Thursday, December 23, 2010

Training my Standardberd to Canter

Hi Mitzi! My name is Lucy and I wanted to now how to train my standardbred to canter. I have had him for two months and we are walking trotting jumping and mounting great, but the when I try canter him an the lunge he will do about 4 steps and freak out and the last person to try canter him on back hot thrown off and refused to get back on. Please help me! Many thanks, Lucy

Hello Lucy,

This may involve a bit of work. You did not let me know whether your Standardbred was a pacer or trotter. Pacers, especially free-legged ones, are often more difficult to teach to canter.

It is often not just a physical challenge to your horse, but a mental one in his former training, if your horse was taught that if it broke into the canter that that was incorrect behavior.They are usually pulled back fairly abruptly, and since they are wearing a bit and usually an overcheck bit, this can result in pain and discomfort, which definitely stays in the memory of the horse.

Balance is also one of the main issues. Even horses that canter easily may buck if they are having trouble with their balance, i.e.uneven, slick or deep footing,the rider being off balance, or the saddle slipping to one side.I think you should work your horse on the ground as well as your riding exercises. When someone calls me with a problem about their horse's canter, one of my first questions is how well their horses canter on the lunge line. If they answer that he cannot canter well on the lunge, I suggest that this be their first objective. If a horse cannot balance itself on a large circle without the weight of a rider,then it will not be able to canter with the weight of a rider.

My website,, has directives about teaching your horse to lunge correctly. If that is not enough, get back to me and I will guide you through it. Know that lungeing is an art and a learned skill-it does not consist of chasing your horse about with a whip. They will become more balanced and stronger and should remain calm throughout the experience. The gaited horses and standardbreds which I have trained to canter I also taught to "double lunge". The line behind their haunches on the outside of their bodies help them engage their haunches and become better balanced. It also serves to balance the horse much better as the handler can successfully give the horse half halts. Lungeing and double lungeing should never be done with the line attached to the bit. This is not humane. Attach the line to a halter or lungeing cavesson.

In riding, you should work on circles, serpentines and transitions, right now at walk, halt and trot.This will help the horse become more balanced, supple and stronger. Then she will be in a position to better be able to develop her canter. Also, if you have not yet developed an independent seat, you may have to also work on your riding so that you can help your horse through this delicate phrase.

Mitzi Summers

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