I have been asked a couple of times on social media if I can write about improving the canter.
Are you following me?
As I think it is safe to say that most riders have a better trot than canter.
So, let’s look at the canter from the horses’ point of view. It is a 3 beat gait that starts with the outside hind leg pushing off, the second beat is the inside hind and outside fore finishing with the inside fore (which is the “leading”leg). This creates the rocking motion of back leg to front leg which we can find difficult to sit to.
The power of the canter comes from the back of the horse in particular that outside hind leg that creates the first beat.
There are two main problems that we see in canter:
Riders scoop their tailbone under and lean back causing them to rock with the horse, which may create the feeling of pushing the canter along. They may have been taught to “polish the saddle” as children but unfortunately for most people this takes them out of neutral spine; which in turn makes them less able to absorb the force of the canter and has them swept along for two beats then bumped back at beat 3-starts polishing again……..
Or alternatively riders lean forward slightly which causes the tailbone to bump the saddle. These riders may be always hunched or to help absorb the canter they want to activate their core so essentially do an on horse ab crunch to help them stay stable.
Ideally we want to remain neutral in the saddle, other than a small hip hinge at beat one which emphasises the take-off from the outside hind. In order for this to happen we need to activate muscles in both the front and the back of the torso.
I have covered working the abdominals in other blogs http://www.equestrianfitness.co.uk/uncategorized/can-you-stick-your-rib-to-your-hip/
and I have also covered an introduction to general low back exercise which will also help with this.
However in particular I want to look at a muscle in the back called Quadratus Lomborum (swish your wand as you say it!) or for short QL.
The reason I want to look at QL is that it is not just an integral part of good back function and therefore overall core but it is also implicated in your pelvis both its position and its function.
QL attaches from the ribs, down the spine to the back of the pelvis. It is because of these attachments that if it becomes shortened it can tilt the pelvis forward (your bum sticks out) or it if becomes too long (due to weakness) it will be also difficult to maintain a neutral pelvis as your bum will want to scoop under.
In order to maintain a neutral spine this muscle must be strong and supple. Also strength in this area encourages further hip stability as it has been shown that any dysfunction in one side of the QL shows a dysfunction in the opposite Glute Medius (I.E. Left QL Right GM). I have previously mentioned Glute Medius as being a key player in stable hips.
In order to promote good function in this area firstly we are going to look at releasing any inhibited QL and also Glute Medius.
Next week we are going to look at strengthening the QL Muscle.