Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gemma Goes for her First Canter

Gemma Goes for her First Canter
By Lindsey Forkun, www.LFEquestrian.com

Gemma is a very quiet and willing horse - a little on the lazy and slow side though. This just means that I have to be careful to keep Gemma motivated, because if I were to just push her to go, go, go then she would eventually shut down and become quite sour to go.

When asking her to canter I knew I wanted it to be her idea and for her to think it was an easy thing to do. If canter seemed like a ton of work to Gemma then she could easily become a pokey horse.

I did some trot work with her in the ring, and to help set her up for success I made sure to do a few things:
- I had someone on the ground ready to cue from the ground if she didn't understand my cue from in the saddle
- I used both a verbal cue (a kiss noise) that she is used to from the ground, and my leg cue
- I asked for canter as I was going toward home

Together these things worked like a charm and Gemma picked up canter on the first try, correct lead, very controlled and relaxed. I didn't end up needing the person on the ground, but it was good to have them. It is important that horses learn what the cues mean, and it can be easier if you can have someone cue them from the ground (which they are used to), at the same time as the riding cue. Then the horse can put two and two together and figure out what the riding cues mean. Asking for canter towards home just meant that Gemma had a little extra incentive to get moving because horses like to be closer to the barn and that’s where I was asking her to canter to.

It was important that when Gemma picked up her canter that:
1) I was careful to move with her in the canter and not bump her mouth or bounce on her back
2) I didn't ask for a lot of canter, about 5-8 strides
3) I gave her a lot of praise with rubs and voice for being calm and stopping on cue

Making sure to go with a horse in the canter helps the canter be comfortable for the horse and an enjoyable thing for the horse. Asking for only a little canter helps the horse understand they did the right thing (because they were rewarded) and it helps to keep a slower horse like Gemma motivated. Lots of praise for doing the right thing helps to give Gemma confidence that she can try something new, and it keeps our partnership fun and positive for her.

Key tip for this week:
When teaching your horse something new, make sure you set you and your horse up for success. Think about what will make doing what you want easy to understand, fun, enjoyable, or what might help to motivate the horse.

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