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Exercises for riders who are fearful to canter

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  • Exercises for riders who are fearful to canter

    Hi there!

    I have a student who gets very nervous about the canter. Once she's into it, it's fine and she actually can relax and sit nicely with the horse, but the idea of getting into the canter is a huge mental block her her. So she contorts her body and scissors her hands in all different directions, which is very hard on her horse, who isn't so fond of trot-canter transitions himself! She's generally a good rider, just has a mental block about this one thing, but is stuck at intro level, until we can move past it. Has anyone had this happen and gotten through it? What has worked for you or for one of your students or friends? I've tried all kinds of things with her, but none of my usual tricks seem to be working!

    Thanks!

  • #2
    I really have no idea about training someone fearful to canter, but what about putting her on a horse that has an easy and simple canter depart? Often times it is difficult to tell "who" is at fault for a mutual quirk: the horse or the rider. For example, is a horse really heavy on the right side or have they just adapted to the rider's own straightness issues? Separating the two may be very beneficial for all.
    Pacific Coast Eventing
    Standing Yeager GF

    Comment


    • #3
      How well does the horse longe? I'd put her on the longe line without reins and have her hold on to a grab strap. Do lots and lots of trot/canter transitions with her almost as a passenger (i.e., you cue the horse for the transition, she just sits and focuses on relaxing in the transition).

      Will the horse pick up canter with her out of the saddle? Try having her ride in jumping position with both hands grabbing on to the mane, then asking for canter. It is a heck of a lot harder to contort when your seat isn't in the saddle and your hands are both holding on.

      Comment


      • #4
        I had a problem with the canter transition too. It's just...I started thinking about it too hard. "Okay, sit down from posting, outside leg behind the girth, inside leg on, make sure you're giving with the reins so you don't make him stop, you've got to really squeeze to get him to go you might have to kick him, don't forget to look up!" And so on that...body position just kind of flew out the window.

        What helped a bit was working on walk-canter transitions and holding on to mane for a while during them.

        What helped even more was a couple of no-reins lessons on the longe.
        The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
        Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.

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        • #5
          Longe line work--on a saint who doesn't care what she does. Do a lot of old time exercises at the halt, walk and trot. Get her to move around the horse and even act like a vaulter. Get her over that, then move on to the canter and it will seem easy for her! Make sure there's a neck strap at all times! Even get her to sit up and leg go of the reins at the canter.

          A tightly controlled situation can teach her a LOT.
          "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
            How well does the horse longe? I'd put her on the longe line without reins and have her hold on to a grab strap. Do lots and lots of trot/canter transitions with her almost as a passenger (i.e., you cue the horse for the transition, she just sits and focuses on relaxing in the transition).

            Will the horse pick up canter with her out of the saddle? Try having her ride in jumping position with both hands grabbing on to the mane, then asking for canter. It is a heck of a lot harder to contort when your seat isn't in the saddle and your hands are both holding on.
            I was going to suggest the jumping position, too, but figured she probably didn't know it and would feel even more out of balance and afraid, based on the OPs description.
            "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

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            • #7
              Take her trail riding on a steady horse.
              ... _. ._ .._. .._

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              • #8
                I would have her take the canter transition from a 2 point or "with most of your weight in the stirrups and less in the seat" and hold onto a grab strap with at least one hand.

                Can you get on her horse and school his transitions? That would also be very helpful.

                Then have her "canter for 4 more strides past where you are comfortable" Thinking about her fear and pushing herself slightly past it with a definite goal will help build her up.
                http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  I've had her try on other horses, and she can do nice transitions on them, especially from the walk, but there is a mental block with her horse. I've tried putting her on the lunge to do them, and she does ok on other horses, but not her own horse. I have the horse in training and his transitions used to be DREADFUL. Like he was charging the enemy. But after 2 months of me forbidding her to try to canter him on her own while I fixed them, the horse does nice transitions, and they are pretty easy to get if the trot is balanced-another one of my students at a similar level tried and got them easily. It's not surprising to me that she's afraid to ask for the canter on this horse, as they were really terrible and it took me longer than I had thought to fix them. But, yeah, I don't think I was clear. The mental block definitely has to do with this horse/rider combination in particular.

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                  • #10
                    I'd probably still do the longing thing on this horse....but take her reins away and give her other things to think about than how difficult it is to make the horse canter. Like holding her arms out to her sides or above her head as she asks him to canter (and you cue him at the same time to make sure he does it). And then repetition.

                    Or do like equibrit suggested and go out for a ride on the trail (assuming the horse can handle cantering outside the ring without running off with the rider or otherwise being stupid?). That gets them in a different situation (so you're hopefully bypassing the mental block) and most any horse will canter outdoors, particularly if another horse is cantering first and then you can just do a lot of transitions out there so she can get comfortable with them before going back and doing them in the ring.
                    The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
                    Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I concur; put her on a horse that rides like a sofa, knows its cues, and is tolerant of learners. If she has the opportunity to take her mind off her horse (that has issues with trot/canter) that would help her a great deal. I loved learning on horses that just seemed to give you all the time in the world to get things right.

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

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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Velvet View Post
                        Longe line work--on a saint who doesn't care what she does. Do a lot of old time exercises at the halt, walk and trot. Get her to move around the horse and even act like a vaulter. Get her over that, then move on to the canter and it will seem easy for her! Make sure there's a neck strap at all times! Even get her to sit up and leg go of the reins at the canter.

                        A tightly controlled situation can teach her a LOT.
                        This is a great suggestion, and I think we will do more of this. The horse gets a little concerned when people move around too much on him, but it would be good for him to get over that as well. If anyone has any mental tricks, I would be very interested to hear those.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by analise View Post
                          Or do like equibrit suggested and go out for a ride on the trail (assuming the horse can handle cantering outside the ring without running off with the rider or otherwise being stupid?). That gets them in a different situation (so you're hopefully bypassing the mental block) and most any horse will canter outdoors, particularly if another horse is cantering first and then you can just do a lot of transitions out there so she can get comfortable with them before going back and doing them in the ring.
                          This is a great idea that I had actually thought of-the horse is super bomb-proof and great outside. Guess what? She made great transitions on the trail and in the field. Back in the arena? Nope.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I agree with the longe on a seasoned horse doing all sorts of exercises. Then transition to her horse on the lunge using a neck strap. You do all the asking. She just sits quietly. Repeat until it's old hat. Then have her start asking on the lunge with you backing her up...still using grab strap. Repeat until old hat. Then have her use her reins and ask on the lunge with you backing her up. Repeat until old hat. Then off the lunge. She just needs safe repetition. Good luck!
                            Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              i agree with everyone who has said: seasoned horse w/ honest canter who can get it from the walk. One who is balanced and slow - a calm, no rush, balanced canter.

                              I am a recovering canter-weenie myself. I don't know why, I've never been in a wreck when getting into the canter, I've always just been scared of it- even when learning to ride- even just recalling childhood memories of being asked to canter for the first time still cause me uneasiness! Its weird how some things just stick with you.

                              Obviously the more i do it the better it gets. The biggest confidence builder is riding horses that are honest about it, and that can pick up from a walk - it allowed me to get and keep my ish together and get over the fear.

                              But even before I figured out that worked for me, I figured out that if i trotted over a small cross rail and my horse picked up the canter, i was much much better emotionally about it. Probably because i was more focused on the stupid cross rail than the canter that came afterwards.

                              good luck!!
                              My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                myhorsefaith,

                                The crossrail thing sounds like a good idea too.

                                I really think the mental trick here is getting the rider to think about something else besides how to get the canter or ride the transition. It just becomes this big epic thing (or it did for me in my mind) that's so difficult that if I was actually supposed to be specifically working on canter transitions...it was hard and that just made it even worse in my mind.

                                But if we worked on other things where we just happened to also be doing canter transitions...well...after a while I realized, "hey...I'm sitting and asking for a canter and he's doing it and it's no big deal. Huh. Cool."
                                The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
                                Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  What helped "me" the most is to forget about the sitting trot before the canter. There was no way I was able to sit the horse's trot, and as I got nervous in anticipation of the canter, the horse' trot get rougher and rougher, and I got more and more out of balance attempting that sitting trot. And then the rest.

                                  Eventually I decided to just post the trot, give the canter cue, and the moment the horse cantered, I sat. If he instead of cantering, he got into rougher trot, I just kept on posting until we were both more organized. More than one clinicians have given me thumb up for this method (as long as I don't "post" that canter, all is well lol). That really was what got me over the apprehension.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by analise View Post
                                    myhorsefaith,

                                    The crossrail thing sounds like a good idea too.

                                    I really think the mental trick here is getting the rider to think about something else besides how to get the canter or ride the transition. It just becomes this big epic thing (or it did for me in my mind) that's so difficult that if I was actually supposed to be specifically working on canter transitions...it was hard and that just made it even worse in my mind.

                                    But if we worked on other things where we just happened to also be doing canter transitions...well...after a while I realized, "hey...I'm sitting and asking for a canter and he's doing it and it's no big deal. Huh. Cool."
                                    I think this is exactly it. The crossrail thing sounds like a great idea. With this horse, since he had bad transitions, you have to be very clear with the aids, and I think she gets too focused on giving the aids and makes it harder than it is. Then each time she does a bad one, it psychs her out more and she gets impatient with herself because she knows she can do it. But she can hop on my schoolmaster and do trot-canters, walk-canters, and even 4-tempis all day long!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      That must be it. Because now that i think about it- a few years ago I had a little stint doing western drill team () and I never really thought about all my canter issues- but then again i was waaaaaay too busy trying to do the drill with 15 other horses - no time to worry about that! LOL
                                      My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
                                        How well does the horse longe? I'd put her on the longe line without reins and have her hold on to a grab strap. Do lots and lots of trot/canter transitions with her almost as a passenger (i.e., you cue the horse for the transition, she just sits and focuses on relaxing in the transition).

                                        Will the horse pick up canter with her out of the saddle? Try having her ride in jumping position with both hands grabbing on to the mane, then asking for canter. It is a heck of a lot harder to contort when your seat isn't in the saddle and your hands are both holding on.
                                        ^^^This I had a hard time with transitions after a bad wreck. My trainer put me on a longe line so that I could focus on my position/transitions/etc. It made a huge difference in my confidence level.
                                        It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.
                                        Theodore Roosevelt

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