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I ride a 7 year old Quarter Horse, she is very choppy naturally. So loping her hurts me. I tend to go all over the place. I know that she is in the right lead. My body is painting the saddle just in a very painful way by me raising 4 inches out of my saddle. I’m going into rodeo soon and I need to get this lope better. How can I fix this?
Breanne

HI Breanne,

Start by making sure you are applying the aids correctly and sitting the lope correctly – even with a horse with a rough gait, it will help things be more comfortable.

You can read all about that here on this blog or on my website. In either place use the search tools for canter or lope and you will find many articles. Here for example is one on this blog

Sitting the Canter or Lope

 

For more information refer to

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Dear Cherry,

I’ve just started loping recently and when i do i feel like im gonna fall out of the saddle, and it makes me nervous. And sometimes i find it more difficult to steer my horse. Do you have any tips on this? And also what’s the differences between loping, cantering and galloping?

Desirae

Hi Desirae,

Your nervousness when loping is a common anxiety with new riders. I’ve answered similar questions on this blog.

To search for topics, just type the subject in the search box (there is one at the top of the page and one in the right hand column) and click on Search.

For example, entering loping, you will find the following articles:

Overcoming the Fear of Loping

Aids for the Canter or Lope and Sitting the Canter or Lope

Overcoming the Fear of Loping (another rider, another reply)

Here are  the difference in the terms you ask about.

The canter and lope are both a three-beat gait with the following foot fall pattern:

1.         initiating hind leg or outside hind

2.         the diagonal pair or inside hind and outside foreleg

3.         leading foreleg or inside foreleg

4.         regrouping of legs or a moment of suspension.

If the initiating hind leg is the left, the diagonal pair will consist of the right hind and the left front, the leading foreleg will be the right front and the horse will be on the right lead.  When observing a horse on the right lead from the side, his right legs will reach farther forward than his left legs.  The right hind will reach under his belly farther than the left hind; the right front will reach out in front of his body farther than the left front.  When turning to the right, normally the horse should be on the right lead.

The canter has an alternating rolling and floating feeling to it.  The energy rolls from rear to front, then during a moment of suspension, the horse gathers his legs up underneath himself to get organized for the next set of leg movements.  The rider seems to glide for a moment until the initiating hind lands and begins the cycle again.

Canter is the term generally used to describe the gait of an English horse.

Lope is the term associated with a Western horse and is a relaxed version of the canter with less rein contact and a lower overall body carriage.

An extended canter or lope (sometime called a “run”) is a canter/lope with a long, strong stride, head and neck reaching forward.  The extended canter/run has maximum ground coverage per stride while retaining the tempo of the ordinary canter/lope.

There should be no increase in the rhythm of the hoofbeats from a canter/lope to an extended canter/run  – just an increase in reach. There should not be a shift into the gallop.

The gallop occurs when the horse increases tempo AND length of stride so is maximally extended at full speed. It is a 4 beat gait because the diagonal pair work separately.

The term hand gallop is often called for in the hunter show ring.  In many cases what is really desired is an extended canter.

RELATED TERMS

Disunited is when a horse is on one lead in front and another behind.  Also called cross-leaded.  This is very rough to ride.

Counter-cantering is cantering on the “outside” lead on purpose as a means of developing obedience, strength, balance, and suppleness.  If counter-cantering on a circle to the right, the horse would be on the left lead and he would be flexed left.


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Hi Cherry,

My daughter has a 19 year old mare that looks really healthy and doesn’t even look 19 but seems to be having some issues. When she tries to canter the horse speeds up but doesn’t want to push into the canter or she will buck. If my daughter gets her into a canter she says it does not feel right at times and she suspects that maybe her arthritis is getting too bad. We didn’t start noticing the arthritis till a few months ago and she is now on joint supplements. My daughter is concerned and doesn’t want to force her into something that is going to hurt her and is wondering if maybe it is just attitude since she is very spunky. Do you have any advice?

Tammy

Hi Tammy,

Arthritis that shows up as a reluctance to strike off at the canter or lope or canter roughly or buck during the transition usually stems from wear and tear of the hind limb (most notably the stifle and hock) and the loin.

As you suggest, these behaviors can also be a result of a feisty or disobedient horse, but since you already know the mare has arthritis, in this case, you should focus on that.

You don’t say whether the joint supplements are helping – and what kind you are using.

As far as use – be sure the mare is thoroughly warmed up with walking and trotting before asking her to canter. Many horses warm out of their arthritis stiffness after 5-15 minutes of low level work.

Focus also on transition work which is any upward or downward shifting of gears. The more proficient your daughter is at other transitions, the better the canter depart will be.

Finally, be sure the mare is being ridden with enough collection so that she CAN canter rather than rush forward at the trot.

Refer to 101 Arena Exercises to help develop the things I’ve mentioned both in the horse and the rider.

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hi cherry,  my name is mayme.  i am 11 yrs old, i have been riding for 3 or 4 yrs. about 3 yrs ago i got a horse for christmas.  one day my sister and i were riding, i started to lope to my sister, but i lost control and fell off.   luckily we were just down the street  and my horse ran home. since then i will lope but im not very comfortable doing it. i’m scared i wont be able stay in control and or be able to stop. i will lope on my sister’s horse but i still dont really like it. it’s not that i dont like my horse it’s just that i dont really trust him. my horse is kind of old if that changes anything he is around 21 yrs old. i hope you can help.            thank you for your time and your suggestions.  have a good day and GOD BLESS!!

Hi Mayme,

This is a common problem but one that is easily overcome. The best solution is to get back on and do more loping ! I know that sounds oversimplified, but really that is the solution. Of course, it should be done in a controlled situation so you can get your rhythm and confidence back. Sometimes just taking a few lessons on a “school horse” will help you figure things out and relax.

But here are some specific tips.

Knowledge is power. So start by reading up on loping and confidence.

Here on this blog, there are two search boxes one just above the book How to Think Like a Horse and the other is in the right hand column about half way down. In either of those boxes, you can type key words to find articles related to your area of interest, such as “loping”.

That search turns up an article Overcoming the Fear of Loping. You can click on the title here and it will take you to that article.

Or you could search “confidence” and it will show you these articles:

Attitude and Confidence

and

Improving Attitude and Confidence

You can do the same sort of search on my website Horsekeeping where I have posted hundreds of articles.

By browsing through articles, you will gather ideas that will be suitable for YOU.

Then when you get back in the saddle, you will KNOW that loping is nothing to fear. All you will need to do is practice it until it becomes as natural as walking. As I mentioned earlier, it would be best if you took a few lessons from a qualified riding instructor to help you develop the skills necessary for loping.

And above all, don’t forget to breathe regularly when you are riding. If you hold your breath, it can make you stiff and pop you right out of the saddle. So breathe in and out……..ahhhhhhhhh…….and enjoy that wonderful lope !

Cherry Hill

 

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I’ve had several queries in regard to the post about No Fear of Loping so here is some more information on the lope or canter.

Becoming an Effective Rider by Cherry Hill

Following is an excerpt from Becoming an Effective Rider on how to ask for a canter and Exercise 10 from 101 Arena Exercises that describes the canter (lope) and how to sit the canter.

Horse Riding

Aids for the Canter or Lope

and Sitting the Canter or Lope

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Aids for the canter or lope, right lead:

  • Apply the aids when the left hind leg is about to land
  • Think – “Come under behind, come up in front, and roll forward smoothly into a three-beat gait.”
  • Seat – Right seat bone forward and up; left seat bone back and down.
  • Push down on the left seat bone then follow the forward movement to the right (without leaning forward) just as the horse creates the forward movement, not before.
  • Legs – Right leg on girth; left leg behind the girth; both active
  • Reins – Right direct rein to create flexion and an appropriate amount of bend; left supporting rein or bearing rein to keep horse from falling in on right shoulder.

DESCRIPTION The canter (lope) is a three-beat gait with the following foot fall pattern:101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill

  1. initiating hind leg or outside hind
  2. the diagonal pair or inside hind and outside foreleg
  3. leading foreleg or inside foreleg
  4. regrouping of legs or a moment of suspension.

If the initiating hind leg is the left, the diagonal pair will consist of the right hind and the left front, the leading foreleg will be the right front and the horse will be on the right lead. When observing a horse on the right lead from the side, his right legs will reach farther forward than his left legs. The right hind will reach under his belly farther than the left hind; the right front will reach out in front of his body farther than the left front. When turning to the right, normally the horse should be on the right lead.

The canter has an alternating rolling and floating feeling to it. The energy rolls from rear to front, then during a moment of suspension, the horse gathers his legs up underneath himself to get organized for the next set of leg movements. The rider seems to glide for a moment until the initiating hind lands and begins the cycle again.

A lope is a relaxed version of the canter with less rein contact and a lower overall body carriage.
HOW TO Ride the Canter, Right Lead

It is not enough that your horse is on the correct lead. You must ride every step of the way to keep him in balance and in the correct position.

    • Right seat bone forward, left seat bone in normal position
    • Upper body erect
    • Outside shoulder forward, inside shoulder back
    • Right leg on girth, active, creating right bend and keeping horse up on left rein
    • Left leg behind the girth, active, keeping hindquarters from swinging to the left, maintaining impulsion.
    • Right direct rein to create appropriate amount of bend and flexion
    • Left supporting rein or neck rein if appropriate

USE All western performances and Training Level dressage.

NOTE The trot-canter transition develops a good forward working canter.

RELATED TERMS

Disunited is when a horse is on one lead in front and another behind. Also called cross-leaded. This is very rough to ride.

Counter-cantering is cantering on the “outside” lead on purpose as a means of developing obedience, strength, balance, and suppleness. If counter-cantering on a circle to the right, the horse would be on the left lead and he would be flexed left.

CAUTION Don’t force a horse to carry his head too low or he will be unable to round his topline and bring his hind legs underneath himself and will subsequently travel downhill, heavy on the forehand.

Don’t slow a horse down too much at the canter or the diagonal pair of legs can “break” (front landing before its diagonal hind) giving rise to a four beat gait where the horse appears to be loping in front and jogging behind.

Be sure the horse is moving straight ahead, not doing the crab-like canter.

Hope this was helpful. Have a great ride !

Cherry Hill

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