Whether you want to compete in dressage or you enjoy schooling at home, developing and maintaining the best quality canter you can will give you better results. While a naturally good-quality canter always helps, there’s a lot you can do to improve the pace.
If you’re competing, a canter with lift, impulsion and balance will impress the judges. A clear, three-beat rhythm is important, too, but this is something a horse tends to be born with and isn’t that easy to change. However, what you can do is teach him to bring his hindleg underneath him and push forward, so he comes off the floor in the canter. This will really give him the wow factor. Alice shows us four exercises in the January issue of Horse&Rider to help you achieve this, check out her tips for collection in canter below.
When to ask for collection
If your horse can canter a 20-metre circle in a good balance without needing too much help, he’s ready for you to collect the pace. To ask him to collect, ride a half-halt. Sit up tall and squeeze the reins to contain his energy, at the same time applying your leg to keep him going forward. Feel his weight come back for one stride, then ride forward again. He’ll soon learn that when you sit up he needs to wait for a stride. Build on this slowly in your schooling sessions and, as your horse becomes stronger and more established, you can work towards full collection.
Exercise – Forwards and back
Riding transitions within canter will create more power, help lighten your horse’s forehand and improve his balance.
On a 20-metre circle, ask your horse to take bigger canter strides. He’ll need to engage his hindquarters and use his hocks to power forward. Then, collect the pace – think walk with your reins and position, and canter with your legs.
The aim is to bring the canter back to walk speed, but by riding forward with your legs you’ll keep the jump in the pace and your horse should take more weight behind. His balance will change and he’ll become more uphill.
As well as improving the quality of your horse’s canter, this exercise will really help when you come to teach him simple changes, which is a change of canter lead through walk.
Many riders find simple changes difficult to get right because their horse’s canter isn’t collected enough, but practise this exercise at home and it’ll enable to you to achieve a smooth transition to walk.
For three more canter-building exercises, and expert advice on introducing canter to young horses and how to take him to the next level, get your copy of January Horse&Rider out now.