Ruth's Blog post # 5: Connection Issues in Canter Transitions


Does your horse come above the bit, toss his head or climb with his head and neck into every canter transition?

If your answer is yes, you should ask yourself the following questions. There is a reason that your horse displays this behavior. Don't look at the symptom. Get to the root of the problem. The SYMPTOM is that your horse comes off the bit in the transition. The CAUSE lies in one of these questions.

This list of questions deals with training and rider issues, not physical or external issues.

    • Is my horse forward enough before I ask for the canter?


    • Is my horse accepting a true connecting aid before I ask for the canter?


    • Is my horse truly going toward the outside rein while the flexion to the inside is maintained?


    • Am I stopping him with too much inside rein during the depart?


    • Am I following the motion of the neck into the depart with my arms during the depart?


    • Am I following with my seat from back to front during the transition?


    • Is climbing above the bit a habit now? Do I need to exaggerate any of the above things to get him over the hump of climbing.


    • Is my horse straight?


    • Is my horse leaning on my inside leg?


    • Is my horse laterally supple before you ask for the canter?


    • Is my horse under himself with the hind leg before you ask.


    • Is my horse in front of my leg?


  • Is your timing with in the stride correct for picking up the canter?

Remember the outside hind leg is the strike off leg. You should be giving the aid just before the outside hind leg strikes the ground. If you are not giving the canter aid at the right moment, his legs have to make a completely new rotation before he CAN pick up the canter. He may be trying to canter when you ask, but can't because the wrong leg is on the ground. This may be why he is using his neck to lift himself up into the canter instead of using his hind leg.

This second list should prompt you to ask about physical and external issues. 

    • Does my horse need his teeth floated


    • Does my saddle fit.


    • Is the footing agitating my horse?


    • Is my horse cold backed?


    • Does my horse canter easily on the loung line?


    • Is my horse muscle sore?


    • Does my horse have back or neck pain?


    • Am I using an appropriate girth for my horses conformation?


    • Are my horses feet sore?


    • Is this behavior happening all the time or during my mares heat cycle?


    • Is the area I am in large enough to canter forward in?


  • Does my horse do this with another rider up, or just with me?

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