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Rounded back and head down in canter - any advice?

(15 Posts)
Georgia1982 Tue 08-Jan-13 16:05:56

If a horse has a tendency to round it's back and lower it's head in canter, what is the likely cause of this and what should be done to correct it?

DolomitesDonkey Tue 08-Jan-13 16:46:41

Ride like an asshat? ;-)

You want the horse to be carrying himself rounded and low although you should be aiming for higher head carriage in balance.

Georgia1982 Tue 08-Jan-13 16:55:58

Hit post too soon......

To give a bit more information it was a friend's horse which I had a trial ride on at the weekend. When I asked for canter it's head went down between its knees and it rounded its back and did a very fast canter, which made me feel very insecure. I just wanted to see if anyone can shed any wisdom as to why this happened and what I can do to stop it happening again.

The horse is 8, but to be honest I think pretty green for an eight year old as the owner does not do much work with it, especially not canter work as I think she herself is a pretty nervous rider (I suspect that is why she is currently looking to loan out the horse......).

The owner did admit that the week before I rode the horse it had been shut in its stable due to really bad rain / mud in the fields. The horse is normally turned out for at least a few hours a day, but had been in 24/7 the week before I rode. She also admitted that in the 5 days before I rode the horse it had been ridden once for 30 minutes, once for 10 minutes and lunged once, which does not seem much for an eight year old horse which is shut in a stable rather than in its field due to bad weather.

The owner seemed to think that the canter mishap was caused because I am not a balanced enough rider and that my canter position was not correct. I accept that I am not an expert rider, but I have ridden for several years and have cantered on numerous other horses without this happening.

Do you think this is more likely to be becuase of my canter position, or due to the horse being shut in its stable and not getting enough work? Or a bit of both?

Either way I am going to book a lesson on the lunge to work on my canter position!


Georgia1982 Tue 08-Jan-13 16:58:24

DolomitesDonkey this was head between the knees type low, not nice on the bit type low if that makes sense!

TinyDancingHoofer Tue 08-Jan-13 17:01:23

Do you mean it feels hollow through it's back? The horse sounds like it's probably quite unfit so i'd do a lot of flatwork, trot and canter to build and develop the muscles so it has the ability to carry itself properly, before teaching it how to.

Or it could just be your position, how you carry your hands, not saying you are doing it wrong but it could be very different to what the horse is used to, iyswim?

TinyDancingHoofer Tue 08-Jan-13 17:02:50

Also an excited fresh horse can be completely different to one in regular work.

TinyDancingHoofer Tue 08-Jan-13 17:06:13

Sorry for lots of posts but have you seen the horse ridden by anyone else? I did used to ride a racehorse that carried his head so low in canter he managed to bite a jack russell without moving his head any lower.

*Nb to jack russell owners, don't let your dog loose on private gallops.

Booboostoo Tue 08-Jan-13 17:18:49

There are two ways horses take off, they either stick their heads in the air or they stick their heads very low. By putting his head low the horse was loading all his weight on the forehand, probably tipping you a bit forward in your seat which would make you less effective and becoming heavier in the hand because his centre of gravity has moved over the front legs rather than over the back legs.

To correct this you need to:
- think about your position. Sit up, chest out, look up.
- correct the horse. Loads of half-halts to make sure the horse stays engaged from behind with mini-give-and-retake the hands to ensure he does not lean on the bit. If he does tank off with you, don't hesitate from doing a strong half-halt to say "Up and forward" not "down and forward".
- some exercises can help. Keep the horse on a circle and nicely bent around your inside leg. On a straight line ask for shoulder fore so that you have more control of the shoulders. The straighter he gets, the more he will be able to tank off as if you are a cart he is pulling. The more you curve him the more he has to relax his body. Do loads of transitions from all the paces and within all the paces, this will help get him lighter in front. Ask for canter after a leg yield to remind him of the need to bend around the inside leg.

The fact that he hadn't been ridden or turned out will not have helped you at all, he will have been both stiff and full of it. It was a bit unfair of the owner not to tell you this before you got on.

horseylady Tue 08-Jan-13 17:52:03

Mine does it when wanting to buck!! Usually when she's had no turnout and is very fresh!!

Do as boo says I doubt you were totally to blame. I can stop it happening by doing lots of transitions and not letting her run on. But if im slightly unbalanced, I know shell do it. But I know my horse very well!!

DolomitesDonkey Wed 09-Jan-13 06:43:13

Given what you've said I think it's a combination of feeling mighty fresh and perhaps a lack of inexperience on your part.

It's not good full stop for a horse to be caged like that, no ifs, no buts, it's bad practice.

What you can do though - or rather what I'd do when faced with such a situation is initially I'd spend the first 10 minutes riding in a hunting position (g'wan then, just try and buck me off!) and I would simultaneously drive the horse forward with my legs and seat whilst holding him in. That does NOT mean kick and pull, but instead a much more holistic system whereby he's moving forward but has an invisible fence in front of him. Let him go, but not ALL The way if that makes sense whatsoever.

And this is why I could never teach, I can't explain. :S

I know lots of people are in favour of transitions, but for a horse this fresh I would do serpentines, LOTS of them and all at a trot until he's "asking" to walk or at least you feel he's relaxed on the forehand and you're doing much more than simply steering!

Booboostoo Wed 09-Jan-13 07:56:37

If the horse is jogging and breaking out of pace from trot to canter, then you have a different issue of tension rather than a horse which is becoming heavy in canter and running off.

With a tense horse you pick the pace he is most comfortable with (usually the trot, sometimes the canter) and you stay in that pace, encouraging the horse to become as low and long as possible, while still maintaining bend, contact and the ability to half halt. A tense horse is usually tight in the neck, bent behind the vertical in the jaw and feels like there is no weight on the bit (this is not good, it's an avoidance technique). With such a horse if you get weight at the front end it's good as it's now coming through from behind and giving you something to work with.

Those are two completely opposite types of horses though and it is unlikely that one horse displays both training issues (at least not in the same training session).

DolomitesDonkey Wed 09-Jan-13 08:15:36

My husband isn't a particularly experienced rider and when he rides due to his position (keeping weight forward) the horse tends to break in to canter because that's what he's encouraging physically.

Georgia1982 Wed 09-Jan-13 08:46:51

Hi thanks for all the advice.

I think I tend to lean forward a bit in the canter too. Do you think the head between the knees canter could have been caused by my position? Or do you think had more to do with the fact the horse had been locked away in stable and not ridden much?

DolomitesDonkey Wed 09-Jan-13 08:48:24


Booboostoo Wed 09-Jan-13 09:07:45

Yes both. The horse may have been taught to canter when the rider takes the forward position so he may have thought you were asking for canter if he broke into it by himself, and/or he may have been full of energy and needed to expend some.If your weight was forward during the canter it would have been easier for the horse to become heavy in front. Everyone's instinctive reaction when a horse gets out of control is to lean forward and curl up, unfortunately the complete opposite, sit up, sit straight, is required to stop the horse, but it's something we all have to learn.

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