Q: I have a great little all-around horse: he goes English and western and even jumps well. Everything about him is smooth and flowing except for his canter/lope. If he’s working in the center of the arena or jumping a course, he’s slow and under control. But if he’s on the rail, he bursts into a gallop. Why does this happen and how can I fix it?
Break up your flatwork routine so that you aren’t making laps around the outside of the arena. For example, as you approach each corner, start the bend and then turn it into a large circle, about the diameter of a longe line. That means each lap of the arena, at every gait, will include four large, perfectly round circles. Really concentrate on keeping your horse on that pre-determined track, too. Don’t allow him to fall in or drift out or otherwise evade your aids and ignore you. If he begins to lean on your hands, halt, back a few steps, and then carry on with your circle. This will constantly remind him to remain balanced and collected. Just be sure you don’t resort to yanking on the reins in frustration.
Eventually you can graduate to fewer corner circles. Perhaps make circles only in every other corner. As you go down the long sides of the arena, pay attention to the “feel” of your horse. The very moment he starts to lean on the bit or increase his pace, steady him back with your hands and create another large, structured circle. You can also halt, make him wait, and then resume. Stick to your plan. Since your horse has developed this habit, you’ll have to be persistent. In fact, the only time he may be allowed to cruise around an arena without circling in a corner or halting on the rail may be in the show ring. But that’s what it takes sometimes to outwit a crafty little horse.
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