Creating a More Responsive Transition into the Canter

Creating a More Responsive Transition into the Canter

Creating a More Responsive Transition into the Canter

Getting into the canter can be a challenge! For so many riders the transition into the canter can be a truly bumpy, hair-raising, rushed, and flat experience.  There is none of the upward, poised, clean, and intentional 1 that leads to the 2, 3 for the canter stride. It is just a matter of creating enough momentum with a flat, running trot to finally, eventually, fall into the canter. Not good!  But all is not lost…

I believe that by working on a few key elements in your riding and your training with your horse, you can literally transform your canter transition in a VERY short period of time.

The key to doing this is to first be very honest with yourself.  Honest about both your abilities and what you are doing.  And also, your horse’s abilities. Is he actually  ‘able’ to simply step from a trot into a canter, carrying you, at this level in his training?  That there is a really good question and one that’s worth getting clear on today.

 1. Check All External Influences

We have all heard of the horse who, once the feeding program was changed went from being a Lazy Daisy to an Arkle… And yet, so many riders simply fail to consider calories, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals when it comes to their horse’s energy levels. I am not an equine nutritionist.

However, I have seen (and personally experienced) how a simple tweak to the diet or supplements can have a massive impact on performance and concentration.

This is always something to consider when your horse is struggling with energy levels during training. And the same can be said for tack and equipment.  How many horses ‘inherit’ a saddle and bridle?  I was guilty of this for years with my own ponies.  There’s a bridle with a certain bit in the tack room that is not being used.  Great – let’s shove it into ‘Shadow’s’ mouth.  Hmmmm…. We know our horses are individuals.  So it makes sense that their tack should be selected for them – individually.

Make sure that all of the equipment, especially saddles, is allowing your horse the freedom of movement through his back and shoulders so that he can actually do what you ask him to do :) 

 2. How’s Your Responsiveness?

So you ask a question.  Great.  What response do you get?  This past week I’ve worked with 3 different riders who want to ‘fix’ big things.  And yet, I sent them all home to work on their responsiveness.  You see, I believe that responsiveness is a rider issue…

Responsiveness comes down to what expectations you set and what boundaries you are willing to communicate and enforce. 

So many riders are ‘wishy-washy’ about things.  A simple pushover on the ground.  An unwillingness to walk ‘shoulder to shoulder’ (if you’re Irish you’re singing) as you lead from the ground.  Responsiveness matters.  And it all comes down to being clear on what you want – and how you ask for it.

 3. Understanding the Canter

So the canter is lovely because there is this natural ‘moment of suspension’ involved in it.  We meet it every single stride.  Which also includes the very first stride.  And if we, as riders, are hoping for suspension… Well, it stands to reason that we are doing all we can to help that happen.

If we are collapsed on our horse’s shoulders and withers as the transition happens… How can we expect our horse to elevate and ‘step up into’ the canter? We need to allow space for the transition to happen.  So for the 1 to happen – the first step of the 3 beat stride – there must be space for the 2 and the 3.

It’s the upward trajectory of the canter that creates the momentum many riders can’t ‘sit’ or ‘handle’.  And this is a simple lack of self-carriage and suppleness through their own bodies that causes this issue. 

 4. Your Seat is a Pendulum

A great way to begin improving your ability to ‘follow’ and ‘stay with’ your horse in the canter is to imagine your seat as a pendulum.  It is swinging from your shoulders or upper rib cage. Meaning that they should remain relatively consistent, while the seat is doing the movement.

So many riders are riding the canter the wrong way around… Their shoulders are doing the ‘swinging’ while their seat is stiff, hunkered down, and blocking the natural flow. 

I go into more detail on this in THIS ARTICLE. However, for now, just keep the idea in mind that your shoulders and upper body must remain in self-carriage.  This will allow your seat to literally go with your horse into the canter itself.

 5. Gain Clarity On Your Aids

The final piece when improving your transition into the canter is to become really clear on your aids. And the fact that the word aids is plural is really important here!  There is no ‘one aid’ that will get you into the canter.  It is a combination of good preparation meeting an accurate and effective combination of aids.

So many riders seem to think that their outside leg is a magic wand.  One swish of it and ‘voila’ your horse will be cantering!  Not so, not so…

Your half halt is so important to really prepare both yourself and your horse.  It helps rebalance and refocus you both on working together to achieve something.  From there, your aids will then, if positioned and timed correctly, ask the question.  Which then leaves your horse the space to answer the question.

Improve Your Transition into the Canter

The canter is a big topic for riders. There can be so much pleasure and joy found there. And, often, an equal amount of bumps, flatness, and non-starts! If you are keen on improving your canter in just 4 weeks, make sure you take a look at my program Improve Your Canter.

You will learn what is happening and how you can best time your aids so that your canter will go from being hit-and-miss to smooth and connected.

With audio horse riding lessons to listen to 4 days a week while you ride, all filled with different exercises for you to practice, Improve your Canter will help you finally ride the canter the way you want.  Every single time.

Happy Riding

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