For three days now I've only been taking the canter from the "double trot"-- and it keeps getting better! I USED to do it this way, but my horse would throw her head, her heels, crowhop, and in general, act such as ladies my age would rather avoid; it was a matter of safety to try other ways. (It soon happened that her "aid" for canter was my grabbing her mane... )
By the way, the concept of "doubling" is SO much better than what I used to think, which was merely "more." One double, and I'm already nearly at a nice working trot! Another double is a little too much for the slippery, lumpy place I ride, but I can ask for it here and there, and it's just great. Nearly every problem we have can be worked through merely by getting "doubled!"
Odd though, when I start out, from a lively, brisk trot, as soon as we get the canter, it's as if all the energy starts to drain away. If I can keep going, no problems; but if I let it get to a certain slowness, I risk the silly stuff. It's much more work than an easy lope. But I'm sure all will improve, especially as the footing gets better.
- Posted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 2:25 pm
Joined: 01 Jan 2011
Location: Central Texas
Great that the "doubling" is working for you! Hard to say without actually knowing your mare, but she may be arguing when her feet slow down because she does not want to put the effort out. We have a few "laid back" horses here that act the same way!
Try to keep using the doubling for that working trot and get her used to working for longer periods of time with some velocity - putting out energy. Keep her busy as far as some laterals, serpentines, circles, figure eights, etc. If she peters out on the turns, don't be afraid to use your outside leg for energy. By using the leg, I mean don't use it confrontationally - just let it hang loosely and lightly bounce it off of her from the knee. Don't squeeze or tighten your calf (and don't use your heel!); loose leg so she does not get bracey against it and you loose more energy.
As far as the canter getting silly right after the transition - just let her go back to the trot until you feel it is nice, relaxed and forward again; then begin doubling and get that canter transition. The point here is not to make the canter the "bad guy" and don't ask for the canter until she is in the right frame of mind as you are setting her up for failure and arguing.
Don't make the canter your goal. Your goal is to get her energy up and at a working pace so you can get something done. Every once and awhile, through in that transition, but don't keep her at the canter - just work on getting there. Once she gets used to working outputting more, staying at the canter (even at slower speeds) will be easier for her.
That's just my best guess as to what may be going on!
I know I'm taking advantage of your generous advice, but one LAST question, please! WHY not use heels? WHY not the calf? The "floppy leg"-- if I was doing it right-- was quite interesting, and actually effective, but not very pretty! I've never had this suggestion before.
And thank you again!
- Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:16 pm
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Location: Grantville, PA
Tight legs give something to brace against and can make them claustrophobic. If you need to 'leg her on" it is better to bump, bump, bump, bump- they can only brace against the steady pressure.
And I agree taht canter does not need to be the goal- getting your horse hot off the go button is the goal.
Instead of always doubling, try a slow trot and immediatly tripple it- now that she understands the exercise. (Of course, only on days with good footing!!) The whole idea is leg means go!!!
This biggest peice of advice I can give rightr now is that you do not lay off until she is going under her own steam. If you quit bumping and begging and she immediatly slows, then start right back in, then release, and repeat as many time as neccesary. if she is quiting on you and not maintaining you are probably rewarding a little too quickly
Actually...the whole goal is not to get her "hot on the go button" just yet or maybe not at all, depending on your goals. The goal is to build trust and a relaxed response, by letting her fall into the transition and making the goal the release. The release is not out of pushing, but out of allowing it to happen; making it the mares idea. I think at this point, tripling can cause a brace to come right back and get ugly again.
In my opinion, building a positive working attitude is first and foremost.
The bouncy leg, while not pretty, is not a long term aide. As Danee said, tight calf can cause her to push back against you at this point (hopefully not later on, as I use a flexion of my calf for some aides). Depending where your leg lays on your horse, is depending if you use the heel or not and never by pushing it into your horses side, just as an extention of your leg. I only use the parts of my leg that naturally lay against the horse. Many times when you use your heel, you are taking your thigh off of the horse (maybe your knee too), and digging that same seat bone into the horses' back. Also, many people tend to put more bend in the hip and knee joint - shortening the whole leg. When in essence, you should be lengthening your leg when used as an aide.
The bouncy leg on the outside (notice I did not tell you to do both legs at the same time...) is to encourage energy only, especially in a bend or circle. It is not the same as the continuous, nagging, kick you see with some dressage riders. If you want to know the truth, it is mainly to help the rider to remember energy and focus on forward movement...this also make it non-confrontational to the horse.
This is hard to advise, being as I don't really know you or your mare, but in my mind, this is the basics for transitions and getting them solid. My horses go off of a deepening of my breath, a tone in my core and if needed, a tightening of the thigh. I use alternating aides for the trot (left/right in time with the back legs) and I relax the outside of my core for the canter, which also lifts my inside hip...I can't remember the last time I used my heels at all for forward energy or lower leg alone - without my seat or thigh asking first. Even when training a young horse, I use the aides I eventually want (consistent pressure; core, thigh) then use a horsemans' string over my hips to drive the horse or my bonky-ball (which really is an endotapper; a dressage whip with a foam ball at the end) to utilize rythmatic pressure. I never ever ever increase my consistent pressure aides, I want my horses to stay sensitive to them.
Glad this is helping and great you are giving new things a try! You never know what will click for the two of you.
- Posted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 4:50 pm
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Location: Grantville, PA
Actually...the whole goal is not to get her "hot on the go button" just yet or maybe not at all, depending on your goals. The goal is to build trust and a relaxed response, by letting her fall into the transition and making the goal the release.
Yeah- the "relaxed response" is to "fall into the transition" and gain "release"- AKA GO!!! Going when she uses her leg is the only way for the mare to gain release. Going is not bracing or hopping or head tossing or anything else- going is going. Once the mare learns that the answer is to "go" all other answers will simply disapear. If she was hot off the go button she would not be wasting time bracing. It is all semantics, but please do not say that getting her to go isn't the goal.
As far as trippling, Belin made it sound like doubling is going great. Sounds like the problem is no longer to get moving but to keep moving, so get the get going even better. Never ever ever giving the horse something to brace against is not the way to teach her to never ever brace. A horse can't learn to give to pressure if there never is any- does that make sense?
Also, I do bump bump bump with both legs and I start with upper leg, but will progress to kick, kick, kick if need be, but like cabacha suggested, many times just hanging in there with your lighter bumping will do the trick. If I am only using one leg than I am only talking to one leg (Lateral work, bend, quicken, etc)so I personally bump with both, but I don't think this difference is really a very big one in teh horse's eyes. What I do not do is squueeezzee- at least not at first. However, a horse SHOULD know how to reaspond to a solid squeeze- I just don't expect that until after they understand the bumping. I time my aids- have been for years so it comes pretty natural, but I want someone else to be able to get on a horse and ride, so the horse should be able to comprehend a squeeze- if the horse reacts negativly when squeezed than there is opposition reflex you have not worked through which is what i ment at the last sentece of the above paragraph.
Once horse and rider are comfy picking up the canter from a faster trot, i often find it easier to get a "nice" canter depart from the walk than the trot. This is more for the rider than the horse. It is much easier to collect the walk and apply hip, then to try to really sit deeply enough at the trot to apply the hip.
As usual in any discussion, two sides may not agree! While I understand your point about the GO, there is a time and a place to work on that (different set of exercises in order to teach sometimes the horse, sometimes the rider). The horse first needs to learn a relaxed, positive response and feel in each gait so they have a starting point to go back to when and if they get upset or discombobulated. Such as doubling the energy before you ask for any transition (transition meaning any change: change of gait, change of bend, change of direction, etc.) and once again afterward. They quickly learn to keep the energy through. You set it up and then build on it - in a non-confrontational way...you get more flies with honey, so to speak and develop a cooperative, willing horse.
In my opinion, the horse offers enough braces on their own to give a chance to work on them - there is no point in creating more. In the canter, I never said sit deep from the trot. I relax my outside core and allow my inside hip to lift. Never pushing/driving or using energy in a negative way.
The only time I use two legs is for up, such as levade, pasade, ect. There is nothing natural about using two legs at the same time for energy forward. This is a learned behavior (and a "cue" instead of an "aide")...just get on any young horse and use two legs and see what you get. Stop, back up or worse; in the least, confusion. If that were the case, jockeys would have long legs and squeeze for that finish line. In addition, you are limiting yourself for upper level movements. Plus, there is no way on the ground to prepare them for that.
I would never kick or use my legs (or other aides for that matter) with more velocity until the horse gave me the response. Personally, if my horse does not respond to my suggestion with consistent pressure, I use rythmatic pressure with my string or bonky ball, as I said. If during that time frame (such as a circle in a trot), my horse loses energy, I do not go back to my consistent pressure and teach the horse to ignore me (unless I am totally schooling a super green horse), I use my rythmatic pressure to reinforce the request. You can reference PK for that one...
With my horses and my students, I choose to teach them a more enlightened way, instead of dull the horse down so anyone can ride them...but that's just me!
No offense to anyone who uses those methods!
- Posted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 12:54 pm
Joined: 07 Feb 2010
Location: Kingston, Ontario
I think you both have great points. Like it or not other people are more than likely going to be riding the horse that you train in it's lifetime, and as the majority of riders are still used to 'cueing' the horse with both legs, eventually the horses are going to have to learn to go forward off of both. That said I do think Cabachas method is very understandable, from the horses point of view. I tend to use a variety of the two, depending on what kind of horse I'm riding and the situation. Feel it out, you know?
In Belin's case, she says the footing is poor, so I'm thinking that that could be a definite factor in the horse being unable to continue in canter. I personally never train the canter if I'm not comfortable with the footing. And in fact I never show during slippery show days, either. There's just too much at stake to have a horse hurt because of bad conditions. You can do so much in walk and trot, anyway. I used to spend my winters not cantering at all, before we built the indoor.
I'd also like to know how old the horse is, how much training they've had, and what size arena Belin is riding in. I find sometimes with the inexperienced horses even with good footing, the balance isn't good enough yet for them to be comfortable in a small arena.
I've got a few students beginner level right now all working at different stages of the canter, and many of them riding the same horse/s. Slight positional issues and/or poor rider balance make these schoolies go like night and day. Brilliant canters with some, very very poor canters with others. And as we work on the rider in little ways you can see the canter improve. Perhaps it is something as small as a positional fix?
In a recent lesson, I was told to canter as much as I trot, that it wouldn't improve otherwise. (I didn't tell him I probably do more walking than trotting...)
And in another lesson with my "regular" teacher (our lessons are only sporadic) we agreed that Bella needs to get more responsive to the leg. Danee's "GO" in fact. I've been working on it. But oops, I DID flop both legs last time, and she gave a lovely leap
In my most recent lesson, we were introduced to the counter canter, much too soon I thought, but we've worked on it (on good days) and it's the ONLY TIME Bella really gets forward and solid in her canter. She gets insterested, and tries so hard (it's too easy for her to swap leads, and it took a long time for her to be convinced the awkward WRONG lead was the goal) and gets quite proud of herself when we do it (so I think). The last time we went out, she did really, really well; so I asked for a bigger (not doubled, but a little faster please!) canter, and I could feel the brakes starting in again. Frustrating.
She was started at three, on a long, all-day ride in the crater-- not an easy ride. She showed an inclination to buck (I think balk) and was given to a barrel racer to train, because Bella can be very fast (mostly TB, 1/4 Arab). The barrel racer brought her back after one month, said she couldn't "do a thing" with her. (I wonder what happened.) So she was left to pasture until she was six, when I got her. It took a full year to get over the head tossing, due I think to the running martingale she'd been ridden in. THEN I started on contact, etc. Everything's going swell except for this niggling problem with the canter... She's a darling, good-natured, not EXACTLY lazy, just casual, and a perfect horse to try different things with, as she always shows me some response. And she enjoys the experiments, she actually likes to play "games."
We do not go the same every day, and I am VERY grateful for the various approaches on the this forum. It's wet today, and I'll probably be doing a little bit of cantering from the walk (she does do that quite well, in balance, after trot-walk transition; it's from the trot that there's the biggest problem. However, as has been suggested, I think that fundamentally, we need to get the canter itself more "friendly." This is going to take while! She's just coming into her ninth year.
- Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 2:15 am
Joined: 15 Jan 2007
Location: Grantville, PA
Belin, congrats on working your mare through so much already- sounds like a not so easy start!!
Blueskies, you make some great points.
Cabacha, most of what you describe is how I ride with a few exception, however much of our business is starting horses where we only get a few days with the owner- I can't possibly teach every rider that rides every horse i ever touch, so they must understand basics, like go off both legs.
That said, when you talk about getting a "relaxed response" and that "go" may not be what you are looking for, what exactly do you want the response to be. When someone says they aply the forward aids, and the horse does not 'go' but responds in a relaxed way, I picture a rider asking the hrose to move and the horse saying ,"Look, I am not afraid of your aids at all- isn't that great!" and mosey's along ignoring its rider. Obviously I want a hrose that is not afraid of my aids, but I do want the correct response. I don't think you mean to apply the go aids and be happy with the horse doing nothing at all, so what I am I missing here. I feel you may be bringing up a really great point, but I am not getting it. If the horse is not to "go" what is it to do???
also this comment confuses me as well...
Never pushing/driving or using energy in a negative way Is all pushing negative energy now? Why is using core strength negative energy, but annoying the hrose with a ball on a stick is not??? I don't mean to be offensive but ALL pressure wether steady or rhythmic, from the leg, the seat, a stick, voice, whatever is to annoy the horse until he gives a correct reasponse at which point the (mildly) annoying pressure goes away. Why is seat somehow more negative than a bonky thing???
I understand totally where you are coming from. Most of the horses I sell (or that we train) are going to average type riders that use the basic cue system. I do not work with the training horses anymore under saddle; I work with them on the ground only when a special case comes up and the horse really needs to focus on the relax response. The young horses that I have bred and are up for sale, I do all the groundwork, saddle preparation work and the first rides bareback. At that point, my husband does a lot of the riding or advanced students during classes. I am fully aware that these horses need to be adjusted in the normal world. I have anywhere from 3-5 horses that I personally work with daily – and only me. 3 of them are my own personal horses that I work with for my own pleasure, promotion, exhibitions or showing. Then I take on 1 or 2 other horses that I have held back from my breeding program to train to a higher level and sell. These horses have been previously ridden by my husband, so they are fully aware of how to go off the leg. It is interesting though, as soon as I introduce my techniques, the horses go better, are more relaxed and responsive. When I am teaching students, I adjust to what their needs are and their goals…however, it is usually not long until they start asking why their horses do not look like mine and how do they go about learning that.
Relax and go are two different subjects – I want my horses to “go relaxed”. Relaxation means absence of tension or force. It is not long before a tense dancer or gymnast gets injured or breaks down. You can only get so far with a braced, contracted horse and you can never achieve lightness and true freedom of movement. It’s really that simple. When I ask my horse to go, I want an active, relaxed response – not sluggish, lazy or unengaged and I most definitely do not want a tense, thrusting reaction. I hardly want my horses afraid of my aides or even weary of them…which causes reaction (not response) which causes stiffness which causes heaviness which causes them being unsettled in the brain which causes things such as swishy tails and busy mouths and bouncy movement (bouncy being up and down not really forward).
I stand firm when I say that asking a horse to go forward using two legs is not natural – it is normal and normal is mediocre at best – no offense! I have to say that if I told half of my clients that today we are going to get their horses “hot off of the go button”, they would pee their big girl panties! But, I understand what you are saying, no doubt, its’ just a different way of going about it. Never pushing/driving or using energy in a negative way. What that means is that I don’t want to use my aides in a negative way, whatever they may be. There certainly are ways to ask for energy without being negative about it. Simply think of someone telling you to put your heels down when you ride…then think of being told to put your toes up when you ride. Same result, however one has a negative feel, one has a positive feel. If using two legs at the same time naturally causes the horse to lift up and stop their feet (hey, even normal upper level sport dressage teaches to close both legs for the halt!), then you have to condition them to respond in a way that you desire. I don’t have a problem with this. However, it is limiting your aides later on if you ever want true lightness or upper level movements – you’ll have to put in yet another “cue” system for that and it just can’t be as true as it would be if it was brought about naturally. It will never be as light or free. It will be stiff and manufactured.
If the seat is used to drive or push, then you are digging into the horses back, as subtle as you think it may be…or maybe not so subtle. Horses have two natural reactions to this: brace up against it or drop away from it. Neither is conducive to keeping the horses back relaxed and working through – you lose the connection. So now you must do more driving and maybe firming up on the rein to try to regain it. You have “fixed” one problem by creating another. Hardly seems worth it.
Think of it this way, it is much easier to go through an open door instead of a closed one. If you only use your body minimally, even at the beginning of training and use a dressage whip or string to encourage energy, then you are leaving the road open for many more levels of horsemanship, less confusion for the horse later on and your horse feels good about it. Yes, they may be just as annoyed mentally if I use the bonky ball to go; however, I am not messing up the physical parts of the horse to gain my result. My seat and legs are inviting the horse to come with them, not driving or pushing them on; there is no tension in my body causing negative energy – it stays inviting. Bring the horses back up into your seat, not bring your seat down onto the horse…
It is a hard concept to get across like this without being able to show you and let you feel the difference. I’ll say one more thing; if energy is an issue when you ride then that goes back to respect and that means you’d better go back to groundwork. There are holes there and they need to be fixed up before you get back on. If a transition is bad in the saddle, then I’d be willing to say that it is not solid in the groundwork. Many of my clients that have issues at the canter do not canter their horses enough on the ground, whether on line or liberty. It can be as simple as the horse not being in shape for it and then asked to carry a saddle and rider and magically have the energy or stamina to sustain it. Not saying that this is anyones’ issue on here but this is usually the case. If, however, canter is solid on the ground, meaning your horse goes without much effort on your part and stays in the canter as long as you wish without nagging them on the ground – then it is rider error. Rider position, hanging on the rein, go-but-not-that-fast, mistimed aides or unsureness in the rider, are all areas to be looked at.
- Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 1:11 am
Joined: 01 Jan 2011
Location: Central Texas
I was thinking today about this thread while working (and chatting with our barn manager) and there is something that should be considered more. Being as this forum is Natural Dressage, I feel that that while it pertains to Dressage, it also pertains to Natural Horsemanship.
In either case, I don't believe that having a horse go with your legs is the ultimate goal (maybe in sport Dressage...). In NH, it is at least the second and probably the third phase of asking a horse to move off. In PNH back in the day, we learned to ask with picking up your energy, using your seat, then the legs, then push with the stick or string. The goal was to have the horse go with your energy...just as on the ground. You did not want to leave it at your legs.
If the horse responds in the roundpen at liberty by seeing us pick up our energy and intent, then under saddle (where it is much more intimate), they surely feel us give light suggestions and aids. If they feel a fly land anywhere on their body and have the ability to respond by shaking their skin, then why must we apply a lot of pressure with our body or on the rein?
The simple fact is that we miss the subtleties of the try early on, go past it into a brace and create resistance in the horse. Or we buy a horse that someone has already ruined and shut down. These horses are tuned out, much like children used to living in a household where parents argue and fight all of the time. It becomes the accepted or the norm. Kick me and I go...pull my head and I'll follow. There is no partnership or thought involved.
I always think of something as simple as the send with the horse on line (or at liberty). Many students lift the lead hand and arm to direct the horse. Consider from the horses point of view. They are standing square looking at you, you lift your left arm close to their eye level. The most natural thing for them to do is to back up and/or leave to the right. You have created a block to the left and then expect the horse to go past the block to get relief. It does not make sense to them, so then you have to put a cue system in. Here, ignore my energy and body blocking you, go through it and go around in a circle. Plus you have created a horse that leaves stiffly and easily throws the nose to the outside and drops the inside shoulder. Then you have to fix that up, which usually makes them feel as if they are getting in trouble or have done the wrong thing - you cause a brace from the get go.
Does this make any sense?
- Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 2:11 am
Joined: 29 Jan 2011
Location: Oakdale, MN
Phillipe Karl talks about two types of canter departs in his book. One he calls the "loss of balance" where the canter starts by lifting the croup. The other is by "gain of balance" where the canter starts by lifting the shoulders.
He stresses knowing which side is your horse's stiff and supple side. Knowing this then will create the ideal position to ask for the depart. Specifically for the canter depart, the outside shoulder needs to be weighted he explains.
As a very telling experiment take something heavy, like a full bucket, and then pretend to canter. See which lead is easier for you.
More than any other exercise he says the canter strike off is based on whatevery you establish as your code for the canter. You could teach your horse to canter off by touching the ear.
He explains that the "lesson of the leg" as follows:
1. very light pressure of lower leg that must lead to a frank and immediate acceleration.
2. if not, the pressure of the leg is prolonged and with a second, the whip is used decisively(tapping with an increasing frequency and intensity until a lively reaction is obtained.)
3. Let the horse express themselves. After going at most once around the arena, stop and praise the horse.
4. Repeat the process until the horse anticipates the effect of the whip. Then reward generously.
5. Any unrequested slowing must cause an immediate reminder, not from the leg, but from the whip.
I am Phillipe Karl obsessed hear lately and wanted to share.
- Posted: Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:07 pm
Joined: 07 Feb 2010
Location: Kingston, Ontario
Odd though, when I start out, from a lively, brisk trot, as soon as we get the canter, it's as if all the energy starts to drain away. If I can keep going, no problems; but if I let it get to a certain slowness, I risk the silly stuff...
...In my most recent lesson, we were introduced to the counter canter, much too soon I thought, but we've worked on it (on good days) and it's the ONLY TIME Bella really gets forward and solid in her canter...
...a little bit of cantering from the walk (she does do that quite well, in balance, after trot-walk transition; it's from the trot that there's the biggest problem...
From the sounds of things, Belin (and I'm hesitant here because I've never seen a vid of you go) this could be a balance/strength issue. If that were the case I'd probably do lots of transition work including rein back, and asking for all transitions with a high head initially, nose out. I'd only do a few strides at a time if you find that tapping with the whip doesn't work to keep her going. You really don't want to be allowing her fall out of a gait whenever she feels like it, so make the decision to slow down yourself. The transitions should help build muscle while really showing her how she needs to carry you, there's no need to carry on in canter for kilometers. I'd likely also want her to start canter from either walk or a 'put together' trot - one where she's not running over her balance or anxious about it. You can't get a balanced canter from an unbalanced trot.
Cabacha- Thanks. I figured this was just a matter of semantics ( wether going is the goal) and I am pretty sure now that it is. I don't think we are really doing anything differently
If the seat is used to drive or push, then you are digging into the horses back
This of course assumes that by "driving" with the seat you mean that the seat is heavy. My seat aids for go feel like I am lifting some (not as much for downward transitions) and i almost pretend there is a board coming out of the front of my saddle and I am pushing against it. I am definitly reving up my molecules, but I think when most NH trainers say "raise your energy" students translate that into "move a lot and be noisy in your seat" which of course misses the point, but again, its all semantics!!!
Diabygg- what an exceelent way not only of describing the weight, but an interesting visual to help riders get the correct lead. I often talk about stretching an elastic band tied from pelvis to collar bone on the insde, but I think I like even better the though of being weighed down by a heavy water bucket on the outside- as long as the rider knows to push up against the weight!
Another exercise I find works well is 1/4 walk pirouette to canter.
Yes yes YES!!! I LOVE this one and too often forget about it. Thanks for the reminder. (they should have this in a test somewhere!!! yeah right- like that would ever happen!!!)
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