Horse Riding Lessons Blog

What is Disunited Canter and How Do You Correct It?

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We’ve talked about the basic terms in canter, but another concept beginners to horse riding need to know is that of the ‘disunited canter.’

What is this, why does it happen and how do you correct it?

How to Tell When Your Horse’s Canter is Disunited

Once you’ve been cantering for a while you’ll have a feel for the correct lead and the gait’s proper footfall sequence.

Some horses exhibit another footfall sequence when cantering, known as ‘disunited.’  The front legs are cantering to a different lead from the back legs. Sitting on a horse in disunited canter feels very awkward.

What is the Reason for Disunited Canter and What Can You Do?

Here are two possible reasons for this problem.

Sore Back or Hindquarters

A common reason is soreness or stiffness in the back and/or hind end. The horse is trying to tell you that cantering on one particular lead is painful for him, and he compensates for this by continuing to canter on his ‘good’ lead behind.

If you suspect this is the reason, have your horse checked out by an equine chiropractor. This will help sort out any back and hind end issues your horse may have. Your job will then be to ensure the way you ride supples your horse and makes it easy for him to carry you and canter correctly.

Incorrect Aids

Another reason for disunited canter may be incorrect application of the aids. Your inside leg may be too far back while your outside one is not far back enough, or you may be unbalanced in the saddle.

For beginners horse riding the correct way takes time and practice, so check that you’re giving the horse the best chance of cantering ‘true’ by reviewing the aids you use to ask him.

We should always ask ourselves what we can do to help the horse perform before blaming him for any ‘issues.’ Sometimes the answer is really easy!

Walking Out with Confidence for Beginners to Horse Riding

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When asking your horse to walk, you may prefer him to move slowly, which is a normal response by beginners. Horse riding can be a little scary at first – and you want to feel in control.

Although understandable, this isn’t good riding practice.

Forwards is Safer

The first rule of horseback riding is ‘forwards.’  Experienced riders know that brisk forwards movement keeps the horse’s mind focused on something other than misbehaving, and is essential when dealing with a difficult or naughty animal. A horse in strong forwards motion cannot buck or rear!

Forwards for Fitness

But for beginners, horse riding starts on a quiet, well-behaved horse (or should do!) and different reasons come into play for asking him to move with energy.

Think of walking in the countryside – on your own two legs. You can go for a leisurely stroll or propel yourself into power walk mode. In the first example the benefit may be mental but it won’t be physical. In the second scenario you’ll become fitter.

When riding, aim somewhere between those two extremes. You don’t want your horse to get too fit until you’re a stronger rider, but you do want him to develop better muscles for carrying you more easily.

Forwards Develops Better Riding

By asking for a more active walk, you teach your horse to listen to you. Rather than shuffling along aimlessly, he’ll pay attention to your seat and leg aids and you’ll become an active rather than a passive rider. Now you have control!

Forwards Encourages Relaxation

Swinging his body in a livelier walk will loosen the horse’s muscles – especially beneficial to the older horse – and his mind will relax. A happier animal listens to his rider.

Even at the outset of your riding career, use an active walk to become a fitter, more effective rider. With a relaxed and responsive horse under you, you’ll not want to crawl at a snail’s pace.