14 yr old Oldenburg dressage horse won't canter when cued

Back in March of this year, I had come across this 14 yr old Oldenburg who ended up at my barn. He is now mine and we have been trying to figure each other out but for some reason he will just not canter for me when i cue him. He just trots faster and eventually just goes into an extended trot. I had his mother a while back and she would do this when she was not cued right but i have tried different cues with different aids and nothing seems to work for him. He does not like the whip (he will buck) and he does not like spurs. He will canter in pasture and on a lunge line just not while i am on his back. Any suggestions on how to approach him with this problem?

Reinforce the voice aid on the lunge, then use it while riding and using the canter aids. But first, check saddle fit. If he won’t canter under saddle, could be saddle. Also, have trainer make sure you aren’t creating an imbalance.

Ask him properly from the walk first. You’ll be less imbalance and have better chances of giving the cue correctly.

How was he with his previous owner? What kind of training did he received so far? What is his condition (fit/unfit) right now?

How are you asking for the canter?

When horses start going faster/extended trot, it is often because of a lack of core strenght from the rider. The rider gets pulled forward, the horse gets flat and run on the forehand.
Never allow your horse to go ‘faster’ before a canter, actually you can ‘slow down’ (a simple half halt will eventually be quicker and more appropriate) and then give the cue. or reinstate the canter cue from the walk.

Making sure the saddle fits properly is also important of course

maybe take some lessons from the person who trained him?

My very smurfy ideas (provided this is not due to lameness or poor saddle fit):

  1. Try canter from the walk, first. It’s a lot easier for many horses; never mind what the ODGs say.
  2. Use your voice! It is there for a reason, and you can phase it out later.
  3. When you have canter from the walk, try canter from a very slow trot. Agree with above poster that this is a lot better than “running into” the canter.
  4. There are a number of different canter cues (and frequent arguments about which is “correct”). Be sure that your canter cue matches the one the horse is trained for. If there’s another one you like better, try alternating the horse’s and yours, both with a voice command to “canter!” Horse should be able to figure out that the two cues mean the same thing.

Yeah, I’d say either the saddle does not fit him right (too tight/narrow, probably) or you are doing something VERY wrong when asking for the canter. To what level has he been (supposedly) trained?

What is your background? Do you have an instructor or trainer you can consult with? Dressage people usually refer to “aids”, not “cues”, which is why I ask. You and the horse(s) are evidently NOT on the same page in the hymn book.

If you have video available to post here, that might help.

i had a school horse who would do this with every person i ever lessoned on her. she would blow through their aids into an extended trot. When i cantered her she picked it up quietly balanced and on cue.

it had to do , in her case, with core, and balance, if the rider leaned forward, dropped the contact, lowered their hands, or did not have their legs in the correct position even if she knew they wanted a canter she would rush off into an extended trot.

if you feel sure that there is nothing wrong, and if the horse is pounding away in a powerful trot there is likely not too much wrong, then i suggest as soon as he starts to rush, halt, back up a few strides, walk, canter.

i agree with using a voice, and if he canters on the longe, have some one on the ground supporting you with the longe whip, and voice as well, until the two of you are on the same page

i am just curious - do you guys really think all horses have the exact same buttons?

my assumption would be that they are as different as the trainers who train them.

hence why i suggest talking to the person who trained him.

[QUOTE=mbm;7052894]i am just curious - do you guys really think all horses have the exact same buttons?

my assumption would be that they are as different as the trainers who train them.

hence why i suggest talking to the person who trained him.[/QUOTE]

I had same thought. I was test-riding a green horse once, COULD NOT for the life of me get a canter. Tried every cue I had learned in 3 countries & more states. Finally was told to just make kissy noise…off we went.

[QUOTE=mbm;7052894]i am just curious - do you guys really think all horses have the exact same buttons?

my assumption would be that they are as different as the trainers who train them.

hence why i suggest talking to the person who trained him.[/QUOTE]

If the only issue is the cue, don’t you think the horse will understand the same cue u/s as on the lunge? ie if horse responds to voice canter request on the lunge, most horses will quickly offer the same response u/s … horse may quickly return to another gait in response to rider imbalance etc but will generally attempt the canter.

I did rather assume that the OP would have already spoken with previous trainers if such were known.

He does not like the whip (he will buck) and he does not like spurs.

Sounds as if horse is very able to voice an opinion.

I suspect pain whether from saddle fit or other underlying issue & would want to rule out physical discomfort first …

Why not try cantering him outside of the ring, up a trail or pathway? Eventually he will canter if you’re going fast enough. At least then you’d get a feel for the canter and could practice outside of the confines of a ring. This is tough to evaluate, without watching you try…

I have found that a reluctance to canter is usually a sign of a physical discomfort (sore back) of some kind or an unbalanced rider who the horse is afraid may tip them over because they are too green to balance the rider or lack the strength to do so.

Horses that zip off into a lengthened trot rather than cantering, frequently are not hearing, or not getting a half halt.

Some horses are just stingy with their canters. Some for physical reasons, and some seem to use it like a right of passage :lol:

Make sure you’re sitting on that outside hind leg, look up and around, keep your inside hand 1" higher, place your outside leg back, and shift your inside seatbones forward like a car shifter. This seems to work 99.9% of the time regardless of how the horse was originally trained.

The horses I have known who did this were being restricted/blocked by the rider’s hands and felt they couldn’t jump through into the canter. It got better once the rider learned to “give them a place to go” in the bridle.

And I am just curious what the horse’s breed has to do with it…:confused:

If your horse is very sensitive to your balance, you may need to help him balance before striking off into the canter. That can be through the walk, by gathering or collecting the canter, through a half-halt, or by examining your own balance.

I’d start by examining your own balance. Take a video of yourself and look at what your body is doing when you ask for canter. My guess is that you’re leaning forward and doing what I call “cantering yourself” rather than giving your aid without altering your upper body position and waiting for your horse to respond. Usually when a horse rushes into a faster trot rather than picking up the canter, “cantering yourself” is the problem.

Secondary causes are blocking the canter with the hand or poor saddle fit, as others have suggested.

If he’ll canter on the lunge line, have someone who knows how to lunge, lunge him while you’re on his back. You can ask him for canter on the lunge and then see A) if you have no reins does he respond to your seat and leg aids and B) if you pick up your reins, does he have more trouble with the canter?

You can also ask the longeur to ask for the canter and see how it feels to you…can you sit it…how is your balance? Good “eyes on the ground” will be able to tell you. And if you can get someone to tape your session, even better.

You can also put a well-balanced rider on your horse while you lunge him, have the rider ask for canter and you ask for canter, and see what that test illuminates. If the canter is still a problem, then chances are the problem (or one of them) is saddle fit.

Do you lunge him in his saddle? Sometimes the saddle can appear to fit or be tolerable to the horse until the weight of the rider and the lift of the shoulder in the canter creates enough pain or discomfort for a willing horse to say “no.”

Barring physical issues, this is what I find too.

A few old schoolies I’ve gotten on that wouldn’t canter I’ve had to hold together with strong half halts, then give a strong push with my seat. Horses do need somewhere to go, but you have to show them where that somewhere is.

From your description I’d say it’s almost certainly a balance/strength issue, provided the saddle fits correctly. Many green and unfit horses find canter difficult, and as others have said, the rider needs to have a completely independent seat in order to avoid compounding the problem. Horses who find canter difficult need to be supported by the rider before and during the transition - this means a properly timed half-halt, correct bend, impulsion, a giving but supportive rein contact, and a well timed canter aid that uses both inside and outside legs and seat. If the horse gets strung out, you must regroup and get a quality trot back before asking again.

It depends on what we are really talking about here. My first thought is an untrained or unfit horse getting faster and rushing into the canter transition. My second thought is a very well trained horse that isn’t getting the right aid.

When my FEI horse was for sale, we had the same problem with about half the people that tried him. They asked for canter, he provided extended trot. With an explanation of how to ask for canter, about half of those who initially got extended trot were easily able to get canter. The rest were not far along enough in their own development to be able to give the aid my horse wanted.

No way of knowing which you are encountering here from what you said.

[QUOTE=joiedevie99;7053371]It depends on what we are really talking about here. My first thought is an untrained or unfit horse getting faster and rushing into the canter transition. My second thought is a very well trained horse that isn’t getting the right aid.

When my FEI horse was for sale, we had the same problem with about half the people that tried him. They asked for canter, he provided extended trot. With an explanation of how to ask for canter, about half of those who initially got extended trot were easily able to get canter. The rest were not far along enough in their own development to be able to give the aid my horse wanted.

No way of knowing which you are encountering here from what you said.[/QUOTE]

This was my thought as a possibility, too. My gelding was ridden by a woman with 2 years of riding experience for a year. In that time he learned he didn’t really have to canter if he didn’t want to, since she was so unbalanced he definitely didn’t want to. Now he keeps refining how he wants to be asked to canter which teaches me more and more refinement in my cues. As he gets other buttons and bells and whistles he makes it clear when one set of aids needs to be replaced by another.