Canter stride- short and choppy with contact

Dear forum members,

I have a 7 year old unraced TB mare. We have done a few lower level dressage tests with reasonable scores ranging from mid 60’s in prelim and upper 50’s in novice. The issues are that she tends to fuss a bit and bob her head with a contact. BUT the biggest issue is her canter, especially to the right.

She gets tense in her back and has a short, choppy stride with her head tending to hollow when she canters to the right ON A CONTACT. If i am lunged in side reins, without any contact, she canters a huge stride in both directions (less balanced to the right) in a long and low frame. if i take a soft contact even on one side, she remains in this frame. The minute i take a contact with both reins, she comes up and shortens. In the school, i can sometimes play her round with my outside hand or widening my hands; but i find that my hands end up by my knees, and eventually the reins get too long, and i can no longer be effective in transitions.

For noting is that she has a stunning, ground-covering walk (despite a bit of head bobbing from time to time) and a lovely cadenced trot where she holds a novice frame well.

I have had her back checked, saddle checked, teeth done twice a year, chiro, physio. I am a bit asymmetrical myself with a spinal fusion on one side, but the problem occurs on both reins, just more to the right- so i think this is only part of the problem. I have and do ride her in elliptical full-cheek, or sprenger ultra-d bits and a flash.

It is so frustrating, particularly as this lunging in side reins was a new discovery and we see that there is a lovely big canter stride that is waiting to be developed if i can resolve the resistance which i seem to create with the contact. i want to avoid gadgets if possible.

thanks for any help

To add- she is built a little downhill with what appear to be powerful hindquarters.

I’ve run into similar issues with TB’s. They often have powerful hindquarters and are very quick, so you almost have to slow them down to get the suspension and lift you need. They can “cheat” by pushing forward with their hindquarters without really sitting.

It sounds like your horse hasn’t learned how to sit and carry more weight on her hindquarters anbd lift through her back. That is going to take some time to develop. Not to worry though! With careful correct work, you will be able to have your mare working in a very nice uphill balance, assuming there are no underlying issues that will make it hard for her to rock back.

A lot of what you need to do is work from your seat and core to help create the impulsion and lift. If your horse isn’t used to this, it’s something you will only be able to do in short periods because it is quite a lot of work for a horse that isn’t used to it. Do you have a trainer you are working with? I can describe what I have done with my TB’s but if you have a trainer who can show you what to do that is much easier

It sounds as though, you the rider, are interfering with the free forward neck move met she needs in order to canter. You note she has a free forward walk despite some head bobbing. At both the walk and the canter there is necessarily more " head bobbing" at the lower levels. Head bobbing decreases with collection. Collection comes from engagement.

Length of rein should not affect the effectiveness of transitions.

[QUOTE=merrygoround;7781277]It sounds as though, you the rider, are interfering with the free forward neck move met she needs in order to canter. You note she has a free forward walk despite some head bobbing. At both the walk and the canter there is necessarily more " head bobbing" at the lower levels. Head bobbing decreases with collection. Collection comes from engagement.

Length of rein should not affect the effectiveness of transitions.[/QUOTE]

Ideally it shouldn’t. However, if this horse isn’t used to using it’s back and really stepping under, it may find it easier to move freely whenever it can use its head how it wants to. if the horse has to work on contact in a dressage frame it may not find it that easy.

This is a starting-out horse, and is most likely in no way ready for the so called “dressage frame”, which again should come from behind, not the hand.

You were mentioning that you thought the rider was at fault. I’m suggesting that the horse may not be ready to do a lot of what the rider is asking, whether she is asking correctly or not.

I can only tell you what is working with my horse ( non TB but tended to a short choppy canter), work over ground poles and low cross rail jumps, at trot and canter to extend stride and loosen the back. I know you are leery of gadgets and so am I , but finally after years decided to try a german martinagle, and in just a couple of months has really helped with the canter work.

Thanks all- tonight in my lesson, we worked on exactly what some of you suggested which is more engagement of the hindquarters, and from SnicklefritzG

“A lot of what you need to do is work from your seat and core to help create the impulsion and lift. If your horse isn’t used to this, it’s something you will only be able to do in short periods because it is quite a lot of work for a horse that isn’t used to it.”

My trainer was pleased to know that my mare moved more freely on the lunge- and we did a lot of exercises this evening to begin to “carry more weight on her hindquarters anbd lift through her back.” and both of us are scheduled for Chiro and have lots of exercises (me especially core stability to get a more independent seat and more relaxed upper body). Will keep you posted and would welcome any additional insights! :slight_smile:

You are on the right track. Your horse can only go as well as you ride her. Riding is not a passive sport for laid back wimps.
:wink:

Welcome to connecting the tb!!
It’s not easy but ever so important stay connected with leg into a hand.
I have to tell My Mind ride connected with gooey ness!! Haha but you have to be supple and move the bit move the neck , bend the body anything within a rhythm to help push through the chOppiness. Now I am redoing a former eventer who would gave melt downs with the thought of contact and leg, so now I have to canter past my pace to work into a wither up flexible jaw moving from behind . Then I let him out and let him be loosely . Then he stretches long and low. Then I reconnect again.takes patience , timing and NO Temper!!!

OP,
We have the same horse, but mine is no longer a young one. We used to struggle w the same issues, and now after a long rehab we have to work through them again.
Lots & lots of transitions will help you w the tendency to be on the forehand and this will eventually help you w carrying strength in the canter. For now, try riding your canter w a lot of aid to move the back legs. For my horse a very active seat helps w the short strides at canter - think lots of seat to keep her back moving and fluid. When my TB mare’s back gets tight then her canter becomes awful. Also lateral bend helps my horse’s canter. When she’s too straight and becomes stiff then the strides become even shorter. Don’t think too much bend but correct and frequent changes of bend are what you want. Finally, ride all of these transitions and changes w a nice forward thinking hand. Lots of come from behind w two soft but ‘there’ hands and she’ll start coming around to your contact without shortening.