Many horses and riders have difficulty with the canter. You may have trouble with the transition into the canter, or perhaps you and your horse get tense and anxious in the canter, or maybe you just have trouble following the motion of the canter and finding your canter seat. Here are some tips to help you with the canter:

Some facts about the canter:

  • The canter is a 3 beat gait: (1) outside hind leg, (2) inside hind leg and outside front leg, (3) inside front leg, followed by a moment of suspension.
  • The horse has a left lead and a right lead canter.

The canter aid:

  • Everyone and every horse have a slightly different aid for the canter (this is why picking up the canter on a new horse can be a challenge!!
  • The universal canter aid is inside leg at the girth, inside seat bone, and outside leg behind the girth.
  • The amount of pressure in each leg depends on the horse but outside leg back indicates the lead, inside leg is for impulsion and to keep the horse from falling in.
  • Be sure that the horse is flexed to the inside and off of the inside leg before asking for a canter or you may get the wrong lead!!

The canter seat:

  • Maintain proper alignment – ear, shoulder, hip, and heel. A LOT of riders tend to tip forward in the canter!!!
  • Keep your hands down and a straight line from elbow to mouth so that you can maintain contact and follow the motion of the horses’ head.
  • The lower back and hip angle must move to absorb the motion of the horse.
  • The seat of the rider follows a “swishing” motion and slides from the back to the front of the saddle each stride.
  • Keep your legs long and don’t grip with your knees – gripping with the inner thigh will tip you forward and lock the hip preventing the rider from following the motion of the canter!

Dealing with the fear of the Canter!!

  • Work on trotting really fast – like trotting the speed of the canter so that picking up the canter is not such a big increase in speed – this will give you and your horse confidence to go faster!
  • Find a horse that is good to canter on the lunge line and have someone lunge you so that you can focus on your body and find your canter seat
  • Break it down and ask for help – if your horse gets tense and nervous in the canter, have someone brave canter your horse first!

Happy cantering!!!

Let me know in the comments if these tips are helpful and be sure to check out the video on YouTube!!


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