The leg sequence in canter creates an uneven, twisting movement, unlike trot where the diagonal pairing of legs gives a more even step. In canter, it is harder to straighten the horse who is often bent more towards the soft side and travels with quarters to that side, quarters in on one side and falling to the shoulder on the other side, and the rider can be pushed to one side by action of the horse's back.
Some common problems in canter are that the horse;
And among the most common cause are;
It is always worth giving your horse a general check, - particularly the back, saddle, bit and teeth - to ensure that there are no physical problems causing the reaction to canter.
Clarity of aids is very important, start your correction here, checking that you are not tipping your upper body and causing a loss of balance and that your aids are correct. There is a lot of discussion over which aids are best, some people favour lateral inside aids, others prefer diagonal aids and still other use outside lateral aids. It doesn’t matter which you choose, but you must be 100% consistent with them.
If your horse is crooked in trot, holding weight in one shoulder, the canter transition will be difficult, and these horses often only canter on one lead. In this instance, go back to suppling work using circles and shoulder-in, half pass travers and renvers to rebalance your horse, and then ask for the canter again. Working correctly in a well-balanced trot will improve your horse’s canter.
Whilst young horses can benefit from cantering in straight lines outside, cantering in the school is difficult for them because of the frequency and tightness of the corners. The masters worked in trot, developing collected trot and sometimes even taking this as far as piaffe and passage before introducing canter in the school. A good collected trot will help all canter work, and any time spent developing the trot work and improving the collection and balance in trot will follow through to the canter and help to improve the balance and suppleness there.
Canter is improved by having well-balanced canter transitions from trot. Ensure that your horse is balanced and light before you ask for the canter. Then canter for a short time, once or twice round the school, as you will improve the canter by a good transition, not by cantering for a long time.
Diane Followell - Training riders, Transforming Horses
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer
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