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Discussion on Cross cantering behind

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marie anne
Member
Username: marieanh

Post Number: 45
Registered: 9-2009
Posted on Saturday, Oct 24, 2009 - 7:59 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I am leasing a small Polish/Arab for my 12 yr.old daughter. He is on the back side of 20, but just a doll, and the perfect size for my daughter. She rides him 3/wk.

Our problem is that he will switch leads on the back at the canter, usually just as he come round the short side of the arena, most often on the corners, never on the long side. I think part of the problem is strength, but I would like to be able to give my daughter some tips to try to keep him from switching.

My suggestions to her so far have been:
Sit as quiet as possible.
Give him a little leg as he comes around the short side (this was not helpful).
Put a little more weight in the outside on the short side (this was more helpful).

Any other tips/hints/suggestions would be welcome.
My daughter has been riding for about 1 1/2 yrs, the last 6 months more consistently. In addition to riding this horse, she takes lessons on my horse 1/wk. The Arab is about 14.2, obviously older, but sound/sane with alot of spunk.
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Sara Wolff
Member
Username: mrose

Post Number: 5448
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Saturday, Oct 24, 2009 - 9:41 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

First thing I would do is make sure the horse doesn't have any rear-end or back issues. A lot of times they will switch because they are uncomfortable.
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Terrie Douglas
Member
Username: terrido

Post Number: 191
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Saturday, Oct 24, 2009 - 9:46 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I think you are correct, it is a strength issue, at this age that's what I think anyway.

Sitting quietly and maybe not more on the outside, that to me indicates more going wrong behind. I would just over emphasize the 'aids' in the correct direction. (a bit more weight to inside, outter leg back, etc.) until he crosses then bring back to trot and try again.

Only other possibility is his balance. If he is say tipped inward too much he may think he is gonna fall and switch behind in an attempt to stay upright. I am just guessing here. Balance is always an issue though. If she can be sure he is up on top of all four of his legs and not too strung out behind that should help.

But overall it's normally a strength issue. Does he cross canter in either direction or is it mostly just one?

Not sure it can really be prevented. You can however help him gain enough strength that he can sustain the canter, as long as he is balanced.
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Erika L
Member
Username: erika

Post Number: 2040
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Saturday, Oct 24, 2009 - 9:53 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Just wondering how you can determine that this a a "strength issue"? How long has the horse been doing this? What is his background? Has he worked much or just brought out of pasture?

I ask because in my experience, this often speaks to discomfort or pain. It isn't a natural thing to cross-canter, or to counter canter. I can't imagine it being normal to horse without issues.
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Terrie Douglas
Member
Username: terrido

Post Number: 192
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Saturday, Oct 24, 2009 - 10:11 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Actually Erika it can be a strength and balance issue. Young horses will often cross-fire or cross canter until they gain enough strength and balance to carry on.

Yes, it can also be a sign of discomfort or pain. My experience it's lack of strength.
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Erika L
Member
Username: erika

Post Number: 2041
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Saturday, Oct 24, 2009 - 10:31 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Terrie, I agree that it CAN be, but this horse is "on the back side of 20", according to Marie Anne. That's why I ask about pain rather than weakness. Unless he came unworked, I would tend to question other issues in a horse of that age. I am going through this with my older mare. One of her first signs of discomfort before it got acutely obvious was cross-cantering.

Just a question for you since I just read the thread about not standing for mounting...I am curious when you think of pain as a possibility before behavior? Your first thought there (not standing for mounting) was pain, why would you not want to rule that out first in this case also? Just trying to learn...
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 23980
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Sunday, Oct 25, 2009 - 9:36 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello marie anne,
Trying to identify a cause is the best first step as it may lead to a faster or better solution. I assume the horse is on the correct front lead going into and while in the corner(?). Is the cross cantering always just one lead or does he cross canter on both leads? An important component of identifying the problem is to try and get some history of whether the horse has always done this or is this a recent development? When having such problems and if there is any question in your mind you should help rule out lameness with a good exam.
DrO
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Terrie Douglas
Member
Username: terrido

Post Number: 193
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Sunday, Oct 25, 2009 - 11:44 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Erika,

In my experience, which granted isn't based on thousands of horses, those that cross fire in canter lack the strength to carry themselves well balanced, hence they cross fire behind.

And yes, pain will also cause. Why did I go to weakness first? Hmmm dunno, call it a hunch. That fact that he begins and canters on correctly then switches while cantering, course I should have asked probably another half dozen questions, but just on that my hunch says strength more than pain. However, if the horse is not strong enough, it will definitely hurt.

Just because the horse is 20+ means nothing as far as strength goes. ;) I can point to 6 horses here on my property right now that are over the age of 20 and lack muscle and strength to sustain a well balanced canter for very long. None of them have much topline muscle, In fact I have 4 yr olds here that have better muscling and strength and they still cross fire in canter quite often. (none are my own horses, fwiw)

It was just a feeling I had, that's all.
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Shannon
Member
Username: stek

Post Number: 330
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Sunday, Oct 25, 2009 - 12:54 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Does this horse cross-canter while on the lunge too? And is the area in which he is making the switch perfectly flat? Has he done it consistently in the past, or is this a new behavior?

I have a gelding that came to me with zero muscling on one side due to never having been ridden on different leads and diagonals. It took forever to get him to have the strength and co-ordination to hold a correct canter on that side, and if there was any unevenness to the ground (e.g. a slope) he would tend to switch behind on circles. This was both on the lunge and under saddle.

He still has a tendency to fall out behind if not kept in shape; I think it's also a conformation issue for him. Many horses never cross-canter at all.
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marie anne
Member
Username: marieanh

Post Number: 46
Registered: 9-2009
Posted on Sunday, Oct 25, 2009 - 1:26 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

The information I have is that he had not cantered in a while before coming to the barn-in fact was not worked much, which is why I think it is a strength issue. He does it both leads equally (he switches behind, never in front). He has done this as long as I have watched him. I have not seen him cantering while outside so I cannot comment on this. I have not lunged him. He is not resistant to moving forward, there is no tail swishing, ears twitching, shorten gait, or other obvious signs of discomfort and he has no problems on the ground, lifts his feet to be cleaned, etc.

The owner is expecting, and doesn't come around much so the info I have came from the barn owner.
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jos
Member
Username: paardex

Post Number: 1514
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Sunday, Oct 25, 2009 - 3:12 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I like having the horse on a lungeline and have them canter without weight on their back if it is a balancing issue a nice big circle and just making loads of transitions to canter and back to trot helps strenghten a horse and balancing it. If it won't canter appropriately on a lungeline I would look for an underlying problem.
Jos
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Angie KJ
Member
Username: ajudson1

Post Number: 312
Registered: 6-2009
Posted on Sunday, Oct 25, 2009 - 4:40 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

It may be something as simple as the saddle being too long. Is he being rode in a western or english saddle? Is the pad too long? What does the horses back look like?

I have a 20 year old Arab mare who had some problems until my daughter started riding her; hollow back, head up, ear pinning, didn't want to canter on the right lead. I thought it was a combination of my weight, and her having a high rump, low wither confirmation, low back beind the shoulders. She acted fine when my daughter rode her, and it wasn't until I rode her in the smaller saddle that I realized my saddles, one is treed, one is treeless, were both too long on her and irritated her.

Just my thoughts to remind us to always start with the obvious. And of course check that theory by lunging as many suggested.
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Angie KJ
Member
Username: ajudson1

Post Number: 313
Registered: 6-2009
Posted on Sunday, Oct 25, 2009 - 4:42 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

P.S., Arabs do have short backs many times, and I've seen people put the saddle too far up on the withers in an attempt to keep it looking right.
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DianE
Member
Username: scooter

Post Number: 5118
Registered: 9-2000
Posted on Monday, Oct 26, 2009 - 6:20 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Something else to look into may be the hooves, Hank has been cross cantering even when in shape, drove me nuts!

Now that his hooves are in order he has quit.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 23983
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Monday, Oct 26, 2009 - 7:23 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Can you contact the owner marie-ann?
DrO
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Susie in AZ
Member
Username: sodmonst

Post Number: 216
Registered: 12-2008
Posted on Monday, Oct 26, 2009 - 4:41 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

It could be strength, pain, or balance. There are many possibilities. A story that I make up is that the horse was sore at one time or another, learned to compensate to protect from feeling pain, then lost condition in the under-engaged side, lost flexability, and is tighter on one side, now doesn't feel secure using the weaker side loin and hindquarters, and when it tries, the weak side gets tired, and/or sore.

Without knowing the horse's history, there are missing peices of evidence, and it's hard to determine the whole truth. When the horse canters "straight" at a canter outdoors, does it switch then? Does it travel straight, or are the hind leg tracks slightly to one side or another?

Maybe I am making too big a deal, please forgive me for my worry-wart side. I just wondered, if the horse is sore, weak, painful, or unbalanced, and you try to correct the behavior, couln't the horse fall, become cranky, or...
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Chris Mills in NC
Member
Username: chrism

Post Number: 1263
Registered: 4-1999
Posted on Wednesday, Oct 28, 2009 - 5:15 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

You didn't go into great detail re your daughter's riding experience/lessons/interests, etc. And it is hard to offer suggestions without actually seeing what is going on. Often a less experienced rider can contribute to the cross canter propensity. And it may be once a rider's seat is more secure, the problem goes away.

When your daughter is cantering on the long side, ask her to make sure he is slightly shoulder fore, i.e. his hips are not a half hoof print in, but the shoulders are a half step away from the rail. Horses are narrower in the front and many people ride them hips in, thinking they are riding straight. This can contribute to trouble in a corner. Ride the corners a bit shallow/not so deep, but concentrate on riding through them as a straight line and not careening around on two legs ala a motorcycle. Also, canter work on a 20m circle, concentrating on being straight will help strengthen the hinds and help the rider position herself. Making a smaller circle and leg yielding to a larger will help some, too. Frequent up/down transitions will help strengthen the hind also - try to do it on a large circle and go to trot before he cross canters. Canter a half circle, trot a half circle, canter a half circle, etc. Lots of serpentines are also helpful with encouraging proper bend and stepping under with a hind. If it is hard at the canter to do all this, do it very well at the trot to build strength.

If the work at trot isn't very good, the work at canter is going to be less so. Small bits of correct lateral work at the trot will help strengthen the hind, too.

Also, she may want to keep a journal of what she tries and what she notices. It may be that the work improves as he warms up, or that she notices a "feel" that encourages him to maintain.

If he lunges, it would be interesting to know how well he maintains the canter ... but it would be on a large circle, which would encourage that. If he is a very good lunging horse, then lunging her on him would be a good way to improve her seat and position and work on maintaining herself while he canters.

Just some ideas to mull over.
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