My horse rushes in canter and leans in on the corners. Help!
“My mare is very fast in the canter and not just fast, extremely heavy and leans to the inside a lot. She speeds around corners and can’t seem to hold herself for long on long sides. She also takes hold of the bit so there is a constant heavy contact which makes it impossible to half halt or stop. If I let the reins go she just gets faster and I have to take them up again to stop.”
I feel your frustration! Leaning and running on in canter is a common problem and often the things you try to correct it only make things worse. Having said that these are problems that can be cured as long as you make a few changes to your position.
It sounds like your horse is struggling to balance in canter. Horses lean for two reasons – because they’re unbalanced and using your hands to support them, and because they can! There’s a great post on my www.schoolyourhorse.com site that will really help you here
Your horse is unbalanced in two ways – from side to side (because she has too much weight on her inside shoulder) which is why she’s leaning in, and from front to back (because she has too much weight on her shoulders) so she’s leaning on your hands.
Your contact is extremely important and unfortunately, if you drop the reins, you’re making the problem worse. At the moment your horse will be feeling as if all her weight is on her front end, so she’s using your hands to stop her falling onto her nose. Check out this post on contact to see how you can hold your reins, keep the contact, without setting up a tug of war between you.
What you need to do is rebalance her so her weight moves back over her quarters.
Your body directly affects your horse. Everything you do will change her balance so it’s important that you make sure you’re sitting as balanced as possible. Start in halt. Check how you are sitting. Your head and shoulders need to be directly over your hips – and your ear, shoulder, hip and heel should be in line with each other. Check out this post to see easy ways to keep your body in line without tensing up (thinking ‘sit up, shoulders back’ only makes your body tense)
When you’re having problems in canter as a pace you should focus on the transition. Once you get her moving into canter well you’ll find she manages to stay balanced for longer. So start on a 20m circle riding transitions at A or C, canter half a circle and then trot to rebalance her. Once she’s settled in trot (and take as long as she needs) then ask for canter again. The more you work on the canter transition the more relaxed and balanced you’ll find she becomes. You can them gradually extend the length of time you canter to complete a full circle or go large. There are some more tips in this post.
Re the leaning in – she can only do this if you don’t keep a good contact on your outside rein. She’s leaning (or ‘falling in’) because her weight is slipping to the inside shoulder. Your outside rein keeps her weight on her outside shoulder and that’s what keeps her weight equally divided between both sides of her body. (There’s a good post here about falling in and out )
Practise in trot by riding straight into each corner keeping a good contact on your outside rein. You’ll feel the difference as she steps around the corner because her inside shoulder will stay up instead of falling in. Concentrate on keeping her head and neck straight in front of her body and focus on keeping her weight to the outside. She’s going to find it odd at first and may tense up or try to rush the corners but stay relaxed in your body and sit quietly. Once she finds it’s easier to balance she’ll settle.
Problems like these take time to develop – and therefore take time to cure – but if you stay consistent and keep your body and your aids the same you will see improvements. I hope you’ve found this helpful. There is a 99p downloadable schooling guide available at my online shop which tackles canter problems too. Best of luck!