Learning to Canter

A student has mastered the walk-trot work and is now ready to start to canter. She does not have the confidence to canter yet and would like some easy excercises to help her succeed in this next step.

First of all it is important to realize that the rider is elastic and moves her arms with the movement of the horses neck in both walk and canter. This is critical to understand because you do not want to ask your horse to canter and suddenly hang on his mouth which will throw him off balance and almost always force him to trot.

The best way to experience a successful canter is to ride a school master on the lunge. That way the trainer can ask for canter from the ground and all the rider has to do is sit and relax and feel the gait.

Next, the rider can ride several trot to walk transitions to engage the horse and confirm that the horse is in front of her aids. Now ask for a half halt as if you want to walk but instead, ask for canter with the correct aid. A common error is for the rider to pitch forward with her upper body and grip with her knees. Always go back to the correct rider postion to set yourself up for success.

Another easy way to ask for canter is to trot a 20 meter circle with a small cavalleti on the track, when the horse trots over the pole, sit and ask for canter. This is almost always successful. Be sure to have a qualified instructor on the ground assisting you in this lesson. They can monitor your position and help you correct any mistakes.