Asking for Canter on a Child's Pony

Skib

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May be no one will answer. But I am starting this new thread so as not to high jack KPnut's discussion about "training" another parent's pony.
I am not a trainer. I like hacking and my fav hack retired at Christmas since when it has been hard to find a replacement and the best yet is a largish pony which looks much like the Highland ridden by the Queen. She is safe, sweet and so compliant that I sometimes wonder whether she has a mind of her own, she is so entirely at my beck and call.
My first request to canter on each hack so far has been a failure. I have had one small buck but most of the time, as KP describes, when asked to go forward she trots faster and faster with her head up high.
It seems that this pony isn't simply a beginners pony, but a beginners on the lead rein pony. She is not used to receiving direction from her back. Plus she is not that used to much canter as the beginners don't usually canter.
Like KP nut, I have tried to ride her at my very best but found that, if I cue her to transition up to canter as I do the dressage horse in the school, the pony interprets my asking for energy in the trot as a request to trot faster.
I have not tried running her faster and faster to see if she will canter. I have seen Michael Peace work with someone in a school, asking them just to run a horse into canter, trotting faster and faster and leaving the transition to the horse. And it was what Mark Rashid had me do (against my inclination) when I rode one of his Western horses in the States. But it isnt something that is easy to do out hacking - because on any straight stretch we will eventually reach a point on the track where the pony knows most people canter.
This pony is accustomed to transitioning up and down by following just behind another horse ridden by an RI or, when exercised by staff, she is probably cantering only at certain places on the track. Unless we are at one of those regular canter locations, the idea of canter doesn't enter her mind.
Of course I have to calm the very fast trot but I found weighting my seat and slowing my rising wasnt enough - I had to half halt far more firmly than I am used to and give her a right tug with my right hand before she slowed. I then rode masses of walk trot transitions, both heading out on the hack and heading home. I found the upward much easier to get accurate. These beginner horses are not used to being ridden accurately into downward transitions.
My most successful asks for canter have been after only a few steps of trot. Or when I have delayed canter. I have asked for canter by relaxing my hands, sitting back and saying Canter and giving her quite biff on her sides with both my legs.
I dont like biffing her to get canter and tugging her with one rein to steady the trot.
But if you KP can get canter from this pony you are training without visible and decisive pulls and kicks, please give me some advice.
Unlike you, I dont have to change this pony, school her or even ride her. But (I imagine) like you, I am riding someone else's pony and she is still being used to teach lead rein lessons. Opinion is divided as to whether I should be teaching her my ways at all. But I think it worth considering that Rashid's minimal cues are probably more similar than most RI adult riding to what a small child is able to deliver.
 

popularfurball

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What is her movement like in canter? Are you anxious about canter?

Having not seen the transition, I can't say what the issue is but a couple of things to consider:
1) a friend had a beautiful fell pony and she has a very big front end movement when striking off into canter, so she needs your weight back in order for her to lift her front end up - you can't tip forwards or grip up as it restricts her shoulders and she runs faster as she can't go "up"... I have to feel like I am too far leaning back in order to pick up the lead.

2) if she is very novice suitable, perhaps there is an element of keeping you safe - if she thinks you are worried or slightly unbalanced perhaps she is reluctant for those reasons?

I think any training to improve her transitions is good :)
 
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KP nut

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Well I'm certainly no expert so I don't know what is best. However I have now managed to get nice smooth canter transitions from this other horse, which have generalised to her own owner (I will update the thread soon with details). Running a horse into canter is only something I would do with a young horse who really has no idea and only to help him learn to balance in the canter. I am in fact doing that with the horse I am working with next week: we are going out hacking, me on Zak and owner on the other one, and I will lead her in several long straight line canters so the horse can get confident in the gait without worrying about corners, transitions etc. She won;t ask for canter, she'll just let the horse follow Zak. But that is designed to improve a different skill - learning to balance in canter, I am trying at the moment to teach the transition so running into it is not appropriate as that is not what I want her to learn.

To teach the transition, what I did in a nutshell was to ask for canter over and over again in exactly the same way: half halt, focus on the feel of canter, sit and gentle squeeze with lower leg back. When she ran on I went rising, slowed, re-balanced and then asked again in the same way. Again and again. And eventually she started offering a different response to running on, one of which was to canter. Even though it took about 30 tries for the first canter, it only took another 10 for the 2nd, then 5 more for the 3rd. Today she started where she left off after the first day - getting it right on the 4th or 5th time of asking. After 1/2 an hour she was getting it right about 3 out of 4 times and also sustaining the canter once she was in it, not just getting a few strides. Not saying that would help your pony, Skib. But it worked for her! But I am fairly clear now that this was a problem of her understanding. So increasing pressure was not the answer at all in this case.
 
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eml

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We have a number of Highlands and Dales/Fells, Generally they are not built to work lightly in front and need a lot of transitions in warm up to transfer weight to the quarters.Generally I advise people to slow and collect the trot without losing impulsion, think large half halt and then cue a canter, or even go walk to canter. If the horse is ridden mainly by novices make sure you give the reins on cueing as most kind RS types will think you don't really want them to go if you try to hold a contact though the transition. Don't try running into canter,cob types find trotting at a great rate far easier than cantering!!
 
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Skib

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Thanks for the advice. Particularly for the info about ponies and sitting weight back. I had realised I couldnt ride her like the dressage lesson horse, but didnt know what to replace it with! Wont be back on her for some time - diary complications and problems at the yard - but I will ask differently and soften it all down.
I am not in a position out hacking to try as many times as you KPNut, (glad it went well and thanks for supplying the details). But then I dont need to, as on every ride I have got canter in the end and when we get to a stretch where the RS ponies usually canter, she hardly needs asking. I have been asked not to ride walk to canter on the beginners ponies - unless of course a member of staff actually challenges me to do so. But what I havent had till this thread is any advice on how best to ride a proper pony. So it is my riding really that I need to alter now.
 

Skib

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This story did not end well. Since most threads on NR tend to report on achievements of members - for the record I am defeated by this pony.
She was apparently used to following the RI as well as being on a lead rein alongside. But as the weather warmed and with an experienced RI riding ahead of me, I found the pony pulling and rushing all the time. The more I held her back, the more excited and frustrated she got till she finally bucked. I did not fall. But the RI was much concerned about my safety on this pony. I dismissed her concerns the pony had felt pretty safe to me and I have ridden countless horses and ponies over the years.
There were many weeks when I could not be around to hack (school) this pony and when I did ride again -the presence of many loose dogs meant we had to postpone canter - there was time for a short canter only to the end of a track and when I pulled the pony up she was so excited that I proposed cantering her a bit further up a hill, turning away from home. I mis judged because the energy was more than I had reckoned with. She went further than I wanted before coming back to trot and I told the escort with me that I had not had 100% control. As a result and to calm down the pony we did not canter heading homeward - and diverted from the track where I normally canter. With this in mind, the next time out when again we had to repeated postpone canter because of following riders, I asked for and allowed her to canter sooner than was wise - where trees mean one has to take forward seat. This was a big mistake for as soon as we came out from the trees she took a long leap forward as if jumping a dip in the path. Not having ever learned how to jump I failed to sit back, her hind quarters seems to come up and I was flat on her neck. Which effectively braked her but from which I eventually slithered to the ground. Once again I had held her back dutifully following my escort on a much larger horse and once again I ended with a massively over excited pony. She was not out of control as I was allowing the speed and controlling the direction of the canter, but I was not in charge when her feet left the ground. And was not at all prepared for it. Tho in view of the recent history, I ought to have been. I had repeatedly asked for another horse to hack. Put it down to 50% rider incompetent and 50% horse.
 

KP nut

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That sounds very alarming. I am glad you are ok. I think trying to school RS ponies, especially out hacking, is very difficult. There are RS horses I sometimes ride who I have no choice but to ride 'badly' - pony club kicks and heavy hands, just because that is the way they are, and I don't have the time during a lesson or hack to properly address any problem. My girls have the same problem on Zak. When riding alone, if he is being slow off the leg, they go back to basics and get him going nicely off light cues from halt to walk and only then ask for trot. If this happens in a lesson the RI just shouts 'kick on' and they resort to kicking. They can't hold up the lesson while they sharpen his responses!

I know you have thought about this very very carefully but I think a horse of your own would give you so much pleasure as you (like me) seem to love the training/improving elements as much as the actual riding. An older ex dressage horse?
 
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