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Getting "The Canter"

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  • Getting "The Canter"

    One of my Holy Grail pursuits is a correct, rhythmic and powerful show jump canter that allows me to not race around the stadium course knocking rails, nor weave lazily up to a combination with no engine.
    Having watched a fair number of show jump lessons in Aiken the past couple of weeks and taking some myself, I know I'm not alone. I see leg added for "impulsion" and horses just get faster. I see hand added to contain and filter energy, and horses block and stiffen their necks. I know what I want, I watch videos of top show jumpers and marvel at the package they approach fences in. Share your tips, please!

  • #2
    While cantering, stop thinking about the mechanics (e.g., leg for impulsion, hand to contain, . . . ) and visualize the canter you want. Focus especially on the engagement you want from the hind end. Put the rhythm into your body so the horse has something to follow. Use figures (e.g., circles, spirals, squares, flat serpentines, counter canter) to help encourage the movement. Breathe. Find a tiny bit of progress and go do something else. Try again the next day.


    • #3

      There is a good tip here about it.
      The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.


      • #4
        I am no expert, but I think what you are seeking is collection. What dressage exercises are you using on the flat to strengthen him/teach him this work? Are you riding shoulder in at the canter? I think the other piece is for him to understand leg does not mean faster it means impulsion. I think you can teach him this at walk and trot before canter. One exercise that I like for canter gets them really light to aids. Ask for canter, one stride, halt, ask for canter again, one stride, halt, ask for canter again. By the end of third repeat you will have!! the canter you are looking for. If not, horse needs a lot of reeducation about leg.


        • #5

          What you are wanting is a whole dressage lesson or three, this not for the horse, but for you, the rider. A good part of the secret of getting that "jump under you" canter is to use your body and legs to regulate the stride. The legs say go forward but your body has to slow, slow, slow, and lift, lift, lift. Get the hands into it, and you have a hollow, inverted but still cantering horse. Ugly!

          The exercise, or rider education, usually starts at the trot. Once mastered at the trot it can be transferred on to the canter.

          If you can do a downward transition without touching the reins, you can learn it.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


          • #6
            Tt's something I've thought of a lot since I started following Eventing (after 2010 WEG). Why does a group of riders that work so hard (you guys really do!), have such beautiful balance cross country, and have a good background in dressage, struggle so much with Showjumping? Kaite Prudent wrote a great article a while back about her experience helping Eventers.


            I think really the two biggest parts are as Katie mentions they need to be in front of you, but also relaxed. As a show jumper, I find its very important the horse is relaxed so that they can jump round, and fully process the jump (or jumps) in front of them. The second huge thing is balance, you have to feel the inside hind leg underneath you at all times. If you look at top show jumping horses you will see a lot of variation in the head and neck position (some are round, others high, others still flipping their head every stride) but the inside hind leg is always underneath you and engaged. If your horse is in front of you, and engaged behind
            you will find it easy to find a good distance (and then hopefully jump clean).

            And lastly, assuming you aren't going to a 3 or 4 star, in which I think the heights are big enough you might need to create a little impulsion, you don't actually need to worry a ton about impulsion. Yes you need the horse in front of your leg, but you shouldn't need to be creating a ton of really strong leg to hand impulsion to jump say 1.10m. I always think of picking up a nice forward canter, then feeling their mouths a bit, shifting the balance back on to the hind end if needed, give them a pat, then I start my round


            • #7
              Fantastic article, SlamDunk. Thanks for posting the link.


              • Original Poster

                Yes, thanks SlamDunk, really great article. I know what I need to do intellectually, but translating that to a more correct ride is tough! Nellie The Elephant is probably the song I need to get into my brain. (Although I relate more to Tom Jones "Delilah".) Rimsky-Korsakov usually is playing in my head when I show jump! Thanks for all the feedback.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by riderboy View Post
                  Yes, thanks SlamDunk, really great article. I know what I need to do intellectually, but translating that to a more correct ride is tough! Nellie The Elephant is probably the song I need to get into my brain. (Although I relate more to Tom Jones "Delilah".) Rimsky-Korsakov usually is playing in my head when I show jump! Thanks for all the feedback.
                  That's the point though, don't over think it. Your horse is probably well schooled, strong and fit from the dressage and cross country you do, so just get the horse in front of your leg, balanced and go jump a clear round. It's that easy It's really all about the balance. I really like the bounce grid Katie mentioned in the article as well, teaches you about a good canter and gets the horse quick in front and behind.


                  • #10
                    Hey RB, didn't you mention losing impulsion over the fence in a previous thread? Is it possible that you have moments of the canter but just not maintaining it?

                    You have posted clips of you and Jaycee and you guys definitely have periods of time within the round (or schooling) that are really quality. Sounds like maybe it's more of a maintaining the quality issue? Can you get someone (ahem, Gryhrs) to video you so you can review where the quality is and then when it starts to get lost? Maybe that'll help you connect the dots ('cause we KNOW you can ride!)

                    ps - thanks for the link, I love that piece of music!!
                    Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

                    The Grove at Five Points


                    • #11

                      The bumblebee can fly-but he better learn to half halt.
                      Last edited by merrygoround; Mar. 18, 2013, 12:06 PM.
                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                      • #12
                        As someone who has spent the winter learning to get "THE Canter", I have to say it really all comes down to good flatwork. My canter has improved A LOT by doing really, really good flatwork. Both in the dressage saddle and doing the "equitationy" exercises (which, really, is just dressage) with the h/j/eq trainer I've been working with. Getting Toby to TRULY accept a half halt and clearly understand all my leg aids (forward, turn, bend). Having my horse TRULY schooled and balanced is making a big difference, and I am getting to the point now that I can find "THE Canter" in multiple gears. And can also smoothly and easily adjust it within a stride or two.

                        One thing I do A LOT of his cantering poles on the ground. Often set at 9+ feet, 3, 4, or 5 in a row (though, in lessons we do a lot set more as one strides and other configurations). These exercises are great because they A) eliminate the risk of messing with horse or rider's confidence if you don't get it right and B) make it VERY apparent when it's right (it'll ride very easily) and when it's wrong (legs everywhere!!!). I think this type of thing has been the GREATEST ASSET for me to get my canter organized, balanced, and adjustable, and because I can do it all the time, I can practice, practice, practice it until the cows come home.

                        I wish I had more insight or exercises to give you. But, really, it just boils down to getting a better schooled horse and rider. Keep working on your flatwork/dressage, keep teaching your horse how to respond correctly and softly to a half halt (and make sure you know how to properly ask for one. I've revolutionized my half halts this winter and can do a canter-trot transition with my abs! Riding the uber-sensitive Toby probably helps that be possible but it is a good reminder for ME that I don't need to pull on him....he gets the message with just a subtle hint). Do lots of forward and back transitions in the gait (I love 5 forward, 5 back type stuff). Do lots of transitions in and out of gaits. And, one thing both the dressage coach I use and the h/j/eq coach (and my long time coach, too) all advocate is when you half halt and get the middle finger, don't be afraid to halt/walk to get your point across. As the dressage coach likes to say "That's YOUR bit that you paid good money for. If he wants to hang on to a bit and do as he pleases with it, he can get a summer job and earn the money and buy his own."

                        Don't overthink it, but do do good work. For the record, my work is paying off. We won two jumper classes this weekend. After the second one, the h/j/eq said it looked "equitationy" and smooth. THAT'S what I've been working toward all winter!


                        • #13
                          Oh, and I forgot to mention the most important thing- STRAIGHTNESS. The straighter your horse between legs and hands, the easier EVERYTHING else gets. One reason I was able to out ride some people this weekend is because I rode very straight, which got Toby to the fence dead straight and really allowed him to use himself. I saw a lot of noodly horses ridden with no outside aids (lots of hauling on the inside rein with HUGE bits). The horses didn't get straight to the fences, and often jumped goofy and crooked. Also, because Toby was straight, all his energy in his canter stayed focused on his uphill balance, and not going out one shoulder or the other, thus helping keep "THE Canter."

                          Sorry, I'm still pretty giddy over seeing the fruits of my (very hard) labor. So, I like to talk about what made it all work!


                          • #14
                            Ditto YB. A lot of it is just good, disciplined flatwork. Canter poles are excellent for testing your canter-- what "feels good enough" on the flat often changes when an obstacle enters the mix. Poles can be a gentle reminder of "yes, you got it" or "No, you really don't." Often the way we ride (or the way the horse responds!) changes when we have Something To Ride At. Use the poles to help create a consistency before, over, and after an obstacle. Make all sorts of variations: bounce rails (9'-10', and gradually roll them in to get a collected canter, 8' or less on a schooled horse), one-stride rails, straight lines 4-5 strides apart (practice adjusting/adding strides). Rails on turns, the Circle of Death, rails on angles... the possibilities are endless. Work on placing your horse's feet right at the rail, so he has to come under himself with his hind end and "hop" lightly over it (creates "jump" in the canter).

                            Also, what YB said about straightness. A straight horse will always jump better and have a better canter. Straightness isn't just about straight lines; it's about curves and turns, too, keeping your horse on the proper track and centered jump to jump. Poles can help with all of this.
                            “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                            ? Albert Einstein



                            • #15
                              I need to tattoo all of that to my forehead!
                              Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

                              The Grove at Five Points


                              • #16
                                Straightness isn't just about straight lines; it's about curves and turns, too, keeping your horse on the proper track and centered jump to jump.
                                Yep. The fence I struggled with the most this weekend was off a turn I found difficult because I kept losing Toby a little through the outside aids. Showed that I still need to work on the straightness through the curves. Funny concept- straight on a curve!


                                • #17
                                  straightness= shoulder-in at canter


                                  • #18
                                    There's a lot more to straightness than shoulder in at canter. If it was that simple, I'd have fixed our straightness issues AGES ago.


                                    • #19
                                      YB- yes, and I think you are right about the relationship between straightness and "the Canter" and about importance of flatwork to jumping.


                                      • #20
                                        It's funny. Straightness has been drilled into me over the last year (multiple people and coaches from various disciplines). Now that I'm REALLY paying attention to it, I see it lacking in so many horses. Far too many horse with bulging shoulders and riders relying on the inside rein to turn (even UL riders). And I can feel it on the occasional horse I pop on. I wonder why this seems to be such a big hole in so many programs? Or maybe this is another topic, all together.