Trouble cantering

Lkins

New Member
Apr 18, 2017
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Hi everyone

I recently took up horseriding as I've always wanted to try it and now I'm hooked! I've had about 12 lessons and 10 of these have been on a very stubborn (but lovely) riding school mare. Recently in the lessons we've moved on to cantering however I've been having difficulty getting the horse I'm on to canter. I think my problem is that she won't go into canter without a lot of encouragement using my leg however I end up having to kick so hard to get her to canter that my feet slip through the stirrups. I've been wondering if it's just me being a beginner and not putting enough weight into my heels or if it's her just not wanting to canter? I haven't ridden any other horses since my first two lessons so I guess I'm just wondering if it's only her that requires a lot of kicking?
Thanks :)
 

HaloHoney

Well-Known Member
Apr 30, 2017
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Hello- sounds familiar. :)

I struggle with giving the RS horses enough leg to change pace, but maintaining my balance. I find that horses that are particularly "bouncy" (i.e. Difficult to do a nice steady sitting trot on them without bruising the bones of your backside - or is that just me? Lol) are the most difficult for me to get into a nice controlled canter- because when I'm getting thrown around my balance isn't good enough, therefore if I'm not balanced going into the canter, I'm going to struggle to be balanced once cantering.

A couple of lessons ago instead of trying the massive "pony club kick" (can't remember where I saw that the other day but it made me laugh in recognition) to change pace, I tried applying gradual harder pressure until the desired effect was achieved, and then released after about 2 seconds of doing that when horse had done as asked. So horse was responding to the release of leg rather than just excessive leg, if that makes sense? I rode with no stick that lesson too and found I used my leg much more effectively.

Definitely worth trying another couple of horses too if you can.
 
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Lkins

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Apr 18, 2017
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Yeah that's exactly it....I end up kicking so hard that I end up losing balance and don't make it to canter. Thanks for the suggestion about harder pressure...I'll try that in my next lesson
 

HaloHoney

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Apr 30, 2017
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Yeah that's exactly it....I end up kicking so hard that I end up losing balance and don't make it to canter. Thanks for the suggestion about harder pressure...I'll try that in my next lesson
"Like squeezing a tube of toothpaste" was what a friend suggested. :)
 
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Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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I like the squeezing a tube of toothpaste analogy, if you thump it what you get is uncontrolled where if you squeeze you can get just what you need from it :)

It's common to tip forwards in an effort to get more speed, but that puts your weight on the front end of the horse making it harder for them to pick up into canter, I kind of think about sitting up and lifting and opening my pelvis at the same time as the squeeze to allow them to lift the shoulders.

Some riding school horses can just be very lazy, I remember going back to my old school probably 10 plus years after I left as my younger sister couldn't make her lesson so I stopped in to let them know, as they didn't get enough notice they wouldn't refund so offered me her lesson and I don't think I've ever worked so hard in my life to get a horse moving :p I'd forgotten how much harder it can be on a horse only used to novices.
 
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Nayumi1

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May 10, 2017
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I only started cantering last week in my lesson and completely understand where you are coming from. I had the same issue with trying to get the horse to canter. Completely my fault as I would feel unbalanced and tighten the reins to balance!!!!! I was put onto a larger horse last week and she moved like a dream and it was so much easier.

My partners daughter who I go riding with also has issues getting her horse into canter, the RI said one of the hardest things about learning canter is getting the horse to canter :p
 
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Calder

Active Member
Jan 26, 2006
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Oxford
All horses are different, and even the one I'm most comfortable cantering on at my RS can have off-days, so I also find it challenging to consistently achieve the canter. It's helpful for me to have a checklist to go through as I ask for it.

I start by achieving the trot I want: strong, but not too 'rushy'.
I tell myself to sit up straight and 'ask' with my seat (ask you RI about this, as I had no idea what this meant when I was starting out - I still regard myself as a novice and am not good with using my seat).
I say 'Canter' as much for me as for the horse, to commit myself to it.
Outside leg behind the girth, inside on, and squeeze rather than kick.
I have a tendency to throw my hands forward, in particular as JB has a long neck, so I force myself to hang on to them and keep JB together while he strikes off. Doing so in a corner helps. I also have a tendency to tense up, and force myself to relax.
Keep leg on (not so much kicking, as squeezing) as the canter starts! If I don't get the canter, just a horrible rushy trot, I don't persist. We slow down and I start again to build the trot I want. I sometimes lose my outside stirrup, too, so remind myself to keep weight in my heels (not forcing the heel down).

There's nothing like a good canter when it comes!
 
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Lkins

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Apr 18, 2017
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I'm going to try the squeezing in my next lesson instead of kicking as I think having to use my legs so much is making me lose balance. It has been frustrating as I feel in the last the few lessons I haven't really progressed and I'm stuck on trying to ask for canter. Hopefully the squeezing will help!
 

Jane&Ziggy

Jane&Sid these days!
Apr 30, 2010
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Even on my own pony I lose balance if I try to use lots of leg going in to canter. Squeeze for me every time.

Would you be allowed to use a stick? I don't like to hit the horse, but even if you smack your boot it can help a lot.
 
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CharliesAngel

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Jan 15, 2010
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honestly not doing you any favours or help learning on a horse like this.

Ask for something else that will pop into canter nicely for you or even off voice commands and also ask for some lessons on the lunge. By the time you kick, squeeze, flap about , whatever getting this horse into canter you will no doubt be a puffing, panting mess and all semblance of a decent position will have gone. not speaking from experience at all , of course ;)
 

Lkins

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Apr 18, 2017
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They do usually give me a stick to hold but even at that she's still very hard to get going into canter and requires a lot of kicking. I think I will give squeezing a go and if the next lesson is no better I'll ask for a different horse. I just didn't want to ask and be told that the problems cantering are because of me and not because she's very stubborn if that makes sense!
 

Calder

Active Member
Jan 26, 2006
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Oxford
They do usually give me a stick to hold but even at that she's still very hard to get going into canter and requires a lot of kicking.

The stick works best as an alternative to kicking, in my opinion. RS horses can get quite jaded - dead to the leg - from all the kicks they receive. It's so much better to give a tap than continually kick-kick-kick. It's about communication, not punishment: the horse knows what to do, the stick just reinforces the message being sent. If the horse is not listening to my leg, I've been taught to give two sharp taps with a schooling whip in quick succession early on in a ride. Then I usually don't need it for the rest of the lesson, nor do I need to keep kicking on: just a squeeze will do and he and I both get much less stressed and tired out.

But I needed my RI to tell me when and how to use it. Long whips are awkward, particularly when you are starting out, and in my experience riding schools don't habitually teach the correct use of it. Ask if you're not sure.
 
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Lkins

New Member
Apr 18, 2017
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Thanks Calder-I usually only hold the stick and while it does make her a bit more responsive at the start of the lesson towards the end the effect kind of wears off. I never use it unless I'm instructed which is rare so maybe I should ask when and how to use it correctly as the constant kicking just isn't working!
 

Juliaa

Julia
Aug 20, 2017
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London
Ah I struggled with that too! My mare wouldn't go into canter without me having to kick like a girl gone nutters, and when I'd do that I'd loose balance and all sorts.

Make sure you've established a good working trot, meaning that your trot is almost flowing and drifting, so that you aren't having to kick every few seconds to keep her in trot.
Also sometimes carrying a crop is good, but it depends on how confident you are feeling, if your horse isn't listening to your leg aids in general after a few squeezes, tap behind your leg as a reinforcement with the whip, this could get her more forward.

Also if the horse is responding well during your leg aids for trot, then maybe your giving mixed signals during canter? Sometimes a rider can lean to far forward or too far back or even forget to shift the outside hind leg slightly back and inside leg on girth.

Also Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! Make sure your horse knows what you want, leg on and half halt to get the horses attention but preventing them from rushing.

Horse riding isn't easy but you'll definetly get there!
 
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