Keepin’ It Fresh—Equine Advice Column

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Teach your horse to use his back for a smoother, more comfortable canter.
By Kalley Krickeberg
Photography by Kalley Krickeberg’s Balanced Horse Training

When I watch a horse and rider canter, the first thing I observe is if the horse looks “comfortable.” Whether the answer is “yes” or “no,” I try to figure out why. In my experience, I have noticed two reasons a horse generally appears comfortable to ride:

1. They have longer pasterns with a lot of flex in the fetlock joint, giving them greater shock absorption, so to speak
2. The horse is using his topline, which in turn opens up the shoulders and hips to rotate properly, creating a much smoother ride

For reason one, longer pasterns and greater flexibility in the fetlock might create a smoother ride for the passenger, but the horse also experiences greater concussion, which leads to faster breakdown of the tendons and ligaments associated with the pastern and fetlock joints—possibly, even faster development of navicular issues. Therefore, my goal as a trainer is always to get the horse as light on his feet as possible by teaching him to use his topline correctly, which is indicative of reason two.

Many methods can be used to teach a horse to collect and use his back and hindquarters. My goal in this article is to focus on one simple way that I have found highly functional and non-invasive—the end result is the horse finds self-carriage and travels on a loose rein. To create the nicest canter your horse is capable of physically performing—one where he’s using his topline—heneeds to have a nice, soft backup and know how to “follow his nose” with soft lateral responses where the forequarters swing around the hindquarters.


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2019 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join


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