitions, etc - by that I mean, keep each lesson (within your sessions) short and sweet. ESPECIALLY when she gets it right! Don't get greedy and ask for more; my two cents, for what it's worth, would be to just focus on small improvements within each session, then move on. Practise, then move on to the next lesson/focal point. Focus on the bigger picture (which is developing her strength and mind overall). Even keep your sessions themselves short and sweet and do a lot of hacking out if possible (great for both the mind and the body).
                ....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.

                Comment


                • #9
                  My experience with my mare is that I need a good depart to hold her best canter (which is still crap). If we don't get a good one, attempting to fix it frazzles her.

                  Other horses I've ridden are the opposite-it's better to get an acceptable depart (as naturalequus explained) and work with it from there as they get upset with the constant start-stop of "crappy depart-bring back and try again". I find those ones are the ones that can balance and are halfway athletic, which my mare is not.
                  "Those who know the least often know it the loudest."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I like reading all these ideas about canter transitions because they are the most difficult with my mustang. I'm in the camp of ride through it and work on the canter itself with this particular horse. If I focus only on the depart and do many repetitions of that it just makes him mad, so while I try to have a good depart, I take what I get and focus on forward at the canter because right now that is the bigger issue - developing forward.

                    With my TB, he has a wonderful canter so we work on the transitions more.

                    I agree with alto who mentioned improving the canter by working in an open field. I took my mustang for his first XC school yesterday and he gave me the best canter work ever! He was forward and free because we had lots of room to move and make corrections - we weren't only on the 20m circle or about to come to a corner. I came home and told Mr. PoPo that we needed a 5-acre field at home to ride on!

                    Oh, another thing I've noticed in the arena is when I use canter as part of our warm up I usually have the best transitions for some reason. Well, the some reason is that I think I'm more relaxed. When it comes to "working on the canter" in our schooling sessions, I think I get nervous and tense up and that of course makes it worse. During warm up I'm just like "dooo dee doooo dee dooo.... let's canter now" and it seems so much easier.

                    As with everything with horses, it depends on each horse and how they react to the work.
                    My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

                    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      I have another lesson with the new trainer tomorrow and am planning to ask about the canter work.

                      In the meantime, I gave horsie the weekend off (I was out of town) and then started back up today. I had some very nice transitions

                      Started with an easy 10 minute warmup on the longe (no side rein) doing a bit of each gait both ways. Got on and did about 10 minutes at a walk on a longer rein, but doing a lot of figures like figure 8 over ground poles, serpentines, etc. Then we did about 10 minutes of trot on a slightly shorter rein than before. When I felt horsie speeding up and become unbalanced, I brought her back to a slower but steadier trot for a few strides and then went back to the original pace. We maintained that for a couple of strides until she became unbalanced again and then repeated the exercises. Did a bit of this in each direction. It felt like hard work for both of us. Then took a little walk break and went to canter. And guess what?? The transitions were really nice!! While they may not have been extremely prompt, they were balanced and comfortable. We did maybe 2 min. of that then I gave her a pat and ended early. It was a great feeling.


                      This is really bringing home the notion of how important a good balanced trot is.
                      Last edited by SnicklefritzG; Oct. 24, 2011, 10:40 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
                        This is really bringing home the notion of how important a good balanced trot is.
                        I agree with that and have found that the quality of the canter improves along with the quality of the trot.
                        My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

                        "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Pocket Pony View Post
                          I agree with that and have found that the quality of the canter improves along with the quality of the trot.
                          Second that.
                          ....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.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by naturalequus View Post
                            Second that.
                            Third
                            www.destinationconsensusequus.com
                            chaque pas est fait ensemble

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Today I had an AMAZING lesson with the same trainer!! The change in horsie was nothing short of remarkable.

                              Rather than being too analytical which I tend to be because of my day job, I decided to just shut up and ride and see how things went.


                              We spent probably 75% of the time working at a walk and trot, including transitions, proper bend, getting my horse to carry herself in a balanced way, and so forth. Although I was pretty tired from the intensity, I could understand what the trainer was trying to convey as well as what to feel when things were going well.

                              When we did get to the canter, all the transitions were polite and comfortable and were a huge improvement over what we had been doing on our own previously. I actually thought "gee! this canter is comfortable to sit!"

                              In talking during the cool down at the end of the lesson, the trainer said that if the trot is balanced the transition will automatically be better but don't strive for perfection in the transition itself at this point. He said that as long as the depart is decent (like it was today) then the most important thing then would be to get my mare cantering forward and learning to use herself properly. (ie don't drill the depart itself). He said that she's not balanced enough yet to canter as slowly as I'd like her to but that will come in time. That's not exactly how he said it, but that's the gist of it.

                              Already from two sessions horsie and me are much improved, so I think we are on our way

                              I will probably take more lessons with the trainer. He seems to "get" me and my horse and knows what to say to fix the problems.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Fantastic update

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by SnicklefritzG View Post
                                  Today I had an AMAZING lesson with the same trainer!! The change in horsie was nothing short of remarkable.
                                  Fantastic!!!!

                                  In talking during the cool down at the end of the lesson, the trainer said that if the trot is balanced the transition will automatically be better but don't strive for perfection in the transition itself at this point. He said that as long as the depart is decent (like it was today) then the most important thing then would be to get my mare cantering forward and learning to use herself properly. (ie don't drill the depart itself). He said that she's not balanced enough yet to canter as slowly as I'd like her to but that will come in time.

                                  I will probably take more lessons with the trainer. He seems to "get" me and my horse and knows what to say to fix the problems.
                                  Good job, OP. Half the battle (speaking from experience) is in knowing what to say, how to convey what you want to see in horse and rider. *sigh*. If your progress was nothing short of remarkable and this trainer seems to understand you and your horse (that's gold right there!), hang onto the guy like your life depends on it
                                  ....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.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Had a third lesson from the same trainer this afternoon. Trainer rode for the first 15 min and then I got on for the remainder.

                                    Today the right lead canter was an *immediate transition* that felt very comfortable. The first time this has happened in a while, at least in the ring. Left lead took a few more steps of trot to get, but once we got going it was nice to sit.

                                    The right lead though was a real pleasure. yay!!

                                    I've learned not to be afraid to go back to basics and get a better foundation. Reminds me of something a GP level trainer told me a while ago. "The best way to progress quickly is to start slow".

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