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Croup high in the canter

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  • Croup high in the canter

    Hello all,

    Having a bit of trouble with the grey horse after his bout of Ross River. He's had just about 12 months off with on-and-off rides in between seeing if he is better. Only just starting to feel like he is back to normal, so fingers crossed I am able to start working on it.

    The canter has always been a weakness, it is a very good canter WHEN he is in balance, however getting to the balanced canter is bloody hard work and worthy of making even my instructor huff and puff a little bit. He has a little bit of a long back and is also green but tries super hard every day and there is literally no dirt in him.

    I have been riding hundreds of transitions and trying to strengthen him out of the canter, but feeling as if the canter has completely disintegrated since he was last in full work. He is not the most co-ordinated horse, so that also adds to the problem - the rider ends up doing a lot of supporting to help keep him on four feet.
    I am currently trying to ride the nose out (fixing a pelham mouth from a lovely show jumper who thought he knew what he was doing with a strong/unbalanced horse), get the hind leg, off the inside leg and into the outside rein while maintaining a steady rhythm. Half halts are my friend right? I keep doing this and I either lose the contact (he goes behind the bit) or I lose my rhythm (faster).
    He wants to lift his bum in the canter all the time and it gets really hard to sit to, he really flicks you out of the saddle when he does it.

    I am obviously going to keep working on this as I know that it's the only way to do it and of course, as with any horse, it is repetition repetition repetition for who knows how long.

    But does anyone else have any other suggestions? Or even similar experiences? Would love to hear from anyone.

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Just a modest bit of experience as am still a work in progress and I don't know the back story of your horse but, here is what has been helping me with my project horse, who also has a lovely canter when in gear but has lots of issues with it (won't go into detail to derail the post. just will tell you what is working)

    The things that help enormously....one, get a great walk and do a lot of suppling in walk, shoulder in, leg yield, turn on forehand, halts to walk to a crisp balanced walk from halt or trot walk halt, then turn on forehand/turn on haunches or rein back. The walk mirrors the canter, so when you get a cadenced marching walk and feel his energy coming through and poll soften and hq engage at walk, THAT is the time to start canter work. If you go to canter before you get that great walk, you get what you have now.

    The other thing that has helped my horse sort his feet and coordination out is lunging him at canter over a ground pole, and sometimes two ground poles. Sometimes he jumps them and sometimes he canters over them , ( i trot him over them too). It seems to focus him where his feet are and get off his forehand.

    A lot of loosening at trot too long posting trots to loosen him, then some collected trot (or our best attempt at collected trot). With mine, the walk work to a marching supple walk and a bit of collected trot leads to a good balanced canter . If I skip that (cause the walk work is tedious and I am impatient), If I skip that and do a generic warm up with just plain vanilla walk and working trot, the canter is lacking. Good luck!
    Last edited by Countrywood; Oct. 22, 2011, 09:40 AM.


    • #3
      He wants to lift his bum in the canter all the time and it gets really hard to sit to, he really flicks you out of the saddle when he does it.
      Usually when a horse actually does begin to engage properly they will feel like they are launching you out of the saddle.

      You might try cantering poles and gymnastics where you keep you bum out of the saddle so that he can begin to engage without running into you sitting on his back.

      Do trot-canter transitions, five strides canter, canter-trot transitions and you may need to ride in a modified two point.

      ETA: is he butt-high? Do you have any side shot conformation photos of him?


      • #4
        we need video
        chaque pas est fait ensemble


        • #5
          And if he is now out of condition, yes you will often get stuck back at square one with anything that was difficult before, and then you have to start over.


          • #6
            if the horse is discombobulated at canter i woulndt be doing lots of transitions with him just yet.

            work the training scale:

            lossgelassenheit /suppleness

            so i would worry about him just working easy forward loose in even tempo in all gaits..... big bended lines and circle no smaller than 15 meters.

            if he has difficulty in canter i would lunge him without side reins and look and see how he does... is he ok on the lunge? if not lunge him until he can balance well on the lunge in all 3 gaits then go back to riding and progress him as if he were a baby.

            only when he can go forward easily and in rhythm in all three gaits would i really start upping the anti with transitions.

            you can do a lot of bended lines which help him learn to bend which is the prerequisite of coming to the bit etc.

            once he is good here then start adding in more transitions but try not to over face him. he needs to rebuild his body.

            the bum high is him not compressing his hind leg joints and that is a very bad habit and hard to correct.

            as for transitions, what i have learned is this: when you transition into a new ait you stay in that gait until you have achieved a decent version of that gait... so if you are trotting you trot until you have the horse working well then you transition to canter and canter until he can balance etc then transition back to trot - this is because your new gait will only ever be as good as the one you are currently in.

            i would also be VERY careful doing work in walk on contact at this stage.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks Countrywood, he has done a lot of poles and lunging and free jumping so that sort of stuff is just a common occurrence for him. He used to be owned by a show jumper and that's what I want to do with him too but I can't and I don't want to ride him in a pelham and all the problems that come with that bit. But he has done a lot of polework as a show jumper.
              We also do lots of transitions within the gate but of course, back to the pelham issues, he doesn't want to stretch into the hand. But I really appreciate your suggestions. And it's so helpful knowing I am not the only one.

              BaroquePony, he is only bum high if you get a level. You can't see it with the eye, but we have put a level on his wither to rump to see if it was the problem and it is only slightly out of the middle. While I understand this is a problem in itself and will always effect our work, I'm trying my best to make his weak-ish long back stronger
              And the reason I think it is being croup high in the canter is because just before he starts to flick me out of the saddle, he drops behind the bit and also starts to lean downwards at the same time, coming onto the forehand. I think it is a lack of balance because he also loses his rhythm about that time too.

              - uploading video now!

              MBM, I am of the same thinking of you. I meant transitions within his easier paces because I would rather work on doing five minutes of canter on each rein and having him praised and fixing the issues for a length of time rather then the focus being on transitioning between the gaits, if you get what I mean?
              My instructor is very much German and we only work on those three parts of the scale because the rest is irrelevant at this point in his training.

              Just wanted to say a very big thank-you to all the replies!

              Has anyone ever worked with a horse that has been ridden in a pelham?


              • Original Poster

                He is also very clumsy on the ground, trips over on flat ground, trips going into his shelter in his field every day.

                Cantering him on a loose rein he can canter, although you do have to keep an eye on the rhythm. Pick up the contact and ask him to engage and it becomes a lot more difficult.


                • #9
                  tripping all the time is not normal.

                  feet too long? have you looked into diet?


                  • #10
                    The pelham itself shouldn't be the origin of the problem. Usually pelhams aren't very long-shanked, so that is better than some other bitting solutions. But, any bit used improperly can reverberate into all kinds of problems all the way down the back and into the hocks, especially if the situation has gone on for quite some time before you got him.

                    How old is this horse?

                    The tripping could be shoeing that is long in the toe and underslung heels. That could be a major problem.

                    But the tripping could also mean arthritis somehwre in the leg column. Arthritis could make him stiff and that could be part of the problem. Does he work out of it at all? If so, then arthritis may be your culprit.

                    Tripping in front or tripping behind? Tripping isn't good.

                    Could be back problems, SI, stifle, or hocks. Cannot flex easily behind.

                    ETA: he doesn't sound butt high enough to cause this kind of problem at all.


                    • Original Poster

                      I will discuss with my farrier, but I believe it is not to do with his feet. But I will double check.

                      And would a five-star vetting not have picked arthritis or problems in the hocks etc? We had x-rays done and nothing was mentioned. He does have a bone chip BUT the same vet has x-rayed him three times previous (since he was a yearling) and it hasn't changed since the very first one.

                      He is an 7 year old rising 8 year old OTTB. Spent a two years in training with a show jumper. Not a clasical show jumper. An idiot who bits up and spurs on. I am very, very thankful to have gotten him out of there.

                      So what else could it be? I have always put it down horses can be like humans - just like some humans are clumsy, others are agile. Thoughts?


                      • Original Poster


                        Here's the video.

                        This is in a jumping lesson, excuse the jump saddle but it's basically the same stuff we normally work (my dressage instructor also teaches me jumping). It's only very minute here, you can start seeing it at 00:37, it kind of looks like I'm posting the canter? You know how show jumpers do to get "rhythm"?
                        That's not intentional!

                        It's about 5 x worse now that he is not in work. Like literally I get kicked out of the saddle.

                        PS. Please don't criticise us/me/him too harshly, I am genuinely trying to improve and this horse a number of problems which I haven't spoken about but we are trying. And all recommendations will be tried as I am willing to try anything!


                        • #13
                          Great that you posted the video.

                          Definately would rule out arthritis . He's young and looks to be travelling evenly enough. He's not tripping in the video, looks fine there because he is "awake". He may well trip when he is off duty because he is lazy.

                          He is defnately butt high/croup high. It's the bone structure that you are looking at, and he does travel down hill a bit. But more than that, he isn't as deep through the hip to point of butt (when looking at him from the side), so he doesn't have as much hinging ability in the rear end as you might like. He also is quite thick through the barrel (top of back to bottom of girth area) and he seems to be kind of wider side to side in the barrel, both of which kind of puts his barrel/stomach in the way of his stifle joints as they bend.

                          His neck and head seem a bit light for the rest of him which makes it harder for you to use the bit to help pick him up on occasion until he can begin to use his hindquarters to carry himself.

                          The jolt you are feeling at the canter I would attribute to his conformation in the rear end. I would definately stay off of his back as you try to develop the canter. His hinging mechanism is lacking the depth to make bending those rear joints easy. Plus he has a really long gaskin/femur, which can be a good thing once you get him actively bending those back joints. I would spend time asking for an active working trot and develop those hinges evenly. Get them active. Cavaletti would help him a lot. So would hill work, especially going down semi-steep hills at the walk only and keeping him straight going down.

                          Because of the way he is built and because he is not really conditioned I would be careful of too much longing work. He seems so nice and willing under saddle I would stick with that.

                          Cavaletti at the walk, cavaletti at the trot and cavaletti at the canter . Trot to walk transitions until he feels strong enough to handle trot to halt. Also, backing him up in hand on the ground whenever you are leading him somehwre, or in the barn when you are grooming. I would avoid backing up while riding right now because he is not working correctly yet and backing a horse up incorrectly is only developing a bad habit. So, back work in hand for now.

                          He is going to have to learn to stretch the muscles in the hind legs before he can even begin to carry himself in a more supple manner. But go easy on all of the longing, tight bending and lateral work .. those all put quite a bit of stress on the suspensories which isn't such a good idea on a gangly out of condition kind of stiff horse. Your instructor seems to be aware of that as the circles she has you working on are big.

                          By using cavaletti you are showing him how to use his back legs without creating any problems which creep in very quickly when approaching things with the dressage by the book method. you will save yourself and your horse from a lot of frustration by letting the cavaletti do the asking and you just follow the horse.

                          He is nice to look at in spite of his flaws and it sounds like you saved him from a life of torment

                          ETA: it always takes longer to develop a downhill built horse.

                          Last edited by BaroquePony; Oct. 23, 2011, 09:06 AM.


                          • #14
                            First of all, is his name really Hippo? Because if so, I may have to come steal him

                            BaroquePony has made a lot of good points. I might also add, apart from the issues you are experiencing with his own conformation and lack of conditioning, be patient and give yourself some time. Often times we are such perfectionists that we want to do everything right and it needs to be right "right" now. I catch myself feeling that way at times and really have to remind myself that we're all a work in progress.

                            Also, the video was actually much better than what I expected it to be after reading your description. It is hard to sit tall and deep when the horse is struggling underneath you and out of condition - as Baroque mentioned, perhaps you can do a bit of work in a half seat for now to let his back really get stronger at the canter. I agree with lots of poles and also - hacking out and doing lots of walk - up and down hills if you have them.

                            I agree as well that getting that quality walk and trot work first is tremendously helpful at this stage (and really any stage). I know with my own mare that if I don't take the time to do a proper warm up and really get her motor going and back swinging, we're going to have a hell of a time doing any nice collected work.
                            Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

                            A Voice Halted


                            • #15
                              My two cents....lovely horse and you are a nice quiet rider.

                              Gait wise, he looks a little stiff in the hocks. Maybe have a simple flexion test done (not X rays). My horse, joint injection in hocks cured the rear stumbling he used to do but part of that was just overall weakness and lack of strength behind which this horse looks weak behind

                              The thing to watch in the video, how close his hind legs are together on landing. There is not a moment where one hind leg reaches forward and he pushes off from that (the mark of a clear three beat canter)

                              His hind legs almost travel together in a bunny hop fashion (watch canter videos of dressage horses or even equitation horses with good canters...there is more seperation between when the hind legs come down, with one hind leg at one point clearly forward and bearing the weight)

                              Your horse has some separation of the hind legs, but is close to moving themlegs laterally together which feels bunny hoppish to you the rirde, which is why you feel like his croup is much higer than it actually is.

                              Of the three gaits, his croup is not any higher at the canter. His trot is short strided and lacks fludity and croup is just as high there (actually it is level, not high). I did not see the walk, I would assume the similar giat to trot.

                              His canter is not going to be any better than his walk or trot. So as others said and I advised in my post, a good deal of quality walk and trot work, poles and cavaletti are excellent and leg yields are great for loosening up shoulders of short strided horses. Canter, I would not want to see a lot of small circles or too much "collection", if anything imo he needs to move out more from the shoulder and a bit more reach in his gait might encourage him to use his hind end better aka push more decisvely off one hind foot rather than bringing them to the ground almost as one unit...he is not strong enough or developed enough to canter that slowly as in the video, so he is compensating by a stiff short strided canter with the bunny hop like action behind...imo he needs large circles and loops for now under saddle.

                              Canter over ground poles and when he is stonger, cavaletti, on the lunge only, where you can watch his gait and move him forward with the whip so he doesn't bunny hop behind and does not have to deal with weight of rider.

                              He and you look really good together and his disposition looks great like he is really trying to please and figure it out!


                              • #16
                                He's a lovely horse. Just looks like he's struggling to find his balance a bit and you're bracing against him a little bit because he's not a comfortable ride at this point.

                                Because of what countrywood just pointed out, make sure he's not having any SI soreness. My horse was sore in that region after a bad slip and he did what countrywood was describing in the canter -- he kept the hind legs close together.

                                Or it could just be that he needs to move out and stretch over his topline more so that he can use himself better.


                                • #17
                                  FWIW, his acceptance of bit is nice and his neck actually supple so imo is not a bit or even a contact issue.

                                  Looks like strength or soreness...the combination of bunny hop behind and tripping now...perhaps a chiro/vet could come out? If he had clean leg /hock x rays that might have misses a stiffle or sacro joint problem...I am not an expert in any of this but just observation would want to rule it out./have it treated if that is the issue.


                                  • #18
                                    You 2 make a very cute pair

                                    To me it looks as though the horse doesn't really know how to bend his hind legs at any gait. That makes him look and feel higher behind than he otherwise would.

                                    I would be thinking should fore all the time with him, especially in and out of transitions until reaching through behind and tucking his hindquarters under becomes more natural for him. As others have said, it isn't necessary to focus on canter work to develop this type of conditioning. In fact, I'd work pretty much at the walk and trot until he demonstrates more strength through his back.
                                    See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


                                    • #19
                                      oh, i like him he looks very willing and you are a nice quiet rider.

                                      agree with others that he is stiff in the hind end, not bending his haunch, etc. my guess is he learned to do this as an evasion to the incorrect pelham work....

                                      the one thing other didnt mention but to me might be more important than the hind end is his back.... he is dropped in the back, which is why his barrel looks so wide and why it might feel jouncy to sit on him.

                                      as usual i will recommend taking him back to where the holes creep in: he needs to learn to go in a nice tempo with his neck forwards downwards, seeking the bit which will help his back to loosen.... once his back starts to swing a little i think you will see improvement in the haunch.

                                      i would also, in walk, do some Leg yields, making sure you get crossing behind - this is VERY hard work for horses such as this so i would start with only a few steps, and over time work him till he can cross easily. you can do LY head to wall (if you have a wall!) that will help with both shoulders and hips.

                                      really i just think correct, mindful basics,,, rebuilding his body and teh manner he uses it.

                                      your instructor sounded competent for the snippet i heard - what does she say?


                                      • Original Poster

                                        BaroquePony - that's exactly it! His neck and head are really light, it does look like I'm bracing but I'm trying to find contact, any contact will do. When I ride him, even though I'm holding the reins to the bit in his mouth it's like I'm holding air. There is nothing there. This is what the pelham does, in my experience, makes them too light.
                                        I am going to give all your stuff a go, so thank you so so much for the suggestions!
                                        PS. He is a sweetheart, we didn't realise when we bought him how perfect he was but he would literally suit anyone. Had him nearly a year and a half and so far he hasn't had any naughty moments under saddle. Such a gentleman, think he knows that he's got a good home for life now

                                        - Yes, his name is Hippo He has a H brand on his shoulder, from a stud in New Zealand and also he loves, loves, LOVES mud and dirt. I come out every day and have to change his rug because he's found something to roll in, even in the middle of our Australia summer!
                                        Thank you, I'm definitely a perfectionist and this type of horse is hard for me because he is more a of long term project, rather then something that will develop quickly.

                                        Countrywood - He is definitely weak behind, especially in the sacroiliac (sp?) area. He gets bowen treatment every week when he's in work and he's always a bit tender, but does get better with more work.
                                        This footage wasn't great, but the only footage I had of it. He had just mucked up about five or six transitions so he was a little stressed. One of his many problems, he fears making mistakes and gets so upset within himself.

                                        Grayarabpony - Thank you, we love him lots. Its a weird feeling riding him, I'm always trying to find something to hold on to because there is literally nothing there, it feels as if I'm holding air. I would quite like if he got a bit strong every now and then, at least I would be able to feel him.

                                        nwhr - We do lots of shoulder fore in the transitions down as he runs coming out of the canter, just like he runs going into it. Stress-related, we believe as he fears making mistakes.

                                        Mbm - Thanks again for the snippets of information. She is very competent, she is from Holland and jumped up to the 1.45m level but also rides Grand Prix dressage in Australia. She is the youngest person to have their Level III teaching certificate in Australia (in fact, she's too young because they don't normally give it to anyone under 35). She's the best, a little bit shouty at times, but very passionate.
                                        She thinks he is a nice horse and is good for me to teach me patience (waiting for him to develop). She also thinks he will never be amazing, like he will probably do his 1.20ms and 1.30ms and at least up to Medium dressage but she does not think he is a superstar. Which is fine, because I don't need a superstar just yet! But yeah, his main issue is in his head (with his phobia of making mistakes) so we do a lot of relaxed work and we had to take him back to pony trot so he wouldn't run away all the time. And she has ridden him and agrees that yes, we should be asking for more jump behind so that we can get him through over the back and into the hand but a lot of it relies on him staying relaxed and calm.
                                        Tricky horse, but very good for my riding.

                                        Okay, now - so do I stick to walk and trot for the moment? How do I know when he is strong enough to do canter?
                                        I am going to get my vet out and have a chat with him also.