The canter is a three-beat gait that can often cause trouble for green and young horses. It requires a greater deal of balance compared to the steadier two-beat trot. The transition from trot to canter can get messy as the horse tries to shift his weight for this faster gait. However, this transition can be smoother with some simple tips.
1) It begins with a sitting trot. Your seat should be following a steady, but forward trot. Encourage your horse to move forward by utilizing a driving seat and asking for impulsion.
2) Position your horse’s body slightly to the inside. Apply your inside leg at the girth and flex his head slightly toward the center of the arena. Maintain steady contact on the outside rein.
3) Sit heavier on your inside seat bone, apply light contact with the inside leg at the girth to keep him bending toward the inside, and then apply an outside leg cue behind the girth for the canter departure.
4) Promote the three-beat movement by changing your seat. You’ll want to swing back and forth for this new gait.
5) Do not let your horse run through these aids. Gently squeeze and release on the reins a few times when he becomes quick or rushes.
Many times the canter departure is not as smooth or effortless as it could be. One problem is when the rider throws away the outside rein. Steady contact and even a few squeezes and releases on the outside rein is essential for the horse to help him shift his weight.
Another problem is lack of forward energy. Many riders speed up their horse by quicken his footsteps and leaning back or falling behind the movement. Drive the hindquarters with your seat, but capture the energy in the front by maintaining steady contact with the reins. Stay centered on your horse’s back.
Other issues include incorrect aids, improper timing of aids, and lack of balance from the rider.
Once you figure out how to properly ask for the canter and how to position yourself, your canter transitions can appear effortless.