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Engagement In the Canter

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  • Engagement In the Canter

    I am looking for some ideas from my fellow Cother's again if you would kindly share them with me.

    I have a 16h 4 y/o dwb x app mare, she is a little on the long side and while she doesn't have any trouble bringing up her back and engaging her hind end through the trot, she has trouble engaging and shortening her stride in the canter.
    She tends to use her neck quite a bit for balance. Which sometimes translates over to her jump since she can get quite long and flat.

    If I do quite a bit of supplying exercises, she will engage and compacts nicely but it doesn't last and for instance... a relaxed one stride gymnastic must be set at MIN 21ft rather than 18ft in order to get her to jump with a more ideal form, (trot in without any rushing).

    Any ideas for improvement here? Is it strength?

    TYIA! Ideas are much appreciated.
    Last edited by pryme_thyme; Jan. 6, 2013, 08:06 PM. Reason: typo

  • #2
    It will take time. Four is very young and it will take time and patience for your mare to gain the balance, straightness and balance for her to be able to compress her stride for any length of time.

    I would do tons of transitions. Canter, walk and canter halt, with a lot of backing. Focus on the quality of the transitions, that her balance is up in the poll and on her hind end. I would not worry about flexion or if her head comes up.


    • #3
      This is totally a strenght issue.
      She is four. It takes time. Keep the good work and don't try to have her compact and engaged for too long at a time.

      Ground poles at 9-10 feet in front an after the fence should also help. Ascendant oxer and big X with a low middle and high sides.
      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

      Originally posted by LauraKY
      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
      HORSING mobile training app


      • #4
        There were people discussing improving the canter in the dressage forum recently. A lot of them said shoulder fore is a good exercise. I won't even attempt to explain how or why, bit there is some decent info if you google it.


        • Original Poster

          Wonderful! Thank you all.
          This does a ton to ease my mind!


          • #6
            Yes. 4 is still very young. It will just take time. Lots of transitions, lots of gymnastics, lots of suppling work. And don't forget to ride her long and low (working from behind and raising her back). That will help strengthen her topline which will help her connect her body all together.


            • Original Poster

              Regarding the long and low. I tend to ride long and low at the beginning of my ride, asking for lengthening on the long sides to get the haunches warmed up and then take contact to tackle suppling excercises and transitions.
              Long and low comes again during cool out.

              Is it best to stay long and low throughout at this age?

              I find with my mare, long and low can result in less control, whether it be bending through her corner, circling etc. I would think strength is the issue there...


              • #8
                The more you can do, the better, as long as it is truly good quality work in that frame. A lot of people hear long and low, and think it means chuck the reins away and let the horse fall on the forehand. So, you have to be sure they are TRULY pushing from behind, across their back, and into the bridle. Because she is young and probably a noodle, you'll probably have to go back and forth...long and low, pick her up and work on her straightness, then back to long and low, etc. Even my rising 9 year old prelim event horse works A LOT in long and low. It is the best back strengthening exercise! Pushing at the walk and trot up hills along with trot poles in the ring will give her strength, too.

                But, again, she's just a baby. She'll get there, especially if you do all the good flat work at this age. But it does just take time. She'll change and develop a lot over the next 2 years, at least.


                • Original Poster

                  Wonderful, thank you Yellow! Great advice.
                  So nice to hear she is NORMAL....


                  • #10
                    Your mare will take longer to develop than a short backed horse.

                    I would also do raised cavaletti at the trot, and canter poles set at 10 feet for canter work. (but just a few canter poles--2 or 3 at a time)

                    You can work long and low (or I would rather call this "deep") but also bring her up for short periods of time. Change it up so that she can rest her muscles and also so that she doesn't get used to always been deep and then not want to be more up.

                    Also, I would do more bounce type exercises in gymnastics rather than a 1 stride set long.
                    Use exercises that will teach her to compress rather than lengthen more.
                    And like you trainer did, put poles everywhere. I like a ground line pole on the landing side of oxars for horses like this too--it tends to get them off the forehand and rock up and back over the fences. In fact, sometimes I even put a flower box down in place of a ground line on the landing side. That make for a nice bascule and keeps the forehand more up on the take off.

                    She's only 4. : ) I would expect for quite some time you will be taking a stride out in lines longer than 3 strides.

                    It's quite hard to strengthen the top line on a long backed horse.

                    Shoulder fore was also brought into discussion.
                    In dressage--the canter is ALWAYS done in shoulder-fore. The horse is actually only straight when in shoulder-fore. (Seems that most folks don't know this and they canter around with their horse's haunch to the inside.)
                    A bit of shoulder fore in the canter will help strengthen, as will anything that asks your horse to move her body in different positions.
                    Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


                    • #11
                      You've gotten some great advice/ information here, I agree your horse is only 4 and it sounds like the rate of development is normal. I just want to emphasize like Purp said, allow your horse time to rest between exercises. At this point to develop the ability to collect at the canter, focus on a few correct collected strides, then lengthen again, a few collected, then lengthen. Stop doing this exercise before your horse gets tired and work on something else.

                      I worked with a trainer once who said that I should push my horse just to the point where he/ she starts to express discomfort, then back off and do something easier, then push again. Same trainer also said that once the quality of a gait deteriorates, you can't fix it within that gait any more. For example, if the quality of the canter deteriorates, go to a more comfortable gait for that horse (walk or trot), re-establish rhythm and suppleness, then return to the difficult exercise perform it correctly for a few strides, then stop. Over time, horses will be able to do the difficult thing (in this case shortening at the canter) longer and longer. He compared it to weight training, that you don't just go lift huge weights right off the bat, you build up to it.


                      • #12
                        Along the same lines as M. Owen, breaks during the rides are great, but also remember she is still young. Don't drill on her. Try to keep things interesting, give her down time, and keep reminding yourself that she's just a kid. While I am not ultra conservative with youngsters (my last one did a handful of novice events at 4, but he was very easy and did not need much schooling and drilling to do it), I am a firm believer in down time and vacations and LOTS of hacking and seeing the world. So, don't drill her! Remember, she's basically a kid in grade school. She won't be really ready for much else than the basics of life right now.