The horse I am leasing, Griffin, has not been cantered by his owner.  He is a 10 year old warmblood cross (probably draft) palomino.  I started riding him in August and started cantering with him soon after.  The first couple times he just acted like he had never been asked before.  The next couple times he kinda cantered.  Then he started just blasting into a canter.  After a few strides I can get him back into a decent canter.  He only lasts a couple 20 meter circles.  

To stop the blast-o-canter I tried barely giving him any leg aids at all.  He may have been a bit better.  Then he started bucking.  The second time my trainer said he started on the wrong lead and switched his front then when he tried to do a flying change it turned into a bucking flying change.  She thinks it is like he is afraid of the canter aid and is running away from it.  We have jumped him a bit, which he loves, and he canters very well after the jumps.

Lately I have been distracted by working with him on staying calm with all the windy weather and while other horses are also working in the arena.  The last couple weeks I have been riding him alone in the arena so he has been calm again so I tried cantering again.  Same thing - blast-o-canter the first few strides then bucking and hopping with his back arched like a halloween cat.  Not really kicking too much but he is in the air.  I put my heels down further and sit up straighter and back a bit and stay on.

What do I do to get him to stop blasting?  and bucking?  Why is he so scared at first?  

P.S. I never use a whip.  He doesn't like them and does well without it.  He also seems to read my mind when I am rounding a corner and about to ask him to do a figure eight he just goes into it.  He is either very sensitive to my shifting weight and the turn of my head or has some higher level training.  We don't know his history before the last 3 years or so.

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Obvious first thought is pain issues. Have him checked out by a vet. He may well be trying to tell you it hurts to canter. More likely a back issue than a hoof one but that's just MHO.

Beyond that, consider where he starts the bucking behaviour. Often we are asked by coaches to attempt the canter at a corner to ensure the correct lead. A horse that is not at all used to carrying a rider at a canter is likely going to have balance issues especially in the corners!

While I never had the bucking issue I have dealt with the "harley davidson" ride around the arena with my horse practically laying on my inside leg to make his corners!

It was a balance issue. He simply wasn't used to/able to carry a rider at canter around corners. Loads of ways to correct that. (And we did :-)

But the bucking thing makes me lean more toward this being a real pain issue. Please check that out first. Sometimes something as simple as pinching your fingers on either side of his withers and running them down his spine can find points where the horse will "flinch". A poor fitting saddle or old injury may be reason enough for him to object to the canter.

Good luck!
Thanks Splash, I'll try checking for pain again. Balance is a good thought too.
I have been trying different saddle pads and even borrowed a saddle to see if that helps. I may have found a better set up today but it still needs work.

Teach your horse to leg yield then ask for the canter depart from the leg yield. If he blows up then go back to leg yield in trot and ask again. Repeat as many times as necessary to make your point. Be happy in the beginning with a few steps of canter and reward! The first few times you get a few steps of canter (with no blow ups)pat him and talk to him then stop and get off. Over a period of time extend the few steps into a 20 m circle and so on. Aim for short canters and you will have to judge the best time to go back to trot before he loses his balance in canter. You will have to do a lot of leg yield in trot, then canter, then leg yield in trot transitions. This exercise will help to balance and strengthen him. and he will learn to pick up the canter anywhere.
Queenrider, He leg yields very easily. Trying a short canter is an idea - except that he gets better after several strides. Hmm...
You might want to check for stomach ulcers.
How? The vet?
When my trainer gets a horse into a canter, it is after lots and lots of speed control..... oh and by the way, I'm only adding this cuz previous posters gave the good advice of checking for pain and stuff..... anyway, control can be to have Griffin go from a trot to a canter on line....... ask him to speed up and then slow down... like when I was learning to ride, and do speed control, we only asked for two or three steps of the new gait, and then let the horse know that that was the right thing by the instant release..... and if he's not cantering nicely for two or three steps, trot walk, walk trot canter, then he shouldn't be allowed to blast o canter..... his neck needs to be bent... I'd walk him in circles and make sure that there is both types of flexion is his neck, to help him balance...... that way, if he starts to blast o canter, do a one rein and disengage his hind end stop to get him to settle back down.... if he's not in pain and he's not having any other physical issues, then bending, bending, getting the neck soft, and getting the horse collected will help him from bucking..... I think sometimes horses buck when they feel good and they just don't know or care that you are sitting there...... so my horse, he may canter a few feet.... now, I play with him on the ground only, but when he gets to bucking and kicking out, I push him around in the roundpen till he stops being such a crazy and gets more controlled but control comes from changing direction, so the horse must be bendy...... when he canters out in the ring for two steps all nice, I let him stop....... three steps, four steps.... not just a blast out... I don't think they know what to do with that.... he might seriously just be enjoying you too..... my horse is such a non bucker, but when he's having fun and I get him going too crazy, he really does buck, like he's not even thinking and just having too much fun... I know he does not have pain... and I know he does not buck under saddle, but I also know that Oliver, he's a bendy horse.... very collected with a rider because of F L E X I O N. :) People do flat work without that and to me, that causes NO Control.... :) Your figure eights, are so so so so good..... I think you just need to slow down and work UP to a canter..... where it just feels right to move forward instead of trying to stop a blast.. well, that's what I have to do because I have no courage to ride a bucking horse so me and Oliver just cannot go there at all.... even if I have to work MORE on the ground to be safe under saddle, I am gonna take the time.
Jennifer, Lots of good ideas! Speed control is something we work on a lot when he gets excited from other horses working around us. Your explanation of balance and flexion sounds like something to focus on more. He doesn't always flex in the right direction. He likes to look outward and changes which way he bends when coming out of a corner - like he is bouncing off the wall.

One day when it was very windy he was crazy and I thought I'd be better off letting him get his willy's out on his own. I put him in the round pen. He stood and looked at me like I was punishing him. I wiggled his lead rope at him and told him to get it out. He ran across jumping, bucking and farting! He raced around a few times bucking. It was kinda scary thinking he could do that with me on his back. But I also thought that might be what he was doing with me. Maybe that is the only way he ever cantered. His owner said he is difficult to lunge because he gets so crazy.

The funny thing is he is great when it is just the two of us in the arena and the weather isn't exciting. He is very easy to control and I can even ride with no reins and my arms out. He leg yields and listens to subtle shifts in my position to change the lead and start and stop. He will do anything at a walk or trot and learns fast and tries to predict my next step at times. So I feel like cantering is the next step.
Hey Mary... :) He just needs more of your positive reinforcement when he's good..... sometimes horses are difficult cuz they've gone from one person to another... once he learns what you want it sounds like he's a great horse.... :) I hope you guys stay safe.....
I have been working on making sure Griffin is flexing by having him look a bit toward the center and doing slight leg yielding toward the wall and he is staying more balanced in the trot. I have to keep working on it with nearly every stride at first then he starts to do it on his own after a while. I am also doing more figure eights to keep him switching his balance from side to side. I haven't been cantering since a serious bucking incident. He did spook and take off into a canter today but didn't buck!
Hi Mary,
It sounds like you've developed a really great relationship with this horse, I am sure you will get this all sorted out. For my two-cents, I would echo those that say to check for pain and saddle fit first but it does sound like he has problems with balance if he is nuts on the lunge, counter-flexes on the corners and struggles with 20 meter circles at the canter. I would agree that working on bending and suppling would be good and when you ask for canter, just think canter as your first aid, if he is really sensitive, that might be enough, then let him go on the straight away with wide turns until he has started to develop more balance at that pace. It sounds pretty typical of a green horse, even if he is 10.
Good luck and have fun!


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