Saturday, October 12, 2013

Loose Rein Cantering

I'm a big fan of loose rein cantering - with a horse that knows how to canter under saddle, and has some relaxation plus forward built in through foundational softening work at the walk and trot, it can be a great way to help the horse develop balance and self-carriage.

Red had a day off today - a friend and I went out to lunch with another friend, who is 95 (has a little trouble getting around but is otherwise sharp as a tack) and living in a retirement community nearby - so I was short of time.  Red and I did some "just standing around" work in the arena - he and I both find this very relaxing and useful - for a horse who used to fidget and couldn't stand still or notice I was there, he's come a very long way.  We just stand there together, breathing together, and it is very fine.

This morning, Dawn and I did some very nice loose rein canter work, and Pie and I did some more in the afternoon.  It's a great test - will the horse maintain a balanced, relaxed, forward - energy but no rushing - rhythmic canter without your interference?  Will the horse track into the corners, or cut them?  Will the horse maintain/sustain the canter or break to trot before you ask?  All of these things will reflect the quality and consistency of the foundational work and how you are sitting and riding.  And you can't rely on your hands to fix things - they have to be right in and of themselves.

Both Dawn and Pie did exceptionally well.  Pie and I have also just started on walk/canter transitions, and he's already very close to having them - but it depends on me mentally preparing for canter - thinking the rhythm - to the point that all I have to do for him to strike off is exhale.  He's getting the idea, and I think it'll come together pretty quickly.

Good horses all around - I am very blessed.


  1. This post helped me out some!! I just now loped my horse, Red, after a year of owning him! I'm somewhat ashamed of it but when I got him he was: Underweight, bald from Sweet Itch, felt HORRIBLE and never wanted to do anything but walk if that, plus his trot literally is the WORST thing ever! So I focused on getting him better and once I succeeded, I worked on his trot. Tons of hill work and etc. My reins are NEVER loose, I always hold them too tight, which I admit is my worst habit. Today he randomly decided to try and lope after an amazing trail ride and I let him. It felt like he was bucking, lol!! But once I got in the groove of things, it was much better than his trot. Now I have to work on my reins!! Loose reins are something I love and need to work on because my Red is such a good boy, he doesn't need tight reins. I just keep them tight because I lack confidence. :P

  2. Kate, I really appreciate your posts, and since you have a dressage background I wanted to clarify something you said here. You suggested that you can canter on a loose rein with "a horse that knows how to canter under saddle". I've lately been thinking that the best way to have a horse LEARN to canter under saddle, find his balance, develop the strength to later go in a more collected frame is to start cantering without contact so that the horse can use his head and neck to keep his balance - especially a horse who has learned a lot of apprehension about the bit (which seems to be almost every "dressage" horse I see!). Could you comment? Thanks, Chris

  3. And sorry, I wouldn't have put that in as anonymous, but I can't find my user name etc for Wordpress, though I'm pretty sure I have one somewhere :) Chris

  4. Chris - in short, it depends . . . I actually thought after the fact about exactly the point you raise, and didn't amend the post to talk about it - too much there and I didn't want to clutter up the post. But now that you raise the issue specifically, it's worth discussing, and I'll try to organize my thoughts in a post sometime in the next few days.

  5. One of the "old masters" of riding advocated riding the young horse on a loose rein at all three gaits until he/she learned how to carry both him/herself and the rider. Ironically, many horses today are trained from square one in side reins and in a frame, so they never really do learn how to balance without the support.

    I think it's an essential part of training, myself, and often work my boys on a loose rein. Glad to hear you are with me on that. *S*

  6. I so agree about loose rein work, in all gaits really. But the canter is where they really shine and learn to carry themselves and manage the rider's weight too. And such fun!! And like your previous commentor mentioned, it's especially important for the young ones.


Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.