Posts Tagged ‘center of balance’

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.


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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Improving Balance

Balance is equilibrium, a state where weight is equally distributed. 90 percent of humans are right-handed but both left- and right-handed riders need to be ambidextrous. The rider who is equally strong and coordinated on both sides has a better chance of having a comfortable and safe ride. Stretching and strength-training exercises can help you even your left and rights sides. When riding, first pay attention to your posture at the halt and walk. Work on form before you add speed. Stand in your stirrups at all 3 gaits to improve your balance.

Switch Sides

  • When cleaning stalls, switch the normal position of your hands on the fork.
  • When grooming, hold the curry in the opposite hand.
  • Comb your hair and brush your teeth with your opposite hand (and get ready to laugh!)
  • Open gates and stalls with a different hand every day.
  • Lead from the off side.
  • Mount from the off side.

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Male and Female Riders

The Physiological Differences Between Male and Female Riders

Women are innately more flexible and loose-jointed, allowing them to smoothly follow the movements of a horse, but they can be more easily unseated and be more likely to suffer joint injuries. Women have greater manual skills and dexterity, allowing them to be more talented and subtle with rein aids. The tightness of men’s joints, muscles, and skin may make them less responsive to a horse’s movements but allows them to hold a correct position more easily. Women tend to carry 20% of their bodyweight as fat, which provides greater cushion, insulation, and tolerance for cold. This can make the body difficult to cool in hot weather, may inhibit range of motion, and may undermine level of fitness. A woman’s thermostat is higher – she must be hotter before she sweats to lower her temperature.

Men’s lower fat stores may allow them to become more fit but their lack of padding and insulation may make riding less comfortable for them, especially in cold weather. Men sweat at a lower temperature so cool their bodies sooner.

Women have lighter bones and less durable tendons and ligaments meaning a lighter load for the horse but more injury for the rider, especially knees. Men’s heavier framework makes a heavier load for the speed or endurance horse.

Women are usually about 3 inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter than men so often can ride smaller horses. However, men’s longer legs often fit around a horse’s barrel better than a woman’s do.

Women are bottom-heavy with a low center of balance – between the hip bones. Thickness in this area can make it difficult for the beginning rider to find the correct position but helps the advanced rider keep a stable leg position.

Men are top-heavy with a center of balance located around the waist. The result is movable limbs: leg adjustments come easily but leg stability is difficult to maintain. Top-heaviness plus a high center of gravity can unbalance male riders.

Women are less strong and have a lower muscle-building capacity. Females tend to use psychology rather than strength. A man’s strength can tempt him to overpower a horse. Saddles were originally designed for male riders yet the majority of today’s riders are female. The female pelvis and legs may make some aspects of riding more difficult for women and an inappropriate saddle will exaggerate the tendencies.

Women have a wide pelvis, wide set seat bones and hip sockets that face outward, and a tailbone set out behind the spine. A woman’s legs to tend to be knock-kneed, making it harder to relax the thighs so they hang down along the horse’s side. The thighs often point outward at the knee and come forward and upward when riding. Because the tailbone is behind the lumbar vertebrae, women have a naturally hollow lower back. Young female riders especially, tend to tip forward on the pubic bone, ahead of the center of balance, creating an exaggerated hollow back. It requires proper instruction and effort to bring the seat bones under, tuck the tailbone, and achieve a flat lower back.

Men have a narrow, upright pelvis, nearly parallel seat bones, hip sockets that face forward, a tail bone that is more vertical, and a tendency toward bow-leggedness. This allows the legs of the male rider to conform to the horse’s barrel. The upright pelvis results in a flatter back and a more naturally stable position. The male’s near-parallel seat bones and near-vertical tailbone are perfectly suited for a deep seat. The seat bones are able to rock freely backward and forward in contrast to the muscular effort required for a female rider to do the same. The naturally tucked tail bone of the male rider allows him to sit down more effortlessly on a jogging or loping horse than a female rider who must constantly exert muscular energy to tuck the tail bone and flatten the lower back.

Generalizations related to male and female anatomy vary according to the individual. Evaluation by a qualified instructor regarding pelvic and lower back action is essential to safeguard the health of your spine and improve your riding.

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