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Love Horseback Riding, Issue #016- Cantering Footfalls & Leads
April 02, 2016
Dear Horsey Friends,


Happy April Fools Day! Did you get a good joke in today? I played a good one on my kids (after they got me good). Fun stuff. Hey, now it is now back to Daylight Savings, so more ride time in the evenings, yippee!

What's New

I seem to be getting a lot of emails from you guys and gals about where you can rent a horse. does not run a rental service. If you need pointers for how to rent a horse safely check out this page to get all the details.

Learning- Cantering Footfalls & Leads

In the last couple of months weve learned all about trotting, diagonals and riding the sitting and rising trot. This month we extend that learning into cantering.

Remember we talked in past months about the footfalls for walking and trotting? Do you remember the walk is a 4 beat gait and the trot is a 2 beat gait where you learn to post on the proper diagonal? Proper diagonals become important when you are trying to achieve a certain lead.

Let’s learn the footfall of the canter. The canter is a 3 beat gait.

That means the footfall patterns are left hind/right diagonal pair/right front OR right hind/left diagonal pair/left front.

There is also more weight on the hindquarters in the canter. The horse lifts into the canter by shifting more weight onto the hindquarters and lightening the front end.

There is also a difference between a canter and a gallop. Besides the speed (galloping is faster), the gallop is a 4 beat gait (left hind/right hind/left front/right front OR Right hind/left hind/right front/left front.) Also, your horse’s weight is more on the forehand 50-70% during the gallop.

Cantering on horseback has to be one of my favorite things to do. It can be intimidating at first, but with more time practicing your confidence will grow and you’ll love it too! Besides, cantering can be super smooth, and most of the time is way easier to sit than the trot.

You’ll need a solid foundation in your seat, leg and hands before cantering. Obviously speed along with an insecure seat or leg can mean disaster.

Unyielding hands at the canter can jab at the horse’s sensitive mouth so before you tackle the canter, make sure you are VERY solid in the walk and trot first.

And of course, make sure you have an emergency stop on your horse. This can be practiced at any gait and should be habit.

Do you know what a lead is?

When you watch the horse canter, you will see one set of legs is more forward than the other set or "leading." There is a leading and trailing side, and the lead is identified by the"leading" side. If the left legs are more forward it is a "left lead." if the right legs more forward, it is a right lead."

The funny thing is, when you ride in an arena, people will say you are on the “wrong” lead. Do you know what that means?

Well it’s kind of a funny thing, because really there are no “wrong” leads, there are only left leads and right leads. What they are referring to is if you are cantering “to the left” which means your left is to the inside of the arena, then the horse would be on the left lead to be on the “correct” lead.

Cantering to the left on the right lead would be called a counter canter, not a “wrong” lead, but more often than not, “You’re on the wrong lead” is what you’ll hear! It is true though that to keep your horse more balanced it is better to canter on the correct lead for the direction you are cantering.

That’s it for this month. Next month we will talk more about how to prepare you and your horse for cantering and more of the mechanics of riding the canter and asking for a specific lead.

In the meanwhile, visit on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter! Until then,

Happy Trails!


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