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Hunter throws in trot step instead of chipping

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  • Hunter throws in trot step instead of chipping

    I don't know if anyone else has ever dealt with this problem or not. I have a lovely hunter who has decided it is easier to throw a trot step in instead of chipping to a not so good distance. Yes, I am an amateur rider and I struggle with seeing my distance. If I try to give him a half halt before the fence to make it a better distance, he will throw the trot step in. I feel sometimes he throws it in if he thinks he has found a better distance even if I don't half halt. I've tried digging my spurs in as I half halt and that seems to work about half the time. My trainer says I need more pace, which I don't disagree with, but I watch other horses go around way slower than I do and they don't throw in a trot step. In fact, he is the only horse I've seen that does it. It is why I'm wondering if there is something else I can do. Just checking because there is a lot of wisdom out there

  • #2
    To me, it looks like pace and impulsion are your problem. He’s behind your leg. The stride was there but he got weak and strung out to the fence, whereas if he had more pace/impulsion, you could have packaged him a tiny bit and he would have fit the stride in. A horse with a good canter will find a distance most of the time at that height if we just stay out of their way—the trick is the good canter.

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    • #3
      He is strung out, and not pushing behind.

      Do you have a trot video? He is not very strong on the hind with white. That could be the reason for the lack of a quality canter.
      AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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      • #4
        Originally posted by beowulf View Post
        He is strung out, and not pushing behind.

        Do you have a trot video? He is not very strong on the hind with white. That could be the reason for the lack of a quality canter.
        Agreed. Has he always done this, and how old/schooled is he? If it’s new-ish or getting noticeably worse, I’d definitely look into hind end soundness, then cracking down flatwork and the quality of the canter.

        To me it doesn’t look like lack of pace (speed/stride length) so much as impulsion. Do you usually make the strides down the line?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by scheyennet

          What would you suggest to improve his quality of canter? He has always been faster/more impulsion going the opposite direction as this video (to the right). I have had him checked to see if his hocks need to be done and the vet says he is fine and he doesn't need it yet. Is there an exercise I can do to the left to improve his canter on the flat? Would working over poles help?

          Thank you all for your suggestions.
          Do you have a video of him, walk trot canter?

          It's more effort from a physical standpoint to break to a trot and then jump, vs chip at the canter. The canter is the horse's most naturally balanced gait at speed. For a healthy, sound horse, it should be easier for them to canter over a fence (especially one that small) vs trot.

          AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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          • #6
            Any connection between him pooping/farting and the trot step? It looks like his tail is up in that clip?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by joiedevie99 View Post
              Any connection between him pooping/farting and the trot step? It looks like his tail is up in that clip?
              I didn't see him passing manure, but that is a good point.

              A tail held up like that consistently, while the horse is bearing rider weight, is usually a very reliable indicator of SI or back pain. I will usually pass on horses that hold their tail that way under saddle, especially if canted to the side.
              AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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              • #8
                Having impulsion, pushing from behind, and being “in front of the leg” do not necessarily equal “going faster”. A horse can be strung out and running and still not listening appropriately to leg and able to rock back and thrust over a jump. At the same time, a horse can be practically cantering in place but they’re like Tigger; ready to respond to the aids and spring up and forward when the time comes. Watch a Grand Prix level class that’s not a speed-based scoring and see how “slow” the horses are going when they’re being set up for a big vertical or to make a tight corner. Particularly if they’ve just come off of going over a water jump and the rider needs to make a clear distinction between long-and-flat vs. high and narrow.

                My horse has much the same problem on our tiny little baby level. We do a lot of flat work that includes earnest discussions about the True Meaning of the driving aids, that they mean the same thing regardless of details like the presence or absence of obstacles, whether I’m in a full seat, half seat or two-point, and exercises to get him off his forehand.

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                • #9
                  My guess is that he's figured out that it's easier or less painful to jump from a trot than to cram a chip in. And honestly, it's pretty clever. Chipping isn't all that easy on them, and my guess is he has some sort of issue in the hind end that makes the super-deep, tucked under positioning of the hind end in a chip uncomfortable for him. The jumps are low enough he can simply trot them.

                  It is likely now enough of a habit that if there's a pain issue, the habit will need to be addressed once the pain/discomfort is resolved.

                  My first approach is to have him looked at by a vet. There's a lot more to the hind end than just hocks. I don't know that I'd push fixing the left lead until I had a very thorough exam of the hind end. SI, stifle, back, and even something like a mild suspensory could present in this way, and I'd want a little more reassurance that he's truly fine before pushing him.

                  In terms of improving the canter, his canter needs to be ridden more connected, with his hind end sweeping under so the shoulder comes up. Running faster is the opposite of what he needs; this isn't a too-slow issue, but rather a balance and strength issue. He needs someone on him who can truly school the canter. There's a lot of flat exercises to strengthen the canter, but the rider must have the ability to produce a properly balanced, straight, impulsive canter first, and that rider will know the specific exercises he needs by feel. It may be time for your trainer to sit on him so that she can produce it and then teach you how to replicate that.

                  I would have you work over poles to work on your eye, as part of the issue is the simple fact that you're getting him to a non-distance. However, that may be more due to the weakness of his canter. If you can find the jumps consistently off the right but struggle to on the left, it's because his canter lacks the quality and adjustability that it needs.

                  So to summarize, my plan would be:
                  1. Thorough vet work-up
                  2. Once resolved, have your trainer work on the left lead for a while to improve its balance, strength, and impulsion
                  3. Teach you how to produce that canter
                  4. Work on your eye to avoid the non-distance if you're still finding those spots.
                  5. If he's still got the habit after 1-3, have your trainer address the habit itself as a training issue, and then show you how as well.


                  Jennifer Baas
                  It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)

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                  • #10
                    I would suggest doing 3 or 4 canter cavaletti on a curved line, make sure he is coming forward to them with impulsion and a balanced canter - this will be easier to achieve by putting him into/on the outside rein (hence the curved line), then graduate to raising them up a bit. If he breaks to trot, tap him behind your leg and send him forward; he will have to continue forward and figure out the footwork.

                    Once he is finding this easy (it’s a great for strengthening and balancing the canter and engaging the core), put a placing pole about 9 feet in front of jumps, and go forward to it with energy and an “uphill feel” to the canter. Once he reliably canters over the pole to the base of the fence he will get used to jumping from the canter - if you don’t get the perfect spot it won’t matter (just don’t tip forward and take your leg off), because HE will have to maintain the canter and “pat the ground” in front of the jump in order to incorporate the pole. More pace would be good, but he needs to balancedvand able to “sit up” and get his hind end under him on takeoff; more pace shouldn’t equal faster and more downhill and OTF.

                    Beat of luck
                    "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

                    "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by scheyennet
                      Beowulf I don't have any videos of his walk, trot, canter on my phone. He is perfectly sound and we win the hack on a regular basis. We have no issues with lead changes either.

                      Joiedevie99 That is his natural tail carriage/tail swish. He was not pooping/farting and he rarely does while on course.
                      He is not perfectly sound in the video you've provided. Hope you can get some answers. I don't think it is something working on figures or transitions will fix. Probably not what you want to hear, but horses tend to do things (we don't want) for reasons, one of the primary reasons being evasion of pain.
                      AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by scheyennet
                        Beowulf I don't have any videos of his walk, trot, canter on my phone. He is perfectly sound and we win the hack on a regular basis. We have no issues with lead changes either.
                        It doesn't have to be an unsoundness for discomfort to be present. And winning the hack doesn't mean it is impossible that there is an underlying issue brewing. It also may mean there is absolutely nothing physical wrong, but I don't think you can use the "I win the hack" logic to establish there is no discomfort. You asked if there is more you can do, and everyone is telling you yes, make absolutely sure you have had your vet work him up, not just flex for the hocks.

                        Most horses would rather canter the jump not trot it, so I would consider the preference to add the trot step to be a concern that there is some kind of weakness or soreness in the hind end, and I would want to peel that layer of the onion first. When a horse is doing something weird like this, it just often is compensating for something. Once you rule out any physical discomfort, then you know you've just got a training/riding issue and you can work on pushing him to get past it.

                        In terms of what we see in the clip, you definitely don't appear to have the "good" canter. You hear people say you want to get the "bouncy canter" because that means the horse has its hind end underneath it, and from that you can lengthen or shorten as needed. The canter in that clip looks like he's lacking impulsion and not put together, so you don't have what you need to be able to either lengthen or shorten and get the better distance, and your horse has found his own solution. And to fix that you need to improve your feel for what is the "good" canter is on the flat and what it is not, and perhaps get him a little stronger so the good canter is more comfortable. You might also work on ground poles where you have to adjust your canter to get varying numbers of strides between the same two poles so that you feel what you need for the different distances. In your flat lessons, have your trainer tell you "that's it" or "that's not enough" or "that's too much" because it is something eyes on the ground can see and help with if you aren't feeling it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by beowulf View Post

                          I didn't see him passing manure, but that is a good point.

                          A tail held up like that consistently, while the horse is bearing rider weight, is usually a very reliable indicator of SI or back pain. I will usually pass on horses that hold their tail that way under saddle, especially if canted to the side.
                          Tail up was the first (missed) sign of my horse's KS. I'm with you, I have 0.00% interest in a horse doing anything weird with the tail... it's often pain and I'm not investing the $$$ to figure it out. My friends think I'm crazy but any weird tail business is a HARD NO from me all day long when I'm shopping.
                          ~Veronica
                          "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
                          http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by scheyennet
                            Mac123 Thank you! I honestly think it is due to him being lazy and a chip is more effort than to slip in a trot step and he has learned to do this and yes he is very smart. If you notice his canter is a bit unique behind and ALWAYS has been. And if I am not careful, he will "tranter" around.and it feels nice and slow and relaxed. I believe part of the problem stems from unskilled riders schooling him on the flat (I can only ride once a week) now that you've mentioned that. I will have to ask my trainer to get back on him and school him for a bit to add some impulsion going to the left. I think he does it more with me because I don't have a super strong leg and he tends to ignore it, which means I need to work on "leg means go forward."

                            I will also have the vet look at him again to check the back and SI areas when he is out this week to rule that out first.

                            Thank you everyone for helping me with this issue!
                            Yes, this makes sense - definitely have him worked up first!, then focus on getting better flatwork (there are good suggestions above, along with the exercises I mentioned), and work on getting a PROMPT response to your leg, using *more* and stronger leg will only result in him tuning out the leg aids.

                            More specific expectations and focused strength-building exercise (have the trainer hop on for tuneups and can you limit the number of lesson students who are inadvertently encouraging him to be lazy and tune out the driving aids?), and there should be improvement.

                            Let us us know what the vet says.
                            "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

                            "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by scheyennet View Post
                              I don't know if anyone else has ever dealt with this problem or not. I have a lovely hunter who has decided it is easier to throw a trot step in instead of chipping to a not so good distance. Yes, I am an amateur rider and I struggle with seeing my distance. If I try to give him a half halt before the fence to make it a better distance, he will throw the trot step in. I feel sometimes he throws it in if he thinks he has found a better distance even if I don't half halt. I've tried digging my spurs in as I half halt and that seems to work about half the time. My trainer says I need more pace, which I don't disagree with, but I watch other horses go around way slower than I do and they don't throw in a trot step. In fact, he is the only horse I've seen that does it. It is why I'm wondering if there is something else I can do. Just checking because there is a lot of wisdom out there

                              In that video, he’s throwing in a trot step because you pulled him to a trot. No big mystery there. Why are you doing such a strong Half Halt off a dull, pokey pace right in front of a fence? True you did try to speed him up but then you sat back and took it away making it even slower.

                              You want to get your canter and 3 strides out, you just ride the distance you have off that canter. NEVER mess with a horse right in front of a fence, they hate it and if it’s a bigger fence, you can cause a stop, run out or even a crash if you change the canter right in front of your fences. He’s a saint here to go anyway, Some will dump you on landing when you do that to them or just say screw this at the base and slam on the brakes while dropping their shoulders..

                              Good possibility he’s had some normal arthritic changes in his hocks. Classic symptom is hunting the long, weak spot to protect the hocks. They don’t limp either and can still win an average hack class.

                              Hocks are an easy fix, not that pricey. Your riding needs some improvement starting back with developing and keeping the canter with flatwork and leaving him alone in front of a fence. Remember there is NO Such Thing as a perfect distance, Only the perfect ride to the distance you have that makes any distance look perfect.

                              Looks like a nice horse, he’s trying.

                              Horses with multiple riders get a little defensive but that’s even more reason you don’t want to start fooling with him because you don’t see anything. He’s trying to give it to you anyway, you took it away with that half halt instead of riding what you had.
                              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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                              • #16
                                From the short clip, conformationally, he looks a lot like my horse. Also similar tail carriage, which my vets enjoy reminding me is not normal . His canter is certainly not connected over his back and he seems to have enough pace but lacks impulsion and jump to the canter. This puts you in a very flat canter that is not adjustable (maybe why you have trouble seeing distances), and he has gotten creative at adjusting by breaking gait. This clip honestly didn't show a severe chip given that he still had quite a gap after the trot step.

                                There could be a number of physical reasons why he does not want to engage the hind end better, and I'd tend to look more at the back and pelvis, from experience, though hocks or something else in the hind limbs could certainly be playing a role when it comes to back and pelvic issues.

                                I'd probably go back to doing a lot of work over poles to try to fix the issue, lots of transitions and transitions within the gait, provided that there's nothing you can address medically. And maybe use something like the Equicore system to get him more in tune with his hind end. I really like putting poles on a bending line and working on adjusting the number of strides between as well as doing each individually on a smaller circle (which requires more engagement of the hind legs). It should also help you work on your eye.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  OP, you might want to discuss this with your trainer since it sounds like it’s not your horse and you don’t get to authorize any vet work or plan and select what you will do each session.

                                  More flatwork in your lessons will probably get you the most bang for your lesson time and be easiest on a busy school horse.
                                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by scheyennet
                                    Mac123 Thank you! I honestly think it is due to him being lazy and a chip is more effort than to slip in a trot step and he has learned to do this and yes he is very smart. If you notice his canter is a bit unique behind and ALWAYS has been. And if I am not careful, he will "tranter" around.and it feels nice and slow and relaxed. I believe part of the problem stems from unskilled riders schooling him on the flat (I can only ride once a week) now that you've mentioned that. I will have to ask my trainer to get back on him and school him for a bit to add some impulsion going to the left. I think he does it more with me because I don't have a super strong leg and he tends to ignore it, which means I need to work on "leg means go forward."

                                    I will also have the vet look at him again to check the back and SI areas when he is out this week to rule that out first.

                                    Thank you everyone for helping me with this issue!
                                    Mmmm I don't know that I'd agree that it's laziness. Conventionally, it is more work to break to the trot and jump the jump than simply chip IF everything is healthy. I think he's doing this because he's learned it's the better option for him because something is uncomfortable. This is definitely not a normal quirk, though I do admire his finding a way to function that's more comfortable for him that still results doing his job nicely and safely.

                                    Many a horse will look sound w-t-c and even win the hack (heck I'm seen some unsound horses win the hack...) with an issue that doesn't present itself under simple w-t-c conditions. I've seen plenty of horses with a suspensory strain where the only symptom is suddenly landing cross cantering or suddenly struggling with a change.

                                    "Unique behind and always been that way" is not exactly what I'd consider sound. Horses who are sound move sound, not unique. Now, there are plenty of horses with known issues that result in some funkiness that are still comfortable enough to do their job....but they are called "serviceably sound" and oftentimes end up presenting with other issues related to the underlying problem.

                                    My guess is he has back or SI issues. And he may well have those and be what he is, capable of doing his lower level job safely with a few quirks...but that doesn't negate the fact that the source is an issue, and it's unfair to try to fix this habit if it stems from soreness. Soundness is more than trotting evenly in a straight line, just like health is more than not having a cold. It's the optimal and full usage of the body and all its parts. A sore back may cause breaking to the trot rather than a limp, and in my opinion would still be considered an unsoundness...a lack of optimal function due to a pathological issue.

                                    He might be lazy. I'm guessing it's more than that. And it's not simply having your trainer add more impulsion. It is more than that.
                                    Jennifer Baas
                                    It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I watched it again full screen. On most of the approach, you are saying go go go including some good elbow flapping (not judging--that's my favorite bad habit too). And you are asking for a strung out long canter. But then you say oh crap I don't think I can get to that distance and you pull hard with both hands once, which is when he breaks. But the distance wouldn't have been all that bad. Your eye was long, his stride was too long such that he couldn't go any longer, and then you had a panic moment. So he trots it long and then shakes his head at you.

                                      I think you need to try to ride more and do a lot more over poles where it doesn't matter at all if you miss. Practice staying the same and not pushing so hard. You want loft to the canter not length.

                                      Given my second watching of it, the trot step is not so bad. I've seen ones that are ridden that way (go go go just kidding!) that develop a nasty stop. Got a chance to lease one for cheap because of that and the owner breaking her leg. Other horses learn to grab the bit and go. The real saints are the ones that will just take the chip in that they won't let you pull them into a trot but they won't run either. Perhaps the other times it happens with your horse there are a different chain of events, but overall he seems like a good egg and he goes anyway. Could he have a physical issue that makes it all more difficult to achieve a good canter? Sure. But watching your arms and hands a second time around I'm less inclined to say that is the root of the trotting problem.

                                      Perhaps your trainer could do more / better quality schooling, but I think you'll go a long way just doing transitions and work to better your eye, the latter of which will take you more than 1 ride a week.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I suggest using a neck strap so that when you canter into a fence, if you feel the urge to pull back, you are not fussing his mouth. You might also want to have your trainer set up some gymnastics so that you can get a better set up to the fences without feeling like you need to adjust on the way into a fence. For me, riding with a neck strap solved a lot of the problems I was causing .
                                        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                        EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

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