Besides the common rider problems that I mentioned yesterday, this is one of the first things that comes to my mind when I think of teaching the canter. It tends to be especially common in lesson horses. Since their riders are inexperienced, no fault of their own, the horse leans in and they don’t know how to fix it.
Learning To Balance At The Canter Is Already Hard Enough!
Learning how to ask for and sit the canter is hard enough on its own. New cantering students may find it hard to stay centered with the horses more powerful gait than they are used to.
If your horse is being lazy or is just plain unbalanced because he doesn’t know better, this makes it even harder for the rider to learn.
Is Your Horse Falling In At The Canter?
Since you are a new rider, you may wonder how to tell if your horse is falling in at the canter. It is a very distinct feeling. It will feel like your horse is lowering himself, leaning or falling toward the inside.
It is not a good feeling. Especially if you are a new rider and are having enough trouble balancing yourself at the canter!
What To Do!
There is a lot to do and watch while teaching a rider to canter. Your instructor may focus so much on your position and balance (as they should, that is important!). While they are helping you through the multi-tasking of learning to canter help with the horse leaning in may not be something they mention.
In order to keep our horse from leaning in, as everything else goes with horses, we have to use our body position. Hand and leg aids to correct this.
Don’t Lean In With Him
I know it is hard not to lean in with your horse. It feels disconcerting to try and sit centered and push your horse out when he leans it. It makes it feel like you aren’t staying with his motion. Which may make you feel less balanced. I promise, once you learn to correct this when you feel it start, the better balanced you will feel.
Your upper body needs to stay sitting tall. We want to maintain that straight line from shoulder to hip to heel. If our shoulders lean forward, that is going to make our leg slip back, making us unbalanced and less secure in the seat as we ride.
When you get the feeling your horse is leaning in, if you lift your inside hand up it will affect your whole body position for the better. It will put you more centered and make it easier to use your inside seat bone.
So, your inside hand should lift up when you feel the leaning motion going on underneath of you.
Lifting And Controlling Your Horses Shoulders
If you feel your horse leaning in, his shoulders need to be encouraged to move up and out. As you are lifting your inside hand up, you can also (while keeping both elbows at your side to help keep the rein contact) move your hands up and to the outside.
Literally, making the movement of lifting up and moving over with your hands. When using your inside leg as well, this will help you to keep your horse’s shoulders where they belong and his body more balanced. Remember, our hands should never go any higher than our belly buttons. You move your hand from their normal position (out in front of your body, where your hands fall with your elbows bent) to just slightly up and over.
How much should you lift up? As you are lifting your inside hand, think about just stretching your inside shoulder up. If you have proper contact, and your inside shoulder up (in turn lifting your inside hand up) you should only have to lift your inside hand slightly higher than the outside.
You can keep it here until you feel his shoulders moving up and over. Then return your hand to the normal position. Remember, this won’t happen unless you use leg aids as well, so read on!
Feet In The Stirrups
Make sure that you keep your weight in your stirrups. Stirrups on the ball of the foot, heels down toes up. Also, take notice and make sure that you have equal weight on both stirrups.
If you are losing your outside stirrup or it is slipping in your stirrup that is an indication that you are not keeping equal weight on the outside foot. So, be aware of this and it is also a small thing that will be a big help.
As your inside hand is lifting, you want to hold your inside leg on at the girth. Not kick, just push your horse with your inside leg to push his body over.
It might take a lot of leg muscle, but you can do it! Lifting your inside hand alone is not going to fix this problem! Your horse needs to feel your inside leg pushing his body out as your hand lifts up.
Review The Steps
While keeping weight in both stirrups, use your hands up and over to lift your horse’s shoulders up and out. Basically, think of your hands as lifting and controlling the front half of your horse. Then your leg pressing at the girth will hold your horse’s body from moving in and hopefully help with moving him back up and over where he belongs!
Practice Makes Perfect!
Don’t get frustrated if you can’t do it right away. Putting that many aids together and balancing yourself takes a lot of muscle memory. Muscle memory just takes time to build up. Keep practicing, practice makes perfect!
Learning how to fix your horse leaning in and dropping his inside shoulder will help keep him balanced. A balanced horse is easier for a rider to stay balanced on!
One More Thing To Keep In Mind
If you are riding a school horse, it might be a little harder. Just because they tend to be a little numb to the aids. They have to, out of self-preservation! If they didn’t they’d go crazy!
As usual, keep on keepin’ on! You’re doing great!