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Questions on the Canter

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  • Questions on the Canter

    I've been working on getting the correct canter leads with my young guy. He picks up the right lead with no problems regardless of where we are. However, getting the left lead is difficult. I have to counter flex him significantly to get him to take the correct lead..

    Background: Work at walk and trot - We've been working on straightness and he tends to lean on his left (inside) shoulder. In order to help strengthen his right hind, we've been working on some shoulder fore, leg yield, and transitions between and within the gait.

    From a biomechanical perspective, why is the exaggerated counterflexion (not true counter bend) necessary for him to pick up the correct left lead?

  • #2
    He leans on his left shoulder? You mean he falls in to the left, and you feel like you're on a motorcycle that is leaning over and going to fall on the ground? He feels harder on the left rein? You always feel like you have to use your left leg because he winds up actually drifting toward the left even on a straight away, like a perpetual leg yield you don't want? A circle left gets suddenly smaller and you wind up having to struggle to keep a larger circle? And on the other side, you try to make a smaller circle, and he resists? All of the above?

    His right leg is weak? You're saying that because he leans on the left side, or because he has an actual injury or problem with his right leg? His right foot hits the ground wide of his left foot, or out further from his body midline than the left foot? His lef hind foot hits the ground way in toward his midline? All of the above?

    It may not mean the right leg is weak. It may mean the left side is so over-weighted, that the right hind leg is simply not working. It can get to feel 'weaker' simply because it's not getting used as much.

    He does shoulder fore, leg yield and transitions 'to strengthen his right leg'. So does that mean that you do more of these when going right? Left? Neither? Does the question being posted here mean the shoulder fore, leg yield and transitions haven't helped?

    One possible is that without realizing it you use more left rein and bend him more left and the right rein is less, which causes horses to fall in on the left.

    One possible is that the person who started him taught him to pick up the left lead by bending his neck to the outside. That's how a lot of breakers teach horses to canter. One lead is usually sprawly and long, the other more upright and stiff (often the left). Turning the head to the outside is an old trick to get the stiff lead.

    The other is that without realizing it, you use more right leg, and push your horse over toward the left.

    The other is that to avoid picking up the left lead, the horse throws his shoulder to the outside, exactly during the moment of transition. This is sometimes just a habit and nothing to do with any weakness or pain. With a green youngster it is very common.

    Assume you know if your horse is lame or in pain; then usual cause of canter lead problems in youngster is just stiffness and crookedness or just how sneakily clever and quick the rider is in the moment of transition.

    By adopting that counter bend, you are controlling the shoulder position, so the horse can't throw his shoulder to the outside and his haunches to the inside, and grab the other canter lead.

    It can suggest that there is something about the leg yields and shoulder fores, even the transitions, that need to change.

    Often young (and even older) horses do these things 'like a trick', positioning a stiff unsupple body, rather than really allowing the aids to supple them.

    Often it just means the suppling work they are getting needs to 'get into' them more, so that rather than just adopting a position in relationship to the rail or track, like a cued trick, they are actually loosening up and becoming more supple.

    Try bending and counterbending at a posting trot on a large circle. Bending to a count of 2 left, then a count of 2 right, without an abrupt 'snap' or abandoning the outside rein, just ease him around keeping contact on both reins.

    Try doing more of an angle of leg yield, along the wall (bend is left when going right, bend is right when going left). Try leg yielding from the quarter line to E or B, then finish the long side leg yielding with the bend the OTHER way(a counterbend), along the wall. Try leg yielding all the way from m to k (ie the whole long diagonal) and try to get to the letter while keeping the horse straight, urge the hind quarters to keep up and slow the shoulders down with the outside rein if the horse gets his haunches trailing. See if it's easier to go all the way across the ring leg yielding in one direction than the other.

    Usually, the need to counter bend in the canter transition means the horse is crooked all the time - it just shows up more in the transition. See if the horse isn't staying straight during halt-trot transitions on the left too, correcting that can help.

    Eventually, with suppling/straightening work, you should be able to control the shoulders without having to take the counter bend, instead, by just straightening the horse control the shoulders and get the canter lead.
    Last edited by slc2; Sep. 9, 2009, 06:32 AM.

    Comment


    • #3
      If he falls on his left shoulder the left rein is normally heavier - so this is the problem getting the left lead - his left shoulder is weighted too heavily.

      Take MORE contact with the right rein (read the Lisa Wilcox article that just came out) and push his left shoulder into the right rein with your hip/thigh THEN ask for the left lead canter. (Be certain right rein is about 2 inches away from the neck so you are straightening the horse using the right rein.)
      Now in Kentucky

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        SLC and Valentina - thank you for your insights. They are helpful and I'll give them a go!

        SLC, in answer to your first paragraph: All of the above Literally, when I work with him, he feels like he's leaning into my left hand and leg. It's gotten light years better, but he's still crooked. You know what's strange....is that I knew that the counter bend kept his shoulders from falling out, but his issue is ....at least until the split second before strike off..... that his shoulders fall in (left - as Valentina mentioned) and his rib cage "leans" against my left leg - then in that split second, he throws his haunches in! So, I've stopped using my right leg behind the girth/left leg at the girth cue and have TRIED to just use inside leg. It's almost as if he has to try and get the wrong lead!

        I was hoping to learn more about the mechanics so I could make more sense of what I'm feeling/doing.

        Valentina - Where is Lisa's new article?

        Oh....one more thing..... when working on lunge line with or without side reins, he routinely picks up the right lead regardless of direction he's traveling. It takes several transitions before he picks up the left lead. When he does, he sometimes cross fires.

        Comment


        • #5
          canter

          I've found the following exercise to be very helpful.

          While circling to the left, try spiraling in to a slightly smaller circle (18 meters or so) in rising trot.

          Then leg yield with a bend around your left leg back out to the 20-meter circle. Make sure the bend is equal from nose to tail. He might try to just bend his neck and stay straight behind the saddle. So be sure your outside leg helps curve him around your inside leg.

          As you leg yield out, soften the inside rein a few times.

          Do this exercise several times until it feels "easy".

          Once it feels easy, while you're still leg yielding with a bend, sit the trot for a stride or two and ask for the canter depart just before you reach the 20-meter circle.
          jane savoie
          dressage mentor

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Thanks, Jane. Great exercise! I'm envisioning that this will ensure he's working off of both of my legs and thus stepping into the contact evenly vs. leaning. Correct?

            Comment


            • #7
              Yup.
              jane savoie
              dressage mentor

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I'll let you all know how it goes today! I'm excited about the new learning .

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tiligsmom View Post
                  SLC and Valentina - thank you for your insights. They are helpful and I'll give them a go!

                  ... .but his issue is ....at least until the split second before strike off..... that his shoulders fall in (left - as Valentina mentioned) and his rib cage "leans" against my left leg - then in that split second, he throws his haunches in! ...

                  Valentina - Where is Lisa's new article?
                  Start canter from shoulder fore / renvers to prevent haunches from falling in.

                  I was emailed Lisa article by one of my trainers. Can email to you if you give me your address (it's a PDF file).
                  Now in Kentucky

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Something else I've found really works is to ask for 3 strides of leg yiel to the left which will help push that left hind up and underneath him and then ask for the canter while that left hind is up and underneath him.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Tiligsmom View Post
                      I'll let you all know how it goes today! I'm excited about the new learning .
                      also give as in you give on your strongest side this will help to even him up
                      also try to work him in a square areana rather than a round pen-- as dont know if you have one or not but it will help the horse be more balanced straigt and forwards using the full width and length of the school or an marked out area of 20 x60 at least so that you can use the school to lenghten and shorten his striding using the half halts stride in every transition from all walk paces all trot paces mixing the two then move up to canter paces and mix the three

                      if you look on my helpful links pages on the above sticky there loads of info including a really good topic by jane its all relevant to you so read all links

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Update from yesterday

                        Hi All -

                        OK...Yesterday, we warmed up using Jane's suggestion of spiraling in and out on a circle. I also rode in slight shoulder fore in both directions along long sides and asked for leg yield off both legs to ensure I had responsiveness to lateral requests. Then I asked for canter depart using slight leg yield out and he picked up the correct lead! We did this 3 times, after which he was very tired. It's amazing how much energy he expends in the canter.....very, very, taxing for him.

                        He's 5 and was started in March, so he has 6 months u/s. He's a Norwegian Fjord so his build lends itself more to pulling than carrying. The struggle with the canter is not uncommon in the breed. That being said, he moves and rides more like a horse than a pony. Below are some pics
                        Attached Files

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Ah! He's adorable! Haha, sorry, those pics are just very very cute. They have such sweet faces = ) Are you tiny or is he extra big for a fjord? Your sizes are quite well suited either way.

                          Jane's suggestion is exactly what I did with my guy when we were practicing nailing the canter depart everytime. He came from a saddle seat barn, so he had to relearn departs (not cue with the head to the rail, and not to get so geared up before the transition).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jane Savoie View Post
                            I've found the following exercise to be very helpful.

                            While circling to the left, try spiraling in to a slightly smaller circle (18 meters or so) in rising trot.

                            Then leg yield with a bend around your left leg back out to the 20-meter circle. Make sure the bend is equal from nose to tail. He might try to just bend his neck and stay straight behind the saddle. So be sure your outside leg helps curve him around your inside leg.

                            As you leg yield out, soften the inside rein a few times.

                            Do this exercise several times until it feels "easy".

                            Once it feels easy, while you're still leg yielding with a bend, sit the trot for a stride or two and ask for the canter depart just before you reach the 20-meter circle.
                            Nice, have to remember this one. I love the spiral, nice piece of work to use it with.
                            Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jane Savoie View Post
                              I've found the following exercise to be very helpful.

                              While circling to the left, try spiraling in to a slightly smaller circle (18 meters or so) in rising trot.

                              Then leg yield with a bend around your left leg back out to the 20-meter circle. Make sure the bend is equal from nose to tail. He might try to just bend his neck and stay straight behind the saddle. So be sure your outside leg helps curve him around your inside leg.

                              As you leg yield out, soften the inside rein a few times.

                              Do this exercise several times until it feels "easy".

                              Once it feels easy, while you're still leg yielding with a bend, sit the trot for a stride or two and ask for the canter depart just before you reach the 20-meter circle.
                              my old trainer had me do this and it worked very well!
                              be kind to your horses mouth!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Tiligsmom,
                                I'm glad you had success. And I agree. Your guy is ADORABLE!!!

                                But from your post I'm concerned that you might have misunderstood part of the exercise. It's not a spiral in and spiral out.

                                You spiral in on a single track. (Kinda like a lollipop that has a pinwheel design).

                                Then leg yield back out to the larger circle. His whole body moves sideways with a bend.

                                Hope that clarifies things.
                                jane savoie
                                dressage mentor

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  ...I knew that the counter bend kept his shoulders from falling out, but his issue is ....at least until the split second before strike off..... that his shoulders fall in (left - as Valentina mentioned) and his rib cage "leans" against my left leg - then in that split second, he throws his haunches in!

                                  --This is just his way of grabbing the lead. When they are stiff they can't really push straight forward, they can only really throw the shoulder or haunch to get the transition.


                                  So, I've stopped using my right leg behind the girth/left leg at the girth cue and have TRIED to just use inside leg. It's almost as if he has to try and get the wrong lead!

                                  --Try just making a 'gesture' with your outside leg, bring it a little back and just set it on him, rather than actually pressing it. If you try to go to the diagonal aid before you have your horse a certain amount supple and straightened, it is a problem.

                                  --The reason Jayne's exercise helps is that it bends the horse and supples him, and hopefully the horse is more flowing forward, so he is more able to push with his hind leg, instead of throwing himself to get the lead. It's a nice exercise for that situation.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Thank you all for your suggestions. Deconstructing the mechanics of this is very, very helpful as that's the way my brain/learning works. If I can deeply understand what's going on and why a certain exercise does or doesn't work, it helps me be more thoughtful in problem solving. I do have a trainer with whom I work as well, but I find that the broad range of expertise on this bb adds depth to my understanding!

                                    Jane - I didn't communicate well in my post, but I did understand your exercise on the circle and executed as such! It really highlighted to me how much "helping/holding/pressing" I'm doing with my inner/left leg vs. having him react/respond to my left leg

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by bort84 View Post
                                      Ah! He's adorable! Haha, sorry, those pics are just very very cute. They have such sweet faces = ) Are you tiny or is he extra big for a fjord? Your sizes are quite well suited either way.
                                      Thank you, bort! I'm not tiny, but I am small and he is huge for a Fjord 14.3!!!
                                      Attached Files

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        What a happy couple!

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