Question # 227: My horse is an “energy conservationist.” Out on cross-country or in the stadium ring, he is inspired to be reasonably forward and balanced. In the dressage ring? Not so much. The current struggle is canter quality...

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...We got to a certain level of forward and balanced, and now we are ready to move up from BN to N, and need more impulsion and more balance. However, this idea is NOT popular with the equine half of the team. When I push for more impulsion, he hollows out, dumps all his weight on his forehand and moves against the contact. It’s like riding a belligerent chestnut wheelbarrow. At home, I’m working on this by putting him on a 20m circle, going back to trot as soon as the canter starts to deteriorate, and then back up into canter, and repeat. It does seem to help - at first we get maybe 2 strides of “good” canter at a time and by the end of the ride, we’re getting a half circle. Meanwhile, I am insisting on a meaningful response to the leg by giving him an immediate swat behind the leg if he ignores it or gives a half-hearted response. What else should I be doing? (Rachel) 

Hi Rachel!

This is the age old problem of speed vs impulsion! When you ask your horse for more impulsion, you are merely getting more speed. This is putting your horse on the forehand, where he is then looking to you for support. Read this article on impulsion. In addition to defining the term, it will discuss the prerequisites before true impulsion is possible, and how to create it in your horse. And your horse may not be a draft or carriage type horse, but read this article as well, as it contains some very specific exercises that should help you with your horse's canter. It all comes back to... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)

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