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Two Minute Training Tips – Change the Flexion in Canter

In the last tip I gave I talked about driving your horse without contact between the horses’ bit and your hands was like driving a car without your hands on the steering wheel. Turns out that’s nuts! But contact is complicated. And the faster you go – the more complicated it can feel. The change of flexion at the walk and trot was hopefully easy after a few days. Maybe you liked the exercise enough to add it to your warmup routine. But, at the canter you may have had some issues - like falling out of the canter or maybe even an unexpected but oh so welcome flying change. Cantering during this exercise requires you to sit more steadily in the direction of the lead of the canter. I like to think about barely feeling the inside ball of my foot every so softly pressing the stirrup bar in the canter rhythm. You need to keep your outside leg on the horse’s side. Your reins are following and our opening your elbows to the horses mouth every stride. Here’s some other tips specifically for the canter.

  1. Pick up the Canter lead that’s easiest. You should already have inside flexion to help get the correct lead. Count your horses front foreleg starting at 1 to 6. And then,

  2. Flex the horse to the straight for six steps. You are working on riding the lead with the horse bending away from the lead while you maintain seat position to keep the lead. Focus on the ball of your foot pressing in rhythm with the stride.

  3. Flex the horse to ‘outside’ positioning. Count six steps. You want to see your horses’ eyelashes and some nostril as the look outside of the arena.

  4. Flex the horse to the 'straight position' again and then to the inside and count six steps. Again, you want to see eyelashes and some nostril as the horse looks to the inside/outside of the arena.

  5. Repeat at all gaits. This breaks up the exercise.

  6. Then take walk break and evaluate how it went. Did one side seem harder than the other? Did the counting and the ‘flow’ of changing the position of the horse’s head get easier or harder? Did the horse get steadier in the canter while counting (one point of the exercise)? Did the changes in flexion get easier as the canter became steadier (your goal)?

  7. Repeat the exercise but this time when you have the horse straight – ask for more forward strides. Or, if your speeds up every change of bend try to count slower and slow down their tempo. Good luck!

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