Canter - Bend/Straightness?

I’m having issues getting my mare to move off the inside leg at the canter going to the right. I’m looking for exercises/tools I can use to help build the correct muscles and balance to carry herself.

She leans in to the right. She rushes. she ignores inside leg completely. She gets really crooked. She breaks a lot. Not having the same issue on the left lead.

I can’t get shoulder-fore going right to save my life (at the canter). Can to the left.

i can leg yield in the canter left or right. Leg yield seems to help some, but I’m not really sure the best way to use it to help her.

She wants to drop out of canter going right whenever i circle 15m or less, or ask for the slightest shoulder-fore.

She tosses me left when cantering right. I find it really difficult to stay on my right seat bone cantering right.

I’m looking for exercises to help her carry herself better for canter and increase her suppleness or strength at canter.

Any suggestions? Exercises or tricks to help her?

“She tosses me left when cantering right. I find it really difficult to stay on my right seat bone cantering right.”

This observation indicates just how much you are a part of her challenge with bending right on the right lead. You need to figure out what is going on for you. It might be your saddle, it might be position, a lazy leg, less motion in your right hip, etc. I have these challenges to the left and I simply have to work harder to be correct on that lead.

It’s also possible your horse has some physical challenges, too that make maintaining the right canter harder.

That said, if I feel like I’m not getting the bend I left on a given lead, I will use haunches in at the canter for anything from several strides to a long side (depending on horse) to emphasize bend in the rib cage. They are usually then grateful to go back to a simple shoulder fore canter after that!

As she ‘falls out of canter’ send her into a shoulder in ( right canter, right shoulder in). That brings the inner leg under the body. We have the same issue to the left. This doesn’t fix it overnight, but will help build up the right side to carry as the other side already does. You can also ask for the canter directly out of the shoulder in and either ask to continue on the rail or into a circle. Not enough strength to carry if 15m or less is a problem. It will come, patience.

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Thanks! I’ll try this, this week.🙂

That’s a great idea! Thank you!!
i really like this idea! Going to try it tomorrow.

“She tosses me left when cantering right. I find it really difficult to stay on my right seat bone cantering right.”

My issue with cantering to the right is that I sit too much on my right seat bone which is preventing the horse from doing his movement in the canter, it’s like I’m constantly asking him to fall in without meaning to. We look magnificent going to the left. It’s related to a major past injury to my right leg and all the compensation that my body has been doing over the past 16 years as a result.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on feeling my seatbones better at the walk/trot/canter. One big lightbulb moment for me was realizing that going to the left, when I turn my body, I am turning my upper body and my hips/waist, but going right when I turn my body, I am only turning my shoulders. You’ll need to doing a lot of experimenting to figure out what differences your body has going left vs. right. Anyone with eyes on the ground should be looking for these differences and helping you since you won’t be able to feel all the differences.

A couple exercises which have really helped me:
trot down center line -> leg yield to the rail so you get to the rail just before the short side. At the corner going into the short side, ask for canter and continue that leg yield feel as you go through the corners and up the next long side.
Canter without stirrups -> really forces you to feel your seat bones better. Try to feel both seat bones evenly, make sure you feel centered in the saddle.
When cantering to the right, consciously turn your right hip bone/upper body in (look around your shoulder like you are turning) and work on adding more weight to your left stirrup.

Out of the saddle- pilates/yoga -> anything that does hip opening exercises. Any workouts to help strengthen legs/glutes.

I don’t know. We’ve done a million things and it’s been my main focus the past few months. There has been a lot of progress but it’s still a work in progress. Good luck.

Oh, also - get your pelvis readjusted (chiro or PT). It’s very likely that your seat bones are not even and it’s playing a part.
Also it might not hurt to have your horse adjusted as there is likely some defensive movement happening on his part at this point.

I think this is something that can be solved mostly in the walk and trot. Confirm that you have a solid SI at the W/T without hanging on the inside rein. Also make sure you have a solid travers in W/T. Can you establish SI or travers in W or T and then LY out? Can you do both on a circle? Getting control of those body parts in the lower gait will help you address the balance problem in the canter.

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I have control at walk and trot. We can do SI to Renver, SI to HI. SI on circle, SI to leg yield, SI in trot to halt and stay in SI. We can half-pass trot, straighten for 3 strides, change bend and half-pass the other way. SI to lengthen trot. Etc. She has a fab walk pirouette too. I’ve had upper level riders ride her and they said her SI at the trot is great, no issues. Her canter really, really sucks.

Do you have any exercises specifically to help the canter?

Interesting, because that extent of canter issues sounds like green horse stuff. Honestly, I’d be looking for physical issues in a horse that has that much training and still can’t stand up in the canter.

For exercises I would probably just work on LY out 1-2 steps in the trot just prior to the canter transition, and then only canter a few strides and go back to trot and repeat.

Also you might try TOH (or walk pirouette since you have it) and canter off (try both TOH). Try to ask for the haunches in on a circle, rather than focusing on getting the bend from the front end. With the horse I’m riding we have improved canter control by leaps and bounds by doing variations of TOH --> canter --> spiral in in travers --> straighten and LY to enlarge the circle.

Of course jumping and cavaletti to help improve the canter overall.

How does this horse canter on the lunge line?

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I had her checked out by a performance vet earlier in the year, and she didn’t see any back or SI issues. I didn’t haul her into the vet office though. Maybe I need to do that instead. They have the sensors at the office that can track gait abnormalities.

She’s got a Grade 2 club foot on the left side.

Thank you!! I’ll try these tonight. See if I can replicate what you wrote. These sound fantastic.

I’ll see if I can set some cavelletis up this week. Any suggestions on specific configurations? I’ll see if I can find some on youtube too.

Canters okay on lunge. Canters in field and is very athletic and nimble on both leads when out in the pasture. I honestly haven’t asked her to canter much prior to May of this year. She was so crooked and unbalanced that it was a free for all. I put it on the back burner and focused on the trot and walk until 4 months ago. And then when I started working on the canter, the left lead was a mess so I focused on that… and now the right lead sucks.

And I’ll try no stirrups, yoga, and any other body work I may need. I usually ride once or twice a week without stirrups anyway, but maybe if I combine that with more focused yoga for hip tightness it may help. Can’t hurt!

Thanks again!

Ulcers, and saddle fit are more things to look into. When there’s a huge difference between the sides it’s usually not just a training issue.
It’s pretty easy to try the ulcer one out on your own. 3 or 4 days of Omeprazole will give you an answer.

Ahh, well she is probably using that right front as a grounding rod. The mare in my avatar is also high/low, but not a graded club, and it was a struggle to get her right lead. Just cantering over one ground pole/ cavaletti is enough at first (working up to 2 or 3, spaced about 9’). There is no need to get super creative with exercises. Once she was able to canter a 20m circle, I also set up poles at 180 degrees from each other (2 poles on the circle), but that is too much to ask when they just feel unbalanced and afraid of falling.

Come to think of it, my mare’s canter was helped by LY in on the left lead (just a few steps cantering down the long side). That helped her get a little more on her hind legs and understand that she could support herself with her left front, and not have the drama of being on the right lead.

Also, my mare’s right lead would deteriorate over time, and she would need periodic bodywork to set her right. Over time, she would hold together longer. Remember that the shoulders are going to have musculature asymmetries from compensating for the club foot.

One more thing that can help, if you have the timing for it, is to step a little into the left stirrup when the left hind is on the ground, maybe every other stride. This is subtle, not pushing all your weight into the stirrup, just thinking of holding that foot on the ground a touch longer to help her take a little more weight on the outside hind instead of leaning on the inside. Usually if they are leaning on the inside, the diagonal hind is out behind and pushing instead of under and carrying.


Has any one ultrasounded her LH hind leg?

Thank you!! I’ll try the leg yield in canter and the step into the stirrup (if i can get the timing right). I’ve never heard of that, but I could see how that might be beneficial.

I just had a lesson with my trainer and she yelled at me for over bending the neck and not setting her up correctly on the depart… so, obvious areas of work for me. Still having issues getting her off the right leg when she is straight, but I think the LY into canter and in the canter can help me keep her straight(er).

I’ve neglected getting body work on her for a while. That’s a good point!

I debated it… I know that would rule out physical issues, but her walk and trot show equal hind leg use, the same articulation of hocks, vet didn’t see any issues from visual analysis. She steps under well at the canter (equally with both hinds depending on lead). If she were dragging the toe in the least bit, or short striding even slightly, I’d spend the money… but I’m really tight on funds, and I don’t want to go on a wild goose chase.

I think combined with my piss poor riding, her club foot, and my turning her into a pretzel on that lead… i think that’s the issue. But granted, if this continues after I fix me, then I’ll dig into the physical side more.