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Love Horseback Riding, Issue #017- Cantering; Preparation for Horse and Rider
May 01, 2016
Dear Horsey Friends,


Does your horse look like mine this wet spring? This is how I found Gus after we got a wet spring snow followed by a day of rain. It looked like he had the best roll in the mud of his life. It left about an inch thick of solid dried mud everywhere! I sure got my workout with that grooming!

What's New

Spring is always a great time to refresh our training skills with our horses. Even if you aren’t a “trainer” you are always teaching (or unteaching) your horse something!

Check out this basics page to refresh your training skills.

Learning- Cantering; Preparation for Horse & Rider

Last month we covered the canter footfalls and the difference between cantering and galloping. This month we’re going to touch on canter preparation and prerequisites for horse and rider.

Rider Prerequisites

Let’s look at the rider first. Here are some things to ask yourself to find out if you are ready to canter.

-Are you comfortable at the walk and trot as well as changing directions?

-Can you trot while keeping a steady leg and rein position and without bouncing? (Not jerking your horse in the mouth or having your foot come through the stirrups?)

-Are you comfortable with going faster?

This is a biggie. Many riders lack confidence, especially at higher speeds That’s ok. Just recognize it and only move on with cantering when you are comfortable trying. Remember, you don’t have to canter a whole arena length or trail, you can start with just a couple of strides and build from there.

-Do you have a reliable emergency stop?

This one is important because without it you could get yourself in a bad situation. Your emergency stop will be of great benefit if your horse becomes too fast or you become unintentionally off balance.

The canter can be incredibly smooth, but is also a completely different feel than walking or trotting (or even gaiting for that matter.) A nice canter can feel like riding a rocking horse, a bad canter can be extremely choppy or side to side.

Growing up I used to ride a pony that could jump really high, but riding her canter was like torture! It was so rolly-poly to the side it was hard to stay on!

If you are new to cantering it can also be a good idea to take a lunge lesson if you have a trainer. That way it takes the stress of controlling the horse’s speed and direction off of you and allows you to focus on your seat and position. This allows you to get used to the sensation of cantering without the control issues.

Don’t worry though, if your horse is used to cantering and you aren’t, you can still learn.

Prerequisites for Your Horse

Going back to thorough preparation through groundwork, one of the prerequisites for your horse is that he can reliably canter on a longer line of at least 20 feet or so both directions on the correct lead and maintain the gait.

If he can’t do this, you will be hard pressed to have a pleasant cantering experience while you ride, especially if you are unexperienced.

Your horse should also easily be able to be asked into the canter from the trot. If he doesn’t canter readily, you should work on his responsiveness both on the ground and at the lower gaits in the saddle.

If he canters too quickly (run-away) or becomes emotional, you should work with him using patterns until he can maintain the canter without becoming emotional or rushing too quickly.

Can you ask him to downward transition from the canter back to the trot/walk online?

How easily does he slow down? These are all things to work on so that when you ask for the canter when you are on his back you will be set up for a positive experience.

That’s all for this month, next month we will cover how to ride the canter and asking for specific leads.

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

Happy Trails!


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