From Endurance to Dressage
Talk to Me About the Canter
Seriously. I need some intellectual work in this gate. Here's why.
I had a fantastic schooling ride on Sydney on Monday afternoon. My pre-ride feeding strategy seems to be working as his Food Alert (coined by Erica) mechanism is not being activated. I hopped right on him and worked for a full 30 minutes without a single evasive maneuver. Except.
You knew there had to be one. Sydney wasn't being naughty. He's trying very hard, but we've finally hit a clog. Sydney's left lead canter is wonderful. He lifts his shoulders nicely (compared to Speedy G anyway), he's prompt, and he easily stays out on the circle. The right lead on the other hand is not so great. I wish I had the vocabulary to explain what he is doing, but since I don't, I am simply going to describe what it feels like. If you can offer a mechanical explanation, I would love to hear it.
When I cue for the right lead canter, inside leg at the girth/outside leg slightly back, Sydney vaults to the right and slams into my inside leg. It feels as though he's pivoting on his inside hind leg. It feels as though if I let him continue, we would simply do an inside roll back and canter off the other way. It feels as though there is no "bend" to his ribcage.
On both Sunday and Monday I was able to work through the resistance and eventually get a bendier canter that moved off my inside leg. It required a massive amount of effort on my part: I literally used my entire body as a swinging weight to heave him off my leg at every stride. We did many, many trot to canter transitions until he got the trot to canter with a "semi-curved" ribcage. Each time we returned to trot I had to rebalance him (to the best of my ability) before I cued for the canter again. This trot to canter work did help, but I'd like a more cognitive explanation so I am not just heaving my weight around to get him off my inside leg.
I have a lesson tonight and hope that JL gets a chance to see what I am feeling. I'll let you know what she describes.
1/31/2012 10:31:46 pm
I had a mare that did this and the more I asked her to bend the more she got worked up over it. The exercise that fixed the problem was asking for a volte (6 meter circle) and just before she came out of the volte I would cue her for the canter. The volte puts their body in the correct bend for the canter and makes the transition to canter more natural. I hope this helps
1/31/2012 10:47:50 pm
here is a video showing what I was trying to explain.
2/1/2012 12:02:34 am
Thank you, Emily! I'll watch the video tonight. Your comment sounds like a good trick. I wasn't sure if I should make my circle bigger or smaller - it sounds like smaller would be more effective.
1/31/2012 11:44:04 pm
I don't have a clue what you mean but it sounds like Emily does! It's nice to have concerned horse people to help out when you feel at your witts end about a particular problem. Good luck and I know you'll figure it out and hopeful;ly Sidney will comply. lots of love mom
2/1/2012 10:37:58 am
Thanks, Mom. Sydney and I had a GREAT lesson with JL tonight that really helped.
2/1/2012 02:17:50 am
I interpreted your description as him falling on his inside shoulder. I have this problem, but with the other lead. There's two solutions that my trainer has been working with me on: 1) over bend to the inside plus lots of leg to get them connected to the outside reign and stop them from falling in. This is comparable to the small circle solution that Emily suggested (that puts them on the outside rein and forces the bend). The second solution is an ironically opposite method, but it has worked wonders for Spirit when she is being especially stiff + sassy: keep her straight. No bending whatsoever. Feel like your riding a bus around the arena. Meanwhile do not contact the inside rein except every so often if they swing their head to the outside. Outside rein contact plus no bending = focus on FORWARD and square shoulders. If they take bending to the extreme by falling in, then no bending doesn't give them that opportunity. I look forward to hearing what your trainer says and suggests!
2/1/2012 02:30:24 am
This sounds a lot like what this we do for Speedy: I bend him slightly to the outside which does keep him straight. Eventually releases and I can point his nose more correctly. Sydney's stiffness is more severe so when I tried that, it was almost worse. I've been using your first tip. It sounds as though I intuitively knew what to try. I'm hoping JL can fine tune my efforrts. I am very much appreciating all of the clever tips and solutions. Thankbyou!
2/1/2012 04:23:12 am
I like to use the trot spiral to a canter transition. Trot a 20 m circle and then spiral in slowly to about 10 m. Spiral back out by leg yielding while increasing the circle (always slowly). When you reach the 20 m circle again, ask for the canter. The spiral in and out should keep him between your aids and the spiral/leg yield out should give you the correct flexion and engagement of the inside hind for the canter depart.
2/1/2012 10:41:05 am
Thanks for the advice, Val. I'll try and write about it for tomorrow or the next day, but essentially JL had me do lots of leg yielding on a small circle in an effort to teach him to give and bend. Inside rein held steady, inside leg pushed, pushed, pushed, outside rein kept him from speeding up, and outside leg caught him if his hindquarters drifted out.
2/1/2012 11:06:32 am
My trainer told me often that my old horse went around the arena "like a living 2x4" aka no bend. A lot of horses have a weaker side, sounds like Sydney needs a lot of support from you on this side. It makes it even harder if this might be your weaker side (my young mare and I are both very week on the right side, makes for an interesting ride!)
2/1/2012 09:27:25 pm
He definitely needs a lot of support, but the good thing is that my right side is my stronger side. Before riding dressage, I could never feel the "sides" of a horse. Speedy is nearly even. He's slightly weaker to the right, but he's not stiff ... anywhere! He's like a riding a wet noodle. Sydney, on the other hand, is VERY stiff!
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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