My horse won't canter

Joined
11 November 2015
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161
Location
Lincolnshire
I have posted before about schooling issues with my horse, and after some helpful advice and a lot of hard work for me, he is enjoying his schooling and dropping down onto the bit much more nicely than ever before! His trot work is fantastic in the school now and his circles and turns are improving phenomenally, but I've found a couple other things have begun to go downhill.

He tosses his head a LOT when we're not jumping or hacking, I think mainly because he gets bored even just doing the 15 minutes of schooling twice a week we do, but my main problem is that he's starting to refuse to canter when he's not pointed at a fence. It's frustrating, because he has so much energy and enthusiasm in the trot, but the second I ask for a canter he'll throw his head up and refuse to transition. I'll try a bit more leg, get about 2 strides out of him before he'll fall back into a trot and tank off with his head in the clouds.

The funny thing is, during our routine warm-up he canters like a dream. Let me know if this is a problem, but my instructor recommended I do the same 10 minute warm-up every time I school or jump him, because my boy settles very well into a routine and is a lot less anxious when he has one. I've been doing that and he knows the warm-up and when it's done, and if we don't head at a jump after warming up then this whole canter problem starts up.

I'm really not sure what to do here. I've tried using some polework to encourage him, and he canters very happily when doing that, but once there's no poles left he's back to normal. I'm stuck in a rut at the moment with him, as he's such a lovely horse in every possible way, but this is causing an issue. Plus, to cap it all, my instructor is away for a fortnight over Christmas, so I'm asking for help here to avoid the problem getting any worse before I can get a lesson.

Thank you all so much!
 

be positive

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Have you had his back checked, along with fit of his gear. Head tossing and refusing to canter can be a sign of a sore back
Worth starting here ^^^ my question would be what do you do differently when you warm up that changes when you ask for canter later, horses react to what is happening so I suspect you are riding him very differently.
The head tossing etc. may be that you are being too strong or asking too much and he becomes unbalanced, especially in canter, I would be doing a bit less canter until he is more established, I think there is no need to canter in every session, other than in the warm up period if he is happy then, work on his balance, getting the walk and trot improved and keeping him interested, schooling is not in the least bit boring if you are doing enough within each session, keep his brain working actively, not just his body, by using as many different movements and transitions as you can don't just go round the outside track or do 20m circles, use the inside track, do smaller circles, spirals, do them in different places, start to do some basic lateral work in walk etc.etc.
 

applecart14

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Sounds like back or hock issues. If a horse doesn't want to canter but is happy in other paces then this would make me suspect that the group of muscles needed for canter are causing him issues. Each pace uses different muscles groups in a different pattern.

You need to make sure the horse is warmed up properly and has been allowed to stretch its neck down on a long rein before asking for any type of collection. Then you need to walk for a period of time (say five mins) using leg yield and asking him to bend on serpentines and circles before asking for trot. Again spend time in trot before moving to canter. Horses need more time warming up in the colder weather than in the heat of the summer, but even then they require stretching down and round before any intensive work starts.
 

Casey76

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When were his teeth last checked? If I remember correctly your horse is just young, right?

A young horse goes through many changes when being brought into work, and again when the level of work is stepped up. Their teeth also change a lot between 3 and 5, so it's often worth getting a full check done (teeth, back, tack) after being in full work for 6 months or so, even three months if there are issues popping up.

It is also worth remembering that the excitement and adrenalin of jumping can temporarily override small aches and pains from ill fitting tack or sore teeth.
 

applecart14

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You say you only school for 15 mins twice a week, but where is the warming up and cooling down that is needed?

You also need to remember that the horse must be balanced before asking for canter. If he is rushing through trot he will find it hard to make the transition into canter, so you will need to bring him back a little, slow the trot before asking for canter again.

No good canter transition ever came out of a bad trot......
 
Joined
11 November 2015
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Location
Lincolnshire
You say you only school for 15 mins twice a week, but where is the warming up and cooling down that is needed?
I should have explained more clearly, we do 10 minutes for warm up and 5-10 for cool down, so by 15 mins twice a week, I meant that was between warm up and cool down. So we do about 25 total minutes, sorry for the confusion!

Update: after a few lessons he is now doing a lot better in the canter! I had the physio out and he's fine physically, it was all to do with motivating him to enjoy schooling a bit more, which he now does :) Thank you to all for good advice!
 

BethH

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Hi Head tosssing is quite often a sign that they aren't balanced, I would make sure that before you ask for the canter you only ask from a trot you are completely happy with and if he rushes forward with the aid in trot, slow him down again and balance before asking again. It is possible that if you are more tense after the warm up when you ask (as you are anticipating a problem) he could be rushing which means he is on the forehand so can't maintain the pace.

Are you asking him from a fixed outline - just wondering if it is strength thing, maybe in the warm up he is running into the canter, when you ask him to do it with more correctness he isn't quite strong enough?? Try keeping a raised pole in one corner of the school and ask when you go over it. Also often when you get the trot sorted the canter goes, it will sort itself in time.
 

Pigeon

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Also worth looking at ulcers, stressing about cantering was my guy's first symptom. How is he having the girth done up?
 

_jetset_

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I echo others on here. Perhaps there is something causing some discomfort and this may not be immediately obvious. For example, there could be an issue with a lower limb that is making the horse unwilling to take the weight require to change the gait.
 
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