How To Canter Your Horse

Hey Dressage Superstars! Today’s question is, “how to canter your horse?”

This is video 1 in a 4 part video series on mastering your canter. 

Today we look at the first step – how to get your horse to transition into canter from the trot!

There are different strategies on how to get your horse to canter – some people like to do it in a corner for example.

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I’d love to hear from you how you go and what strategies you use to get your horse to canter.

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Full Transcript Expand to full transcript

Hey riding superstars. Today I’m going to answer the question, “How do you ask your horse to canter and how do you get canter when you’re riding your horse?”

This is video one in a four part video series for you all about how to canter.

Okay. How to get your horse in a canter. So, many people have different strategies of how to get their horse in a canter. Some people like to do it in a corner. Some people like to do it on a circle, some people like to go out into the forest and ask their horse to canter.

But there’s a lot of confusion around doing a trot to canter transition and a lot of, yeah, just frustration on how we’re meant to do it properly.

The aid for the horse to canter is depending on two schools of thought. Either the inside leg on the girth or the outside leg slightly back behind the girth. Either one is fine, you just need to be consistent. You can teach your horse to canter from a whistle. You can teach your horse to canter from a seat aid, which is I like to do. You can teach your horse to canter from anything you want. The main thing is decide what the aid is and do it.

Then when you teach your horse to canter, the main thing is that you first need to do the behavior.

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If you want to get your horse into canter, you need to get the behavior of canter. There’s no point going, “Oh, I delivered this amazing canter transition and I did it perfectly and it was exactly the canter transition I knew I had to ask for but the horse never cantered.”

You have to get a result to then shape the behavior into how you want it to be.

So with Wes, he’s very trained horse, so a trot canter transition on a trained horse is very easy. I’m trotting and then outside leg back, canter. Okay? But I understand, for most of you, that’s not what trot canter looks like.

Normally, on a young horse, or an inexperienced horse, or on a rider that’s learning, a trot canter transition looks like this. Trotting. Trotting faster. Trotting faster, trotting faster, trotting faster, and then eventually, Wessell.

Wessell’s very, very well trained. If you just apply leg and leg and leg and leg and leg and leg and leg, he trots faster and faster and faster and faster. Good boy, Wessy.

Because when you put leg on a horse, that’s what they should do. They should go faster int he gait. Leg doesn’t mean go upwards in a gait.

Again, if I just trot and I move my outside leg back, I get canter. If I don’t move my outside leg back and give him the canter aid, I don’t get canter.

But the problem is on a young horse and an inexperienced horse, your horse doesn’t yet know that outside leg means canter yet. You have to teach it.

The main thing is when Wes was doing that funny trot, trotting, trotting faster, trotting faster, I have to get him into canter somehow.
Canter. Canter canter canter canter canter. Good boy, come on. Good boy.

And he got into canter.

Then I’m telling him he’s the best horse in the world. Good boy, good boy, good boy.

Now, I’m not going to do that too many times because I do not want to teach him that that means that. But that’s how you would go with a young horse. If you can’t get canter in your young horse, can’t get canter in your inexperienced horse, you just trot and trot so so fast, that you’ll eventually get into canter.

Because the main thing is, you have to get the thing that you’re asking for. That’s what you want to do. Ultimately, yes, you want to teach the horse, so once, pretend you’ve done that ten times. You’ve gone trot into canter, trot into canter. The horse, normally by then is quiet hot, quite ready to canter, you can then go trot, canter, and you can see I touched him with the whip as well. You can back up that outside rein with the whip saying, “Hey, I really want your legs to go do something different.”

And if the horse did a great trot transition like that, you tell him that he’s the best horse in the world. You’re the best horse in the world. It really does help when you reassure the horse, tell the horse its great. You know, it’s basic conditioning from science.

Reward the behavior you want to see, ignore the behavior that you don’t want to see, and the more you reward, the more the horse wants to find and give you what you’re asking.