Friday, May 4, 2012

Easy to love: Ponies

Hey, all--asking for some advice on canter work.

Okay, now I'm getting ready for the show season -- Send me your ideas/experiences/techniques for getting a balanced, light, uphill canter.  I feel better about Ri's trot work, but my goodness, the canter work is -- shall we say -- inconsistent. He's holding the canter pretty well, but we start out okay for a few strides and then it's like we're digging a hole in the ground. I think I ride tensely because I want him to keep cantering, and it pushes him on his forehand. Obviously that ain't right, but talk to me about riding the canter with the right feel!

Now on to our regularly scheduled pony cuteness video!
I have never been short/slight enough to really ride a pony. I would practically outweigh this one. You always want what you can't have, and I'm enamored of the Thelwell-type pony. I would take this one in a heartbeat.


  1. To improve the canter, do transitions, transitions, transitions. To be precise, transition from canter to walk or halt - absolutely do not allow him to fall out of the canter into the running trot. At first you might only do a few strides of canter and than back to the walk. Soon he will begin to anticipate the transition to walk and slow himself down as he re-balances in preparation for it. Then you got him! When that happens you need only gently encourage him to continue on in that nice, slow, rebalanced canter.



  2. Cute music and an adorable pony. Tactful rider who actually "fit" him quite well. Thanks for this. I need a happy horse video right about now (upset stomach and fierce headache--and no time in my schedule for either one).

  3. Being I am 5'2", I have no CHOICE but to love ponies. Also, my Friesian is crossed with a Welsh sec D and my rescue is a pony mare. SO ... with all that said, it is a totally different ride. But, ponies are smart. If you get one on YOUR SIDE, there is NO beating it. It's like having a good mare at any size. Once they are in your pocket and for your cause ... acting as your team member ... there really is NO beating a pony! Teddy O'Connor was a prime example of that mantra.

    Toy Boy must be cloned and come to my farm!!!!!

  4. I feel like that too, my horse is too much on the forehand in the canter. Here's what works for me: Don't look down, my instructor has me look up. The important thing for me is not to tilt my head down..seems to put him on the forehand. This works especially well in downward transitions.

  5. Oh, Mike beat me to it.....transitions, transitions, transitions......and MORE transitions! :-) If I (as an AA) could create a decent canter in a Standardbred and compete her successfully through First Level, you can do it with Riley!!

  6. Forward Forward Forward. He's got to get his hind legs under him to get off the forehand. The best way to teach that is forward forward forward- don't worry about him being on the bit - push you hands forward and GO. He should be immediately responsive to seat and/or leg.

    If he's not, go back, push your hands forward and GO. Don't worry about his back or his connection or his frame.

    This is what we're doing with my guy, who, as one barn buddy said during a free walk about a year ago, "It looks like you're riding a slide..." That's how down hill and on the forehand he is.

    We do this halt walk halt walk first. Then halt trot halt trot - allowing the trot to really GO - and my guy's head is in the air, I have a feel on his mouth (the reins aren't long, but my hands are FORWARD - do not kick and grab. kick and let him go)

    Once he is clear and offering trot immediately - a good forward trot, that is, we go to walk canter walk canter. Same thing - GO SOMEWHERE, I DON'T CARE WHERE YOUR HEAD OR YOUR BACK IS, I WANT YOUR FEET MOVING!

    He will eventually start to offer halt canter halt. Its very cool.

    But if your guy is so on the forehand he stumbles, this may not be the best "first" approach. Mike is right - transitions are key - CORRECT canter, CORRECT trot (do not SPLAT on the downward) Once you're good, then do the "forward" exercises - that teaches him to rebalance himself because could be asked at any time to GO.


    Good luck, fellow slide rider!

  7. The best way to improve the canter is through frequent transitions, rather than by more canter. I like to work on a 20 meter circle and do transitions every 10 strides . . . or every six strides . . . really whatever works for you. The transitions will help him step under himself and re-balance. I prefer Canter/Trot transitions at first.

  8. I agree with Mike about the transitions. Excellent technique. Makes you use your half halt and you can gradually turn full transitions into "Half transitions" where you do not break to the lower gait but do a kind of "hesitation" stride or two in the canter and then go on.

    Leg yield to the wall in the canter can also help the horse stride under better.

    And, never underestimate the value of counter canter. On a circle, it can really encourage the horse to balance up. Start off with a bend to the counter lead, and eventually, you can actually hold counter canter with the horse slightly bent to the inside of the circle.

  9. My two cents...
    When your seat comes forward with the swing of the canter stride, accentuate the "up" of the swing instead of pushing the pommel forward toward his ears, which pushes his forehand down. You could even let your seat rise just above the saddle at the top of the stride and see if your horse will meet you there. Leave the canter before the niceness wavers.

  10. I could be totally off base here but given you mention that the canter starts well, that you think you're tensing up, and also that it's due to wanting him to keep cantering, I'm guessing that you might find that the real, and really, really common problem is that you're too mentally focused on the quality of the canter and not enough on his responsiveness to your aids. (I do this too, pretty much everybody does!)
    Two things to help, besides the transitions suggested above. First, focus on having him properly off the leg - you should put your leg on for the canter aid, get the canter and then your leg should be completely off, and he should keep cantering without your leg on until you tell him to do something different. The other is that you should not be using your seat to maintain the canter. So there are two potential problems here, not enough forward and you not trusting him to keep being forward. My favorite fix for this (safety and fitness concerns permitting)to get outside the arena, preferably a big field somewhere and canter laps. A big arena will do if that's not possible. Stay in sitting canter, but work on keeping your seat light, not quite a half seat but think of your seatbones barely touching. One hole up on your stirrups helps with this. If you start to lose the canter, leg on, leg off. Be very strict with yourself about it being a quick, electric aid. If he starts to yaw and get heavy then very quickly check that you are still light, and then be very definite about backing him off the bit with your hands. If necessary send him forward as well with your electric leg - resist the temptation to push his head back up with your seat.

  11. Lovelovelovelove ponies!! That's about all I can say ;)

  12. Have you tried alternating between counter bending and leg yielding on a circle?? I've used this exercise a lot with my bunch- and it improves the 'jump' in the canter, thus making it more uphill and balanced.
    To elaborate- on a circle, slowly bend the horses head to the outside, so that the horse is literally looking towards the outside. Use your inside leg to keep the pace (you'll need a strong leg to keep the horse moving forward while counter bended!) After a few strides, bring the flex back the inside and canter leg yield back to the wall.
    Makes for a very supple and balanced canter!

  13. Do you use cavaletti at all? When I was working my mare through her terrible canter (her butt would swing out to the side and it felt like riding an egg beater) having the cavaletti or just plain pvc ground poles really helped. Ask for the transition over the pole and hold it. If you set them up on a circle you can use it as a transition point nicely. If you space 3 or 4 of them at a canter stride distance and canter over them, he will use his back more and need to stay soft to make it over. He may try to hop over them at first if you ahve not used them, but he will eventually realize he can just step over them with less effort.

  14. In response to improving the canter:

    With my own gelding, I didn't get a truly workable canter until I began incorporating counter canter into my regular workload. It started with just going from the corner to the quarterline, with only one or two counter canter strides. Eventually, as in 6 months down the line, we were able to do 20m circles in counter canter. A few months later, 6 loop serpentines were within our grasp.

    Canter-walk transitions, IMO, are quite difficult for a horse to do well and I just don't think Riley, or any young horse, is ready for that at this point. I could just see it being more of a nose dive than a canter-canter-walk. I didn't start practicing them until I was preparing for Intermediate eventing. Considering that canter-walk transitions aren't asked for until 2nd level, I feel like that is indicative of the training the horse should have under its belt before attempting that transition.

  15. Very cute pony. In re. to the canter work. What has worked for me is first focus on getting the canter moving; what's the one thing we always hear at the lower levels -- more activity. Work on the forward movement and keep his head up. It's their job to hold-up their head. I do agree w/ Mike's recommendation too. Its really a matter of what works for your horse.

    Happy riding!!!

  16. What an awesome pony!! My friend is pondering getting a horse/pony for her 5 year old daughter and I sure wish there was something like this available!!

    As to the canter work if you have ground poles available to use I know people that had great results in using these to help get a) more uphill & precise canter transitions and b) more balanced, uphill canter work.

    Good luck!


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