Getting The Canter Figured Out

Today I rode on my own to try to figure out why I was having new problems with the canter. He wasn't wanting to pick up or carry the canter, which hasn't been a problem for over a year, and steering was out the window. As luck would have it, Sue was there schooling her gorgeous Dancer (a 17.2 Idocus gelding) and Jane was there too having just finished schooling her handsome PSG horse Kenny (barn name :).
After a short walk on a long rein we did a bit of trotting three loop serpentines and then I tried cantering a 20 m circle. It didn't start well. He didn't want to canter and when he did he picked up the wrong lead three times at least, something he never does. At one point I looked down as I was asking for the transition and - what -  I had his head pulled seriously to the inside. I mean pulled in. Poor Rogo. He didn't like this AT ALL and wasn't standing for it. Just then Jane called out to me to give my inside rein. I did and there was an instant, positive result. He cantered and I could steer much better, although I need to carefully practice to get back to where we were.
What caused all of this? I'm not sure. I'm asking for much more forward, engagement and contact, and it's hard for him. It's also hard for me, because I need to learn to ride this way, and also how to ride the much bigger resultant movement. I think that equitation issues I had in the past are magnified, as are bad habits Rogo had. Put all of this together and we have wrinkles to iron out.
The good news is that I spent the rest of the ride with an almost loose inside rein so Rogo would get his confidence back in it and he went fine. I'm hoping a few more practice rides and we'll be on track with it. The other good news is that the trot is coming along amazingly, so over-all things are good.
Thanks for all of the nice comments on the last post. I should explain that my three lessons a week are probably going to be over the end of Dec. :( There isn't going to be room for us at the barn after that. So I may spend the rest of the winter without lessons, which will kill me because we are finally getting things going in a good direction.
Boarders can buy lesson plans to make it more affordable, and also Doug pushed me to take this winter to put on a lesson blitz. His reasoning is that it doesn't make sense for us to put so much into owning the horses and then not train them, when that is what the original goal was and what I love.
Our horse business planning is coming along. We meet with a potential supplier for the indoor next week. I'll do a post on it soon as I'm quite excited about it. Lori Skoog from Skoog Farm Journal kindly asked recently if we'd decided on a location. We've bought 135 acres in Brookfield Nova Scotia, 5 minutes from the main highway running between the Halifax and Truro.


TBDancer said…
I do not pull on the inside rein, but sometimes I don't give enough inside leg to get my horse TO the outside rein.

My last lesson we did several leg yields at trot, in each direction. My instructor had me totally DROP the inside rein and use only the outside rein to move him over. He sucked to the outside rein because he NEEDED "something" to depend on. I had to do the leg yield to the left THREE times (to the right only twice) because I didn't turn on the quarterline -- missed that sucker but GOOD ;oD -- but I could really feel him depend on that outside rein. Was a fun feeling on the right. He's a TB and doesn't LIKE the right rein, but when that's the only one Mom is using, he'll take it ;o)
It's hard to get rid of inside rein-itis. I speak from experience. And Val would back me up on this ;)

Inside leg to outside rein is my new mantra. What helps me is to actually bring the outside rein in contact with Val's neck, but don't cross the withers.
juliette said…
Sounds like you are on the right track with sorting out the cantering business. I like that you gave Rogo a loose inside rein for the rest of the day to reboot his worries. That is so smart. You are courageous doing all this! There is so much to think about and grow with - it is a lot to tackle and it seems to me that you are doing it right. I love that you keep Rogo and his understanding of what you are asking first in your mind. That seems like the only way to do it to me!
Kelly said…
I enjoy reading about your lessons and progress. I am taking a weekly lesson for now and will have to drop to twice a month soon - but I certainly notice the difference!
Val said…
I had to relearn the canter depart when I started riding Harley. If I tried to bend him and make him look like a dressage horse he would very obediently pick up the outside lead, in both directions. Looks like a piloting error! This is when I realized that I was overweighting the inside as well as trapping his inside shoulder by trying to bend his neck. I was making it impossible to canter on the inside lead. The good news is that once I got it straighted out, he was able to pick up the inside with no trouble and now I have a much better appreciation for the aids and the impact my position and weight has on the horse. Good for you for giving up that inside rein. It is so difficult to do!
jill said…
Just a thought...if you have been working more regularly and vigorously with Rogo, and this is a new thing, you may want to have him checked over for muscle soreness or chiro. He may be physically having a hard time doing what you're asking. Sometimes their hind end muscles, especially the one that runs right down back of his butt, near the tail, get stressed from learning to carry themselves correctly. You can just massage him a bit in this area and he'll let you know if it's ouchy or sore. Just keep massaging gently and he should start relaxing, licking, sighing as the tensoin releases. I massage my horse every few days, esp. after a lesson to help keep the muscles loose.
So interesting you talking about the canter, I am having the same problem and its all me having to much neck bend that my horse has started to tilt her head so I am have gone back to the basics of not worring about the head and getting her to carry herself with little to no contact by me then trying to shorten and lengthen the stride with my body and today I had much better straightness and natural bend. Good luck, its funny how the little things we do can just stuff things up for ourselves...frustrating!!
Jeni said…
I think we all struggle with inside leg to outside rein so don't feel a lone in that.

You were able to recognize what you were doing and quickly corrected it. Good Job!!!
I think at one time or another I've been guilty of the same thing. Fortunately, it's easily fixed. So exciting about your indoor. We had a lot of fun and frustration with our contractor. The fun part being designing it the way we wanted the frustrating part getting the contractor to do it. Good luck with that. Hope you can continue to take lessons that would be so good. How cool that your friend has an Idocus
baby, we met Idocus a number of times when he was a young horse.
Achieve1dream said…
I'm glad you're figuring it out! It's so hard sometimes since we can't see what we're doing. I miss the mirrors in the arena at the barn I used to ride at lol. They were so helpful.
Margaret said… business. I will have to come back and read about this... I must have missed it. Sounds exciting. Nice to have a trainer watching and pointing out things... I will be having that soon myself, but I am at a much lower level of riding skill. I learn a lot from posts like this... just please make sure to label them so I can come back when I need to do some refreshing! Thanks.
Megan said…
It's always nice when you're having trouble with something and then realizing the one thing that you're doing wrong and can fix it and things immediately improve.
Unknown said…
I've found one of my greatest issues with the canter is my own crooked seat. Practicing the counter-bend in the canter has helped solve some crooked-ness issues in both myself and my horse.
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