Q & A: Hot in Canter

Question: Hot When Cantering
By Mandyels

Hi there
I have a 5 year old TB gelding, who is the sweetest horse ever.
In the walk and in the trot he is relaxed and steady, but as soon as you ask him to cater (especially on the left side) he gets hot and after that refuses to settle down.
I presume it maybe that he is still a bit unbalanced, but not 100% sure of that.
I would like to know what I can do in order to get him to settle in the Canter?

Answer: Hot when cantering (Training)
By Renee - 4 days ago


At 5 years old, your young horse is still developing a sense of balance and is probably still developing physically too. Becoming unsettled and running on in the canter is a sure sign of balance problems, you are quite right. In order for the horse to maintain balance and a degree of self-carriage in the canter, the muscles of the back especially must be fully developed and strong enough, in order to lift the back up and become round under the rider. The hindlegs should be absorbing movement and weight, however in the case of the horse that runs, weight is tipped onto the forehand, the hindlegs simply propel the horse forward with little or no flexion and there is very little rounding of the back. Think of running down a hill at full speed - you get faster and faster without meaning to, feel like you are going to fall over your nose at any point and you can't stop. I think that is what the unbalanced horse feels like sometimes!
The biggest mistake people tend to make in this situation, is to simply decide that in order to fix the canter, one simply spends as much time as possible cantering round in circles. That should make the horse stronger, right? WRONG! All that happens is that the horse practices a lot of unbalanced work and the rushing becomes established! It will not fix the problem. The thing to do is to take a step back and firstly, introduce work to strengthen and supple the back, then improve the canter transition, and finally, the canter work should fall into place all on its own! When I work with riders and their horses that have canter problems, I often do no canter work with them at all for at least one or two months, until we have worked on the balance issue first. Most times, when we do canter again, the problem that was there vanishes as if by magic and the riders are gobsmacked at the change in their horses!
Lungeing 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. 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. 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 himself and thinking about his body at work. Remember to use the seat and leg to bring him in or out, not the hand. Raised trotting poles will encourage flexion and again, develop balance. Hillwork is vital - remeber when working downhill to not let the horse run down, but sit on his bum and use his back!
Once your horse is cantering in a more relaxed fashion, canter poles will help relax his rhythm and flex those hocks. Introduce them slowly (1 at a time) and go right back to the basics if he 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!
Good luck, and remember to take it slowly - there is no shortcut to proper schooling!

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