In canter, many horses fall out through their shoulder while their hindquarters swing inward. This exercise uses shallow loops to straighten the canter. The exercise should help straighten the horse, so that he travels on two tracks and achieves self-carriage. It also improves engagement and helps teach your horse to accept your outside aids.
At lower level dressage this is one of the most common faults in canter because the outside hindleg is the strike-off leg and it carries the most weight. It is therefore easier for your horse to drop his shoulders out and swing his quarters in, therefore reducing the distance the weight-bearing hindleg has to travel.
- If your horse’s quarters come in on a straight line, it is often a sign that he is on the forehand
- Ride a 10m shallow loop. The bend of his head and neck should follow the direction of travel
- As you come back to the track, your horse will naturally steady and balance himself, ready for the corner
- Progressively reduce the size of the loop down to 8m, 5m, 2m and 1m
- Once you’re barely off the track your horse should be completely straight
Riding the shallow loops
Start with a balanced working canter, going large around the arena. As you reach the quarter marker, ride a 10m shallow loop on each of the long sides. Repeat again, decreasing the size of the loops to 8m, 5m, 2m and 1m. Finally, ride the same exercise with barely noticeable loops of about 20cm. Repeat on both reins.
This exercise should improve straightness and can also be used as a “corrective” device — if you feel that you are losing straightness on the long sides, you could ride several tiny loops, only a few centimetres off the track, to straighten the canter.
What can go wrong?
The horse might become disunited or even attempt a flying change. He may also become hollow. If so, come back to trot, relax, and then try again with shallower loops.