Welcome to the Education section of this site. Here you will find insightful articles and videos to help you go "Forward, Always Forward" on your gaited dressage journey. It's not all about the goals, but the journey! ~Jennie
Learning to Canter
Interested in Learning about Dressage
The US Dressage Federation has come up with a diagram in the shape of a pyramid to demonstrate the steps to be successful in Dressage and the sequence of these steps. Everybody talks about "collection, collection" but do not understand that is the end result, not the starting point. A correctly collected horse is beautiful to watch in motion but with the emphasis on "correct", it takes much patience and training to bring the horse to this condition....not just squeezing him forward and pulling the reins to put him in a "frame" mimicking collection. The real work, the very basis of collection and all other movements in Dressage is rhythm and relaxation...on part of both horse and rider! Below is my interpretation of the USDF pyramid as it applies to gaited horses:
Hi all, question for you: My mare has a serious issue cantering. When I try to push her into it she begins pacing. I have gotten a balanced rocking canter from her once in the past 2 years, which lasted for approximately 3 strides (it was a glorious 3 strides which was so incredible I wanted to cry). I have stopped trying to canter her because I don't want to cause more issues. I'm thinking this is due to balance problems as she drops her shoulder terribly on circles. Does anyone have any balancing exercises to strengthen her core and perhaps get us closer to cantering? Thanks! Chantel
Thanks so much for your question! To get your mare ready to canter, always start with Ground Work first. Teaching her to trot is your only cure to help get the canter you so desire and starting on the ground is the best way to begin.🎠
To help her get her balance and sense of rhythm that the canter requires, set up ground poles in your round pen. Place them as if they were on the face of a clock at 12, 3, 6 and 9. With your mare untacked, lunge her over the poles at a walk.
This is to be done in a very relaxed atmosphere as you don't want her ripping around the round pen, tripping, falling down, etc. Let her get a rhythm, again; in a relaxed fashion. Watch her foot fall go from walk into a trot and when she does this in a relaxed manner, crowd her by asking her to move up in speed. See if the ground poles will make her jump: when the jump happens usually a canter follows.
When she does canter, be happy with one or two strides of the canter.Then let her go back into a trot and repeat by crowding her asking her to go faster and get a couple of Canter strides then back to the trot.
Be patient and keep her quiet and relaxed. Use your Transitions UP⬆️-to a Trot/Canter -and DOWN⬇️-to Walk/relax -as you see fit. The transitions will help her gain muscle and balance and understand what you are asking for her to do.
It takes about 30 days of doing this before I would ever attempt riding her over it (use your good horsemanship judgement here). Ride her in the same manner/pattern over the poles that you have been lunging her over the poles. After doing this and she's comfortable to ride over the ground poles.... that's when you start your hand galloping 🐎in a field that is safe or on a racetrack.
We only get cadence (air time where all four feet are off the ground) in the Canter on our gaited horses because they always have 1 or more hooves on the ground all the time ...we ride well grounded horses! LOL
So, air time is something these horses are not used to (especially while being ridden) that is why hand galloping 🐎is so important‼️to get a pure, 3-beat canter someday.
In this video, Outrageous (a 7yr. old, TWH, Gelding) is learning the Canter Depart and is being ridden at the Working Canter. Your horse will be prepared for these after it understands rhythm and relaxation and is able to hold self carriage in the Working Canter.
Horses are Curious!
Horses are naturally curious creatures; the more curious the horse, the more confident he becomes in handling situations that we humans put them in. Therefore, the horse becomes more trustworthy. In order for a horse to stay safe in chaotic predicaments, he must be exposed first in a safe environment where he cannot hurt himself or others-such as in the video above.
Question: Flat Walk and the Half Pass
Why is it so hard for my gaited horse to hold a flat walk while executing a half pass?
In my journey of applying dressage movements to my TWH's, what I have come across is that a half pass at a collected, flat walk cannot be achieved. It turns into a sloppy, pacey and hollow mess. It is like asking a traditional, trotting horse to execute a half pass in an extended walk. The horse would take one step into half pass and then at the second step, he would slide into the trot which he would rather do when asked to "move up" or lengthen stride while performing the half pass. It is a lateral movement, done on the diagonal; therefore a trot suits half pass perfectly as the canter does also. However, a flat walk (four beat) does not. The horse, while attempting the half pass at the flat walk, will want to slide into a (two beat) pace - which we all know our riding instructors will tell us "he's hollow now"! LOL! So the answer is slowing down to a medium walk or compressing the steps (shorten the strides) in the half pass. Now, we can emulate traditional dressage in canter half pass 😜....one of my fave.
Now go have Fun! Tell me what you find on your gaited dressage journey!
Question: To Trot or Not to Trot?
That is THE question!
The Trot is wonderful to teach TWHs! The trot helps to strengthen the canter. Remember, the second beat in the canter is a diagonal pair 👍🏽 -just like the trot.
Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH) have many more gears than the usual three of flat walk, running walk and canter. Doing lateral movements with a TWH, such as the shoulder-in and sliding into the half pass will help the horse to relax; seeking contact in the bit and lowering his poll.
Lowering the poll is the KEY to pure trot for the broken, lateral Gaited breeds. Once the horse lowers its poll, they will be able to round and lift their back-which is a prerequisite for trot. So trotting promotes roundness and roundness promotes trotting! For my high-headed (saddle bred type) TWHs, I use travers (haunches in) to get them to relax their neck and lower their poll. Therefore softening their top line and become less rigid in their gait.
Good luck and have fun! It's been a eye opener journey for me!
Showing at the 2016 NWHA Nationals
This is me riding Tango, a 4 year old a naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse gelding at the 2016 National Walking Horse Association National Show. In this video, he has only been cantering for 4 months. 2016 is Tango's first year being shown in gaited dressage.
An Independent Seat
An independent Seat ( without stirrups and reins ) is first and foremost importance in riding.
Not until this is accomplished will riding ever be fun and totally safe.... Meaning the only way your coming off is if the horse falls - I tell riders to find their seat bones by ... Sitting on a kitchen chair (wood) place your hands palms up and sit on your hands .... Feel your seat bones? That is what you want to sit on while riding .... To keep yourself from rocking back or from sitting or leaning forward (two point) you will use your core muscles (like doing a crunch). Do not allow your pubic bone to touch the saddle - that will hurt - I tell my gals to practice kegels while riding . This will keep the pelvic floor off the saddle. (Also prevent human saddle sores, lol.)
Don't forget: Your Seat consist of NOT ONLY your bum but ALSO your femurs. Some folks forget this and think their thighs are a part of their leg aides. NOPE. The thighs are a part of your "seat aides."
Hope this helps someone :) Jennie Jackson <•))))><
Hell hath no hat like a Hell Hat! Western riding is associated with wearing a cowboy hat. Images come to mind of riding so fast across the open plains that the cowboy hat files off! However, we all know that riding without a helmet is not safe. What to do?
Have you heard of the “Hell Hat”? This hat combines the best of safety and good looks. Jennie models hers.
Be safe and look fabulous wearing a Hell Hat. More>