Dressage Exercises for the canter depart

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19 July 2012
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Hello all,

I am looking for ideas of exercises for the canter depart for my just turned 4 years old. He is an ex racing trotter and so far we have been going full blast trot and asking for canter in a turn with my RI but I am looking for less death-of-wallesk ways of working on his canter depart. He had his first jumps yesterday and does a nice slow balanced canter after the jumps so one idea is perhaps to try asking him over the jump and then change it for a pole and then remove the pole. He did anticipate the exercises last time after a few tries so hoping this could help him figure out but wondering if there are perhaps other exercises to achieve that.
 

be positive

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I often use small jumps or poles to help with a youngster that may lack the natural ability to go into canter from a balanced trot, which many do, I would continue to use the jump until he is more established, once he is popping into canter easily over a pole and can do a short canter back to trot then canter over a second pole, put two out one in each half of the school, he should be more able to produce a clear transition without them but if he goes back to running use the poles again, I am not keen on letting them learn to rush as it leads to tension at such an important stage of their training .
Transitions from walk can help but he is possibly not ready to try that yet, there are plenty of exercises that can be useful but probably none better than using poles if he finds that easy.
 

Red-1

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Can he rein back? I often find that a rein back sits them on their bottoms, then transition direct to trot for a few strides, then onto canter. I generally don't ask for canter until they can do a direct halt - trot transition as that way I now they are on my aids.
 

ycbm

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I agree with you that it isn't a good idea to teach a racing trotter to canter from a flat out trot. It's not comfortable for either of you!

Because he's a trotter, he's been taught not to canter no matter how fast he's going, so your current method is very confusing for him. I would teach him from walk and try to avoid the transition from trot altogether for now.
 
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Thank you BePositive, we will be playing with poles for the next session.

Thanks Red-1, yes he can rein back, not very straight but he has the idea. It will be handy to try your technique when hacking as we won't have poles then. He is moving yard next month so all riding will be hacking (on the beach :) ).

He also has a 4th gait that he will do when he is a bit excited at the start of the session or when other horses are cantering in the school. It's smoother than trot and fairly slow, not sure if it's pacing or ambling but I might try to ask him to canter from that as he is keen to go forwards then.
 
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I guess walk to canter isn't your favourite move then 😜 ?
I am not very good at it but anything that can help we will try. It's definitely a good idea to remove the trot from the equation as he has a racing mode that he can switch on or off and I definitely prefer when it's off :D. I have been following your progresses with Ludo too, very inspiring.
 

ycbm

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Ludo also runs in the trot and his Mum is a trotter as you probably know. I taught him the right depart from walk or he trotted faster or gave me the wrong lead. The left one was fine 👌. I've also taught a fair few ex flat racers, and they have the same problem for a different reason, that they rarely trot as preparation for canter. They go to the gallops and then bound off either from halt or walk. Walk to canter is a favourite of mine, I really love doing it, which helps 😊

If it helps, the way I get it is to put the horse into a good forward walk with a definite feel in the reins. Then take shoulder fore or even shoulder in if the horse will do it. Then put my seat in canter by putting my inside seat bone slightly forward and my outside lower leg slightly back, feel as if I am lifting my inside seat bone up and forward even more in a 'scoop' motion (exactly as it would feel of the horse was actually in canter), and maybe a tiny tap on the bum if the horse won't over react to that. If your body just 'expects' canter then they usually just do it. It's harder to explain than to do.

And I wouldn't worry too much about which leg they lead off on to start with, just get the transition, then when you've got that reliably you can play with the bend to sort out the lead leg.

Don't be too hard on yourself, it's a lot more difficult to retrain an ex racer than to train a blank canvas. And trotters are harder than ridden racers and pacers worst of all !
 
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Thank you Ycbm, the explanation is really helpful. I will memorize it so I hopefully get the right timing of aids when I am on the horse.
I didn't know Ludo's dam is a trotter, has he come over from France? Appys are a favourite here, we also have a trotter friesian cross on the yard.
 

tristar

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i love that term, canter depart, it sounds so elegant

i usually loose lunge horses who don`t depart into canter over jumps cause it usually gets them fired up, although i realize you want to improve whilst ridden, but a jump and a few polos can work wonders just to practice
 
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i usually loose lunge horses who don`t depart into canter over jumps cause it usually gets them fired up, although i realize you want to improve whilst ridden, but a jump and a few polos can work wonders just to practice
We can't loose lunge in the school but clicker training worked really well to get him to relax at the beginning so time to get the treats out again.
 
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