Michigan 7 year old  TWH ridden in a tomthumb bit and western saddle in pasture and  fields by intermediate level rider

Question: My Walker doesn't have a "rocking chair" canter.  It is very rough and joulting.  When I bought him, I didn't know anything about the breed.  I have since done more research and learned about walkers.  I know when I bought my horse he had his canter, but has since lost it.  I have started teaching him how to collect for faster gaits, but the going is slow.  He has a wonderful running walk, and is a joy to ride at that gait.  I like to canter.  I do alot of road riding with him, but have worked him in softer fields as of late.  I show him at fair level, and friends have told me his canter is not right.  Any tips on fixing that?  Also, he has trouble with circles and doesn't know how to lunge.  I need
advice on bending.  

Thank you for your help.

From Panelist Nancy

If his canter is rough, I'm guessing that he is cross-leading.  He obviously needs to become more supple.  Before you can expect him to canter on circles with you on his back, he must learn to canter circles without a rider.  So work on the canter on the lunge - and concentrate on keeping him bent properly on his circle while lungeing him.  Don't even try to canter him while riding him until he can lunge very easily at the canter - as you don't 
want to practice his canter wrongly.  While lungeing him, be sure he is not cross-leading.  And even though you want him to be slightly bent throughout his neck and body in the direction that he is going, be very careful that you don't pull his head into the circle.  This would cause his outside shoulder to fall out and his hindquarters to swing out, which would further cause him to cross-lead. 

While you are working to improve his canter on the lunge, you can begin to prepare for the canter under saddle when you are riding him by working on moving his hindquarters - or haunches in - under saddle, and also side-stepping.  You want to make him very sensitive to directions from your legs.  Do all this at a standstill or walk.  Not the running walk.  Only when you feel that he really knows this work, and also canters very easily and 
correctly on the lunge, will it be time to try cantering under saddle.  When you do ask for the canter, ask for it on a circle, or while going around a bend, such as a corner in an arena.  If you ask for the canter on the straight before he has learned to collect a bit at the canter under saddle, he will fall apart on you.  Ask first on the circle or corner.  Then canter only a few strides.  Remain in the canter only as long as his balance is correct.  If he starts to fall apart, come back to the walk, and start again.  You will find that the first few strides are the best.  In time he will be able to hold his balance for as long as you want to and canter correctly.  If you continue cantering when the canter is not balanced, you are not doing him any good and only perfecting a bad canter.  

So you have a very interesting project ahead of you.  You want to make your horse soft and supple.  Keep working on it, be patient, and you both will improve.  We teach our horses to understand what we want them to do, but they teach us how we must communicate with them.  When we succeed, we know we are doing it correctly. 

Nancy Cade

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