Many riders (including myself) struggle to find a steady contact in the canter. In the canter, the horses’ head follows a nodding motion as the horse goes through the 3 beat footfall of the canter stride. It can be challenging to coordinate your body, arms, and elbows to find this steady contact with the horse’s mouth but it is essential to work towards a steady contact so that your horse will relax and stay forward in the canter!
Here are a few tips to help you find a steady contact:
—In the canter seat, your shoulders stay more or less still and the hips move in a circular motion to follow the horses back. As the horse’s head and front end lift up and your seat goes back, your elbows bend. As the horses head goes down and the front legs are on the ground, your elbows have less bend.
—If your elbows do not bend and straighten, the reins will go slack and then pull in the horses mouth. It is very important to have following elbows in the canter.
— In the canter transition, you should give on the inside rein to allow the horse to bring the inside hind leg forward and through. If you do not allow a little “space” on the inside rein or if there is too much pressure on the inside hand, this might cause the horse to take the incorrect lead.
I challenge you to focus on your contact in the canter as you are riding this week. Really focus on finding your following elbows and feel how this gives the horse both confidence and freedom in the canter!