Q & A: Canter Young Horse

Question: Canter? (Behaviour)
By Cherrie

My 3 year old mare has just started to be schooled to canter. When i ask for a canter she becomes very disagreeable and throws her head around as well as her backside. Often she just roots herself to the ground and doesn't move at all . Do you have any suggestions as to why she does this and how i can stop it.
Thanx (",)

Answer: Canter? (Behaviour)

By Renee

Eeben, I agree with you completely! At 3, this horse is not nearly physically ready to engage enough to be cantering comfortably. You should be going right back down to the basics - walk, trot, transitions and excercises to develop suppleness. When your horse is able to carry herself more correctly, and is balanced and obedient at all paces and in transitions, then you are only on your way to start canter work. I would wait at least another 6 months before commencing canter work if everything falls into place by then.
As per my previous canter post:
Lungeing well plays a vital role in allowing the back muscles to develop. Using a De Gogue or Chambon CORRECTLY, will encourage the back to round, lift and the muscles will develop. Please do not chase your horse in circles for 20 mins and call it lungeing!!! When riding, concentrate on your walk and trot work and pay lots of attention to transitions - trot to walk, walk to halt and so on, in order to engage the hindquarter more and supple up your horse. Lateral work, like leg yielding, will help develop the balance and suppleness. (Then only when eventually cantering -) When practicing the transition, walk to canter is an excellent way of encouraging the hindlimbs to step in far underneath the horse and will strengthen the horse. The best exercise I have used to really get the horse listening and bearing weight on the hind end, is to ride walk to canter to walk transitions with as close to only one or two strides of the pace before changing. In other words, walk- walk- canter - canter - walk - walk - canter- canter- and so on. It works beautifully on a straight line or a 20m circle. Using a spiral on a 20m circle (spiral in, spiral out) is also a great way to get the horse carrying herself and thinking about her body at work. Remember to use the seat and leg to bring him in or out, not the hand.
Once your horse is cantering in a more relaxed fashion, canter poles will help relax her rhythm and flex those hocks. Introduce them slowly (1 at a time) and go right back to the basics if she rushes. Voltes, serpentines and circles will help tremendously as well!
I really would enlist the help of a qualified instructor to assist you and make sure your training is progressing in the right direction. It always helps to have someone on the ground, giving feedback and ideas and making sure that you are doing things correctly!
Training is a long, slow process and should never be rushed! Your horse is trying to tell you that she is very uncomfortable with what you are asking! Go back to basics, have fun with her and develop your relationship - the rest will fall into place at the right time!

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