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Tell me your stories of getting your OTTB to do a normal canter transition

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  • Tell me your stories of getting your OTTB to do a normal canter transition

    And if he just did it automatically and magically, I don't want to hear it!

    I've had my guy about 4 months and we're trying hard on our flatwork. The jumping is great. But the canter transition is still runrunrunrunrunrunLEAP or just LEAP. We're working on halt/walk/trot transitions, etc, but I'm hoping to hear your tools to show them that they can just step nicely into canter and there are no more starting gates!
    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
    We Are Flying Solo

  • #2
    Define 'normal'.


    • #3
      I don't have much experience with OTTB's but I have plenty with green horses.

      What helps me is to not ask for the canter until they are soft. A tense trot means a tense pogo canter. The softer and balanced and quieter the horse is the better the transition.

      Sometimes cantering for awhile once you get into it helps them relax, but some horses it helps to just canter for 5 or 6 strides so they don't get excited.

      It also helps to make sure you are forward enough in the trot. Even if you feel the trot is a bit rushed you will get a better and smoother canter then from a trot that is too slow. I think there is a huge tendency (myself included) to pick pick pick at the trot right before we canter. We seek the perfect transition, we think that a slower trot means a slower canter, and we want to live to see tommorow.

      Don't shorten your reins up before you canter either. It helps to hold the bucking strap when you ask for the canter. Keeps you in the saddle and keeps your hands from picking.


      • #4
        Wildlifer, the canter can take a bit of time to develop. What I've found to be really helpful is to pop over a pole to help them learn to canter without running. I actually don't canter my horses in the ring for months, and only canter out of the ring. Typically I pop over a log, stay off the back when they do canter on, then sit and press into the hand to establish strength/rhythm for a gradually longer amount of time. I find this helps them get the necessary strength to eventually have a normal canter depart.


        • #5
          What helped me was to stay on a circle. Develop transitions with in the trot. Little trot, big trot, little trot. If she or he canters on one of your requests for a bit more trot, take it. It has to be not a big deal. And the circles help them learn that they are not going to get to go anywhere so there is no point in running! I hope this helps and best of luck with your horse.
          When I pull on my boots, I know who I am


          • #6
            Not the easiest thing to do but try to ask when the outside hind is up - if you're posting when asking, you'll be sitting. I have to really think about this and therefore start prepping about 3 strides before I really want the canter. The other thing (and this is what I really struggled with because I was trying to keep him from running) is to stay soft in your hand, allowing him to move forward into the canter. The sequence goes something like this: prep aids, soft half halt, prep aids, soft half halt, canter aids ask for the canter and the hand maintains a soft conversation. Easier said than done but once you get the hang of it, it works beautifully.

            I had a really tough time with the right lead because he would fall in really badly. I had to think of "popping" his left shoulder in order to keep him out on the circle while asking. Good luck!
            Our journey - http://charlieandmeeventing.blogspot.com/


            • #7
              I try to find what's easiest for the horse and then I try to make sure the horse stays relaxed and not pressured.

              The pole exercise that FairWeather described is good, so is a small crossrail if the horse isn't impressed by a pole. If the horse needs to run, I let them run a little, so long as we do get a reasonably prompt transition. The focus is on getting to the canter, not about the quality of the transition.

              But this is the single most important piece of advice I can give: be patient. It takes years to develop a really solid, good canter transition.

              Last November, I posted a video of my 5 YO TB doing her first Novice dressage test. Mike Plumb narrated the test. He's been working with Niina since she was 4; her rider, Glenbaer, has been riding/training her from age 3. That's a lot of quality training and riding for a young TB. But in the video, when she does her first canter transition, Mike says 'Pretty good. The judge doesn't know that's difficult for her.'

              So don't be too hard on yourself or your horse. Just try to go up to the canter from the trot, ask a few times each ride, and don't let it become an issue. You'll get there.


              • #8
                It has helped mine to do lots of trot/canter transitions in a row. The first ones are explosive, and gradually it gets less and less exciting the more we go. A horse can only "leap" so many times before it gets to be boring, lol.

                Now, you can't just "go do transitions" right away...because it gets sloppy: leap into the canter, strung out fall into trot, runrunrun trot, leap/fall back into canter, and he's heavy in your hands, haul back to a runrunrun trot, etc. That doesn't help; if your transitions are like that, you're not ready for a series of trot/canter.

                I do LOTS of transitions walk/trot, trot/walk/halt, etc, so the horse has learned to respect my half-halt before we get to the canter transitions. This is our warm up every day, sometimes for 25 minutes (for a month, it Was our day). Also working on "straightness" in these transitions-- no popping the shoulder. Lots of transitions on a circle and before corners, to emphasize "half-halt" before a turn (a major unbalancing possibility!).

                Then, when horse is straight, soft, and responsive (he doesn't have to be "round" per se) I ask for canter on a circle. Leap ensues. No big deal, ask for trot before half the circle. Trot half the circle, re-organize, canter again. Repeat, canter half a circle, trot half a circle (large circles! 20m at least, 30m is better). It will probably be ugly at first, but just keep calmly insisting on a normal canter transistion, and an obedient trot transition. *Remember to keep your leg on in the downward transitions, especially if they lean!* If you can't reorganize in half the circle, that's ok, get relaxed (even if you have to walk) and ask again. But strive to have a balanced downward, so you can "quickly" ask for the upward transition again.

                Don't expect it to be perfect right away-- it won't be. I only do about 4 or 5 transitions per lead; the last transitions still maybe aren't "dressage test perfect," but they are a lot less leapy than we started, so I praise and quit it for the day.

                I do lots of these upward/downward transitions at all gaits on the same circle...the horse does learn to anticipate the "slow down spot" which helps with the half-halts/down transitions (especially on days when we forget what brakes are!).
                “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                ? Albert Einstein



                • #9
                  As another said, use a pole. For months I asked for canter over a pole or small jump. It gave us a prompt transition, and a quality canter. When she tried to run into the canter, we ended up in an ugly running canter. She already knew how to canter with a rider, she just needed to relearn it and I didn't want to let her be in the habit of running flat. The "jump" gave her a rounder canter than without.

                  Like JER mentioned, it takes a long time to get them "good" She graduated from the pole, but it has taken a long time to have the uphill transition with no change in rhythm, balance, etc. and of course it's still a work in progress.


                  • #10
                    Or, you just buy a horse who has a wonderful, soft, balanced canter from the start. After 4 months off, he stepped right into the most perfect, balanced, uphill, smooth canter. I love his canter.
                    Then 5 minutes later he had a melt down over the fact I was *gasp* touching his mouth! And off we went into a lovely, uphill bolt. Then *gasp* another horse came into the ring! And off we go with his head straight in the air like a giraffe on crack. And then, ZOMG! The horse looked at him! And off we go jigging and sweating like we'd just run a marathon.

                    On second thought, I'll skip the wonderful canter and take one with a good brain.


                    • #11
                      You can also do a shallow loop and ask for the canter going back to the rail. Probably the most effective way at a quality transition, advice given to me by none other than Mike Plumb. Also very beneficial when it comes to a test - where you can place yourself as if you're going 'to the rail' and ask for the canter depart. They are used to this type of depart, so this is a known concept. Something that you can never appreciate too much when dealing with a difficult, or green, horse.


                      • #12
                        By leaping into the canter do you mean... something like this?

                        That's my OTTB at our first canter transition at a clinic with the USDF youth/young rider coach a couple of weeks ago. My guy's been off the track 6 1/2 years or so, and is schooling third level dressage. But that's what happens when he gets tense, even now.

                        I agree with all the advice about using a pole or crossrails to teach it, as there's every chance your horse has never been taught to do a nice flat-footed canter transition. However, with the tension, what we did which turned that into lovely was the transitions within the trot mentioned while working on bend, then instead of thinking "CANTER!" thinking "trot into the canter!" Without doing the hold that I'd normally do to set up for a nice, uphill transition, my request for the canter ended up being much more effective when that explosive response was bunched up under the saddle and in his haunches.
                        If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                        • #13
                          despite it seeming a lot, I've had good luck with soft leg yield to walk to turn about the haunches (not really "on" the haunches for a greenie) to soft trot to canter. Current horse is good with just leg yield to shoulder fore to canter (all very subtle)
                          OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!


                          • Original Poster

                            Originally posted by JER View Post
                            Define 'normal'.

                            BAHAHAHA -- my hope is to develop something that won't make everyone burst out laughing in the dressage arena. That doesn't seem like to much to ask with some time. JER, I have actually watched your mare's test several times and am going to watch it again, it's been a great learning tool for me!

                            Why do I always forget about my pole?? I'm going to tape to my neck strap "USE THE DAMN POLE!"

                            net_g, that is a VERY impressive leap! No, thankfully, he does not quite have that, um, expressive movement! Congrats on finding success!

                            Big Grey hunter, you made me laugh so loud my co-worker got suspicious. Thankfully, pony has a very good brain, I bought that.

                            Thanks VERY much everyone for taking the time to type all of that. I'm going to print this and take it to the barn, these are all GREAT and thoughtful reminders and tips on staying soft and being patient.

                            Horse is a gelding who raced about 3 years with moderate success, he's 6 (well 7 according to JC) but does try hard and I know he'll get there, hopefully he forgives my many mistakes!!
                            Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                            Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                            We Are Flying Solo


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by wildlifer View Post
                              Horse is a gelding who raced about 3 years with moderate success, he's 6 (well 7 according to JC) but does try hard and I know he'll get there, hopefully he forgives my many mistakes!!
                              Best part of having an OTTB! If you can forgive your mistakes, they most certainly will.

                              Good luck, and please check in with your progress!
                              If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                              • #16
                                Aren't OTTB's the best? Mine did the same, exact thing. I now know the feeling of being shot from a cannon. Kind of a rush, but not what would impress any judge in any discipline.

                                The exercise that worked the best for us was getting the canter from a walk. The pole got him too excited (we'd leap the pole) and try as we might with lots of other transitions, the walk/canter was the ticket for him. He has a huge overstep at the walk, so his hindend was more underneath him at the walk than at the trot, so maybe that's why it worked. Once we got that to a fairly "normal" transition, we moved to trot figure-eights - sometimes ask for the canter after the change of direction/bend, sometimes continue trotting. Since's he's also the king of anticipation, this exercise has worked very well for him.

                                Good luck and have fun!
                                “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne


                                • Original Poster

                                  He is a good boy. He is also very good at anticipation and looking at the woods with his head in the air because things are much more interesting out there. He's finally getting a pretty nice canter rhythm -- figures he is finally getting where he has energy to burn right as my life crashes and I'm exhausted! Where's that vacation again? ;-)
                                  Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                                  Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                                  We Are Flying Solo


                                  • #18
                                    This thread is giving me flashbacks

                                    I agree with the ideas above. Is he going trot, trot, faster, faster, faster trot? That's what my guy did. So, I refused to let him go faster. Establish the tempo you want that is balanced (ie pretty slow). Put your leg back and half halt, but DO NOT CUE the canter. Wash rinse repeat. When he is calm about that and MAINTAINING the rhythm, squeeze very lightly with outside leg. If he runs, return to nice tempo. Just keep repeating this and do not let him trot faster. he will give you some really ugly transitions, but over time they will become nice.


                                    I am not sure t his is clear, but keep your outside leg back. He has to disassociate the leg back from the running.
                                    Last edited by pheasantknoll; Jan. 25, 2012, 06:12 PM. Reason: to clarify


                                    • #19
                                      The biggest thing for my ottb when working on the canter transition was the contact I had.

                                      If I had too much rein, he would launch into a very unbalanced canter, get tense, cross-fire, etc.

                                      After playing with several things, the only thing that got us a very nice, balanced, CALM transition was for me to let go. I don't mean drop the reins to the buckle. Just, let go. I don't really know how to say it. And it was super hard for me to train myself to let go in an upward transition, but that's what got us out of the canter funk!

                                      Like, once he had a nice trot I would sit lightly and ask for a canter. If I had too much hold, we'd get a crappy transition. If I asked with lower, softer, more following reins he would pick up a lovely canter.
                                      That's just my experience with my own OTTB
                                      Please visit the Donate page!



                                      • #20
                                        I have been blessed with the best horse brain of all time in my OTTB girl, so we haven't had to deal with the leaping so much, but the flatten-run-run faster-run more! and then finally canter has definitely happened to us.

                                        I've had great success with a pole (or slightly raised pole), as it allows me to ask when she's a) concentrating on something else, and b) when her front end is conveniently elevated from hopping over the pole, enabling us to have a nice, soft canter instead of an on-the-forehand run.

                                        When I want to work sans pole, my setup is: from A, come onto the longside off the corner at a walk. At K, pick up the slowest trot possible, like barely jogging, at E put my outside leg waaay back, and inside leg on the girth. Ask for transition at H. If I don't have a canter stride as I'm passing C, come back down and try it again.

                                        So far, this has been working well. Tonight we jumped her first vertical (from a lovely, balanced canter, no less!) So we're doing something right.