By Jenny Richardson BHSAI
A horse’s canter can often become compact and ‘choppy’ when you get into an arena.
When you hack out and experience a forward-going, bouncy canter, you can really see and feel the difference!
However, you can incorporate targeted exercises into your schooling regime to improve the canter, and help the horse gain further balance in this gait. Such exercises should also help you gain ‘adjustability’ within the canter.
Of course, trot work is very important. A more collected and balanced trot gives a better transition into canter, creating an improved gait; so before ‘working on the canter’, ensure you have a forward going, balanced trot, with an even rhythm and good energy, ahead of any upward transitions.
When you ask for canter, keep your upper body tall and straight; if you tip forwards in the moment of the transition, you will push your horse onto the forehand, creating an imbalanced canter. Sit lightly and maintain you own balance, ensuring you have sufficient weight into the outside stirrup. Gradually build up the length of the canter around the arena, with the focus on the quality of the steps.
Here’s a great exercise for improving the canter:
1.Establish trot, going large round the school. Riding a correct trot circle will help put your horse in a good position for a canter strike off.
2.Come onto a 20 metre circle.
3.Make a canter transition on the circle. You need to have energy for the transition, but your horse must be balanced in the trot.
4.Aim to keep canter for one full circle as this will help to keep the inside hind leg under the quarters, and engaged.
5.Make a downward trot transition in the same place as the canter transition.
6.Keep repeating the exercise (including a break from it every few times, perhaps asking for medium trot down the long side, or a free walk on the long diagonal, to keep the horse focused on you), and then repeat on the other rein
If you need flatwork practice with an instructor but don’t have the facilities, why not investigate Castle Leslie Estate’s fabulous ‘Get Back Your Confidence’ riding trip? Our dedicated team of experts, which includes myself, coordinates a five day package that includes three hours’ of daily lessons. Guests can choose the type of lessons they want, based on their individual needs. Visit www.castleleslie.com