jumping the big canter

Murray and I have not jumped much this year.  Since we got back into real work in March, we’ve probably only jumped twice a month — so 9 or 10 schools? It’s not very many, considering that in previous years we’ve jumped once or twice a week essentially all year long.

When we started jumping again after winter, there was definitely something a little different about how Murray was jumping. He was cantering much bigger and taking off in what felt like massively long spots — so like, normal spots for most horses. There was also a lot of bucking and wall kicking.

K is for kick the wall right here!

But he got back to feeling Murray-normal pretty quickly. Which I’ve now learned means I quickly shut his canter down, turned his hind legs back into chopsticks, and shrunk his stride down to tiny little chips.

All of our dressage work lately has been focused on making the canter bigger and lifting Murray’s withers up. I was interested to see how this would translate to jumping. I’m not very good at riding the big canter yet, and it doesn’t necessarily feel very steerable/controllable. So I was hesitant to point it at jumps. Better to try this in the comfort of my home arena than to wait until after my move to pull out the big canter, though!

Fortunately, it turns out the big canter is pretty jumpable. Better for jumping, in fact (shhhh nobody tell Nicole from 5 years ago that).

cantering big canter doesn’t grant a good release, unfortunately

Murray and I definitely struggled to break out of our little canter/stabby hind legs mold when we first approached each fence. But on the second approach I felt more comfortable pushing Murray out over the ground and encouraging him to really move forward, and we got some great spots!

big canter into the one stride!

Reviewing the video, it was clear to me that the big canter a) needs work for jumping still and b) still requires me to fucking ride properly. Even with a big canter, when I didn’t keep pushing Murray’s stride out to the fence, he still shrank his stride down and ended up chipping in to the fence.  And it wasn’t necessarily a balanced and uphill tiny canter, it was a short, stabby-ish tiny canter. It is going to require more strength and subtlety on my part to hold together the big stride + uphill balance.

big canter into the 4 stride

When I say big stride, I’m not just  looking at how far Murray can stretch out over the ground. I really want his hind legs to come up under his body more, and for his inside hind leg to truly reach forward in the canter.

When I just shrink Murray’s stride down (I’m not sure exactly how I do this, I think by limiting the movement of my hips and preventing them from swinging forward) to the fences, Murray responds by making the stride smaller. But he also puts his hind legs down much closer together, and he shrinks the hind-leg distance down proportionally more than he shrinks the stride down. If that makes sense.

shrinking the stride toward the liverpool — see how close together those hind legs are?

I’m somewhat stuck between a mental rock and a cerebral hard place, though. Because when I let Murray gun it (aka run) down to fences, he’s more likely to stop. So I want to keep his canter slow and under control. But when I make the canter slower by making it smaller and shittier, I force him to jump poorly. And also make it easier for him to stop.


I end up having to fight all of my instincts to slow Murray down toward the fences and keep pushing him over the ground, but also avoid letting him run or get frantic. Basically, to work on balancing the horse uphill while keeping his legs moving under his body.

Which is cool — it’s the focus of all of my canter work all the time right now. I think I’m up to five whole canter strides balanced upward. Five! Five whole strides in my comfort zone.

But what I know for sure is that we are done with that tiny little canter! Cause it results in such ridiculousness as this.


4 thoughts on “jumping the big canter”

  1. Very interesting! My Trainer would tell me on Gem, who I was too uptight with to let her stride out, that I want the RPMs up but the speed the same. Get her legs moving without changing the speed so that we are covering more ground but at the same speed if that makes much sense.


  2. What a difference the big canter makes. Scout has now developed a big dressage canter and I have a lot of trouble with it too! I love how honest you are about your riding and how it influences Murray:)


  3. RIDING IS SO HARD. We haven’t really jumped either this year, but in dressage I pretty much just learned how to use my outside rein and that my core does a lot of things, which I thought I understood, but didn’t. So. Back to square one with that.

    Liked by 1 person

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