Ah, the canter transition! It seems like it should be so easy, yet it’s not easy at all. Many riders struggle with their canter transitions. Perhaps your horse speeds up and rushes in the trot, picks up the wrong lead, comes above the bit, or refuses to transition to the canter at all! The canter is unique because the aids to ask for the canter are different for every horse and rider. Sometimes it can take a while for you to figure out the exact aids and timing your horse needs to pick up the canter well!
If you are struggling with your canter transitions, don’t worry! In this week’s video, I will be going over three simple steps to help you improve them! These three steps are the exact checklist I go through with every horse I ride! Here are my three steps to pick up the canter:
1. Achieve a self-going trot. Before you even think about asking your horse to canter, they need to be able to maintain a nice forward, round, and active trot without constant reminders to keep going. Try a few walk-trot transitions to get your horse more connected, responsive, and in front of your leg.
2. Achieve the correct bend. To pick up the correct lead, our horses need to be bent correctly in the direction of travel. I recommend picking up the canter in a corner or on a circle line to help get the correct bend. The aids for bending are inside leg pushing your horse into the outside rein, outside leg supporting behind the girth, and the inside fingers asking for flexion.
3. Half-halt before you ask for canter. The half-halt is important because it helps balance your horse, and also prepares your horse for what is coming next. Half-halt before you give your horse the canter aids to let them know something is coming. The universal aids for the canter are inside leg at the girth and outside leg behind the girth.
As you are working on your canter transitions, focus on your rider position as well. It is common for riders to lean forward and pull during the canter transition. This is incorrect, and makes it harder for your horse to pick up the canter! Make sure that you keep your shoulders back and your hands down.
I hope these three quick tips help you improve your canter transitions! Let me know if this helped you and your horse in the comments below!
P.S. Need more help with your canter? Check out my FREE mini-course PDF all about the Canter!