Difficulty Holding Canter on a Circle

A reader writes; I have been working with my TB (off the track). He has progressed quite well except for his right lead canter. He is sound, however, he seems weak stepping under to pick up the correct lead. When he picks up the lead correctly, he cannot sustain it for more than a few strides. I have been using spiraling, shoulder-in and haunches-in to try to strenghten him and/or restore some flexibility. Is there any other exercises I can do with him. He generally has no problem on the straight line, just the circle.

There are many other excercises you can do to help strengthen and build up the correct muscles for your horse to canter right. Horses off the track tend to be very one sided on the left as a result of running in that direction. The first thing to do is check for any unsoundness which sounds like you have already done. Next, check you positon and make sure you are riding balanced and light.

Since he can canter on the straight line, I would introduce counter canter which is an excellent excercise to balance your horse. Start with counter canter on the long side of the arena, transition to trot on the short side, counter canter the next long side and repeat. Remember you have to be patient and slowly build up his confidence and strength so that he can maintain the right lead canter.

Next introduce shallow loops from true canter toward X and back to the wall, eventually cantering all the way to X and back to the track at the end of the long side.

You may have introduced the spiralling excercise too soon, your horse must be able to maintain counter canter all the way around the arena several times before beginning this excercise. Continue with shoulder in and haunches in at the walk and trot. If you have the opportunity, canter up hills on the both leads several times a week to help build up new muscles.

Another easy excercise is to leg yield right from the long side to X, 10 meter half circle right from X to the long side, ask for canter as you hit the track. Riding relaxed and balanced, continue cantering until your horse breaks. Repeat on the other side. Your goal should be to add a few strides each time. Be patient while your horse is finding new muscles.

After working with these excercises for a few weeks let me know the progress or any problems if they appear.