I love to canter. Really. It’s a gait you have to love on purpose, sometimes, to make it happen and improve the horse’s strength and balance. The canter gets better by doing it! Then work on improving it and let the perfection go and focus on the progress.
Sometimes the canter is so floaty and lofty I feel like I’m on a ride at the amusement park. And, sometimes it’s not so fun, especially for a horse that’s building up strength or is in retraining. But that doesn’t mean I want to ask the horse to canter all the time. Sometimes my rational brain takes over and thinks – what if I can’t get the horse to canter? What if it’s too fast? What if it’s out of control? And then my adrenaline brain side says – Bring it!
If you don’t get the horse to canter – well then, ask again until you do and then do a lot of trot—canter and canter—trot transitions until you have no more issues with it for that training ride. If it’s too fast, well then, balance the horse back to a better pace.
If they're running, it’s probably because they are saying "a part of my body isn’t really ready for this the way you dream it to be" yet. The racing-gait horse tells you "my back needs strength and suppling." My haunches need more muscle to push and my hocks need to bend a little more up under me. Think through the aids and even speak them out loud softly as you ask.
Say it like this: Ok, my dear horse, I’m going to slide my outside leg back behind girth. Inside leg press and both hands give about a ¼ to ½ inch or so forward and your job is to canter! Good horse!
Give the horse shorter canter stretches down the long side – maybe H to E and then to trot before the rushing starts. Then ask for the canter again on the other side. Keep the transitions going until it’s balanced and steady on both sides of the arena.The next time try to canter to the next letter – H to V or M to P. Or, use a circle or a part of a circle.
Then there’s the runaway canter. Very scary, for sure, but find a wall or a tree or an emergency stop and a strong No with your voice so the horse understands that was not what you wanted. And then some deep breathing and try again. Maybe get your trainer to lunge you so the canter has some limitations, and you have a cheerleader and coach.
There’s also some off horse things you can do to make the canter feel less fast. You can ride your bike on a trail. Go as fast as you can pedal and then glide and let the wind hit you in the face. You’re exposed to the elements. Or you can try jumping out of an airplane. THAT is pretty fast! (With a guide, of course!) It will change your perception of speed for sure.
As you canter think about those seated yoga pose you do with your feet together – it opens your hips. You want to sit back into the saddle, open your hips, and keep your gentle hug on your horse—and please breath! You can even chant doing it! Improving it! Letting it go and loving it! Canter on!
Stay tuned for next week’s Two-minute Training Tip! If you need help building a training plan you can always email me questions at email@example.com or check out revelationfarm.com for upcoming events. Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RevelationFm!