3 Ways You Are Ruining Your Transitions from Trot to Canter

3 Ways You Are Ruining Your Transitions from Trot to Canter

3 Ways You Are Ruining Your Transitions from Trot to Canter

3 Ways You Are Ruining Your Transitions from Trot to Canter

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Understand why a good transition means a better canter all round
  • Begin working on better timing of the ‘ask’
  • Realise how gripping with your legs is negatively impacting the transition
  • Ride smoother, more responsive trot to canter transitions

Cantering; maybe one of the most enjoyable things to do on a horse. However, for many riders the transition from trot to canter is one that rarely goes smoothly!

If you are feeling a little more than a little unbalanced by the time you actually get into the canter.  Or if your transitions from trot to canter are a little ‘hit and miss’, this is for you.

In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast I focus on three different mistakes riders make when riding the trot to canter transition.  Identifying what is going wrong with your transitions, will help you improve them and have a better canter all round.

A Good Transition Means a Better Canter

So often I see riders literally throwing all their hard work away due to riding a bad transition. They will have established and maintained a good quality trot.  The basic elements are there for a good transition, but somewhere it all goes wrong. 

A good transition from trot to canter will help you to establish a good quality canter much earlier in the gait

It is easy to lose sight of why you are cantering in the first place.  It is rarely just to canter.  Most often it is because you are leading up to something else.

The sooner you can establish and maintain a good quality canter, the better change you have of successfully transitioning in to the next part of your ride. 

This could be a jump or a bend or circle.  You may have plans to transition back into trot.  Or even just to canter on a straight line.  Whatever the reason for you asking for the canter, the better you can set up the transition into the canter, the more success you will have in the canter itself.

Mistake No. 1 – Failing to Consider Your Timing of the ‘Ask’

The conversation you have with your horse from the saddle is a little different to a verbal conversation you have with another person.  There, you can ask and they can immediately respond.  When riding, your horses response will depend a lot on how much of an opportunity you have actually given him to respond!

You need to time your ‘ask’ to coincide with when your horse is in a position to make any necessary changes, thereby responding to you. 

This requires, amongst other things, knowledge of how your horse moves and the sequences of foot falls for each gait.  The trouble with trotting is that many riders struggle to feel which leg is moving where underneath them!

How Your Horse Moves from Trot to Canter

When asking for the transition from trot to canter, there is a ‘optimum time’ as your horse moves. This is when his outside back leg is just about to come up and move forwards underneath him. The outside back leg is important, as it is the leg that ‘strikes’ the canter.

However, as mentioned, feeling which hind leg is moving when in the trot can be challenging for many riders.  This is where I suggest taking advantage of your knowledge of the sequence of footfalls.  When your horse is trotting, his legs move in diagonal pairs.

This allows you to know where the hind legs are by glancing down and noticing where the front legs are.  I have a post about diagonals HERE that will help you figure this out.

Simply put, when your horses outside shoulder is forwards, his outside hind leg is back, getting ready to move forwards. This is the point where you can ‘ask’ and he has enough time to ‘respond’.

By asking at the right time, he can then set that outside hind leg down, with the intention of using it to propel him into the first stride of the canter.  Ask at any other point in the stride, and your horse will either take longer to respond.  Or he will become flustered and ‘rush’ into the canter.

Mistake No. 2 – Gripping for Balance with Your Thighs and Legs

Oh, this is a biggie!  So many riders have an effective leg position and application.  That is, right up until the moment comes when they ask their horse to transition from trot to canter!  Rather than allowing their leg to reach down and be effective, they draw their legs up and ‘pinch’ with their thighs.

Squeezing with your thighs is the equivalent of becoming a clothes peg on your horses back! It is not comfortable, enjoyable or effective for you or your horse!

When you are using your leg aids to ask your horse to transition from trot to canter, your whole leg plays a part.  By squeezing or pinching with the tops of your legs, you stop your lower leg from working.  An ineffective lower leg means a confused aid.

Gripping with your thighs also affects your overall balance and position. Riders don’t grip to apply a leg aid.  They grip in a misguided attempt to ‘stay on’.  It usually has the opposite effect!

Mistake No. 3 – Failing to Follow Through with the Canter

The final ‘mistake’ I see riders make all the time when it comes to the transition from trot to canter is not allowing the canter to actually happen!  It sounds crazy, but it looks a little like this; the rider asks for the canter.  The horse responds and begins to canter.  Only to be ‘blocked’ by the rider from cantering correctly onwards!

When your horse positively responds to your request for the canter, it is important that you then respond by following him in the canter. 

This can often be the result of nerves or anxiety on the riders part.  However, it can also be due to a simple case of the rider being ‘stiff’.  Suppleness is not just for the horse!  It is equally as important for the rider, especially when the horse begins to demonstrate ‘bigger’ movements or energy.

Allowing your horse to canter means that you are moving with him.  Your seat, your hands and reins.  Your thoughts.  All thinking and moving forwards.

Positively Influencing the Canter Going Forwards

When you can successfully negotiate a better transition from trot to canter, you can then turn your sights to improving the canter itself.  Very often when there is a poor transition into the canter, the canter itself is left ‘wanting’.

Poor transitions into the canter result in choppy and unbalanced or rushed and flat canters.  

Realising that you might just be the cause of the transition is great.  This means that you now have the power to change it for the better for you and your horse.

Happy Riding


Other posts, episodes and resources that relate to this topic:-

Better transitions from the trot to the canter is the theme inside of Daily Strides Premium for April 2019.  In there we look at what you are potentially doing that is having a negative effect on the transition.

There are also some simple ways you can easily and effectively replace any hindering habits you may have acquired where the canter is concerned!

All the trainings are easily accessed using your phone, meaning that you can take them with you where ever you are going.  These trainings and so much more are available for you immediately when you join Daily Strides Premium. Find out more HERE

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1 Comment

  • Nat
    April 4, 2019 4:16 am

    This particular post may as well have been written just for me. I am working on all these issues!

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