Riding The Less Than Perfect Canter

And Enjoying It!

Training a young horse to canter in good rhythm and tempo, balanced, with a decent transition both up to canter and back down to trot is a big job.

Especially if you’re having to correct your own position over and over, give less than stellar aids sometimes, and if your little steam engine horse happens to come with a less than gifted canter gait.

cantering without falling on the forehand

For a very long time, I’d just sort of test out the canter sometimes with Valiosa, trying to ignore the strange transitions and just follow along with her as much as possible.

It was too early to try any of the work I used to do with Cooper.  (From The Canter Chronicles Part 3 in earlier posts.)  He mostly wanted to really bomb around.  Up transitions were very obedient, back down to trot often with tension.

With Valiosa, she’s still not confirmed in the up transition, and while she’s a lot better balanced than Cooper, I had to work much more on the forward.  She could easily fall down on her forehand and lose the canter completely.

November canter

These shots were in November.  I kept wondering when it was going to feel better, more together.  Lunging to help her sort it out on her own too of course, but the side reins never really seemed “just right” in any position.  I always liked her canter on the lunge line better without them.

using the inside hind in canter

In December I did a shorter period where I stopped the sort of light seat canter, really sat down on her and cantered with solid contact, thinking about almost “lifting” her up in the shoulders.

She’d dive down so deep and awkwardly it’d feel to both of us that she just couldn’t canter on.  And then of course she couldn’t.  Riding her up, nose straight out, paved the way for a canter a bit less on the forehand.  For very short periods.

December canter
December Ostrich Canter

The canter is just a bit better now, softer and more comfortable.  It’s been so fun to do this together with her and feeling some improvement!

Her signature move is to become short necked, and take way too small little crab steps with the hinds.

March canter
Next up is to improve on that!

She’s a fun girl!  Low free jumping has also helped with it all.

I do little canter work under saddle with her, but she feels very honest in trying to figure it all out each time!  Feel free to chime in with your favorite Green Horse Canter Tip!

Easter Canter

15 thoughts on “Riding The Less Than Perfect Canter

  1. So interesting to see your canter pictures and watch the progress! We are working on canter transitions (trot – canter – trot) and my oh my is it challenging. Counter canter is just beginning and that’s pretty awful so far. SO much work to do; but it all begins with just slow and steady strengthening. A little at a time, with rest breaks and praise for effort. I like your last picture, she looks relaxed and is stepping under well with her right hind. If you have hills anywhere nearby, hill work (even just walking or trotting them) will help strengthen her hind end and that will improve her canter. The stronger she is, the easier it will be for her to carry herself in balance. Keep up the good work. She is beautiful!

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    1. Love to hear from you! Always makes me feel confirmed that we’re on the right track 🙂 (Although counter canter is way far off for us just yet…)
      I’d absolutely LOVE to get her out and do a bit of hills. ANY hill. Or maybe just an incline. Unfortunately we’re stuck at the farm we’re at – beautiful, but flat… I’m considering starting up making some home made cavaletti to try it that way instead!

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    1. Yes!! I wish! Since moving in to this farm late summer, I have taken her out on the road outside several times, to get exposure and perhaps even find a hill. None there in rideable distance… And, after our last two semi frightening ventures out on the road, we need to stay safe and not risk it again. The traffic is undescribable! 45 mile road, where trucks and all sorts of large vehicles blaze by at 65 with NO consideration.
      I’m taking you up on the cavaletti idea we talked about some time ago instead 😉

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      1. It doesn’t have to be a “big” hill…we have trails on the property that go up and down little gullies, and that’s plenty for what you need to accomplish with “hill work”. We also have a sort of low mound out by the outdoor ring which I ride in a figure 8 pattern so we get ups and downs that way. In the meantime, yes, enjoy your cavaletti work!

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        1. Tried some “mounds” I happened to have access to today. (all we’ve got and it usually only happens once per week.) Well, ok, but I think she thought it was nuts the third time around 😉

          Planning to come up with some sort of cavaletti on my own. (These will be very backyardish.) So far, there’s only one, and that’s not really what we’re after 😉

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  2. Mine has terrible balance in the canter, and a not great natural canter. I accidently lunged her (cantering) over poles last year, and was amazed at how much it helped. It made her really think about her feet and balance, and it paused her headlong rush forward just enough to allow her to find her hind end. It was the first time she wasn’t bolting and crashing her way through a canter.

    That’s all I’ve got. If you find the magic pill to fix the canter then let me know. I need a dozen. Haha

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    1. Hey (laughing at the accidental lunging over poles – we’ve all been there), I’ve had votes for hill work – which I DEFINITELY believe in.
      So, if you have a hill, do a little bit of reading, and head out and use it. I’m stuck in a flat arena with no hills around, so I’ll have to make do.
      I’m working on some ideas to create my own makeshift cavalettis this summer.
      Stay tuned for how it works out – I’ll make a post about it! 🙂

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  3. Feeling your frustration…..I’m working on them too at the moment. I have taught Abbey some lateral work (leg yield) and I find this really helps to get her bringing that inside hind under. If I do some leg yield and then do some canter transitions I find that they are much better. I’d second hill work, not just steep hills on straight lines but schooling on a gentle slope. It’s really helped Abbey to learn how to balance herself so when we are back in the school not only is she stronger but she is she’s better balanced which make the transitions easier. I’d still like them to be better though!! #patience #progressnotperfection

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    1. “#patience #progressnotperfection” – I love this!
      Yes hill work!
      If I had access I’d do it NOW. Or yesterday…
      Trying to instill basice leg yield on Valiosa right now – perhaps it will help us in our transitions then 🙂

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  4. I feel the same way! Hitch’s canter used to be SO SLOW. He would go out to the day pasture and play all day and then when it was time to work, there was barely any steam left. Now that he goes out about twice a week, he has more energy and the canter is much faster. He’s also worked 4-5 days a week so fitness=more energy. Anyway, now I’m working on slowing that canter down to find that perfect rhythm and blend of comfy yet speedy. It’s a big job and takes a lot out of me but it’s coming along!

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    1. I think my mare would have just a little more energy too if she didn’t live out 24/7. Still, it’s healthy, so I’m hoping I can sort of develop it anyway, with doing like you -adding fitness. We’ll see how it goes 😉

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