All riders can be put into one of two categories when it comes to the canter… Those who can move their seat in the canter with their horse – and those who can’t. This is a bitter pill to swallow for those on the ‘can’t’ side of the fence. And yet, it is something that they would secretly love to be able to do.
Having the ability to control your seat in the canter completely changes how much influence you have in the gait – and it is a lot more comfortable.
So, if you’ve been stuck in the ‘can’t’ camp for longer than you would like, this is how to finally move forwards into the ‘can’ camp…
It’s All About Practice
And not just any old practice. I am talking perfect practice. Doing the same, middle-of-the-road things over and over again, hoping for a different result is madness. Rather spend less time, but more intention and focus in order to make your practice work for you.
1. Start with syncing your seat to your horse’s hindquarters in the walk
This is something that will happen naturally if you have already learned to ‘follow’ your horse. Another way of saying this is that you are willing to allow your horse to ‘lead’ you. This requires suppleness and self-carriage on your part. It also requires a good quality rhythmic walk.
Devote time and practice to perfect your ability to know what is moving when underneath you at any given time. Remember to carry yourself so that you can simply allow your seat to move unhindered.
2. Work on Your Alignment, Posture, and Position
The head, shoulder, hip, heel line should remain visible throughout your flatwork with your horse. This is true for halt, walk, trot, or canter. Also throughout your transitions into and out of each gait.
This correct alignment will allow you to be in the best possible position to accurately and effectively use your aids to communicate with your horse. And to control your seat in the canter.
3. Weight Dropped into the Heel
When in the canter, many riders tend to ‘pull their leg up’. I feel that trying to ‘grip’ is the cause. It doesn’t help! Work on lengthening your leg. Think about allowing them to ‘drape’ over your horse. This means that they are in direct contact, but not squeezing or gripping.
Weight into the heels will allow you to remain balanced, centered, and effective as you move with your horse in the canter.
As you canter, focus on allowing the weight to remain in the heel. Especially the inside heel, as this will help you to also connection your inside seat bone. it is common for the inside seat bone to ‘migrate’ to the outside of the saddle in the canter. Especially when on circles and bends.
4. Carry Your Shoulders, Arms, and Hands
There seems to be something about the canter that, as soon as riders get into it, they want to drop the whole upper body. Collapsing your upper body will not help you or your horse. In fact, this is one of the big reasons riders ‘bounce’ in the canter.
The lack of alignment, causes their seat and hips to become ‘squashed’ by the upper body – preventing any meaningful movement. This blocks the energy, which causes the bounce.
Carrying your shoulders, arms, and hands feels exactly as it sounds. Simply engage your core, open your chest, allow your arms to fall down from the shoulders, bend the elbows, and carry the hands. It’s as simple as that. This applies to both the canter and the transitions in and out of the canter as well.
5. Notice the ‘Scoop’ Feeling
This always reminds me of ice cream! You know one of those metal scoops that ‘rolls’ the hard ice cream up into a nice little ball, ready for serving? Your seat in the canter can feel like this.
Dig or scoop too deep and you will get ‘stuck’ due to you blocking the energy. Don’t scoop enough and you literally skim over the top with nothing gathered or collected.
Practice finding the right amount of ‘scoop’ for the work you are doing at any given time with your horse. This will help you to, later, begin influencing the canter itself using your seat.
6. Lead with Your Belly Button
This goes back to posture and alignment, self-carriage, and moving with your horse. When you truly begin to move your seat in the canter with your horse, it will feel like your belly button is ‘going first’.
Think of it as every new canter stride, your seat (and belly button) are getting their first – the rest of you is following.
Your seat and your hands are connected. Whatever your seat does, your hands will mirror a split second later. Many riders get this sequence confused. They want to lead with their hands and have their seat follow. This is when you see riders dipping up and down, back and forth, with their shoulders in the canter.
You rather want your shoulders to remain quiet, and your seat to move with your horse in the canter. Seat before hand. Always.
This can only happen when you are in correct alignment, have great posture, and are willing to allow your seat to be led by your horse first.
Your Seat in the Canter
From this place, you can then truly begin to use your seat to influence your horse in a more positive way. When you can truly sync your seat, it becomes a tool – rather than a hindrance.
If you are still struggling to ‘sit’ in the canter, try taking your feet out of your stirrups. This can help you to brace less using your legs and, therefore, ‘swing’ more using your seat.
Canter takes work. It also takes time, patience, consistency and correct practice. And, just like the trot, once you have it – you have it :)
From there it just becomes a case of how you can control your aids more, to have an overall more positive effect on your horse’s way of going.
More Help on This Topic:-
- 4 Steps to a More Comfortable Canter
- Developing Your Seat in the Canter
- Timing Your Transition into Canter
- Rhythm; Learning to Identify and Develop it in the Canter
- Join Connection; The Online Membership for Equestrians
- Online Community for Equestrian focusing on Planning and Mindset
- Lunging for Riding
- FREE Download:- 1 Exercise Multiple Ways