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Help me canter COTH'ers - another update post #36

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  • Help me canter COTH'ers - another update post #36

    About a month and a half ago, I finally cantered (see my riding update threads for more on the actual monumental-ness of this feat!) on my guy. It was pretty exciting stuff! I managed to do this for three lessons in a row on both leads.

    For the past 4 lessons, do you think I can now? Not.one.bit. I try and try and try - or at least think I am. When we did canter, he must have been thinking, "Ok, I know what you are asking for even if you aren't doing it right so I'm going to do it." He gave me the 4 freebies and now he's making me ask right. Clearly, I'm not.

    I don't know what happened! I try to stop posting, sit straight and back, and kick to get him going, but I inevitably slump and don't even think I'm actually kicking him at all. My coach says to use my crop and spurs, but with my crop, it just feels like to put my reins in one hand, hit him where I need to, put them back in my hands, and maintain all that at once is too overwhelming to handle. As I keep trying, I get frustrated and lose any momentum I had. Last week, I was too on his face and couldn't give a bit with my inside rein to let him do his job.

    She tied my reins off and had me trot around the arena for 10 minutes to feel being off his face and that I won't die. I thought at first she meant canter without my reins and I shrieked that I would get off and that would be it. She called me a silly girl...trot not canter.

    I don't think this is my fear that I've told y'all about in past threads. i think it might be the next plateau I need to get past. The last one I had was in the fall when I couldn't trot. What fixed that was a temper tantrum and the realization I had to change my approach. Surely, there has to be a better way than a temper tantrum each time.

    So, any advice would be great before my coach and my horse disown me. I'm pretty sure some exercises for my calves would be beneficial so when I do canter, I can keep my leg on and keep the canter going. Maybe some good stretches too as I tend to have very tight muscles - wrists, back, legs...everything. Something I've been working on (and doesn't help that I am ALWAYS cold), but still open to thoughts.

    I am not riding tonight since I bruised my tailbone on some ice on the weekend, but hoping to make it up on Thursday. So any really super fast fixes would be even better LOL!

    Thanks all!
    Jenn (ahhhh...my name...finally )
    Last edited by FourFaults; Mar. 14, 2013, 07:09 PM. Reason: adding update post #

  • #2
    Hi Jenn,

    You're on the right tack to stop posting, sit back and straight. Now, to cue for the canter, move your outside leg slightly back, keep the inside leg at the girth, squeeze (don't kick), and if you can, lift your inside hip slightly and scoop with your hips. If he doesn't respond to the correct cue, then you can begin to up the ante by clucking, giving a little kick, or a little tap with the whip. But give him a chance to answer you correctly first. If you're just kicking away but not really giving the canter cue, his tendency would be to just trot faster, which will definitely get you discombobulated. Good luck!

    And to add a note about spurs--take them off. To use spurs correctly, you really need excellent control of your lower leg, and it doesn't sound like you have that yet.
    Last edited by Snugglerug; Feb. 26, 2013, 06:09 PM. Reason: add note about spurs


    • #3
      Originally posted by FourFaults View Post
      Last week, I was too on his face and couldn't give a bit with my inside rein to let him do his job.

      She tied my reins off and had me trot around the arena for 10 minutes to feel being off his face and that I won't die. I thought at first she meant canter without my reins and I shrieked that I would get off and that would be it. She called me a silly girl...trot not canter.
      Given this, I would put a grab strap on the front of your saddle, take the reins off the bridle and only canter on the longe line until you're comfortable at that gait. Let your trainer worry about the horse--if you're on the longe, you can worry about yourself.

      You should ALWAYS be comfortable completely dropping the reins. Balance and security doesn't come from there.


      • #4
        Another thought...have you tried a dressage whip? The extra length will allow you to keep your hands forward and holding the reins, and whack him on his butt at the same time
        Was just skimming the replies, sorry if this was said already, but a mental thing that's helped me is to just start riding a canter stride-even if he isn't cantering yet. Sounds you've got a really nice steady eddy type, that might feel you're not balanced/confident enough for him to quicken the pace. You're on the right track to stop posting, sit up, leg, etc. But really try and visualize that your seat and body is rocking with a canter stride;push him into it. He might think "Oh, she really does mean it, she didn't just "accidentally" tell me to canter".
        Goold luck!


        • #5
          Another thought - when you're asking him to canter, try doing it as you're heading into the corner of the ring, maybe a few strides out. His natural tendency would be to pick up the correct (inside) lead because he knows he'll be going around a corner. Then you can concentrate on sitting up and putting your leg on him.

          Don't let him trot trot TROT TROT then fall into a canter if you can help it, ask him to canter from a nice working trot. Be crisp but firm with your leg aids and grab mane if you feel like you'll loose your balance. You can try clucking or kissing to him to get him to move out.

          Be patient and persistent and it will get easier each time. :-)


          • #6
            Lots and lots of longe line work.....you will be surprised how much your balance
            and everything improves. Sadly, most trainers don't want to be bothered or look at you like you are nuts if you ask for a longe line lesson.


            • #7
              Get into a round pen with your instructor. Tie the reins up so they'are not flopping around. Get a firm grip of the pommel of your saddle so you are not using the reins to balance yourself. You can have the end of the reins in your hand while have a firm hold of the pommel if you like. Now get your instructor to make that pony canter for at least a quarter of a circle. By the way, drop your crop and spur. You are not coordinated enough to use them properly or in a way that will do you any good.

              You are going to learn to go with your pony first, before you can direct him.

              Once you can sit the canter, you can have your reins back, and try to ask him to canter (still in round pen), with your instructor as enforcement for the canter.


              • #8
                When I was a kid, we learned to canter from the walk, not the trot. I remember it now as a less bouncy transition. It wasn't until I took lessons again as an adult that it all seemed to be about trot/canter.

                If your horse is coordinated enough, maybe you can try the walk/canter with your instructor's help.


                • #9
                  Make sure your hips say "canter"...any bracing will keep him trotting...just relax and roll into it so to speak...allow. Being longed is the best thing.


                  • #10
                    Back when I was teaching kids to ride I always had them do the first canter on the lunge line. There was a grab strap on the cantle they held and I would tie the reins up.

                    I think it would really help you if your trainer could do this with you. That way you can focus on your body position without worrying about steering or what to do with your hands.

                    Then once you are completely comfortable with that you can move on. Good luck!


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks everyone for the reply...I'll answer each if I can here so bear with the length of this post.

                      Snugglerug - discombobulated! That's how I feel when I'm going and it's not working into a canter! He has such a bumpy stride too that it doesn't help. Spurs, yes. You are probably right, but when I don't wear them, I'm taken to task. Her outlook is b/c I don't have the leg strength yet, they are there to help me get my school horse guy going. I'm not in the position to take on that battle yet with her. I'm overcoming a lot of fear and she's really helping with that so one thing at a time.

                      Simkie - I know in my head that it's not my reins holding me on. It's tough for me to get my whole body to understand that since my accident. And, once I'm on a lunge or with the reins tied up the other day, I relax and let him do his job. Trust and confidence are tough to get back sometimes. But, I'm tryin'!

                      talkofthetown - I do have a steady Eddie kind of horse - much better than the mare I was on prior to this guy. I really am starting to like him and bond with him, which is quite an experience in itself. And, you're right - I need to have the confidence and trust in him to allow him to pick up the pace to a canter. I imagine that my body language is telling him otherwise.

                      Roxyllsk - oh, don't worry...no fear of letting him fall into a canter at ALL these days. Since those few lessons where we did, I bet I've managed a whole half arena's worth lol! But yes, I see the point and will try that.

                      gloria - round pen and lunging sounds great. I'm just not sure how much my coach would go for that. She's late 60s and we have 2 others in the lesson with her. I'll ask her in the summer when the round pen can be used though. Maybe I could ask for her to tie my reins up a bit more in the meantime. I'll see. I know she may not be the perfect coach at the time with using spurs, crop and not lunging a lot, but she has other aspects I really like and need for the time being.

                      Thanks all again! I really appreciate all the advice. I'm going to try my best to put it in to play my next lesson. Basically, relax, trust him and use the right aids...so easy to write...but in the arena, I overthink and get too much into my head and (now becoming) old fears.

                      I've been playing around with hypnosis to see if it would help me put my fall and all the fear and confidence issues behind me a little bit. Anyone tried?



                      • #12
                        If you are in a group lesson, try to see whether you can budget one or two private round pen sessions with her, 30~45 minutes each. That is probably all you need. You will be surprised how much you will improve in two sessions. As to lunging lesson, unless she is skilled in teaching riders via lunge line, I won't recommend it. You will be surprised how many instructors don't know how to do a proper lunge lesson.

                        The only way you can put your fear behind you is to have enough successful sessions, and to have successful sessions, you need to set yourself up for success, and that means round pens. The pony needs to continue to canter for you to organize your body and experience the difference, and in order for the pony to continue canter while you are busying organizing your own body, you need someone like your instructor to push him from the ground.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by FourFaults View Post
                          Thanks everyone for the reply...I'll answer each if I can here so bear with the length of this post.

                          Snugglerug - discombobulated! That's how I feel when I'm going and it's not working into a canter! He has such a bumpy stride too that it doesn't help. Spurs, yes. You are probably right, but when I don't wear them, I'm taken to task. Her outlook is b/c I don't have the leg strength yet, they are there to help me get my school horse guy going. I'm not in the position to take on that battle yet with her. I'm overcoming a lot of fear and she's really helping with that so one thing at a time. . . . . .

                          Sounds like you're caught in a never-ending and all too familiar cycle that is NOT your fault. Good-boy, calm school horse is used for beginner riders who ALL have a tendency to flail around. Sweet horse learns to ignore all the conflicting cues and just plod around in order to avoid dumping his rider. Trainer tells rider to "kick him--harder!" Horse doesn't understand the cue, but continues to not dump his rider. Trainer decides rider is not strong enough to cue horse with legs and adds spurs. Heart-of-gold school horse now learns to avoid conflicting cues applied with spurs to avoid dumping his rider. Horse is becoming more and more dead-sided, and trainer just keeps upping the ante. No wonder you're frustrated. School horse probably is too.

                          A better solution would be for an advanced rider to tune-up the school horse so that he is reminded of how to listen to the leg. It really shouldn't take a huge amount of strength from the leg; ideally, you want a horse responding to minimal pressure. The catch-22 is, you don't want a school horse who is too sensitive. They actually need a little bit of that "I don't think she really meant that" attitude.

                          That said, if horsey really needs more "encouragement" than your leg can provide, you're much safer using a dressage whip than spurs. If the horse ever decides to listen to the spur and takes off, I guarantee you will panic and draw your legs up, therefore digging the spurs in deeper, and sending the horse off faster. Spurs on an uncontrolled lower leg are just asking for trouble.

                          God bless all the heart-of-gold school horses out there!


                          • #14
                            It would help for you to take some lessons on a horse that has a completely solid canter cue and ability to do the gait. It seems as if your horse may not be completely 'solid' in his cantering skills any more than you are at the moment.

                            When cantering, ask for it from the walk, not trot. If your horse is not yet strong enough in the haunches to do that, spend some time working him on the longe, installing voice cues for him so that when you say 'Canter!' as if you mean it with him on the longe line, he will develop a smooth transition into that gait. That will help you when you start asking him to canter again.

                            For now, either have your instructor or a perhaps more experienced rider be the only one who canters him, or else he may become increasingly confused and develoop a mental block about the gait.

                            The mention about strength in the haunches was not just an idle 'oh by the way'; that canter gait requires some additional strength from the horse - gained through lots of posting trot and/or some hill work - because the first step of the canter is one single hind leg. If the horse has any ouchiness in stifles or hocks, he will have trouble with that.

                            When you give a horse a signal, the signal must be clear and then you WAIT for the horse to comply. The horse should be working harder than you are. If you could get a video of yourself riding to share with us, we probably could give you better tips than this. I hope these ideas help though. I completely agree that you should not fret about or need your reins to canter. If you are using reins for balance, then no wonder the horse is not moving into that gait; he most likely is being told to stop and go at the same time, very confusing to a horse.

                            Good luck and keep us posted!
                            RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                            • #15
                              Are you really ready to canter? When you think about cantering, do you get nervous and worried? Or do you get excited, with a "yeah, let's DO this!" sort of attitude?

                              There's NOTHING wrong with saying "nope, not enough confidence yet, let's skip this for now." Work on the walk and the trot and transitions between the two until you're blue in the face, bored-bored-bored, and just ITCHING to do more. Work on the walk and the trot until you have an independent seat and hand and can ask for the canter while totally chucking away your reins. Canter on the longe without reins, if that's all you're really okay with right now--that's okay!

                              But asking for the canter when you're balancing on the reins because you're really worried about it is not fair to the horse, and it's just not setting YOU up for success either. If you're working to rebuild your confidence, and trying to canter but not getting it is not building your confidence, then stop that for now. Come back to it later.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                                Given this, I would put a grab strap on the front of your saddle, take the reins off the bridle and only canter on the longe line until you're comfortable at that gait. Let your trainer worry about the horse--if you're on the longe, you can worry about yourself.

                                You should ALWAYS be comfortable completely dropping the reins. Balance and security doesn't come from there.
                                It's much safer to put a knot in the reins and buckle the ends around the grab strap. That way you can take control if something goes wrong.

                                Do you ever watch Westerns or other movies where there's a lot of riding going on? Try it. It helped me to sit back and look where I want to go and just go canter. Your horse knows you lack commitment. You kick and contort trying to time your aids and it's futile. Stop looking at your horse. Sit on your pockets, think long leg, look where you want to go and CANTER.
                                A helmet saved my life.

                                2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!


                                • #17
                                  Where is your center of gravity when you ask him to canter. If you are leaning back he knows that as soon as he canters you are going to catch him in the mouth. You need to shift your center slightly forward (this is in NO WAY leaning forward).

                                  Stand up. No, really, stand up (humour me here). Feet a little apart, flat on the floor and feel where your weight is in your feet. Move your weight into your heels without lifting your toes. Move your weight into your toes without lifting your heels. Repeat the weight moves, but this time pay attention to your sternum. Notice how your body moves forward without leaning or bending over when you shift your weight into your toes. Notice how your body moves back when your shift your weight into your heels. Notice how the actual distance your sternum moved is maybe 1".

                                  Practice this off the horse. Pay attention to how your body moves forward and back without bending or collapsing or leaning. When you get back on your horse and you want to canter shift your body forward as you did to shift your weight to your toes when you were standing on the ground (this is why you observe your sternum because you don't actually want to shift your weight into your toes in your stirrups). This body shift can make a huge difference to the steady school horse's willingness to canter because the rider is better positioned to take the increased push without flopping back and catching the horse's mouth - and the horse knows it.

                                  Plus you can practice this anywhere off the horse.

                                  Good luck - oh, and take care of the tailbone. Mine still aches over a year after I injured it.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Hi everyone,

                                    Thanks for all the ideas coming in! It's very helpful. Unfortunately, I likely can't do much about my lesson format at the time or who else rides my guy, but the things I can try and change I will definitely consider!

                                    Gloria - You are totally correct in that is the main way I'm going to be my fear and hesitancy behind me - actually doing lots of that thing. The same thing happened to me when I was trying to get over it the same feelings to get a forward trot. My bf thinks I'm now just in the same place with the canter - just need to push through and get to where I can canter like I can now trot. I hate when he's right lol!

                                    Snugglerug - That cycle sounds about right to me! I think she does have a more advanced rider on him during the week. She has to be careful with his schedule as he is working through some feet issues. They've tried a few different types of shoes; the last time I rode, he actually had no shoes and he was the smoothest he's been. So, I have to deal with that too when I ride - which I'm okay with actually. (My coach is horse first though so if he couldn't' be ridden, he wouldn't be so we don't need to have that conversation .)

                                    I probably should have mentioned that it's really only me that he won't canter for. Everyone else can ask right! He's the only horse in the barn I can actually ride now b/c the rest are for more advanced riders...it's really a case of it's not you, it's me though here.

                                    simkie - The few times I cantered at other barn before my huge accident, I loved the canter. Loved the rythmn and the feeling of flying. Now, I deal with fear and apprehension whenever I try something new since I fell. I do want to move ahead for sure. And, I need to be pushed to do so or I probably would let the fear win. So, yes, I do want to canter but it's getting there and realizing that I'm still ok that will make me excited again. I think!

                                    Bristol Bay - Are you my coach?? LOL! Seriously you are so on the button. Get ouf of my head and just DO it. I will watch some westerns to try and see how they move and try to see if I can incorporate it.

                                    Thanks Redhorses! I will try that experiment as soon as my fat cat gets off my lap and see how it feels. I think when I ask for the canter, I'm way too far forward as opposed to back. And, I hunch over and sort of collapse. Combine that with not giving him enough rein on the inside and I imagine I'm giving him a heck of a lot of mixed signals so he plays it safe and we trot.

                                    I did actually see a short video of me from last weekend. It's not great quality and not much to see if you weren't there so I won't post it (too shy too lol), but it was enough for me to see my coach is right. I feel like I'm trying, but I didn't see anything in the video to make it look like I was trying! It's so funny how trying can feel and then look like nothing!! Same thing happened with the trot.

                                    Now that I can see that, I'm really going to push on Sunday when I ride again (think I might be the only one in the lesson so I'll ask coach about her thoughts on lunge). Will keep you all posted! Tailbone is better...what a spectacular bruise that area can produce lol!!!

                                    Happy weekend and riding all!


                                    • #19
                                      One other ideas from years of teaching kids

                                      Getting into canter is tricky when you aren't co- ordinated. I teach mine by taking them out of the ring and do all our first canters up a straight hill. Saintly schoolmaster is lead of my hack and we go up at the end of a lesson for a number of weeks. Always goes well, a neck strap, an incline, a steady pony and me having control gets rid of a load of fears and gives them a chance to get a feel without corners! Or having the pony drop out of canter ( there is nothing MORE frustrating for me than watch ponies trot faster and faster round a ring with an out of balance rider flapping. Not the riders fault, I just try to avoid it)

                                      Then we go onto longe lessons but it sounds like that isn't a go for you

                                      How is your two point position? It really strengthens your lower leg position and isn't just for jump riders. My kids learn the aids to canter from the two point position first, saves bouncing and they can always have one hand on their neck strap

                                      Just some other suggestions for working round your situation


                                      • #20
                                        Wel you'll get it! coming back after an accident takes so much courage! Good for you!! You are RIDING! and TROTTING! Really, no small thing!!! That's awesome!!

                                        Very different out here, where to get started, sort of like DbHanovarian suggested, we go on the trail, up a short hill, with the horse they are on right
                                        behind mine. That gets people used to, and comfortable with, the gait, then go on to lunge lining or arena work, where someone can actually see what they are doing so they can refine their skills. But the outside-up-a-hill-follow-a-leader at least gets them into the gait and confident with it.

                                        I also agree with the ask in a corner (if you can), and,I gather others do it differently but I learned to ask from a walk. So nose tipped slightly to the outside, ask with the outside leg, free up MY inner hip. And when I ask I am not ambiguous about it, I mean it. I COMPLETELY agree about forgetting the spur. Totally drop the spur. Just as was pointed out, that just deadens the horse, and exactly, if the horse DOES respond, you will not be happy. And its not working anyway.

                                        I would just tell myself, "I AM going to canter.It may only be four or five strides but I am going to canter. If not today, then another day. But I will canter." You will do it. And it is just terrific that you are not letting your fears win out! Go Eddie!!!