Smoother Transitions from Canter to Trot

Smoother Transitions from Canter to Trot

Smoother Transitions from Canter to Trot

What goes up, must come down; apparently. And this certainly applies to the gaits when you’re riding your horse. For many riders, successfully riding the transition into the canter and then staying with the movement in the canter itself is a great achievement. However, the next piece of the puzzle is returning to the trot.

For many riders, no matter how good the canter is and how well they can ride it; the bumpy, uneven, and unbalanced return to trot puts a damper on the whole experience.

And, yes, the transition from canter to trot can be tough to ride; but it is definitely ‘doable’. Here’s how you can improve this for you and your horse.

 1. Prepare Yourself and Your Horse

I know, it seems a little ‘Captain Obvious’.  However, when we have to do something that we struggle with, we can approach it with a ‘get this over with as quickly as possible’ type of energy!  So rather than ‘just doing it’, remember to first take the time to set both yourself and your horse up for the upcoming canter to trot transition.

As you are cantering and preparing for the downward transition, make sure your horse is balanced and responsive to your aids. Also, work on maintaining a consistent rhythm in the canter

Another part of the preparation is to make sure you are in the best place to both ask for trot and allow the transition to happen.  I will chat more about this later in the article.

 2. Use Your Half-Halt

So many riders think of half halt as being a once and done thing.  The truth is that, more often than not, the half halt is a ‘more the merrier’ aid to use when riding.  A few good quality half-halts will help to rebalance your horse before the transition. And let him know something is happening so he can be on the lookout for your eventual ‘ask’.

The half halt will not only balance and steady the energy in the canter, it’ll also help your horse to lighten the front end a little more; essential for a smooth canter to trot transition.

Use your full body in the halt halt.  Your seat, your legs, and your hands.  And remember that the ‘squeeze’ or resistance is only for a split second.  One beat of the stride.  Then release.  The goal is to engage your horse’s hindquarters and bring them back onto their haunches.

 3. Sit up and Engage Your Core

And the required self carriage is not just for your horse.  It also applies to you.  Make sure that you prepare your body for the transition by sitting up tall and engaging your core muscles. This will help you maintain your balance and give clear cues to your horse.

If you are in the right position to give the canter to trot aids, there is a much better chance your horse will understand – and then respond – to those aids. 

This also allows you to follow the transition from the canter into the trot.  Collapsing through your seat will only result in a bumpy experience as the transition happens! And it will also leave you in the wrong place to ride the trot after the transition.

 4. Coordinate Your Aids

Asking for the transition can be tricky for some riders. There is a struggle with how to truly balance the aids so that you ask the ‘right’ way for your horse to understand.  Focus on your seat first.  The ‘swing’ or ‘roll’ of the canter.  With canter, your inside seat bone is always leading your outside seat bone.  Part of the aids to ask for trot is to signal the change using your seat.

Once you have engaged your seat bones, you can also your voice as an aid to support your other aids. Saying something like ‘woah’, ‘steady’ or “trot” or can be a big help for your horse to understand what your physical aids are asking.  From here, close your legs and squeeze lightly to encourage your horse to move forward into the trot.

It’s really important that you are ready to follow your horse into the trot. This is really how you can ‘smooth’ the tension. 


5. Allow in the Trot

This is a key piece to any downward transition.  You MUST allow the horse to move forward into the new gait.  So many riders hold on too long with their aids.  This will only cause the trot to become jerky, hollow, or flat. Allowing involves your body moving in a way that works with the horse, rather than against.

Practice identifying the very first step of the trot. As your horse takes that step, allow through your seat and your hands (your elbows, really). This will soften the contact – and smooth the tension.

From here, move with the horse in the trot.  Think about keeping steady contact with the reins while allowing your horse to find their balance in the new gait.  It is usually easier to post or rise when first in the trot.  If you find that your horse is becoming hollow, this is especially important.  Often it is a bouncy rider trying to ride sitting trot that causes that hollowness!

Practice the Canter to Trot

It goes without saying, in order to improve you will have to do the work.  Regular practice will help you and your horse become more familiar with the transition.  It will also improve your timing and communication. Gradually work on refining the aids and asking for smoother transitions over time.

Remember, transitions require coordination and communication between you and your horse. Be patient, and try to remain balanced.  Work on asking your horse with clear and consistent aids to achieve a smooth canter to trot transition.

Happy Riding

Improve Your 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.

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