Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why Paddy struggles so much with the canter (gait analysis)

Shortly after the pro pics came out for the Region 9 Championship show, I was combing through them trying to decide which one(s) I wanted to order. I liked this one (sorry guys, these pics are copyrighted so you'll have to click) because it made us look sort of like we can canter even though we all know what a mess his canter was at that show.

And then I started looking at them a little more closely, because there's something really, REALLY wrong with Paddy in that pic. Can you see it?

It's even more obvious here.

At the moment those pics were taken, Paddy's footfall pattern isn't even recognizable as a canter.

But that's not the only problem. Looking at the pics, it's pretty clear that I've completely given up actually riding him during the canter work. Look at my position in that last one - I've been pulled completely out of the saddle, and I'm standing in my irons.  Here's another one where you can see how much I've lost my position. In this one I pretty much look like I'm hanging on for dear life and praying it will be over soon - which honestly, was not far from the truth.

And just in case you don't want to click through to the show pics, here's what I'm talking about (stills taken from video shot at home the week after the Championships):

See how he's about to land with his LF first instead of the the LF and RH at the same time? 

Here it is again, and here's me being pulled out of the saddle instead of sitting down and back and actually RIDING.


Still uneven, but better - and I'm actually sitting in the saddle trying to help him balance.

After doing some reading up on this (great article from Horse and Hound, Jan 2014, it's a must-read!), a four-beat canter of this type is not terribly uncommon. Apparently horses that land outside front first are doing so to get more support on the shoulder. The opposite of this is a horse who lands inside hind first, which happens when the horse has an extremely uphill canter and is these days considered a desirable trait.  

So, where to go from here? Paddy's displacement is pretty extreme, and it's caused by lack of strength  for him and lack of riding on my part - or too much riding, in the form of me pulling on his face and giving him some place to lean. The good news is that Paddy has a decent walk, so there's hope to fix it - or at least, improve it. For starters, I've got to learn to SIT the canter and not give in to despair! Transitions are always good - I couldn't get screen shots of the video, but usually the first few strides after a transition are very even and uphill. Also, and cantering in more of a "hunter" frame with his head a bit up and very light rein contact seems to encourage him to balance himself more. And my trainer has had us work on getting more "jump" in his hind end in the past, since he seems to get a bit sticky. Other suggestions are welcome!

Oh, and it would help if my horse were sound enough to canter! :) 

20 comments:

  1. Poor paddy pony :( Hope the rehab's going well!
    I love riding squares rather than circles in the canter to develop 'sit' and get them off that outside shoulder. The sit comes naturally with a really square turn, and for four-beated horses they can't actually make the turn if the outside front is coming down first, so when done correctly it forces a nicer 3-beat gait.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, SQUARES! Brilliant! I'll add those to the list!

      Delete
  2. Hope Paddy is back in action soon! To fix the canter rhythm, I would suggest: allowing the neck's nodding motion in canter with your arms (kind of like in walk), doing downward transitions (to trot) before the canter rhythm breaks down and gradually increasing the number of strides you canter (even if it takes you two months to get up to half a circle), working on transitions within the canter, introducing counter canter (good for strength building), riding haunches-in on small circle in the canter (needs to be a definite and purposeful haunches in), riding (mini) halfpass in canter, just as a tool, not to train that movement. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had started counter-canter, but are not coordinated enough for either a halfpass or haunches in. More balance needed. I do need to move my arms and follow the motion better - that's actually something I'm working on on Taran, because I know he won't go splat if I let go. We do lots of transitions... so many. SO MANY! Thanks for the suggestions!

      Delete
  3. it seems like a *lot* of horses that land slightly out of sync like that in the canter (spoiler: my mare is one of them, esp in her more open jumping canter).

    horse and hound did an article on photographing the sport horse in action (http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/photographing-dressage-horses-look-473936) that focused on which phases of the gait made for the most flattering photographs, and this exact issue was discussed, oddly enough - saying that more advanced horses will land with that foreleg slightly earlier to accommodate a more lifted shoulder.

    not sure it makes you feel any better or anything (or if it's even relevant to Paddy's canter), but just thought i'd point it out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Paddy's not the only one, but his is quite severe and because he's on the forehand, NOT because he's got a more lifted shoulder lol!

      Delete
  4. Rhythm at the canter is so interesting. Especially seeing as positive DAP at the canter is celebrated while there are all those videos and posts about how any DAP at the trot is a bad thing.

    There was a youtube video of someone fixing a lateral canter with canter transitions from the walk in shoulder-in... maybe it was another exercise. I've also found that my dad's TWH (who has a very lateral canter) is less lateral on hills. I think it really forces them to rock back and use their haunches a bit more. I also vote quick transitions, reducing the number of steps of canter, and half pass in on a circle, then leg yield out.

    Poor Paddy! No one appreciates his creative canter rhythm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I saw that video! I do canter transitions from walk leg yield or trot leg yield. If I ever get coordinated enough to do half pass, you'll be the first to know lol!

      And no, I don't appreciate the creative canter ;)

      Delete
    2. So interesting that trot DAP is frowned upon. My dressage trainer said that you'll often see it in the photos of really uphill horses, and it's true -- I've started to see it in both trot and canter of uphill horses now that I look for it!

      Jenji(ay) -- way to go for picking up on that. I did not notice it at ALL looking at those pics.

      Delete
    3. DAP is or is not frowned upon, depending on who you ask. What I've learned from staring at pictures of all kinds of horses is that it's not at all uncommon, regardless of the horse's age, breed, or level of training. It seems like MOST horses don't QUITE land at the same time.

      Delete
  5. I'm lovin these comments for my own education! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! So many helpful suggestions!

      Delete
  6. What is his canter like when you're not riding? I wonder if some (unmounted) lunge work with lots of transitions would help him figure it out before adding you into the mix.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He basically does not canter on his own - he can trot just as quickly as the other horses canter. Lunging is worse than riding - he struggles so much and I think having a rider help him balance back and insist on transitions is actually better. It sounds nuts, I know, but for him that seems to be the case.

      Delete
  7. This is something I am all too familiar with, sadly, thanks to TWH being gaited. We have coined it the "Panther" more of a pacing/lateral canter. Unfortunately hard work is the only solution to make it better, I was never able to actually fix TWH, only make him better. Lots of collection and disciplining him when he 4 beats vs 3 beats to encourage him to try harder. I feel your pain on this one, all too well :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, I'm used to that from Reddums. It's a tough thing to fix for sure!

      Delete
  8. Damn autocorrect. Panter, not panther lol

    ReplyDelete