What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Understand the difference between being influenced and doing the influencing
- Being able to ‘roll’ with the canter first
- How feeling the reach of your seat is the start of understanding your influence
- The part your legs and hands play
What happens when you get into canter with your horse? Do you find that you are more of a passenger than a rider? Simply put, are you influencing the canter, or are you allowing the canter to influence you?
Today we will start figuring out what is going on in your canter, so you can begin to have more of an influencing effect on it.
The Difference between Influencing the Canter and Being Influenced by the Canter
The canter is a gait which can potentially have a lot of energy inside of it. For many riders, being influenced by the canter feels like this energy is causing them to ‘bounce’ or ‘bump’ in the saddle each stride.
Unfortunately, many try to correct this problem by gripping on or holding down into the saddle. This only makes things more uncomfortable for both horse and rider.
In order for the rider to begin influencing the canter through their aids and actions, they must first understand the canter. Understanding what is happening underneath them. This all begins with learning to first follow the horse. Allowing the horse to influence. Only then can they begin to focus on influencing the canter by what they are doing in the saddle.
Being Able to ‘Roll’ with the Canter First
A lot of what happens in the canter happens through the riders seat. The seat is important to both transition into the canter, but also then to ‘roll’ with the canter.
However, many riders, rather than ‘rolling’, they try to hold themselves in the canter. I think that this often comes from some anxiety being present around canter. Regardless of the reason behind this anxiety, the result is often that by the time they get into canter, they have a lot of excess tension in their body.
This excess tension can often be seen by riders gripping with their thighs. In doing so they shut down any and all movement in their hips. Simply put, there cannot be any roll. It can also show up as a stiffness though their lower back.
Whichever one is happening, the experience is generally not going to be as smooth as the rider would like. Every stride of the canter as it continues tends to result in the rider becoming a little more ‘bumped’ out of the saddle.
However, if the rider could just relax and allow their body to move with, rather than gripping against, the result is them achieving the rolling motion.
The good news is that once you can really move with the canter, you have overcome the first barrier to entry to a good canter. Meaning you are on your way to effectively influencing the canter.
If you are at the stage that you have not mastered this rolling motion the following is going to seem a little counter intuitive. But trust me, it works! The less you grip and the less stiffness in your lower back, the more you will stay with the horse. Remember, when you try to dictate the roll before you truly understand how to move with it, it is very difficult to get into the same momentum and movement as the horse.
Feeling the Reach of Your Seat Within Each Roll
Assuming you have mastered the rolling motion, I then recommend that you bring your attention back to what your seat bones are doing. Remember the rolling motion comes from your pelvis and hips. In fact, the whole lower torso and upper thighs are moving with the horse.
Identifying your seat bones and where they are at any given point in the canter is the beginning of being able to ‘feel’ in the saddle. What I want you to feel is the reach. The arc your seat bones travel or move ever single stride.
Think of this ‘roll’ for a moment. It will always result in your seat coming back to a ‘starting point’ and then setting off on the next ‘roll’ each stride. It feels like a circular or oval motion.
What I want you to focus on here is the reach, meaning the ‘starting point’ and then the ‘furthest point’ your seat travels as it continues on its roll.
Once you can feel that, you can start playing with it. You can start allowing the seat bone to perhaps reach a little bit further. Or you can bring it back, so that the seat bone is not reaching as far. It is really important that you maintain your posture and position throughout this; otherwise you will block or shut down the free movement in your seat.
The Part Your Legs and Hands Play
One of the helpful aspects of plugging your seat in correctly in the saddle, is that a lot of other things just fall into place naturally afterwards. Your legs are one of these things!
When you have any excess tension in the saddle, particularly around your seat or your thighs, your leg position becomes affected. When in the saddle, you want your legs to simply fall down your horse’s sides. Of course, when your horse begins moving there is a little work required in order to keep them still while your horse is moving.
Once your legs are draping the horse, they are in the correct position to most effectively influence and communicate with the horse.
However, when there is tightness through our pelvis, our legs are generally too far forward. Or if we are gripping with our knees our lower legs tend to go too far back. A lot of ‘leg problems’ can be remedied by simply ensuring that the seat and pelvis is allowing the movement to happen when in the saddle.
Maintaining Consistent Connection through Your Arms and Hands
The final piece of influencing the canter is your hands and your arms. Your hands and arms must follow the horse. I like to think about your hands and arms being connected to your seat.
It is important to understand that when the horse canters, there is a lot of natural movement happening. You must be able to discern that movement and then begin following the horse. This will ensure there is no resistance on your part through your hand or through the bit & rein.
It is through this quietness that you can begin to influence the canter. The hands and arms are engaged in the communication, but they are not overpowering the communication.
You will often see riders ‘pump’ with the top half of their body. Rather try to ‘still’ through your shoulders, while allowing the movement through your elbows, and of course your wrists and hands.
Your job is to try to keep your shoulders nicely balanced so that they are carrying you. You almost want to think of your shoulders as a clothes hanger with a long garment hanging from them. The garment is the rest of you. But the clothes hanger is there providing the support. Now imagine the wind moving the garment. The wind is the horses movement or energy, the clothes hanger is your shoulder.
Once again, once you can move with the horse and then understand that movement, then you can begin influencing the canter.
Links mentioned in the episode:-