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How to Canter With Your Horse: 10 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

How to Canter With Your Horse

Perfecting Your Canter Avoiding Common Mistakes

Cantering on your horse is an exciting and pleasant experience; it is often considered the most comfortable gait to ride at. However, cantering can be difficult to master, and relies mainly on the body language and cues of the rider. Make sure you're taking the correct steps to master the canter and training your horse the right way in the process.

Part 1 of 2: Perfecting Your Canter


Get your body in the correct position. Unlike how the professionals make it seem, getting a good canter is mostly reliant on the rider rather than the horse. Your body

must be repositioned in such a way so as to open the front (leading) shoulder of the horse, as well as to cue the horse behind the girth, all while adding forward movement with your body. It is difficult to organize all the moves at once, so work step by step to accomplish Open your horses shoulder with the reins. Maintain contact, but open the inside rein of your horse while holding a firm grip on the outside rein. This will give your horse support on the diagonal beats. "Open" your chest, keep your back straight, and your chest up. This position will keep you well balanced and won't allow any slouching. Turn your upper body. Turn your torso and shoulders (keeping your hips straight ahead) so your shoulder on the outside is positioned slightly further back than your shoulder on the inside. Move your outside leg back. When you cue the canter, you will do so behind the girth. That is because the canter starts from the rear, and needs to be cued thusly. This also opens up your horses leading shoulder, helping them to understand your intentions while keeping them collected.[1]

Cue a half halt. A half halt is, as it sounds, a partial stop. The half halt can be performed while at any speed, and is done in the same way as you would cue a

regular halt. This gets your horses rear feet on the ground, giving them the necessary force to start immediately into a collected canter. You dont have to cue a half-halt in order to canter, but doing so will give your horse better grounds for moving into the faster gait. Practicing the half halt prior to a canter is a good way to work up into flying lead changes.

Ask for the canter. Using your rear leg, squeeze your horses barrel and use your own body language to ask for increased speed. Some horses are also trained to shift

into a canter when you cue them with a kissy noise (different than clucking for increased speed), so you may need to do this at the same time. Assuming your body is in the correct
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How to Canter With Your Horse: 10 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

position and your signals are clear, your horse should move into a canter. If necessary, use a crop ask your horse for the canter. It is difficult to coordinate all the body cues at first, so crops may be used to help aid you in the process of moving into a canter. Make sure you are cueing your horse behind the girth or you may inadvertently get a fast trot or a side-pass.

Sit the canter. One of the loveliest things about the canter is the ease involved in riding it. Unlike a trot, a canter is very smooth, and gives a feeling similar to that of

floating. There is some skill involved in it though, so make sure youre sitting the canter correctly. Dont pull on the reins. Just like when you cued the canter, you should have increased contact on the outside rein and light contact on the inside rein. If you feel out of control and are pulling on the reins for comfort, then slow your horse down. Keep your balance and dont lean forward or to the inside. Although it feels like the other way around, the horse gets its ability to balance based on what youre doing on its back. If youre out of balance and tipped forward and in, your horse will have a hard time not doing the same. Avoid gripping with your legs. As with trotting, it can seem instinctual to hold on to the horse using your legs. However, this will only speed them up and give them mixed signals. Similar to tugging on the reins, if the horse is going too fast or you feel out of control, then slow them down until you can remain seated comfortably.[2]

Part 2 of 2: Avoiding Common Mistakes

Avoid rocking your shoulders. Old-time western movies give us images of cowboys cantering away on their horses, with their entire body moving in sync with the

horse. However, although it is good for your hips to move, your torso and shoulders should not sway or rock in time with the horse. This can put both you and your horse off balance, making the canter difficult to sit.

Keep your heels down. This is often a problem at any faster gait for beginning riders; your foot should be situated in the stirrup so that you are putting your weight on

the ball of your foot, your toes are tipped up slightly, and your heel is tipped down. This keeps you in balance and helps prevent you from leaning forward or gripping with your legs.

Dont go into the fetal position. Not fetal like you would laying on the ground, but similar. Fetal position when riding is when you lean forward (sometimes to grab a

handhold on the mane, horn, pommel, or reins), grip with your legs, tip your toes down and bring your heels up. This a nervous response done in hopes of maintaining balance and preventing falling off, but it does just the opposite: it throws your horse out of balance, speeds them up, and makes you more likely to fall off. To rectify this, when you get anxious slow your horse down a bit and lean back. Chances are youll feel like youre leaning back too far, but youll actually be
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How to Canter With Your Horse: 10 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

perfectly vertical (the ideal).

Dont round your shoulders/slouch. Its not good posture in general to slouch your shoulders and curve your back, and it is particularly poor posture when youre

cantering on your horse. This can be a difficult feat to accomplish, but make sure your shoulders are always upright and positioned over your hips. If necessary, use a long crop slid along your back and in between your elbows while you ride. This will prevent you from slouching forward, and will help your arms to stay in the correct position as well.

Keep your core strong. Riding a horse is a workout in itself, and it particularly works your core. However, you can do everything else correctly (shoulders back, heels

down, upright position) and go soft in the middle, which causes you to lose your center of gravity. Keeping yourself centered with a firm core will help your horse to maintain a collected canter, and make things easier and more comfortable for you in the long run. If you feel like your core muscles arent up to par, practice doing the plank exercise in your free time. Hold this position for as long as you can, and eventually youll notice a significant difference in your riding abilities.[3]

Enjoy cantering on your horse!

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Give the aids for canter on a corner (if riding in a school). This will help the horse to strike off on the correct leading leg. Make sure you are comfortable and confident in walking, posting and sitting trot, and bareback before attempting the canter. Although it can be exciting to try out, you are more likely to make significant mistakes and possibly fall off if you're not adequately prepared.
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How to Canter With Your Horse: 10 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

Always have a person on the ground with you, ideally an instructor if you are a beginner and still just learning basic skills. Use a firm aid so that your horse picks up the canter without "running" in a fast and bumpy trot. If your horse doesn't pick up the canter, slow down the trot so that it is steady and balanced again before reapplying the aids to canter. If possible, have an experienced rider or instructor lunge your horse for you while you are mounted (the horse travels in a circle around them using a lunge line). This way the person on the ground is controlling the speed and direction of the horse so you can focus on getting comfortable cantering.

Never attempt this without prior horse experience! Always wear a helmet and have a guardian or qualified trainer with you. All riders should wear an approved helmet and appropriate footwear (hard soled boots with a heel).

Things You'll Need

A calm and well-trained horse Appropriate riding safety gear/attire An instructor or trainer Crop (optional) Lunging whip

Sources and Citations

1. http://www.cheval-haute-ecole.com/indexA30502.html 2. http://www.meredithmanor.edu/features/articles/nancy/canterdeparts.asp 3. http://helpmydaughterloveshorses.com/2011/01/top-ten-cantering-nonos-and-how-to-fix-them/




How to Canter With Your Horse: 10 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

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