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Hi there! Well, here is my question: This applies mainly to trailriders, about cantering/loping out in the often do ya'll do it out on the trail?? How do you gain confidence in this area?! I trailride often, in this specific area there is this very nice flat dirt road that is perfect for cantering/loping...but the problem is I feel all out of control! I dont know how people do it without feeling like they are going to fall off! Do you stand up a bit in your stirrups? Do you "sit" the canter/lope?
Every time I go to ride, I think, "today is the day I will canter" and the ride goes on, and sure enough I just dont have the courage. Did anyone have this issue, and if so, how do you get over it???
Thanks. P.S. This is really bothering me, as I want to do it so badly! Today I was close to tears with disappointment in myself!
Have you done any cantering before? If not, or even if you have start in a safe area first not out on the trail. An Arena would be best. If you haven't cantered before or have that falling off feeling then try taking some lessons. If your seat is correct you shouldn't feel like you are falling off. Many people just get on a horse ane ride and don't think about how they ride other then getting the horse to do what you want. This is fine if you have a solid horse and aren't planning on showing or doing anything like herding cattle. But if your seat is not correct you run a higher risk of going off during even a small spook or buck. A solid seat is like the foundation of your house, you will stay more solid in the saddle. You still may go off if it's a big enough try on the horse's part but the changes are lower.

Riding correctly will also help build your confidence for going faster.

Until you know that you can canter(if you haven't before) and how your horse is when cantering don't canter on the trails. Make sure you have the control over your horse and your body before you just pick up speed on the trail. When you have the solid seat and you know you have control on your horse you will feel much better about cantering on the trails.
A point that I'd like to bring up is how your horse canters or what some riders think a canter is. The reason I bring this up is because I was on a trail ride with a group I hadn't ridden with before. The young man who was riding beside me asked if it was okay if he cantered off. He was concerned it might bother my horse. I gave him my permission and expected him to ride off in an easy 3 beat canter. He took off in a dead run!!!

A canter should be a nice, easy, 3 beat gait. Anything faster is a hand gallop, a gallop, or a run and is a 4 beat gait. Most canters are smooth and easy to ride if you are sitting your horse correctly. In this Stormie is absolutely right. I'd rather canter than trot on a horse that has a smooth as silk, rocking chair canter any day of the week than a trot. And lastly, always try and learn something new in a controlled and enclosed environment and not out in the open... just like Stormie said. Your safety should be your main concern.

I'd like to add this about running on any kind of road whether it's paved, gravel, or dirt; Never go faster than a walk on any hard packed surface whether it's on a road or not. You are just asking for possible damage to your horse's legs. This is especially true with younger horses who's legs are still developing and prone to injury. This road may look like the ideal place to canter, but if there is no cushion to the surface, I definitely wouldn't canter a horse on it. JMO

Another thing to realize is trail manners. It is just plain dangerous to canter or go at any gait faster than a canter on trails. This is especially true on forested trails or any kind of trail where you cannot see very far ahead of you. Not only would this spook the horse of a fellow rider coming from the other way, but you could very possibly run over a hiker or hit a biker. Not a good idea. I know you were talking about open areas, but this is something we should all remember when we think it may be fun to let our horses go faster and stretch their legs.
"God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses"
--Robert Browning

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
-- Author Unknown
Hi! Thanks for your replies--I think I may go ahead and take some lessons! I think you both are way right--

I have cantered before plenty, but for some reason with my last horse I lost my confidence. I didnt fall off, but jeez, her canter was so squirrly!! She would be cantering in a straight line, then zig zag, then I would hurry up and stop, since I almost would lose my balance!

I think I have figured out the problem....I need a horse that like you said, I know that they have a nice slow easy going canter--this horse I was riding yesterday is my friends horse whom I have ridden alot before, but the problem is that whenenver my friend and his other friend ride his two horses, they call "hand gallop" a canter--this is definately faster than a canter! So, yesterday, I got up my nerve and tried to canter this horse who took it way faster than I feel comfortable, so I tried to slow him down and he just threw his head a bit--this same thing has happened before with me with this same guy's other horse! Luckily, I know how to do a one rein stop--so that is how I slowed him down to a stop. This friend of mine will take his horses out for a hack, then at the end, he "opens them up" to "work them out" on that "road" not really a road, but it is two tire tracks in soft dirt, so really, these horses are TRAINED to not actually canter--once the cantering begins it turns more into a gallop.
So, the last two times I wanted to canter, I have felt out of control. Then, when I had that arab I lost my confidence then as well.
Lesson barn here I come! Thanks a bunch guys!
"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."

Horses are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

I am very hesitant to canter, EVERYTIME I have fallen off it was at a canter. I had Joe for over a year before it just felt right and I cantered him. Since we have moved the horses to the farm I am back to feeling hesitant.
I want to find someone to give me lessons who understands how I feel and doesn't want to rush me. I actually had a very young trainer want to chase the horse I was riding with a lunge whip just so I would canter that day!! Geez I want to canter but NOT that badly. Lets work on my balance and confidence, shall we?[Smile]
When Joe canters, well he really has a nice little lope, I sit back and rock with it. One hand safely gripping that saddle horn.[:I]

Being in an arena is a good idea for the first canter (also a horse that listens!). With my dtr, when she had the trot down and a good one reined stop, she felt ready to try. Had her do an Anderson technique where she is the passenger and let the horse canter, not worry about the steering part, let the POA go 15-20 strides, then shut him down. She'd hold on to the horn with one hand, reins with the other, then do her one reined stop when enough strides or going to fast. Eventually added more strides. It is working for her in learning to go with the horse's rhythmn and get her seat down, and not worry too much about the steering, yet able to stop one reined to control. Horse learns too, for stop and speed control.

Not the only way, but working out well for her, her seat and horse not allowed to pick up too much speed, safer.

Cantering up hill can be a good way to try without gaining too much speed. Stormie and Red Hawk have good points re: control, and different horses have different speeds, and your ability to control. Lessons and lesson horse is a good idea.

I'd be sure I had a good WHOA, or STOP, on a horse before even attempting a canter.

Yes, I agree 100% with Bones.

When I start a first timer out on lessons, I put them on a lunge line and on my been-there/done-that ex-show gelding Dove. Dove will take any gait when asked for it on the lunge line. My student, at this point, is just a passenger. This gives her a chance to get a feel for the horse and to find her seat and sense of balance first before she has to worry about controlling the horse, too. We always start with the walk and then the trot before we ever think about doing a canter. Then, once my student has that seat and balance, I start letting her control the horse with the reins and her legs & seat still on the lunge line. Once she is doing most of the work at controlling the horse than I am, then, and only then, do I take the horse off the lunge line.

If you can find the right horse to try this on and someone you can trust to lunge that horse while you ride him, this may be the way to start and get your confidence up to canter in a very gradual manner. Also, when I start my student at the trot or the canter, we will only do a few strides at first... sometimes not more than 3 or 4... and then stop. I let my student regain her balance and then we try, again... maybe for a few more strides. Then we build on this until we are doing several rounds on the lunge line.

Start simple, don't rush anything, and take it one simple step at a time.
"God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses"
--Robert Browning

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
-- Author Unknown
Red Hawk's lunge line is a good idea too. I did this with my dtr on the trot and she felt safer. Not sure why I ignored it on the canter[8]

Here's a strange thing: The POA cantering seems so much faster than the TB; I'm guessing it is all those short little steps compared to the longer strides...a little harder to sit, but the short horse makes one (probably falsely) feel safer! (Though shorter thump to the ground.....[B)])

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