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To canter or not to canter?

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  • To canter or not to canter?

    I have been with out a horse to ride since last December so a friend offered to let me ride one of hers anytime I want. She is a Tb mare that was not suitable for her or her daughter. Se is somewhat nervous U/S and can get "rushy." She has separation anxiety from the others when taken to the arena to work, so focus becomes anissue too. So far I have only worked at the walk going long and low to slowly P/U contact then coneccting HH to long and low. She is really starting to trust that when I P/U contact that I am not going to "Pull her into a frame" I am also trotting circles doing L/Y in and out and does well in the stretchy phase of the excercise but become rushy when I P/U contact and go straight on the long side. I know some horses really benefit from a little canter to loosen them but I don't want to move on to that till she is more fit and relaxed (if we get there) unless it would be better for her if I did. I just don't want a behavior issue that the owner has warned me I will eventually whitness and undue all the "trust work" I have been doing. Whats your opinion?? Thanks for your input!
    "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"

  • #2
    Take your time as you are doing now. Yes she does need to trust you an get fitter.
    Make her do her job but get rewarded and praised for all good work and good attempts while she is processing. Let her develop her topline muscles with what you doing--takes months but it is worth it.
    Maybe play with the canter on the lungeline or in the roundpen with vienna side reins and let her sort it out without you on her.


    • #3
      Every horse is different so it is hard from anyone to judge from afar, but in my experience cantering tends to get TB's excited. I only seem to ride OTTB's, so I can't speak for other TBs. My opinion is that you may want to make sure she is relaxed and confident trotting first (fast, slow, medium) before you start cantering.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks so far my you are echoing my heart. She is an OTTB and has done some eventing but I don't know anything about what has happened to her in between that and when the current owner got her for the daughter and the daughters trainer said; "No way!" And the owner does't want to ride her either..so she leased another horse. She is trying to breed this mare and says if I want her after she foals/weans...I can have her. Well I don't know how that will work out but I am happy to ride/work with her till that time and hopefully I can make her more rideable so if she has to get rehomed she'll have a better chance of fitting in somewhere nice! Thanks again!
        "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"


        • #5
          Have you done any big-trot-little-trot exercises with her, asking for a little more forward on the long sides? That might give you a feel for how she will be at the canter. I think you'll have a feeling for when the right time is to canter- I went through a long phase of walk and trot work with the guy I'm riding now and we just started canter work. I tried my best to listen to him, and it just felt right when we began cantering. Best of luck to you and the mare.
          Sarah K. Andrew | Twitter | Blog | Horses & Hope calendar | Flickr | Instagram


          • Original Poster

            Alibiha's, That is my plan for my next step with her...so far she wants to get rushy and tense,(nervous) just when I ask for a little more forward trot on the long side. It's as though she is saying "I just know as soon as I go forward..someone is gonna hang on my face!! And truth is if she gets hot and runs with me or "Acts like an A#&" as her owner says I should expect, I,m not so sure I wouldn't be able to stay composed enough to not PULL! So I guess I best not go there! This way on our way to however far we make it , I can at least enjoy the ride!!
            "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"


            • #7
              Keep in mind that many OTTBs have not been retrained to accept contact. Contact to them means lean and go. What you are doing is a start but when you do start picking up contact make sure you give immediate generous releases so this mare doesn't feel boxed in by the aids. Keep her as rhythmic as possible. This will lead to relaxation. I find that most OTTBs (and other TBs) really enjoy ground poles and cavalettis. This will loosen up that back and allow her to have some fun. They also seem to enjoy variety so don't get stuck in the same rut day after day. If you have some orange cones or other markers you can play with all sorts of equitation type patterns at the walk and trot. I love the idea of shortening and lengthening (as much as she can do) the gait. Also lots of transitions between the gaits. Whoas, stand, and move off before she gets antsy is great. Riding a box is also good with turn on the haunches at each corner. You're smart to realize that this mare needs calm and quiet for awhile.
              Susan B.


              • #8
                I was wondering what kind of bit you are using on her. A lot of horses on the track go in a D ring snaffle. Mine like rubber bits and happy mouths.

                I haven't really had problems with horses being afraid of contact so much as anticipating the "go" signal if you take up contact. The one I'm riding now used to think that any loosening or tightening of the reins meany go, so I spent some time just working on walking and trotting around with me doing all sorts of stuff with the reins (long, short, medium, on the buckle, etc). He had to learn that legs mean go, not rein adjustments. I also find that lateral work tends to settle him down if he gets jiggy.

                When you get to the canter, you may want to try something my former trainer had me do with OTTBs. Canter in a smaller indoor or small outdoor, expecting that she may rush a bit if she's off balance or excited. You can keep a little contact, just don't let her lean on you too much. I like to do "pull and release" signals for slowing down if needed- stronger than a halfhalt, but not dragging on their faces. The release part will calm her down too. Let her rush around a little, just not out of control. Then throw in some 20m circles at the canter. She may have a hard time balancing which causes rushing, but she will figure out her own balance and should slow down without you having to do much. It won't come right away, but TB's are pretty smart. She'll get it eventually.


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you all for your ideas on helping me with this mare. One issue I face every time I ride her away from the other horses is of course the constant "calling" to which I just use a clam voice and try to distract her with a L/Y or something...but when we are done working and I go to return to the barn she starts to get all wound up and will "Geisha walk" or try to jig. Last ride I though I would try a different route to the barn across the pasture. It is a bit hilly and she proceeded to do this MINI rear/buck thing almost like a canter in place but with a rapid tempo. So I turned her and went back to the arena, re established a loose rein walk, then dismounted and walked her back. Some people say that I am letting her "get away" with bad behavior and she is getting "over" on me by my dismounting and walking back. My thought is that I had made progress during the ride and don't want to ruin the relationship that is obviously going to be painstakingly slow to build. I was firm that we were not going to continue home in that manner. Her owner said, "At least YOU got her to go back to the arena!" Do you think I should not have dismounted and walked or pic and choose my issues little by little. I don't want to encourage her to take advantage of me, but I don't get that from this mare...it's more like she is tense and doesn't really know why or methods have been used U/S that have either exasterbated the problem or done nothing to defuse it! BTW, this mare is a saint when it comes to her ground manners!! Loves to be groomed ect!
                  "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"


                  • Original Poster

                    Right On, thank you! That is vert good council. I am using a loose ring snaffle with a bead. She seems happy in the mouth and doen't resist or evade to contact, rather as you said, antisepates the GO and the relaxed rythm disapears and the tempo quickens, almost like a walking horse without the length of stride..not really pulling or getting heavy, just rushy and tense,and as I said I just try to do a volte, L/Y, S/I something to distract and relax her.She is NOT at all hard to stop in walk or trot, I just don't know what to expect in the canter because of the owners "warnings" and I want to make sure I have a plan that will convince her that it is OK to relax in the canter.( yours is a good one! )Thanks again..hopefully one day I will be able to post a pic of a relaxed, round and supple girl!
                    "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"


                    • #11
                      Have you lunged her at all?


                      • Original Poster

                        Haven't yet but absolutely would before cantering U/S. I am not a fan of using lunge to "tire" her out...Am a fan of lungeing w/ side reins and letting her bring up the back and step under and find the balance. My skills with my body lanuage for lungeing are not great so with a horse that is not well versed in the lunge..it dosen't always go so well! Not as benificially as I would like any way!
                        "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"


                        • #13
                          Keep in mind that your safety, and hers, is of the utmost importance. To decide to return to the arena instead of fighting out what could be a very nasty situation is not letting her win. This is a hard situation since she's not your horse and you can't control turnout. If owner is willing to work with you perhaps she can be put in a small adjacent paddock and start weaning from the other horses while maintaining visual contact. I think you'll find that this gets better as the two of you build your trust relationship.
                          Susan B.


                          • #14
                            A planned dismount is always better than an unplanned one! Much better to get off, then re-establish a relaxed walk then to fight it out and perhaps undo the good work you did so far. You did the right thing; trust your instincts! Also, if she is really as insecure as you are feeling (and not a bully), overpowering her and getting into fights won't do any good--will just make it worse. Being sensitive to a horse's "motives" for misbehaving is what being a good horseperson is all about!
                            2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
                            Our training journal.
                            1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
                            I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks again to all the great advice..and NC SUE, it is so true...when I ride her in the arena and the other horses are turned out in the pasture directly accross from it...she is much more relaxed and and does not call to them or really even pay much attention to them. I love to go there to ride and see them in that pasture! I can get so much more accomplished, but I can't move all her horses just for me to ride but maybe the owner, who BTW is a wonderfully kind person, will let me put one of her buddies in there and see how it goes! Thanks again
                              "Success comes in cans, not in cannots!"