Is your horse disunited in his canter? Here, dressage coach and judge Nikki Herbert explains what you can do.
Q: Occasionally, my horse is disunited cantering on the left rein, but he’s always correct on the right. Is it something I’m doing? What exercises can I do to get it right every time?
A: Without seeing you on your horse, I can only suggest what may be happening in canter on the left rein.
As he’s always correct on the right rein, he might be more inclined to bend to the right.
If this is the case, he may lack straightness in canter right, going with quarters on a slightly inside track.
This could result in your horse going on the left rein bent to the right, which would mean his off hind leg moves outside the line of his body, preventing true engagement.
To help correct the lack of suppleness or straightness, use counter canter on the track so the sides of the arena help to make him straight and he starts to stretch the muscles on his right side.
Is your riding making him disunited?
The lack of symmetry might also be causing you to slip over to one side, no next time you ride, ask someone to watch or video you from behind to check the saddle and that you’re sitting on the centre of your horse.
If you’re out to the right when cantering left, this could be what’s causing the disunited canter.
Exercises to help
Once you’ve established that you’re sitting straight, try riding forward on a 20m circle and spiraling in and out while maintaining the rhythm. Make frequent transitions from canter to trot to canter.
Another exercise that will help is to build up to going over three poles set on a fan on the 20m circle.
SET IT UP: Create a fan shape using three poles on a 20m circle. Make sure the centre of your poles are 4ft 6in apart, and the outside are 9ft apart.
RIDE IT: Trot over the middle and canter or trot over the outer part a couple of times on each rein.
THE NEXT LEVEL: Place three poles 9ft apart in a straight line, 9ft away from your fan of poles. When your horse is able to do this well, raise the middle four poles gradually to about 40cms.