We are Rocking the Canter!

by Lori Albrough on January 17, 2012

Since starting Levi’s canter work under saddle just before the New Year and then having an easy first week back after New Year’s, I’ve been working the canter every ride since then.

A lot of times when you are training the canter with a young horse you have to be really emphatic in your body language as you ask them to strike off into canter. Once you are in canter you need to ride the canter really forward until they understand how to balance in the canter with a rider on their back, and that the priority is to stay active and jumping with the hind legs.

It’s not always so easy for the young horses to learn the canter under saddle, but the only way to learn it is to do it, and for that they need a rider who has the experience to help them with their balance and their understanding. Levi has surprised me with just how quickly he is figuring out the canter work. I have to say, he is rocking it!

On the first Monday back after our easy week we did our warm up and then as we came around the 20 metre circle in rising trot, I pushed the trot more and more forward, and then gave him a pretty emphatic squeeze with my inside leg while sliding my inside hip forward and outside leg back. He jumped smoothly and immediately into canter, and even gave me a little ear flick as if to say “You don’t have to shout, you know”.

As he cantered on, his balance was good and he stayed nicely forward and he didn’t try to lean or push into my inside leg. I was able to stay on the 20 m circle in canter, rather than going around the whole arena as I will do if the young horse needs to be sent forward to learn his balance and to keep jumping. All this is pretty remarkable for a horse at this stage of training. Each day since then I have trained the canter both ways and I must say I have been pleased at how well it’s going.

When asking for the canter on your young horse it really helps their understanding if you use your seat to help him strike off into canter, as I described doing above with Levi. If you’re not just sure what I mean, here is a way that can help you visualize how to do it.

Imagine you are a child on a stick horse and you are cantering. So you are going along on your two legs mimicking the canter of a horse, da-da-loomp, da-da-loomp…. Get up and try it around the room now until you can feel it. Now imagine that you don’t have any legs, but instead are using your two seat bones as legs, and are mimicking the horse’s canter. Now, back on your horse trotting along, remember that feeling of cantering along on your seat bones. The moment of landing on your leading “leg” (seat bone) will indicate to your horse to strike off into canter.

When they feel this on their back it really makes sense to the horse and motivates them to pick up canter. Try it and let me know how it works for you!


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kris Batchelor January 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm

I love the stick horse explanation, Lori–I wish that someone had used that analogy with me a long time ago. Thanks for using such accessible imagery!


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