For­ward first Build­ing strength in the can­ter

NZ Horse & Pony - - Masterclass -

MOV­ING INTO the can­ter, Sean can see straight away that while Devon has been do­ing lots of trot work, there hasn’t been so much can­ter­ing. Chez is quite re­sis­tant in the can­ter, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for Devon. The an­swer, says Sean, is to do heaps more can­ter.

The hard­est thing for young horses in the can­ter is they need to get strong be­hind be­fore they can re­ally hold the can­ter, ex­plains Sean. Sean doesn’t do a lot of cir­cles or dres­sage type work to start with his own young­sters, as they are of­ten too weak phys­i­cally. In­stead, he gets into two-point and can­ters around the arena, un­til the can­ter is good.

Sean gets Devon to do ex­actly this. Al­most im­me­di­ately, the can­ter is trans­formed. As soon as Devon stops wor­ry­ing about where his head is and just rides for­ward, Chez starts to look much hap­pier and work through from be­hind (above).

“There now, that wee horse is a lot more set­tled; it looks a mil­lion times bet­ter. He’s ac­tu­ally work­ing through his back now in­stead of shut­ting down on you,” says Sean. “That’s the can­ter you’re af­ter. And have you had to do any work to get it?” “No,” says Devon. “So what does that tell you? He wasn’t go­ing for­ward enough,” ex­plains Sean. “If you start out rid­ing back­wards and fight­ing with him, he doesn’t want to give or go for­ward be­cause you’re hang­ing on to him.

“Ev­ery­one starts to try and col­lect young horses up and work them too soon, but you’ve got to get them de­vel­oped in their body first. You can see this horse is quite high be­hind and there isn’t a lot of mus­cle. What you were ask­ing him to do needs a lot of power and mus­cle, which he doesn’t have yet. He’s too weak to do it, so what does he do? He fights you.

“You want to go easy on him a lit­tle bit and get him us­ing that back end much more. I use the whole arena like this for weeks and weeks with the young ones and then even­tu­ally do one nice cir­cle if I can get one. Ev­ery­body gets into the cir­cle work straight away and then they think the horse is be­ing hor­ri­ble, but it’s not, they just phys­i­cally can’t do it.”

He rec­om­mends that Devon can­ters Chez for a good 20 min­utes ev­ery day, for five or six min­utes at a time, with walk breaks in be­tween.

“I do three laps on the right rein, walk for a lap; three laps on the left rein, walk for a lap. That way I have a sys­tem. Even­tu­ally I can build it up to four laps of can­ter, walk for a lap.”

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