Developing the Canter

Liam is very maneuverable at the walk and trot.  I can bend him both ways, shoulder in, or leg yield whenever I want.  I can move the front end, or I can move the back end.  We can do circles and serpentines and figure 8’s.

He needs a canter to match.  Right now, we have a trot-canter transition that is improving, but sometimes he will still fall on the forehand in the transition.  How the transition goes determines the next few steps, then we can usually get it together from there.  But so far, we’ve done laps around the arena and the shallow loop to the center line and back that shows up in First Level Test 4.  On and off we’ve played with some serpentines with simple changes, or cantering across the center line doing a trot transition at X then cantering off on the other lead in the next corner.

Now we’re working on making the canter as ridable and maneuverable as the walk and trot.  We are adding shoulder in and leg yields to our list of exercises, as well as smaller circles and more turns.  We no long canter only on the rail, we move around all over the arena, mixing things up.  We can counter bend in the canter, and we can counter bend on a circle (which really helps when he leaning badly on the outside shoulder! Pops him right off it! 🙂 ).  We can do small circles and big circles, and we can spiral in and out.   And with all of this steering, we also have to remember to make the canter bigger and smaller without losing the tempo.  It’s complicated stuff!!

Sometimes, we have magical moments where one thing just flows to the next.  Other times, he falls on his forehand or braces his neck against he bit or I can’t turn him.  But when it does come together, the canter is so much better –  lighter and more balanced.  His forehand is freer and he steps UP into each stride instead of falling down into it.  His back is raised and gives me an easy place to sit and I feel like I could ride it forever.  I love this canter, and we are getting it more and more easily.


One thought on “Developing the Canter

  1. You are obviously doing the necessary work to develop that canter! Just like us people, horses all seem to have gaits, movements, an English saddle and lead they prefer and some they’d rather avoid. I have always found that lots of praise and little food rewards go a long way to cement the improvements gained through the type of training you are accomplishing. I know what you mean about how wonderful it feels when it all comes together…those moments make all the work worthwhile.

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