Cantering a v green pony

mcnaughty

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New pony is only a 4yo pony who we have successfully backed and is now comfortable in walk and trot. Asked for canter and pony panicked and shot off down the school, out and down a bank and then stopped (school does not have a fence round it). He has a very plain bridle with cavesson noseband and hanging snaffle which he seems to like but he was very strong when he shot off! I really do not want to put anything stronger in his mouth! Should we take him to an indoor school or roundpen or even a school with a fence to try the canter again. He is a Highland so not a sharp creature but a big lad and quite spooky for his breed. Not sharp though. I am currently doing a lot more work on the lunge to try to establish voice commands for walk trot canter more but would appreciate your thoughts xx
 
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Ehmmm, sorry, but I do wonder whether you might be rushing things a wee bit with this particular pony.

Some horses/ponies would be OK with what you've done so far, but it obviously wasn't the best schooling session you've had with your youngster! Without wishing to stereotype, some breeds/types would be doing far more in the school at this stage; others wouldn't. I have a little cob youngster and she has never, ever, been inside a school! I bought her to "produce" her into a happy hacker and that's exactly what she is, and the canter, when it came, "happened" naturally on a hack when she was enjoying herself and we were both relaxed.

I wonder whether (no criticism) you are trying too hard?? Sometimes these native breeds (and cobs!) take a far longer time to mature than do the WB/TB types, and I wonder whether you might have been a little premature in asking for canter at this stage.

Also, your youngster - as one of the heavier native breeds - might well have struggled physically to fit himself around canter in a smaller space and as he didn't feel able perhaps to physically perform what you were asking for, this might explain the "panic" mode which ensued where he ran out of the arena; he might well have some stiffness and it might be a good idea to get a physio to check him over.

I'd be inclined to step back a stage or two; if you're working in the school then go back to what worked best the last time you did anything, and stick with that for a while. You could perhaps also consider doing some "games" in the school rather than just "working" him i.e. put up a little TREC-type obstacle course and let him figure things out a bit to exercise his mind.

I don't know whether you're hacking out yet, but it might be that you have to leave the canter, for now, till you're mebbe out on a hack and it happens naturally. It may take a while for canter to develop under saddle - my youngster is a 6yo now, but we're still working on canter. Sometimes these heavier types do take a while to get themselves properly into canter! I think you just might have to be patient, as your pony is obviously "telling" you that he wasn't happy with what you asked for!
 

Theocat

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Agree with teddypops - lots of hacking and build it up slowly and naturally over time. The "strong" you're feeling is more likely to be lack of balance and falling on his head.

I'd find a nice gentle uphill, and just let the canter come naturally a few times. He'll find it hard in a school and you don't want to get to a position where canter is difficult or stressful and a big deal for either of you.
 

scats

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If he panicked, he’s possibly not ready yet. Go back a step for a couple of weeks and carry on with the walk and trot. Get out hacking with a safe and sensible companion.
The important thing now is to not let this situation happen again so he doesn’t get it into his head that he can just tank off and leave the arena. When you try again with the canter, can you get him to an enclosed school or indoor?
 

twiggy2

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Once they walk and trot in a round pen with a rider on two or three times I do everything else out hacking.
I have thwm under saddle for roughly three weeks, walk, trot in school, walk trot canter out hacking, alone and in company hacking, seen traffic then turn away for the winter or longer.
Cantering is done on a long, straight uphill grass track until they are happy and confident, then we canter huge circle in open flat fields, until we can canter small circles the size that would be required in a school we don't go in an arena.
I have backed in schools over the years too but find it much tougher on the horse.
 

Cheeky Chestnut

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I wouldn’t be doing my fist canters in a school. Out hacking for me. School is for the first few Sits incase they object then is hack hack hack for me. The do their first proper trots and canters our a hack. No circles etc much better for them in the long run.

People are rushing youngsters too much these days then wonder why they have so many issues. Most of the time it’s not the horse themselves but the owners who have broke them by rushing them when they are so young.

To me there is no need for four years olds to be schooling in canter never mind doing anything else. See too many people expecting too much of youngsters but don’t understand why they go through ponies like sweeties :rolleyes: Definitely don’t agree with all this BYEH crap either but that’s another story.
 

mcnaughty

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I'm going to add here that it was not on a corner that he got upset. The school is 20 x 60.

I don't really want my daughter taking him out on a hack yet until we are absolutely certain that this is not a 'bolting issue' . Do you have any other suggestions please?
 

ihatework

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I'm going to add here that it was not on a corner that he got upset. The school is 20 x 60.

I don't really want my daughter taking him out on a hack yet until we are absolutely certain that this is not a 'bolting issue' . Do you have any other suggestions please?
Put a more experienced rider on him for the first few times (pref our hacking!)
 

dogatemysalad

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As others have said, cantering up a gentle hill. Tuck in behind a baby sitter horse and let the youngster naturally follow the pace without consciously thinking. If the rider remains calm and uses her seat to slow up as the horse in front comes back to trot and walk, it shouldn't be a problem.
 

twiggy2

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I'm going to add here that it was not on a corner that he got upset. The school is 20 x 60.

I don't really want my daughter taking him out on a hack yet until we are absolutely certain that this is not a 'bolting issue' . Do you have any other suggestions please?
20x60 is a small area for a newly backed green youngster, if your very lucky they get the occasional straight stride down the long side so it's a constant circle.
 

JFTDWS

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I don't think it's outrageous to expect a highland to canter in a 20x60 at 4 - both mine were cantering (not much, but had the idea, could strike off correctly and canter a lap or so) in a 20x40 at that stage. I do think that the OP should consider getting a pro on board to see what the issue is - whether it's balance (and therefore needs work which could be better done out hacking), or education or something else, which might be an underlying issue, tack fit or just bad luck on that occasion.
 

JFTDWS

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Surely it depends on how long it’s been in ridden work?
I'd say if it's not ready to canter a few strides down the long side of a 20x60, it's probably not ready to canter at all, given that it's a highland rather than something big and gangly. That's why I would suggest a pro to sit on the pony and make the judgement as to what is currently amiss.
 

splashgirl45

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i didnt canter mine in a school till she was happy in all gaits out hacking. i did the first canter up a hill which wasnt too steep but a long gentle slope , when she was happy canteriing uphill i progressed to cantering on the flat out hacking, this resulted in a few bucks but nothing too bad . i think i cantered in a school the following year when she was 5...
 

BunnyDog

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So I may come across sounding like an American cowgirl but just as a bit of relative experience we break and have 2 yr old Thoroughbreds cantering in a round pen on day 3. On day 4 we started out in the fields trotting and cantering on hills.

Now, I am an experienced rider. But the pony should be able to canter in a school IF it's brakes and flat work obedience has been installed. If not, get that done first.

Emily
 

maya2008

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So I may come across sounding like an American cowgirl but just as a bit of relative experience we break and have 2 yr old Thoroughbreds cantering in a round pen on day 3. On day 4 we started out in the fields trotting and cantering on hills.

Now, I am an experienced rider. But the pony should be able to canter in a school IF it's brakes and flat work obedience has been installed. If not, get that done first.
Emily
A TB or lighter built pony - yes, cantering in the school first is fine. I've done it. Natives are built differently. They distrust the shifting surface, don't trust the fact that there's a corner up ahead and that they've now got a weight on their back. So they either refuse point blank (won't go/buck/rear/whatever) or do what this one did with no fence and a rider who doesn't know what they're doing. Also, a school is different from a round pen. There are no corners in a round pen...




For the OP - just backed ponies/horses/equines of any description, don't have 'bolting issues'. You're well on your way to creating a problem though, if you don't get some real life help asap. You need an instructor or experienced friend (experienced in backing natives/heavier types) to help you. One who can ride for you and give that pony a good experience, that can take it out hacking and help for the next year or so when your youngster tests the boundaries and tries things out.

'Backing' a pony is really easy. Riding it away, not so much. Bringing it on to become a lovely 'finished' horse even harder still. The initial novelty wears off after a few weeks, and they start to test the boundaries and see what's what. If you keep them in the school too long, that 'testing' happens sooner because they are young and bored. Hacking for their initial six months to a year gives them variety and fun and straight lines for their joints. It gives you a happy horse who likes its work. BUT.... you'll have to sit the spooks and the bucks and calm your horse when it meets unexpected new things. You have to go out in the horizontal rain and howling wind and never once lose your nerve, not even when the bins blow across the street and pheasants fly out from under your feet. YOU have to give that horse confidence and teach it about the world. And then you have to laugh it off when you end up on the floor occasionally, calm your horse and reassure them (because these things happen!) and make sure that at no time, ever, do you haul it in the mouth because you lose YOUR balance. Can you/your daughter do that?

Highlands are stubborn and strong. Create a problem now, and you'll have to live with it forever. I buy all mine as unbacked 3yos for this reason - do it right the first time, you get a lovely horse that you can keep forever and enjoy. Get one someone else has mucked up, and they never forget that initial bad experience.
 

JFTDWS

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A TB or lighter built pony - yes, cantering in the school first is fine. I've done it. Natives are built differently. They distrust the shifting surface, don't trust the fact that there's a corner up ahead and that they've now got a weight on their back. So they either refuse point blank (won't go/buck/rear/whatever) or do what this one did with no fence and a rider who doesn't know what they're doing.
.
I really disagree with this - I've started a good few highlands, and they have never had an issue with working on surfaces or around corners, even very early on in their working lives. I especially don't think it's harder for a highland than a thoroughbred, I think the reverse is more accurate.

I'm absolutely not advocating cantering youngsters in an arena if there is a good outdoor alternative (though I don't think clay tracks are a particularly good alternative given recent weather). I'm saying that this pony may well have another reason for knobbing off in the arena - I'd guess at tack or rider issues - and sending this horse, tack and rider combination out to canter on hacks could be an absolute disaster.
 

maya2008

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I've started a good few highlands, and they have never had an issue with working on surfaces or around corners, even very early on in their working lives.
I guess people have different experiences. Out of curiosity, did you do the 'textbook' backing (i.e. lots of lunge work, then rider on being lunged, then rider riding while on the lunge, then off the lunge)? If you do it that way, in theory at least any horse should happily canter on the lunge on the surface they're used to, with a rider, once they're off the lunge. But that wouldn't be their first ridden canter, so I doubt the OP did it that way.

I don't do the 'textbook' way because I don't have anyone I trust to lunge me, nor a jockey to stick on top while I lunge. My only choice is to establish 'go' and 'stop' and basic steering on my own under saddle in the school, then we hack out with a reliable horse and do the rest out hacking. Doing things that way, I've found things to be as I mentioned above.
 

JFTDWS

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No I don't lunge youngsters at all. I long rein, but not in canter (not that fast!). I also don't have anyone to lunge, everything's done alone.

By quirks of timing, both my own highlands, and a couple of those I've done for others, have been at awkward times of year where hacking is limited to walk and trot because we're on clay and it's deep and horrible. Thus their first canters have been in arenas because the alternative is not cantering for undefined periods until the weather improves (and, clay, instantly goes solid). I've never encountered any significant resistance to cantering in an arena when starting them this way - a bit of rushing, wrong leg, unbalanced transitions, but certainly no bucking or buggering off. I find highlands remarkably rideable and trainable, so I find it a bit disappointing when people describe them as strong and stubborn - if some highlands are innately so, I think it is very much a trait of specific lines rather than of the breed in entirety.
 

maya2008

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The breed is strong - that was the idea, yes? Strong as in physically can carry a grown man. The ones I've known haven't suffered fools gladly, like your average shetland come to think of it. And very trainable I agree - so very easily trained to do the WRONG thing, not the right one!
 

JFTDWS

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If that was what you meant by strong, that's fair enough, but I don't think that it reads that way in the context of your post.

I don't think they "don't suffer fools gladly". I regularly put complete novices and children on mine and they're very trustworthy. They aren't donkeys but they will generally try to do what's asked of them, and I think that's the polar opposite of stubborn.

As for easily trained to do the wrong thing - that's like any equine out there. Train them poorly and you will have a poorly trained animal. It's not a highland trait, it's a horse one.
 
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A very green highland shouldn't be taught to canter by a kid that isn't competent enough to cope out hacking. Many people don't back Highlands until they are 5 or 6, they are certainly not physically mature enough or balanced to cope in canter in an arena with a rider unless the lighter, sporty type any younger. The young Highlands I have had have all rushed off in canter to start with and as others have said, a hill out hacking is the best place. I have found you have to let them go forward, don't panic and grab, and then they find their own balance. It sounds like you need an experienced Highland pony person to get on for a bit or be happy to walk and trot until Spring. All that would matter to me right now is that your pony is going forward , in straight lines and is happy to go out alone.

PS you worry me when you say he is a Highland so not a sharp creature - at 4 he is naive... if you dont get help with him now from someone who knows the breed you will be in a whole word of pain by the time he is 6.
 

JFTDWS

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Do we know the OP's daughter is a child, and novice? I deliberately was not presuming such - but perhaps there is a posting history I haven't followed?

To be fair, one of my highlands is properly sharp at this time of year - not to undermine my previous comments about him being safe and kind, which he is (he genuinely does regularly have novices and small children on board to hack in summer or do arena work year round and he is super), but he's also sharp to hack in winter for specific reasons which relate to his upbringing rather than the breed. My other is the polar opposite. Highlands absolutely can be sharp and the OP is a bit naive to suggest otherwise.
 
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