It’s a shame some riders think more advanced schooling is beyond their horse’s capability. It’s just not true. Schooling is all about positive riding. All horses can at least attempt more difficult things. They do them in the field after all.
Take canter to walk as an example. You have to believe you can do it. There’s no reason why not. How often has your horse galloped full tilt down his field and slid to a halt at the gate? You know he can do it. You just need to know how to ask.
Ride a 20m circle in canter. It’s important to have your horse on his hocks so sit up, ride forward and lift your hands to help him. When your canter is settled ask your horse to slow down to half the speed. Squeeze your thigh and knee against the saddle and sit back. (See The Other Way of Stopping/ December 2010) As your horse slows down use both legs every stride to keep him in canter.
Keep hold of your rein contact but don’t pull back. Pulling back makes your horse tighten his back which stops his hocks reaching under his body. He needs to sit down to slow down. With his hocks out behind him he can’t.
With the slower canter settled halve your speed again. This is difficult but not impossible. Be firm with your knees so he slows down and give small squeezes on both reins at the same time. Use plenty of lower leg or small taps with your whip so he knows not to trot. If he does don’t panic. Stay calm, ask for canter and try again.
Your aim is to canter so slowly that someone could walk alongside you. It’s incredibly hard for your horse so once you’ve done six or seven strides breathe out, relax your seat and leg and allow him to walk. He’ll be relieved to walk and your transition will be calm and unhurried.
Cantering at this slower speed establishes your control and teaches your horse to balance. The more you practice the stronger his hindquarters will become. Gradually build up the canter until you can ride from working canter to walk without tension.
Riding more difficult movements is challenging but not beyond any horse or rider’s ability. Your attempts may not be worthy of an eight in a dressage test but who cares? The main thing is you have fun trying.