Cantering Rails with Canterbury’s Caitlyn Shiels

August 7, 2017

In less than two weeks, Caitlyn Shiels and Cassius, an eight-year-old bay Warmblood gelding owned by Michelle Durpetti, will be headed to the 2017 United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) International Hunter Derby Championship, held August 17-19 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY.

In preparation for ‘Derby Finals,’ Shiels and Cassius spent three weeks competing at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) in Traverse City, MI, earning wins in the High Performance Hunters as well as top ten finishes in $5,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby and $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby events held during GLEF IV.

Outside of the show ring however, Shiels takes it back to basic ground pole work in order to help produce the top results she and Cassius have seen throughout the summer.

Here, Shiels and Cassius demonstrate shortening and lengthening of the canter over ground rails:

Straightforward ground pole work such as this can be extremely beneficial in encouraging a horse to develop better rhythm and balance through the hind-end, as well as improving timing and adjustability.

“Doing lengthening and shortening with rails to prepare Cassius and I for the ring really helps with our rhythm, our half halts, and our straightness,” explained Shiels, 34.



To do the exercise at home, set ground poles four to five strides apart, allowing 9’-11’ per stride. Start by cantering through the line of ground poles at a regular working canter until comfortable. Then, beginning adjusting your horses stride through the line; extend the canter enough to leave out one stride between each set of poles, and similarly, shorten and collect the canter enough to add an additional stride. 

About Caitlyn Shiels

Born and raised in Sheffield, Massachusetts, Caitlyn Shiels began riding at the age of eight. A highlight of Shiels’ early career was being a team and individual gold medalist at the 2004 North American Young Riders’ Championship. Shiels went on to apprentice under such professionals as Andre Dignelli, Mclain Ward, Ken Smith and Kate Stoffel-Oliver.

In 2013, Shiels joined the team at Canterbury Farm as an assistant trainer and rider, alongside head trainer Greg Franklin. Their partnership is an excellent balance of training both on the horse and from the ground.

Canterbury Farm maintains a horse show schedule on a local, regional, and national level that is created with their customer’s competitive goals in mind. With qualified trainers, attention to detail, and a caring staff, Canterbury Farm is committed to excellence in horsemanship, and to giving all of their riders a great experience in the show ring.

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