anxious about the canter..

dilaika

obsessed
Apr 25, 2006
216
0
0
NJ (home), MD (school) USA
Hi. I need some advice on helping Ruby relax into the canter transitions. Just a quick background - Ruby is owned by my riding instructor, and she's been my project since about August (meaning that I ride her just about every time that I'm there, and other people generally only ride her once in a while when I'm not there - and I ride about 5 days a week). She's 10 years old, an off the track TB. When she was off the track, she had a kid rider who did a lot of walking and trotting, and so she is very relaxed about walking and trotting. Cantering, however, gives her anxiety (a subsequent owner did not really know what he was doing, we think, and gave her some bad habits and anxiety). She will relax once we are at the canter, but she gets very anticipatory when she thinks that a canter is coming (ie: if anyone else canters in the ring, or when we get to a certain point in the lesson, or after we've cantered). She doesn't actively take off with me, but she will spurt at the trot, lift her head in the air, chew on the bit, and basically tense her entire body. As I said, once she canters she will relax, but she gets herself so worked up that I have a problem just getting her to relax and do something else (if I don't want to canter), or she has a crappy transition. This is particularly pronounced in her bad direction (the left), she will pick up both leads but has a strong preference for the right, where she is a bit more balanced, and it sometimes takes 2 tries to pick up the left lead.

I try to not have a pattern in what I do when I ride her, either in my position or what we do before the canter, but she is smart and figures things out. I have tried asking for the transition both from the half-seat and full-seat; she usually goes better (and relaxes more at the trot) when I am sitting. I try not to ask for the canter when she is anxious, but she doesn't have the crispest transitions (another issue), so she often tries to run into the canter. If I give the signal too strongly, she gets upset and offended and throws her head even worse before jumping into the canter. Then, I she almost always relaxes at the canter, even in her "bad" lead.

She has been checked for soundness, tack, etc issues. I think that the problem is mostly mental - she can canter quite nicely, and will pick up the canter quite nicely over jumps and get quite nice simple changes to her bad lead after jumps, when she doesn't have a chance to anticipate the transition. She is somewhat the same way about jumps (we are working on low jumping - generally about 2 ft, has done a very nice 2' 6" jump as part of a gymnastic), where she will spurt in the corners, but once I get her steady on the approach she jumps very nicely.

Anyway, that ended up being really long! But, I would really appreciate anyone's ideas on how to get her to mentally relax, what signals to use, etc, to try and keep her relaxed into the transitions.

I don't have any video of the canter transitions, but I do have a video of me cantering her and doing a tiny warm-up jump from October:

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http://www.facebook.com/v/510528724918

http://www.facebook.com/v/510550900478
 
Last edited:

wonkeywoody

New Member
Jul 12, 2007
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What a genuine expression she has!!!

Work on getting her to flex her head in the walk and the trot.
She needs to get off the forehand - will find canter trans very difficult when on forehand - and working thro from behind.
Use jumps / pole on the ground to get your canter trans atm. only ask for a few strides in the canter and then ask back to trot. Give her lots of praise.
I would stay in an upright position as you have said she relaxes more in trot when you sit, also easier for her to lift her front end.
Not too clear in the vid but think you need to soften thro your hands esp in the canter itself and take more constant contact.
Finally, when doing the trans without poles, Breathe out as you ask for it!
 

HashRouge

New Member
Feb 18, 2008
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Cheshire..but London right now
What a genuine expression she has!!!

Work on getting her to flex her head in the walk and the trot.
She needs to get off the forehand - will find canter trans very difficult when on forehand - and working thro from behind.
Use jumps / pole on the ground to get your canter trans atm. only ask for a few strides in the canter and then ask back to trot. Give her lots of praise.
I would stay in an upright position as you have said she relaxes more in trot when you sit, also easier for her to lift her front end.
Not too clear in the vid but think you need to soften thro your hands esp in the canter itself and take more constant contact.
Finally, when doing the trans without poles, Breathe out as you ask for it!
Ditto all that, especially keeping canter work to just a few strides. That is very important because it will teach her that canter is easy peasy and nothing to be worried about. Make sure you don't start asking her for longer canters until her transitions start to settle down.
 

dilaika

obsessed
Apr 25, 2006
216
0
0
NJ (home), MD (school) USA
I was trying do that...but it just seemed to upset her more (since she was expecting more of the transitions, got more anxious every time I asked for a downward transition). After I do longer canters it actually seems easier to get nice transitions...

Probably because of her past, she seems to be somewhat counter-intuitive.
 

wonkeywoody

New Member
Jul 12, 2007
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0
Have you tried to bring her completely back to walk or even halt and let her chill out after a canter trans?
Remember she will pick up on you "expecting" trouble too so you must chill out and have poasitive thoughts.
You may just have to keep doing them until she makes the mental breakthrough. Atm you do one, its fine, then things go askew but have you ever gotton right thro the prob and ended on a nice one again?
 

Bling

New Member
Aug 29, 2006
314
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0
Maui Hawaii
I had - am having -- the same problem! My horse was started too fast for barrels, on a short running martingale. Like wonkeywoody wrote, she "expects" trouble, then gives the trouble, filling her expectations. It's been several months-- finally she's getting the idea nothing is going to happen. Our first advances happened by lunging her at canter, voice commands, doing several departures in a row (she was always fine lunging.) Then immediately mounting, and doing exactly the same thing, departing with word commands at exactly the same places, no rein contact. (I had a helper, in case I needed to attach the lunge, but she didn't try to get away, was just anxious.) This started giving her the idea, though it's still taking longer than I'd like, she just keeps getting better.
 

dilaika

obsessed
Apr 25, 2006
216
0
0
NJ (home), MD (school) USA
Have you tried to bring her completely back to walk or even halt and let her chill out after a canter trans?
Remember she will pick up on you "expecting" trouble too so you must chill out and have poasitive thoughts.
You may just have to keep doing them until she makes the mental breakthrough. Atm you do one, its fine, then things go askew but have you ever gotton right thro the prob and ended on a nice one again?

Yep, that has happened. Sometimes we can have some crappy transitions and then we can get a nice one...sometimes we get a nice one and then get a crappy one.
I do give her breaks between cantering (walk, trot, maybe do some poles, bending, just wander around, I switch it up).
She can get good transitions, its not that she's out of control or crazy, she just more often than not gets anxious about cantering and thus has crappy transitions.

I am thinking about what you guys said...and any more ideas would be great!
 
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