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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

March 19, 2012

Oh! Trouble in the Kingdom of Mare.

 I know on one level my tendency is to over train.  It does something for me mentally to know the horse can safely complete the distance and if they can complete it under the time requirement for a completion.  But on the other hand, I train alone 100% of the time, which makes my riding a bit higher risk.  The horse is not as confident as if with a buddy, and more inclined to a sudden spook  or worse, a roll back.  Having come off at warp speed on several occasions, once injuring my pelvis (two years to heal completely) that logical fear niggles at me in my lonesomeness.  That is not say we “never” move out or “never” canter. I am not clutching onto my horse, and not "thinking" disaster.   I just have to weigh my risks.   Slipping and going down with a horse  is dangerous.  Nor does a  lost horse in the woods appeal to me.  A long hike out without a horse at all does not at all make my day.  A ride ending injury appeals even less.    But Journey is pretty much stuck in a rut unless I do something.   The canter is an area of weakness for her (she can’t maintain the gait for more than a couple hundred yards), and a lack of confidence for me (since she has attempted to unseat me by vigorously bucking at least six or seven different times).  She has also offered to run away once which was much worse than the bucking episodes.  I don’t like an out of control horse.  Period.  I want a horse that is responsive to my aids, and operates forward with calmness and mental clarity.   So I ride very conservatively for these reasons.  I’ve had people ridicule me for being “fearful” of my horse.  However, I generally feel very calm on my horse unless total unexpected hell breaks loose, and feel that I know my horse, and recognize her limitations, and it is foolish to operate outside the bounds of good sense.

So I have decided to pull my big girl panties on and work with Journey on getting the buck out of her canter.  Silly girl gets all tacked up so we can work on schooling in the enclosed front lot which is no longer a sea of mud, but rather hard packed clay (similar to cement, only better traction).  We warm up with some walking, warm up some more with trotting patterns (Journey likes trotting patterns).  We circle the cones, we weave through flat poles, then we glide across the elevated poles (adjust panties).  GOOD TO GO.

It makes some semblance of sense to me that we begin with straight line cantering.  First lap I get about four good strides.  We drop to the trot until we reach the corner and go again, six good strides.  (Journey is not particularly enthused but is cooperating).  Another lap and we tally up to about eight good strides, and repeat one more time to get the entire length of the area at hand which is about 10-12 good cantering strides before you have to go around the corner.  I lean back and say "whoa".  She stops (yes the speckled wonder knows what whoa means but has selective controls including her voice commands).  She is sweating as our March weather pushes above 80 degrees.  The session is short, and we have no drama.  GOOD TO GO.

Not quite.

I remove tack and pull her hoof boots.  (light bulb moment)  Journey interferes at the canter.  Her left hind clips the pastern of her right hind and she has a small bloody nick.  Apparently the extra bulk of the boot is enough to make her do this.  I can see that pastern being very problematic at a ride if that were to happen repeatedly.  Wondering if brushing boots would be enough protection or if I should use just a plain old splint boot, or a pegasus sport boot,  which is much more padded but also much more hot?  Journey has the gracefulness of a walrus, perhaps over time as she is stronger she will have better coordination (yes, hold tight to  that futile thought) and no longer interfere.

My hair will be  completely grey before I get this whole thing unraveled and stuff all working!  Changing horses is almost like reinventing the wheel.


  1. Boots might work, but she might also "grow out of it" as she gets stronger and fitter and you ask her to canter more. Try not to worry TOO much, and keep cantering. Dixie went through a phase where she'd clip herself at a Big Trot, but after she ripped up a pair of bell boots I decided she needed to figure it out for herself - and she's never interfered again, after that month.

    I mean, kicking yourself hard enough to draw blood hurts. It's incentive to not do that! it's not like it's fun for them :)

  2. You might also consider lunging her at the canter. That will give her a chance to get more fit without also having to carry a rider. When Doc was young and had trouble maintaining a canter, I found that about 5-6 weeks of only cantering on the lunge line really helped him.

  3. I think your smart to be aware of your insecurities with the canter. Being smart and knowing your own physical limitations is what will keep you safe. I would suggest you stay close to home , do you have an area that could be used as an arene? Mark the edges with cones or maybe even a good sized round pen. Definitely start her cantering on the ground , like the others said. If you have a round pen, start with asking for it at liberty, them maybe put her in lines or side reins on a lunge (if you are comfortable doing this). I would bet dollars to doughnuts her clipping issue is an imbalance issue because she doesn't know how to carry herself yet in that gait. If that is the case, adding a rider will only make it harder. Alot of horses struggle with this and they can work out of it. good luck

  4. Hmmm...I think you ladies are on to something with cantering from the ground first. A couple questions though just to be sure I don't over stress her legs on the circle. How big of a circle if on the longe-line? ~E.G.

  5. that depends- if you haven't lunged her much, start small and do it at a trot and walk , get your walk /trot halt commands working. Then gradually let her out on a longer line as you and her have a working understanding of what is going on. Generally longe lines are 24-25 feet long. I like a little longer line when they are cantering so mine is about 32 feet I think (??)WEAR GLOVES when you canter. In case she is like some horses (Maggie) she will jump like a deer straight in the air and buck and when she lands, she tosses her head to the outside and tries to spin the other way (she can be quite athletic) and this little acrobatic movement hurts when it jerks the line through your finger. Oh, might be good to just start out with cantering 2-3 laps in each direction then build from there. Lunging on a circle is much harder on them but Journey is also full grown right? Just make sure you warm her up well beforehand..