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Improving the Canter

My lessons with Francois lemaire de ruffieu gave me lots to work on with Alsaka, but I felt our next stage of training should be the canter.  Previously she has been heavy in canter so that she is running along on her forehand, this makes it very hard to stop her.

So the task is to help her carry more weight on her hindlegs so that we can both apply the brakes more effectively and she develops more self carriage.  Francois has numerous ways of teaching anything and he chooses which method to use depending on the individual horse & rider.

Alaska really benefitted from lots of suppling exercises like moving her shoulders, then her haunches, then lengthening & shortening the trot & walk.  In particular, moving her shoulders around her haunches in trot improved her balance in the canter transition & the gait itself.

First we ride a circle in trot to the right, then with my left hand using an indirect rein against Alaska’s neck,┬áand my left leg staying positioned slightly behind the girth as it is normally on a right circle, I ask her to move her shoulders around her haunches.┬á The hind legs make a small circle, we aren’t aiming to pirouette (turn on the spot) at this stage.┬á Then when we have turned 180 degrees so we are facing the other way we have inside flexion and I move my left leg and use it at the girth to get the tansition to left canter.

Training the horse to canter from the inside leg at the girth means that later in your horse training when you wish to progress to flying changes for higher level dressage the horse is able to keep straight and not swing its haunches out, which may occur by using the outside leg behind the girth for the canter transition.

Consistency is very important for a horse to learn the meaning of your aids.┬á Francois is insistent on this.┬á┬áHe teaches that the leg behind the girth is only used to mean ‘move your haunches away from the leg’ so that the rider can perform lateral movements effectively.┬á So by using a leg behind the girth for a canter transition the horse may logically believe we mean move the haunches away, which would then produce a crooked canter transition.┬á It makes sense that the horse cannot determine whether a leg behind the girth means canter or move away, so in fairness to the horse we must use one aid to mean one thing to be effective horse riders.

More on how we are improving the transition from canter to trot in the next blog, so reducing running onto the forehand and loss of balance.

Happy horse riding until then!

Ann Marie

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